Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hearts of Gold

A serialized book that Mishpacha ran for a little while, Hearts of Gold, recently ended. Mishpacha took a lot of flak for running this story, both while it was running and after it finished. I commend them for braving it, and also for the elegant way they resumed when condemned in middle of running the story. A few thoughts about this book remain in my head, here goes (spoilers ahead/some of this will only be interesting to those who read the story):

1. I am not the most voracious reader these days, but choosing the tribulations of young couplehood seems a more original idea than much of what I'm used to reading. Kudos to the author, Devorah Weiner, for taking the risk of a common, yet infrequently covered subject.

2. The ending seemed a little sloppy. I mean, I really wonder what a husband would feel when opening his apartment door to SURPRISE! find the wife who didn't stick up for him, and whose family ran his name through the mud.

3. To confuse this couple with the idealistic, Torah lishmah couples that we know is ridiculous. When Mishpacha was confronted with a deluge of angry letters, the serial was stopped for a number of weeks (if I recall correctly) and resumed with a disclaimer (reprinted weekly) stating something to the effect that this is not representative of those who are moser nefesh, etc. That Mishpacha had to place the disclaimer is sad, and yet it was the right thing to do.

a) It's sad that people cannot read a story and understand that its message extends beyond the confines of the storyline. Not every kollel wife is spoiled (most I know are not), nor is every spoiled woman a kollel wife. In fact, I have dealt with a number of professional women who are quite spoiled. I don't mean spoiled with luxuries or jewelry, but spoiled as we knew the word as kids: used to getting their own way, and throwing tantrums when they don't. I think it was good to use a character like Raizy, because it holds up a good mirror to those who act like two-year-olds well into adulthood.
b) The online gambling. Ever hear of HYPERBOLE? It's a device used to get a point across. I personally have not yet heard that online gambling is a major problem in frum communities, but the point here is that unresolved issues in marriage that are left to fester create poor outcomes.

4. The issues: Mrs. Weiner ought to be thanked for helping us remember a few things.
a) Young couples need to have someone they can go to for guidance, because it is a brand-new situation and very little in life before marriage prepares them for their new experience. Finances are just one part of the story (more later); middos are the big new challenge.
b) "Asei lecha Rav" is more than a nice ma'amar Chazal; it's vital for a frum family, not just a frum couple. These should be the first questions asked in shidduchim - Who is the family's Rav? Do they have a close relationship? Who is the Rav/Rebbetzin that the guy/girl talks to?
c) Some parents really mess up their kids' lives. Most parents are probably well-intentioned, but you know what they say about the road to hell. And unfortunately, some parents are not well-intentioned.
d) The obvious lesson is about shemiras halashon. That we never really know the whole story when we hear one side. And that it's too bad that so many of us throw shemiras halashon out the window when seeking to be perceived as "right" (or the wronged party) in instances of divorce.
e) Parents have a responsibility to train their children to be financially responsible.

We never do find out exactly how much of the money was spent by Raizy (perhaps more than was gambled by Avrummy!), but there are hints that it was a substantial portion of their account. The issue of overspending is clearly true to life. It is unconscionable that parents who are marrying off their children have not yet trained them regarding moderation in spending, and what it costs to live. It is DEPLORABLE that we need to suggest that this be a course given, like kallah and chosson classes, before marriage. Maybe we live in a world where parents are so irresponsible about money, that they cannot be trusted to teach their children fiscal responsibility. That is very sad.