men and boys

The written word has a unmatched ability to slice through confusion, and reveal a clear – if sometimes painful – clarity.

Yesterday, I read something that really touched me at the soul level, and kind of explained what I’d been seeing myself, all around, but haven’t been able to pull down into words.

For once, this isn’t going to be a post about nanobots or fake rabbis (more of those are in the works, don’t fret…).

It’s going to be a post about the most important relationship in this physical world – the connection between husband and wife.

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First, please go and read THIS post, which I will quote a little from below.

It’s written by Reva Emunah Seidel, who has the usual 58 jobs, hobbies and interests of a busy Jewish mother listed in her biography.

Here’s a little of what she wrote:

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It is hard to not cry as I write this.

We women are the Shechina. And we know that the way to heal all of the pain and suffering in the world is to reunite Kudsha Brich Hu with Shechinte. The Masculine with the Feminine.

We love you, men. We love you so much.

We often see your potential long before you yourselves have seen it. We believe in you. So much. We want to support you in any way we can. Spiritually and materially and physically. So we are willing to hold and receive all of you. The healed parts. The not yet healed parts. The beautiful parts. And the not so beautiful. Broken and whole. We want to draw you into us. To comfort you, to build you, to encourage you, to be your home in the world. We want to show you your own light, as it is reflected back to you through us. We are your malchut– your mirror.

But we are so tired. Exhausted, really. Shechinta b’Galuta.

If the final healing of the world, Moshiach, will come, because we learn and practice the secrets of unification, what unification can be holier/more whole than reuniting a man and a woman and creating an ADAM- a whole and integrated human being?

But our hearts…they are shattered. We don’t know anymore how to reach you- how to connect with you.

Just in these past few weeks…the stories I have gone through. The stories my friends have gone through…

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Here’s some more – but I’m skipping lots of beautiful things out, so please go and read it all in the original, HERE.

You beautiful Jewish men….

You want to receive all we have to give- our softness, our admiration for you, our time, our company, our deep listening…but you choose to place your own comfort before ours, over and over again….

Giving feels to you like a burden.

To put a woman’s needs above your own is seen as a bother. You don’t see the immense power you have to be a mashpia. To lift a woman from the ashes of despair by shining onto her the light of Torah and mitzvot. And by healing and loving this one woman who Hashem placed in your path, by way of hashgacha pratis, you will learn to open your heart to love Hashem, yourself, and all of creation.

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None of my daughters’ close friends have boyfriends, even though a large part of them have been trying for a couple of years.

By boyfriend, I mean a man to start dating with a view to settling down and getting married, in the relatively near future.

In our home, our eldest just broke up with someone she’s been seeing for two years, because he is totally petrified of the idea of getting married.

We can blame all this on a million different reasons – many of which may well have some basis – but it really all boils down to this:

We live in a world where there are hardly any real ‘men’ – as defined as men who want to give to, and connect to, the women in their lives.

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We live in a world populated by ‘boys’ of all ages, who view giving to the women in their life as a ‘burden’ to be avoided, evaded and minimised.

Most of these ‘boys’ of all ages can only see themselves, and what’s good for them, and what suits them.

And that’s why the last few years, I have been experiencing a tsunami of divorce and relationship dysfunction all around me.

I can count the couples my age who I still know about, who didn’t get divorced, on one hand.

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One day, these selfish ‘boys’ just wake up, and realise they don’t feel like working on all the bad middot that are ruining their marriages.

And they don’t feel like having to continually think about someone else, or other people’s needs, including their own children’s.

These ‘boys’ have bought into the mistaken idea that the pinnacle of happiness is to do exactly what they want, whenever they want it.

If they want to… they can stop keeping shabbat, and start driving motorbikes around, and spend all day in the office without worrying about helping out at home, and take off to go camping, fishing and drinking with their buddies, and just watch 70s soccer highlights until their brain dissolves, and date a different woman every week, and….and….and….

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Man, those guys are so very miserable, it’s hard to even describe it.

They are trapped in a lie, stuck in the belief that what is going to make them happy is to just carry on taking with no responsibility, and no commitment, and no real giving in return.

And I’m seeing this mindset wreak destruction in every age group.

For older couples, it’s leading to divorce and relationship breakdown in unprecedented numbers.

And for younger singles….

The men have gone AWOL.

They just want the ‘milk’ without paying for the cow.

They want the ‘jam’ without the bread.

And the world is totally falling apart, because of it.

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I’ve been watching some of these ‘boys’, of all ages, screw up their lives in a million different ways.

I’ve been noticing how as soon as there is some effort required, some chagnsome giving needed that is hard for them to do, instead of knuckling down and growing into the tremendous, awesome people God designed them to be, they run away.

It’s easier to eat cold beans from a tin every single night than to work on fixing even one bad character trait, it’s true.

But that doesn’t mean that eating cold beans from a tin every single night is a good way to live.

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There is an answer, there is a solution, to this problem.

But most of the ‘boys’ out there don’t want to even consider it, because it’s going to take a lot of effort and self-control and prayer, and asking God for help.

We are here to fix ourselves, to do our tikkun, to fix the world by working on ourselves, and overcoming the bad middot that are stuffing up our relationships with everyone, but especially, with God.

I’m not saying women don’t have our own work to do on our bad middot, because of course we do.

But we are just the mirrors of the men.

We get all our ‘light’ from our men, and when those men are off shining their ‘light’ into their beer cans, and their forest raves, and their business meetings, instead of into us – well.

No wonder we greet them with a dark face.

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Women also need to be talking to God for an hour a day, and working on our internal stuff.

But here’s the thing:

Most women will agree wholeheartedly with this statement, even if they are struggling in practise to do it.

While most men (boys…) will run away or close you down before that statement has even been completed.

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In our crazy world, none of us have been taught how to ‘relate’ properly, not to ourselves, not to God, and not to our partners, spouses and kids.

That’s part of how they are keeping geula at bay, and humanity so darned ‘small’, selfish and miserable.

But the proper way to ‘relate’ can be learned.

And ‘boys’ can turn into real men, and they can fix the world in a way that we women can really only dream of.

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Like Reva, I also see the tremendous potential hidden away in so many of the ‘boys’ in my life.

And like Reva, I sometimes also cry about the massive gap between the selfish, self-centred and superficial ‘boys’ I’m struggling with, and the tremendous men they could become.

If they would only start to believe in themselves.

And start to look inside.

And start to really connect to God.

And start to follow the instruction manuals and advice from our true tzaddikim.

Then, they could mamash change the world.

And bring geula.

At least, for themselves and the women in their lives.

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One last note, about my husband, who is probably reading this and worrying I’m writing it about him.

I can honestly say that since my husband started learning and living Rav Arush’s ‘Garden of Peace’ more than a decade ago, he has been more of a ‘man’ spiritually, than almost anyone I know.

He doesn’t berate me for spending money, even though I don’t work and sometimes money is tight.

He tries to give me whatever he can, in whichever way he can, as happily as he can.

He frequently holds his tongue when I’m going off on one.

He puts up with my bad moods, my occasional selfishness, my current inability to cook amazing suppers (which started around two months ago, and which I’m still struggling with.)

And he TRIES to relate, even though it’s very hard, and so much of what I want to talk to him about sets off an automatic impulse to visit the bathroom for an hour.

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Let’s be clear, that marriage is still a challenge.

We still sometimes fight.

I still sometimes get so angry I want to throw a plate at his head, or bite him.

We still sometimes relate like ‘ships passing in the night’, especially when there is a lot of stress going on.

But we’ve been married for 24 years, and we (mostly…) still enjoy each others company – and I’m totally giving him the credit for that.

When we hit a really tough patch about 14 years ago, he knuckled down, started to do his ‘inner work’, started to read the Garden of Peace, started to go to Uman on Rosh Hashana, and started to work on developing the emuna it would take for us to stay together, and to overcome the massive issues (internal and external) and bad middot that were rocking our marriage on all sides.

That is the true definition of being a ‘man’.

(Just to keep this as ‘real’ as possible, know that I also sent him to Uman around 20 times, bought him a Garden of Peace and nagged him incessantly to start doing hitbodedut every day; cried rivers of tears, tried to work on developing my own patience and emuna and when things really got stuck, I did A LOT of pidyonot for him with Rav Berland. And that last one is really the shortcut.)

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So, let me end with a blessing for us all.

I bless all the women that we should find our true basherts if we are still single; and that if we are already married, our men’s souls should start to really blossom and open up, so that we can connect to them, and they can connect to themselves, and to God, and to be the tremendous force for good in the world they were created to be.

And I bless all the boys out there, of every age, that God should help them to finally grow up into the men they need to be, without making any more excuses for their bad middot and physical ta’avot.

And I bless all these ‘boys’ that they should understand that growing up is not something to be afraid of, but something that will give them more energy, excitement and true happiness than anything else.

And I bless all of us that finally, all our homes should truly be a place where the shechina can dwell, and where peace between husband and wife will reign, and where geula will become a reality, at least in our daily lives.

Amen.

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Change can happen.

But only when we really want it to, and we’re prepared to grow up.

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PS: As I was putting the finishing touches to this, a neighbor popped round and we started talking about it. She’s 25 and newly-married, and newly-observant.

She told me:

How can men NOT be like this today, when they have an i-Phone in their pocket and constant access to ‘instant gratification’ 24/7?

She’s right.

My daughter once said the same thing, that she thinks men don’t need women to talk to anymore because now they have i-Phones to run away into, any time they get bored, overwhelmed or lonely.

Sigh.

May this all turn around, very soon.

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17 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    Most boys, like most children are raised primarily by their mothers, from their infancy during there most formative years.
    So much of a person’s bad character traits, the ones that are hard to change, come from their childhood.
    This is a world of lust and taking, not a world of love and giving.
    A man must provide for his wife’s needs not her wants.
    So clothing, shelter and food. The spiritual kind being more important than the physical kind.
    Unfortunately most men don’t have the ability to provide that, because lies are more abundant in this world than the truth.
    And a women is only a mirror of the man, when the women treats man as the sun.
    So if the women is off trying to be a man, or the sun instead of the moon.
    Then we have a broken world.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      You are making good points, and I’m not saying that fixing character traits is easy.

      It’s the hardest thing in the world.

      But it’s also the main point of why we got sent down here, and the work we are actually meant to be doing – and maybe most importantly of all, IT’S POSSIBLE TO CHANGE, and to fix and to rectify all this stuff.

      But only if we really want to, and are talking to Hashem and asking Him to help us do it.

      I see so very many people who despair of changing, so they just give up and let the yetzer take over.

      But with prayers, and Uman and pidyonot to our true tzaddikim, everything really can change.

      I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make.

      It’s so hard to do it – but that doesn’t mean we should just give up and let the destruction continue. Prayers from a broken heart are always answered, one way or another, and especially when it comes to fixing our own bad middot.

      Reply
      • Ben
        Ben says:

        This going to be a bit of harsh comment so I understand if you don’t post it.

        Man’s biggest mistake is choosing whores to be the mother’s of their children, instead of God fearing women.

        This is what happened before the flood and began happening in recent times, before WW1.
        It has only gotten worse since.

        Reply
        • Rivka Levy
          Rivka Levy says:

          You do know that Joshua, the leader of Am Yisrael after Moshe Rabbenu died, chose Rahab for his wife, after she made teshuva, right?

          And btw, in Breslov teachings the onus is very heavily on the man to kept the sanctity in the home – it’s the mens sins of pagmei habrit and not guarding their eyes that my Rav, Rav Berland, emphasises as being the main cause of so much of the trouble that befalls people.

          Reply
  2. Elisheva
    Elisheva says:

    This has been a problem in Jewish & non Jewish communities for a long time. I remember discussing it with a friend many years ago & her opinion was that it was parents. Mothers in particular who were spoiling their sons by waiting on them hand & foot & never expecting any contribution from them. Daughters meanwhile have carried on more or less in the time honoured way!
    Now, when marriage is being considered these boys suddenly realise that the status quo is going to change & shy away from making the commitment.
    My younger daughter & her friends who are now in their 30s experienced this, and several of them, who are lovely girls & would have raised beautiful families, are still waiting for their bashert.
    It’s always been true that women become conscious of the body clock quite early on while it never really affects men.
    Boys often need tough love to push them into the world of taking responsibility. Unfortunately too many never do with the unfortunate results being experienced in the west of reduced fertility & the sharp decline of population.
    Strictly Orthodox communities are managing to confront the problem with shidduchim but even then the number of unmarried older singles is growing in all sections apart from the Chassidim who are managing to marry off their older teens (before they get the opportunity to object perhaps?).

    Reply
  3. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    You know what, Rivka, when I read the first part of this post of yours, – didn’t get further than the description of those “selfish” boys who refuse to give their women who are such wonderful beings….all I could feel and think was: but it’s just the opposite: some women I know are so selfish, so demanding, so narcissistic, so mean, so demeaning, so lacking in empathy, caring and giving…. that is what I see from where I am. Good men, who want to give, with a woman who doesn’t know how to appreciate what is given to her, how to simply say “thank you”. Yes, the women point their finger at their man when in fact they are they ones without a heart. Of course there are wonderful women out there too, but boy are there also bitches, and I don’t use that word lightly. I could name names for you; I even remember my own demands years ago that were so lacking in empathy, so lacking in understanding of the effort the man is making. it is so easy for women to blame the men: let them look in the mirror! Do they have any idea of how tired the men are too??? How they are sucking the life blood out of their man, so often, and have no shame, no self-inspection, no feeling that somehow they are doing something very bad… because of course they are entitled…. to everything, right?!
    … Ok, so now, if I have time, I will read the rest of your post

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      Of course we women also have our work to do.

      If we aren’t talking to God regularly, working on our bad middot, trying to live a more spiritual life etc – then we also aren’t doing the job we were put in the world to do, which is basically to help our men become the tremendous people God designed them to be.

      I’m not letting women off the hook for a moment.

      But the Ari said that already by his generation, the women were only being reincarnated to help the men achieve their tikkun.

      That’s the main point, the main goal – and that’s why the Torah says that a man HAS to get to married.

      Because an unmarried man simply can’t achieve their spiritual tikkun. While (apparently…) an unmarried woman still can.

      Reply
      • Elisheva
        Elisheva says:

        I learned that when H” created Adam HaRishon he was complete, he needed nothing. H” realized that he would be a selfish individual which was not what H” had intended. He therefore created Chava from Adam’s body so that he would never be fulfilled on his own, he would need to be looking for someone to share with.
        Thus men are told to get married to complete themselves as they feel the ‘hole’ from which Chava was formed. Women do not have this spiritual lack so aren’t instructed to get married.
        The irony is that young women feel the need to get married much more sharply than young men.

        Reply
  4. KA
    KA says:

    Hi,

    I am sorry to say but this is a rather insulting post. It is male bashing and implies that all men have serious character flaws and hold the majority burden for all of the troubled marriages in the world.

    Rarely is there ever mention of the serious, hard learning men in the world who would move heaven and earth for their wives and families and provide beautiful Torah homes, they are out there.

    As someone who has struggled in spiritual growth over the years I can tell you that the key to a successfull marriage is mutual respect and realistic expectations and not feeling superior to the other. This does nothing to contribute to strengthening marriages. It would be helpful to offer Chizuk on how to strengthen marriages then to continue to state how men are so immature and are at fault for all marrital and Shidduch problems.

    I happen to know many mature Gd fearing men who don’t act like boys, they really do exist.

    This world is full of instant gratification for everyone, there is plenty of it for both men and women. We all need to work on ourselves and come closer to Hashem.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      EVERYONE has serious character flaws.

      Why is that statement of fact so insulting to you?

      And if you read further down the post, you’ll see the last third is talking about my true hakarat hatov for my husband, who has his hands full with a crazy wife with lots of bad middot issues.

      I don’t always express myself ‘perfectly’, or politically-correctly, so I’m sorry you are offended. But the intention of this post was to write something from the heart about what I see in my dalet amot – and that I know is a tremendous problem for many other women in the world.

      God created a world where men have the spiritual responsibility for supporting their wives physically, emotionally and spiritually. Men sign the ketuba, not women.

      That said, I totally agree that women also have a huge responsibility to support and encourage and love their men to become the best they can be.

      But first, the man needs to knuckle down and get married.

      I know of lots of women who have waited for the man to commit, and who were ready themselves to commit – and the man ran away.

      I know of very few cases where the opposite happened.

      Reply
  5. AK
    AK says:

    This is a rather offensive post and implies that ever single male out there is incapable of being a man and growing up.

    It does nothing to strengthen marriages but rather reinforces preconceived notions and fosters resentment.

    Everyone loves in a world of sheker and instant gratification, and we all need to work on ourselves and come closer to Hashem.

    The thing that is missing today including in marriage is mutual respect, and looking at the positives. Maybe write about that next time.

    Reply
  6. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    May I kindly and respectfully suggest that those who are offended by this post must seriously work on their middot?
    As Rivka rightly pointed out, chazal said that the only way for a man to escape from GEHINOM is to listen to his wife and do what she tells him. As she and only she has the power of tikkun for his soul. If the wife is bad tempered, this means that the husband needs her bad temper to rectify his soul. And by annihilating his will to the will of his wife, he learns HUMILITY. Which is the recognition of EIN OD MILEVADO. Only humility and the recognition of ein od milevado will take a person out of his/her personal galout. And when each Jew will get out of personal galout, collective geoula will happen. Therefore anyone who is denying being in galout (aka men not acquiring humility in adjusting to his wife demands and requests and so on) is DELAYING GEOULA. Many learned scholars know Torah but they do not know HaShem. And the knowledge of the first not much worth without the knowledge of Ribono shel Olam. With all due respect.

    Reply
  7. Inna
    Inna says:

    This post is exactly relevant to what we are all feeling and going thru this week. I guess we are on same wavelength! I think this is what Hashem is telling us to work on and can be found in the Parsha or the week as it always is (during Korah the entire family started to have fights )
    And nothing to be offended about – just read Garden of Peace This is what it says throughout the entire book. To argue against what Rivka wrote is to argue agains Shalom Arush , rav Berland , Rabbi Nahman , tzadikim and Hashem Himself.

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      People are welcome to argue with me, tho… I’m clearly not claiming to be on the level of the Rav, Rabbenu and Hashem!

      But the approach is their approach, and the etzot is their etzot, for sure.

      Reply
  8. AK
    AK says:

    Hi Rivka,

    Last week I responded to this post with a pretty defensive response. After thinking more about it and rereading what I wrote, I understand what you wrote and how it was from your perspective. I want to apologize if my responses were defensive or gave the appearance as a personal attack on you. To the contrary, I was trying to convey from my perspective that things aren’t always black and white.

    We live in these crazy times, and your posts always give clear perspective according to the path of Toray.

    My sincere apologies and keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      Kol hakavod, mamash.

      I’m very impressed that you came back with this comment, mamash it’s not at all an easy thing to do.

      And I apologise for sparking off the defensive response. Sometimes I write things that are very ‘sharp’, and I don’t want to hurt people with the words.

      But they still need to ‘get out there’, sometimes.

      So thank YOU for forgiving me for pressing your buttons.

      Reply

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