Ask Me About Me

I used to snort whenever I heard of parents interviewing a perspective daughter-in-law before permitting her to see their son. Pre-date dating, anyone? After all, why drag Moishelah away from his Gemara to meet a potential wife when you can meet and decide for him?

And what’s next—internships? I imagine we’ll all have to spend a week at their house washing dishes and doing laundry while dressed up nicely to prove that we’d make a worthy wife for their dear son.

But I’m slowly changing my mind on that matter. You see, I have a mother stalking me.

Ordinarily, hearing from my references that someone has been calling them is a good thing. It’s like being in a thriller novel – “Someone is after me!” – but in a good way.

Except this time, my references have been calling me nearly in tears. The mother has been asking questions that even I couldn’t answer without some thought. And sometimes, she demands answers that don’t exist. My friends weren’t sure what to say and how to say it. One generous reference offered to call me, ask me the difficult questions, and call the mother back.

“She wants to know who your rav is.”

“R’ Yosef Cairo and the Chofetz Chaim.”

“Very funny. She wants someone contemporary that you go to with questions.”

“I don’t have too many questions. How many daily dilemmas of the ‘pasken halacha’ type do you have? If it’s permitted, I do it. If it’s not, I don’t. And if I’m not sure, I avoid it or find out. ”

“From who?”

“R’Cairo and company. They’re not personally accessible, but they’ve written good books. So have lots of other people. And I have good notes from high school.”

“Can I just say you ask your father?”

“Sure.”

“She wants to know if you’d be happy to settle down to a kollel life.”

“If her son is worth it.”

“What does that mean?”

“Meaning, I’ll support a serious learner who has made a conscious decision that learning is his best route for serving Hashem. Not someone who’s doing it because it’s done.”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s a conditional.”

“OK, let’s start again. Do you want to marry a kollel guy?”

“I want to marry a serious eved Hashem. How he goes about it is his business.”

“Do you know how unhelpful you’re being?”

“Sorry. I really wish I could just tell her this myself.”

“Well you can’t, so just give me something easy to say.”

“I would seriously consider a kollel guy. Is that better?”

“Yes.”

>“Then say it.”

“Next: What’s your mehalech in life?”

“Excuse me?”

“I think she wants to know what type of girl you are.”

“First of all, I’m no type of girl. I’m a woman.”

“I’m not telling her that.”

“Have it your way. Look, I have no idea what “type” I am. I attended a bais yaakov, went to a bais yaakov seminary in Israel, and am studying in Touro. I sound like a pretty typical ‘type’ to me.”

“But she’s heard that you sometimes do your own thing.”

“No point in doing everybody else’s thing – it’s already been done.”

“Just tell me what I should tell her!”

“Tell her to call me and I’ll let her know exactly what kind of person I am.”

“I told her that, but she says ‘it isn’t done that way’.”

“I don’t particularly care how things are done—especially when doing them that way is utterly inane.”

“Yes, she’s heard that you don’t really care how things are done. That’s why she’s nervous.”

“Doesn’t she think this is inane?”

I think it’s inane, but I’m doing you a favor here, so don’t make my life difficult.”

“Tell her that I do what is sensible within the limits of halacha and often social restrictions.”

“Hold on while I get a pen—can you repeat that?”

Oy. Bring on the interview.

55 thoughts on “Ask Me About Me

  1. HAHA. I’m coming to appreciate your sense of humor more and more. I hate those type of questions but I”m the nebby type that answers all the answers she wants to hear. About the Rav part, like hullo how many young women (single) out there have a Rav? When I get married, I will go to my husbands Rav with shailos. Until then, to my dad I go.

  2. LOL!!! I feel bad for your friend, though, she’s a little stuck whereas you and the other lady will probably never cross paths in life 😛

  3. Oh. My. God.
    Do you want this woman as your mother-in-law?
    I thought not.
    And it was hysterical. 🙂

  4. hey

    my mom in law didnt come to se me and iTs VERY VERY done in my family and i nearly pushed off for my enagement for that. But now i met her and its just not done in there family and bh she is such a nice woman and doesnt ask a million qs!! But remember that in Ny it sooo diffrent to us in Europe.

  5. I used to think that too: if they ask awful questions, you don’t want to marry them. But then I eavesdropped on my mother doing a shidduch call, and I thought, “I don’t want people judging me by what my mother asks!” Not that she asks crazy things, but there are a number I would think, “Is it necessary to know that?” or “Big DEAL!” about. And some are just interesting. Like, my father once asked, “How does he daven?” Which freaked me out a bit because how do I daven? Ooh… I feel a post coming on…

    Basically, the guy is learning in yeshiva and has no clue what’s happening. His parents, if they decide it’s a yes, will inform him of the details they’ve collected one bright sunny morning when he’s not expecting it. He probably hasn’t asked her to find out who my rav is – that could be her own nonsense.

  6. another point is that you don’t always knoow why they are asking the question and why it’s important to that specific family, someone once told me that one of the first questions they ask is “does he snore?” since she has a brother in law that snores really badly, and it really affects their marrige… they’ve tried everything… drs… sleep hospitals… and it just gets worse… she’s a light sleeper she and can’t handle it… they sleep in sep rooms… besides because he doesn’t sleep well, stress levels are up during the day too..
    so basicly you never know why someone may be asking a question that sounds silly.

  7. Pingback: Don’t Ask Me More Difficult Questions « Bad for Shidduchim

  8. wow… I mean, you never can tell what they’re actualy looking for. but seriously. Can we just call her a stalker?

    Really i would think it better if someone who knows the boy very well (not his mother or father) got with someone who knows the girl well (not her mother or father) and they talked everything out and put everything on the table. this way they care and can make sure that you’re not totaly wasting your time. after that, why not introduce them? why call all over creation to find out if he wears a blue shirt once in a while, or if she ever (oh the horror) wears long denim skirts.

    but you sound awesome, good luck looking for your besheret!

  9. This was AWESOME! When I was in yeshiva, some guy, brother of a girl someone in yeshiva was trying to set up with me called me on one of the Yeshiva’s public phones. Yeah, her brother. First question he asked me was “what’s your hashkafa?” My response was the same. What a dumb question!

    Good answers!!

  10. That was great. I was a kollel husband, and my parents didn’t even know who i was dating. I started cleaning the house one day. My Mom asked why I was doing that, and I told her it was because I was bringing home a girl I wanted her (and my dad)to meet that night. She asked “should I pick up some danishes, or kosher delight?” I answered, “nah, I got it, just make sure dad’s not prancing around in his boxers and t-shirt with the bullet holes in it.”

  11. After reading your blog, I don’t believe the first question is so far out there, and your ‘response’ is even more telling. I know if I were on the dating scene today, I’d like to make sure the girl I was contemplating going out with wasn’t so arrogant as to think she had all the answers herself, and that she would turn to a rav for some direction, and for some of the more difficult questions. Your answer, “r’ yosef Cairo…etc.” Means that you don’t feel the need to ask anything of a rav, and that you consider yourself competent enough to get all the answers you need on your own. I’ve been married for 18 years, and have a family of my own, and wouldn’t be so bold as to make such a statement.
    Your opening jab “why pull Moishelah….etc” also shows some distain, as well. You really look down at the type of guy who’s mother, out of either love for her son, or respect for her son’s limud hatorah, or a combination of both, wants to limit the time he has to spend away from learning, and is doing the legwork for him. Deep down you seem to feel the guy is wasting his time in front of the gemarah anyway. If you’d have such disdain for a learning boy now, how much less respect are you going to have for one when you’re eight months pregnant, and heading off to work, while he’s in front of his gemarah. You have the right to turn down a guy who’d do that, but why waste the woman’s or your friend’s time, there’s no way you’d respect this guy anyway, and a marriage developing out of this would be a nightmare. I’d reccomend you seriously revisit your openess to marrying a learning boy. There are plenty of fine working guys out there, or would it not ‘pas’ for the choshuver bais yaakov seminary girl (who’s mother plunked down the 20 grand or so, so her precious Chavaleh wouldn’t be dragged into the real world she now pretends to be so knowledgeable about, too soon) to even date such a nobody. I knew a girl that was as smart and as witty as you, she too, looked down at the sheltered yeshivah bochurim she was redt to, knowing how much sharper and worldlier she was than them. It’s 20 years later, and she’s still single, while those naive little boys she looked down her nose at, caught up quickly, and are getting ready to walk thier own children down the aisle.

  12. Ooh, ouch. Does that require defense? Or does the fact that most people my age agree exonerate me? Not sure.
    Regarding halacha: I don’t believe I know the answer to everything. But I do believe I know the answers to most day-to-day questions. And if I don’t know if I can open the pickle can on Shobbos? I can put the can away, or look it up. There’s no reason to bother a rav about something that’s been asked before. If I can’t answer it myself, and can’t find an answer by looking it up, I can ask my father, and if he can’t find an answer somewhere, he can ask his rav… and guess how often something like that happens?

    Based on your tag, I gather you’re male. My high school halacha teacher said he began studying halacha after his wife asked him a sheila he couldn’t answer, and then paskened it correctly herself. What this says about the differences in halachic education for men and women in the Jewish community, I’ll leave for you to extrapolate. The lemon-in-coke question? Made famous by Rabbi Reisman, who said his bochurim kept getting embarassed on dates, because they didn’t even realize there might be a question. Their dates *did*. Bais Yaakov girls learn a lot of halacha. Very likely more than their yeshiva counterparts. The difference is that guys are better at looking it up at the source.

    As for “why pull Moishelah…” at the end of the day, the guy marries the girl, not the mother-in-law. My brother has actually removed the burden of legwork from my parents because he found that what they thought he needed and what he actually wanted were not quite the same – and he’s not the type to leave his Gemara without good cause. (Seriously: you can’t get him away bein hazmanim.)

    I don’t disrespect a guy who is learning (if he is), but I do disrespect him if he can’t balance it with a little real life. When I’m 8 months pregnant and heading off to work, I would expect him to help out more than a bit at home. If he can’t leave his shtender to attend his first dates by himeself, than I’d worry about how he’ll be down the line.

    And if that girl didn’t like learning boys, she should have married someone working. Possibly she has other issues or just doesn’t want to marry.

    PS: Some Chaveleh’s pay for their own seminary. If you have one yourself, I’d recommend the practice. It teaches a girl a lot about the world, so she can become knowledgable enough about the world for two people.

  13. Following your order:
    Defense? Hardly, why would you have to defend your own self affirmed expertise? However, don’t knock the bochur, who turns to daas torah (not the anonymous rav in Bnei brak, but one whom he made the effort to develope a relationship with) to discuss a major decision (such as which yeshivah to go to, or even whether or not to stay in yeshivah) if he takes pains to look for the same traits in a girl before agreeing to proceed. You self admittedly attend College, while stating that you’ve never had a cause to ask a shailah of a rav-did you find your answer in the mechaber, or the mishnah b’rurah? “don’t disrespect a guy who is learning (if he is), but I do disrespect him if he can’t balance it with a little real life”-
    And therein lies the rub-for a serious learner, it (the shtender) is real life, anything else is the distraction, and minimizing the distractions to an extreme is the only way to mantain the dedication. The moment he lets up, he may be a fine ‘eved hashem’, but his primary objective will no longer be limud hatorah.
    If you can tell your father the correct answer before he looks it up, maybe, your father is a product of the same sub par men’s halachah education you took such pains to denegrate a few lines down.
    Which leads me to my next point. Please don’t pass ruling on all men’s halachah education based on the experiences of your high school halachah teacher. No disrespect to him, but the position he acquired is not the one the top students in his yeshivah aspired to.
    As for the girl I brought up, with all your intelligence, you missed my point entirely.

  14. Oh I see – you’re saying the purpose of a rav is to get lifestyle guidance. Because there is minimal (though present) information regarding yeshiva transfers in the Mishna Berura.

    So – how would you recommend a young lady get to know a rav well enough that he can give her serious advice, and not one-size-fits-all canned suggestions? I presume your Chaveleh has one – where’d she find him?

    If marriage is a distraction for a guy, and not part of his real life, he shouldn’t get married. Would *you* like to be a distraction in someone’s life?

    I don’t know what the education was like in my father’s yeshivos, but he has smicha and studied halacha regularly. It simply happens that Bais Yaakovs make a serious effort to address topics that come up frequently in life, and actually succeed. (I have no idea what the halacha is if you fall off my porch and break a leg.)

    If all men are so educated in halacha, why does Rabbi Reisman feel the need to dedicate a sheir to the lemon-in-coke question?

    Furthermore, I presume you are acquainted with my high school teacher and know what yeshiva he went to? He’s reached the point in life where he must leave his shtender to feed his children, and he is doing a job he feels is utterly essential.

    OK – so what is your point?

  15. Rock on, woman. I am you 20 years later and married. You will hopefully draw to you what you deserve and what fits you. The system stinks.

  16. I’m scratching my head over the logical progression from your not having had any major shailos yet (a reasonable state of affairs for a healthy single person) to “you don’t feel the need to ask anything of a rav, and that you consider yourself competent enough to get all the answers you need on your own.” I’m sure the author is a splendid fellow, but zowie!

    For what it’s worth, I’m more his age than yours, and I think you’re spot on. So double-exoneration. Or something.

    Your writing is very entertaining – thank you.

  17. “So – how would you recommend a young lady get to know a rav well enough that he can give her serious advice, and not one-size-fits-all canned suggestions? I presume your Chaveleh has one – where’d she find him?”
    To be clear I’m not reccomending you find yourself a rav and develop a relationship, you obviously feel quite secure in your derech hachayim, and far be it from me to suggest otherwise, If one can make a decision to attend a college without consulting a rav (and I’m not judging you for that, simply using as a yardstick for where you stand), I don’t think they’d expect to develop a relationship with a rav for other issues. For one of such a mindset, the rav’s only purpose is to answer a halachik shaalah now and then, and that only when the person couldn’t look it up themselves (and maybe to speak by a simcha, and lo aleinu a levaya, and m’chiras chometz). I’m simply pointing out that there are others that lead thier lives differently, and it’s not so farfetched for one planning on commiting to a life dedicated to limud hatorah, to be of the latter mindset.
    As for my “chavaleh”, if you really care to know she developed a relationship by joining a certain shul in my neighborhood, because she had heard the rav speak somewhere, and was facinated by the content. There were future drashos that she needed clarification on, and she asked his wife to relay her questions, that night he called himself, and addressed her issues personally (she was floored when he called), with an invitation to feel free to pose further questions whenever she wished. Happens to be that it is he who is discouraging her from attending seminary full time, as well as discouraging her from attending Touro.
    “It simply happens that Bais Yaakovs make a serious effort to address topics that come up frequently in life, and actually succeed”
    I can say I whole heartedly agree with this statement.
    However R’ Reisman’s shiur is a poor support for your position. Let’s just say the majority of those attending his shiur are far from what one would call commited to a life of torasam umnasam. They will make fine Ba’alei battim, and will find a derech in avodas hashem that suits them, but I’d be shocked if more than a handful even show up to second seder. Here again, I’m not judging them, but they are not representative of your average dedicated yeshivah bochur.
    Lastly, I don’t need to know which yeshivah your halachah teacher attended to know that that position was not the one the best students aspired to, as that fact holds true for any yeshivah-no top student in any yeshivah looks forward to getting the ‘shteler’ of teaching high school girls halachah. I’d be so bold as to make a similar statement: No law school garduate, who was top in his/her class, aspires to a position in wills and trusts in some two bit law firm. Life may lead them there, but there’s no way they were looking for it-no matter which school they attended.

  18. I would like to point out that the purpose of the post wasn’t to mock the questions people ask. In fact, it never occurred to me to doubt the propriety of the questions. I was highlight the ludicrousness of asking those questions of my friends and expecting honest answers. Also, the idiocy of expecting someone to summarize complex parts of their life in pre-packaged soundbytes. I understand that some people like to ask the advice of a rav before they do anything, but you’re correct – I’m not one of them. I prefer to get advice from people who know me very well.

    As for what bochurim look to do… I’ve heard enough about what they plan to go into. It’s usually something vague about becoming a dayan or a rebbe in yeshiva. I can admire someone who ignores those lofty goals to carry the torch of a cause he really believes in. I will not infer from your metaphor that you consider halacha to be an unfortunately necessary drudgery, like trusts and wills. But I will compare it to the law school graduate who makes a cause out of ensuring that all human beings get the legal advice they need, regardless of income. Some may consider it dealing with the low end of human spectrum, but others admire those who aim to do good and not just accumulate glory.

  19. Not posted.

    The internet is really an awful place to argue, thanks to the disinhibition effect, and things get unpleasant altogether too quickly. Furthermore, in my experience, the two sides rarely listen to each other; all they care about is getting their point across and defending their backs. I see no purpose in continuing this – all it can lead to is anger and mutual frustration. And that’s antithetical to the purpose of this blog. I apologize for cutting you off and wish you the best in life.

  20. I will point out to the fil that my mother, whom as a doctor was one of the top of her class on the tests, and received numerous awards from the school, did not choose the kind of job where she would make a tremendous amount of money. Rather she chose a “two bit” practice where she could actualy take the time to help people, her highest and most noble ambition.

    You see, some people really do follow the ideals of both eschewing honor, glory and money. Some of us care only about the impact we can have on the world, and believe clearly that it must be done one person at a time, serving those who need it most.

    Which is why, in teaching, I intend to follow her footsteps and teach younger children, dispite the fact that for someone who litteraly can’t fail a math or physics class, even when they try (and I have) and could probably aquire a PhD without any effort at all (and one day I will, but the world will come to an end before I turn away from my little charges) I could probably do something a lot more prestigious. Why? because they’re the ones who need the help, need the bright teacher who can answer any question (even an idiot can be a master at one subject, but it takes a much smarter person to have reasonable grasp of ALL secular subject matter relevant to the child) and make sure that they are taught right the first time.

    So too here, it is our daughters who will be dealing with many of the halachic issues in day to day lives (as they are around the kids most, they are around the kasherus questions, niddah questions, and many of the other most complicated halachot in the entire shulchan aruch) and need to be able to give an answer off the top of their tongue with out having to look it up. So yes, it is an important job that could well draw idealistic teachers.

    Personaly, If I felt comfortable earning a living from limudei kodesh, I would very much like to teach halacha and tenach to girls, since that will help them raise the next generation!

  21. Pingback: How Important Are the In-Laws? « Bad for Shidduchim

  22. On a totally different note, if this woman is afraid of someone who “does her own thing,” why in the world would she want her son to date you?

  23. Rereading these comments- it’s so awesome the words spoken still apply a year later…

    About the Rav teaching high school not being one of the “chashuva” or most learned- I can attest personally to the fact that I know 2 rabbanim- one of whom is a major Dayan, and the other a Rosh Kollel- who make it their perogative to teach high school hilchos Shabbos and Brachos to girls. And, they make it accesible to all by teaching in EVERY girls’ high school, the exact same subjects. I cannot tell you how learned and venerable these rabbanim are, and how special it is that they take of their time to teach others, so when these girls become wives and mothers, they know halacha.

  24. LMAO!
    I’ve soo been in your place. And in your friend’s place.
    I agree with whoever said to run from this woman. Sounds like she’d make one helluva mother-in-law. Mothers like this usually have Momma’s boys for sons, and you don’t want one of those either.

    I don’t understand what they think they’re gaining by asking so many ridiculous questions.

    And, yeah, saying that you ask your father is pretty sensible. My father has a posek, and if he doesn’t know the answer to my question, he calls him for me. I think that’s fair, don’t you?

  25. Ok, now I actually went back and read the comments.

    Bad4, good work defending yourself. Yes, it warranted defense. You were being wrongfully attacked. This individual seems to have an unrealistic idea of life for young kollel couples in 2009.

    You raised salient points. So, like others said – You go girl!

  26. Pingback: Keepin’ It Spiritual « Bad for Shidduchim

  27. “Just tell me what I should tell her!”
    “Tell her to call me and I’ll let her know exactly what kind of person I am.”
    “I told her that, but she says ‘it isn’t done that way’.”

    My mother-in-law called me up out of the blue and grilled me for two hours about both myself as well as her daughter (now my wife). I had absolutely no idea it wasn’t “done that way.” The shadchan was shocked that I wasn’t some blubbermouthed idiot because (Heaven forbid I speak to a woman I DON’T KNOW!!).
    Anyways my wife and I were married 3 months later-the “rules” are stupid, irrelevant and only there to keep people from growing up!

  28. GREAT post. I’m sad I did not find this blog earlier.

    And, reading post #40 and 41, has this blog ever helped you find dates?

  29. is there a way I can receive updates on whether someone responded to my comments (without becoming a wordpress member)?

  30. Do you want to marry a Kollel guy? “I want to marry a serious eved Hashem. How he goes about it is his business.” I love this line!!

  31. Pingback: Repost: Why the Pre-Date Interview Should Be Instituted « Bad for Shidduchim

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