Sunday, December 28, 2008

Give and Take

Yiddishkeit believes in giving: Klal Yisroel are responsible one for the other. We give tzedokah. We look out for each other. We try not to talk Loshon Hora and hurt others. We do Hachnasos Orchim and so on.

The world at large lives by a diametrically opposite mantra: "What's in it for me?"

If Chv”sh we go into shiduchim with a "What's in it for me?" attitude we better think again, and change our philosophy. By making the list, we get a chance to reflect with our child on what they need, and weigh their requests to see how much "take" there is in them.

When a person gives the other one takes. All Yidden wish to give more than to take. Yidden are Gomlei Chasodim after all.

I heard a story during a lecture that illustrates this give and take. After one of the horrific bombings in Yerushalayim, a neighbor of a family that was on the bus took on the task of helping them out with meals, babysitting and general help during the time the family was recuperating from the injuries of the terrorist attack. The mother of the injured family repeatedly tried to give something back to the benefactors but they would not hear about it. Finally just before the benefactors had to travel to the US the injured family was able to convince their benefactors to accept dinner before their departure. The injured family send a full meal over from soup to nuts as they say.

Only after the benefactor saw the effort that the injured family put into this dinner did they realized how hard it had been for them to accept all the help and not be able to give back!

That chazal tell us is why the Aibishter asks for us to do Mitzvos so we can get rewarded. When one earns one's way it is infinitely more satisfying.

So too in marriage, it is not healthy if one side feels s/he is always giving and the other is always receiving. Both partners have to learn when to give and when to receive.

Our children must be ready to give of themselves selflessly to build a marriage, but they have to know what qualities they need in their partner that will complement theirs. They will divide their responsibilities and their goals according to their individual strength and weeknesses and will support and encourage each other. That is why they must make a cheshbon nefesh and come to understand themselves better, before embarking on a shidduch search.

They should think: "I have this quality which will be employed in the most positive way if my spouse has this other quality." This is very difficult to do, don’t we all try on Yom Kippur to do a cheshbon nefesh and resolve to improve in the coming year? How often are we really accurate in judging ourselves? I am sure the percentage for the regular person is pretty low, so how can we ask our young children to do this?

We can help them by being there for them and by helping them with our insight to figure out their nature and needs. And if we need help? There is nothing wrong, but much good, to be found in asking the help of a mashpia, a mechanech or mechaneches who knows our child well.

Keep in mind and tell your child that the end result is not a shopping list. We cannot always find every single item that we want. And even in the rare cases where one does, marriage takes work from both sides. Only if both partners put effort in the marriage will it be successful. Marriage is work, but we can make it as pleasant as possible if both sides are willing to GIVE.

Here are some adjectives for your list that might ring a bell for you:
Emotionally stable, hard-working, charitable, even-tempered, born leader, generous, flexible, agreeable, ‘aidel’, strong-willed, outgoing, patient, reserved, playful, humorous, kind, meticulous, low-key, energetic, stable, sensitive, resilient, ambitious, perceptive, open-minded.