I’m a 12th grader from an out-of-town community considering seminary next year. From a shidduch perspective, does it make such a difference if I don’t go? I heard that one of the first questions mothers ask when researching girls for their sons is which seminary she went to. I just don’t have an interest in going to seminary. Will people really reject me because I spent ten months of my life different than the “norm”?
The short answer is, in my opinion, yes, some people really will reject you due to such a choice, but that does not mean you are now stripped of the ability to self-actualize or to explore alternative routes. It may mean that options will be reduced, to an extent, but as will be discussed further, that is not necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself.
To elaborate, as imperative as it is for one to position themselves in a manner that is optimal, vis-a-vis shidduchim, it is far more important to take care of oneself, and ensure that one is not forcibly making themselves miserable. In theory, one could thoroughly ingratiate themselves to the universe of shidduchim, and allow it to be the sole determinant of all their actions and behaviors. It has the power to influence one’s chosen circle of friends and social network; mandate how one dresses and talks; guide which hobbies or pursuits one engages in; determine where one goes to school and camp; and direct where or whether or not one attends seminary. These, and countless other impactful life decisions, could quite easily and excusably be dictated entirely by how each of them will most plausibly shape one’s image, and, by extension, how that image might sway one’s dating prospects.
However, the fact that these resolutions have tangible imports when it comes to dating does not equate to an inherent superseding of all other considerations, particularly one’s emotional and mental health, and one’s capacity for contentment. Accordingly, for those who are “supremely fortunate”, conformity in all areas is downright natural, and uniformity is found to be appealing. For those slightly “less lucky”, a bit of additional adherence to cultural expectations or demands here and there is perhaps somewhat a bother, but not unmanageable. And for yet others – those “ill-fatedly contumacious” of us – such an unadulterated sacrifice of character is positively untenable, and eventually, if a tipping point is exceeded, life can suddenly be not only unpleasant, but simply unsustainable.
With the above in mind, the primary questions then become, why is one disinclined towards a specific item, how strong is that aversion, and what will be the result of setting aside their opposition?
If one has noteworthy cause for their deviation, if their disinterest is of real magnitude, and if succumbing to standard operating procedure will lead to feelings of dysphoria, inauthenticity of self, or disfranchisement towards oneself, towards yiddishkeit, or towards shidduchim in general, yielding to a prevailing tradition just may be an impossibility. On the other hand, if the root of the reluctance is nebulous or insubstantial, if their conflict is only marginal, and if acceding to typical modes will not be all that painful, going against one’s grain may not be the worst idea – provided, as would be applicable here, there is at least good reason to swallow that pill. Or, perhaps a middle ground can be unearthed, such as, in this scenario, enrolling in a half-year seminary program rather than going for the entire year.
Of course, these are the extreme ends of the spectrum with respect to the aforementioned queries, and, in reality, most people will end up somewhere in the middle after a sincere assessment has been completed.
Once the initial evaluation is made, should one’s disposition lean towards deferring from trotting along the usual trail, the subsequent question becomes, how willing is one to accept the byproducts of stepping out of line, to one degree or another. After all, no matter how plainly obvious it is that one must take the road less traveled, when one’s society ascribes notable significance to obedience, there will be some form of ramification owed to being viewed as in some way intractable, and one that is generally commensurate in measure with that of the departure from capitulation.
If one’s apprehension of consequences surpasses their distress towards conventionality, once again, abiding by the norm, or seeking out some sort of compromise might be the prudent course to chart. Conversely, if one is entirely at ease with any and all implications of their noncompliance, it would be both wise and perfectly within their right to do what is needed to remain happy and healthy.
Furthermore, and specific to this case, if the overriding sentiment is a need to be true-to-self, and a philosophy that, “anyone who would cast me away due to my idiosyncrasies is clearly not someone I would want to date or marry anyway,” any limiting of opportunity is, in effect, but the first step in finding a compatible spouse. Parenthetically, one must exercise great caution before employing the Take-Me-As-I-Am approach, as there is a significant contradistinction between holding fast to a core trait or preference which may be slightly off the beaten path, although not necessarily inappropriate, and refusal to make objectively important changes to one’s bearing or practices.
All told, I believe the goal here is to implement an approach which is holistic; to identify a medium which is best suited for each person and each circumstance; and to be mindful of avoiding conducts which may prove overly disadvantageous in the future.
May the Yoideiah Pesher Davar help us all to successfully navigate the intricacies of human development, and to strike a proper balance between individualism and communal congruity.