Friday, September 9, 2011

Live your own life

I hate jewish novels. I really do.

When I was in high school, at a pretty mainstream yeshiva, we were not allowed to have secular books. Me, being the bookworm that I am, could not deal without any kind of reading material and resorted to The Jewish Novel. Jewish novels are generally formulaic and terribly written. They usually use some absurd title, and I feel like the author used a thesaurus for every simple word in order to make him/her sound intelligent. However, there are some (very few) exceptions. (I just need to clarify. very few).

 I haven't read very many jewish novels since high school, but one that I did was Hearts of Gold. It's not the best piece of writing and it's incredibly girly (my sister gave it to me when i had nothing to read). At the very least, it doesn't have the formula that almost all other jewish novels do. I found the second book to actually have a really great message which I'd like to talk about. In the book Chani is obsessed with getting everyone's approval, and won't get a cleaning lady, eat out, get a manicure, and most importantly spend money on garbage bags. This is because she feels people will look down on her since she is in kollel and apparently that means not spending any money on anything other than food. She finally realizes she needs to do what she feels is right and not worry about what everyone else thinks.

"If you try to please everybody, you please nobody."

 I'm sure you've heard that phrase dozens of times. But have you ever really thought about it and tried to apply it to your own life? We have a tendency to feel like musar is always for THAT guy, not me. But are you doing what you're doing because you want to do it and feel it's the right thing? Or are you living your life according to what you think your parents, friends, shadchanim, etc. think is right. I'm not saying that what people think is completely irrelevant. It is. It's a fact of life and our nature to care about what other people think. However, your mindset should not be all about what everyone else thinks.

This is especially relevant for shidduchim. When you dress yourself up, are you thinking of what will happen if someone (read: shadchanim/ opposite sex) will think of your dress, or do you want to make sure you are dressed like a ben/(bas?) torah? Are you going to daven because of your reputation, or do you want to actually daven? Are you not going to participate in that chareidi/zionistic event even though you think it would be helpful to yourself and others, because your zionistic/charedi friends will think less of you?

It's YOUR life, not someone else's. We all have unique talents. Try and use them; not someone else's.

We are always so worried about the few people who don't like us. We need to realize that some people just won't. No matter how nice, how pretty, how smart, how shtark that you are. Somebody, probably numerous somebodies, will not like you. And I'm not quite there with being okay with that, but I'm trying. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what people think. I'm learning that more and more every day that people don't care as much as we think they do. And even if they do, it's all up to the One Above, not man. I have more to say on this topic, but I'll leave it at that for now. In the meantime have a good shabbos!


  1. i agree we do have to stop obssessing on what other people think and start thinking more what we want to do . its a very good point but it really is easier said then done.bec even if u keep thinking i dont care what so and so says in the back of ur mind u really do!! so i guess we all have to work on it and maybe one day we really will not care what other people think! btw what other jewish novels did u enjoy????

  2. That was the original premise of Bad4Shidduchim's blog; that she would do whatever she liked despite what is "good" or "bad" for shidduchim.

    Although I find it funny that the novel, of course, uses a kollel wife afraid of spending money in fear of public opinion, rather than a woman who spends too much in fear of public opinion, which would probably be more common.

    Although, as a kollel wife, how does Chani have money for a cleaning lady, eating out, and manicures? Frankly those three things are an unnecessary drain on financial resources. I don't have/do those three, even though I can afford to.

  3. Its a nice to be able to act like you don't care of what will be said, but in reality, there are so many prejudice against different actions that sometimes its just not worth tarnishing your reputation. That book used a simplistic example but say in the world of shidduchim, its so rigid that we do have to be careful about what we wear, whom we hang out with...

  4. @anon- not very many. I can't even think of the rest. There definitely weren't any that I've been blowed away by.

    @Princess- Really? that puts a new spin on her blog for me. I always thought it was that she was bad4 shidduchim. That probably would be more common, but in the book her family is loaded and it was more of an every once in a while kind of thing, not every day.

    Yedid-I'm not talking about actually tarnishing your reputation. That's kind of the point. It's all up to G-d anyway and we just need to do your hishtadlus. If you don't feel like wearing a black hat every time you walk outside, don't. Big picture it's not going to matter. Obviously you shouldn't be hanging around actually unsavory people, but if they are just a bit left-wing, it doesn't matter.

    To be honest, I think the bigger issue is the mindset than the actions. There are times where every single action that we do is done with what other people are thinking, in the back of our heads. We need to get into the mindset of "Do I think this is the right thing to do."

  5. I agree with you and i wasnt referring to things that are unethical or halachically wrong. Along with your example, If you're part of the black hat world and decide to walk out w/o a hat, which is totally fine with us, but might not be considered the best move in that world, you might find yourself compromising that image of yours (of course this is a simple example w/o too much harm) The problem is that very often, even when ur doing the right thing because it is right not because everybody else does it, only the people who know you well enough will know how great you are. In a shidduch world, it makes it more difficult to find your match because the shadchanim get mixed report abt whom you really are. No matter what, u'll be put into a box, if it really matters to you to be in a certain one, then you'll just have to do what it takes to be considered part of it.

  6. I totally agree about the Jewish novels thing. But there are more exceptions than you think. (I'd go with few rather than very few.) I never read Heart of Gold but I remember all my friends liked Sun Inside Rain by M. Bassara (would love to find out who that really is.) It's just a bit different and unexpected, not perfect but a lot more fun to read than most.

    "Are you going to daven because of your reputation, or do you want to actually daven? Are you not going to participate in that chareidi/zionistic event even though you think it would be helpful to yourself and others, because your zionistic/charedi friends will think less of you?" What you said. I wish more people would read this.

  7. we havent heard from you in a while... everything ok>

  8. Amen, great info and thoughts to consider, thanks! We're so easily distracted. Related towards reNEWed tikvah in 2012, please G-d...


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