Judaism is a religion of food. Undisputed. They say that you could sum up the entire faith in nine simple words: "They tried to kill us, we won, lets eat!" This of course only applies to holidays, but food is an integral part of the culture and faith in other ways.
When gauging one's progression through Jewish milestones in life, there is always an abundance of food at said milestones. The baby is born? Family get together for dinner. Bris/Kiddush? Breakfast for the community/Shabbos mini-meal in shul or hall. Upsherin? Repeat. Bar/Bat mitzvah? Lavish feast in catering hall for a few friends of the kid and all acquaintances of the parents. Wedding? See bar mitzvah, multiply by three. The loop then continues as the married couple proceeds to procreate their own little feast-bringers into this world.
No meal is quite as lavish as the wedding though, and therein is the segway to my real post:
I read Sara's post today, the one about her friend getting married, and I realized just how out of hand we jews* may have gotten. The reason the weddings have become so lavish is two-fold. On the one-hand is the actuall wedding aspect. As a celebration of the binding of two souls in unity under holy matrimony etc... culture has expected a nice celebration with all the fixins'. In the Jewish sense though, there is a further celebration: The reaching of the pinnacle of one's life.
It has gotten to the point where if a female is 20 or a male is 22 and they are not yet married, the community becomes concerned.** The importance of marriage has become the utmost driving force for many jewish people in their late teens and early to mid twenties. Many people base their career choices, their five year plans and their summer jobs around the expectation of meeting someone and getting married wthin the next six months. Marriage (or is it just getting married?) has become the central focus of existence for many jews and its been causing problems. Now... Im not gonna get into trhe shidduch issue. Evereyone has their wag-of-the-finger or tip-of-the-hat torward that system and its not the point. Im not gonna get into the issue of underage weddings where the guy, or the gal, or both are in no way nearly financially able, or mature enough to care for, provide for or create another human being. I just wanna vent about societal pressures.
Its gotten so rediculous, that people will accept date prospects from complete strangers with zero information about a girl/guy. Its gotten so ludicrous, that when a guy wants to pursue an interest as a career that may not pay as much as... oh, I dunno... being a lawyer might, that he is looked at as strange. Its gotten so flabbergasting, that girls come home from seminary, never having had an actual job, responsibility or experience of life, already in love... just not knowing to who. Yet.
Now, Im not saying people shouldnt get married. I think it is a wonderful thing to find someone that you believe you can spend the rest of eternty with. I think its wonderful to be with someone that you completely trust with every facet of your life and who you want to raise children with. I think its a beautiful thing to perform the mitzvah of P'ru U'revu and I reccomend starting even before marriage. I do not, however, think its wonderful to demand that someone find this person as goal in life. Love should be discovered, not thrust upon us. It should not be demanded that we find true love before 25, or 30, or maybe even ever if thats how the cards land. Its, as I said, rediculous.
I call for an uprising! Feel some self-respect in yourself and your accomplishments without feeling that they are tainted because you are not married. Dont feel the NEED to start dating at 17 and having your formative twenties forcefully stripped from you as you become 19 going on 35 with two children and one on the way. Allow yourself to remain uncommited after three dates even if the rules tell you to start thinking matrimonally at that point.
But mostly remember: You are not defined by your relationship status or your significant other. They are merely additions to the wonderfulness that is you. We can exist just fine without them for as long as we need to.
*For the remainder of this post, "jews" refers to right-wing, religious, orthodox yiddin of ashkenaazic descent. This is the only sect I can confidently report as an insider on.
**By concerned, I of course mean talkative but unhelpful.