2008 Miracles, Marketing and Madness: Part 2
Chananya Weissman
July 4, 2008, The Jewish Star

Kupat Ha'ir's latest marketing ploy is an insert called Kos Yeshuos, a story supplement. Printing thousands of copies of this artistic publication couldn't be cheap, but in business you have to invest money to make money.

I confess that I read the first story, summarized below, with the expectation of being outraged by it, but you can judge the merit of my embedded remarks. Pay attention not just to the predictable “miracle,” but to the insidious social and religious ideals that are just taken for granted as being right and true:

Meir was very quiet amidst the celebration of the engagement of a fellow bochur. Someone noticed and ribbed him: “Whatsamatter, you wanna be the guy in the middle?” [What middos!]

Meir was crestfallen but quickly hid his feelings because he couldn't afford to let others see how jealous he was. [One can never show himself to be dissatisfied or unhappy in the kollel world or he's finished right then and there.]

Another shidduch, so close to the finish line, had hit a dead end that evening. [Shidduchim are a race, and the finish line is the wedding. Can we get ONE mental health professional to endorse this? Also, what is “close to the finish line,” a second date?]

“I'm afraid I'm going to be the last bachur left,” Meir said to his good friend Eisik later. [I can't think of a better motivation to pursue marriage, can you?]

Eisik had come upstairs from the study hall at 2:00 a.m., the way he did every night. [Just so the rest of us who need more than four hours of sleep can feel small.] He prepared for bed, not wasting a minute, but in the meantime he could provide a listening ear and a warm and caring heart for a friend who needed both so badly. [Warmth and caring that a dear friend needs badly can only be provided when one is multitasking, so as not to take away one minute from Torah learning.]

“You should've been the first to get engaged, Meir. There aren't many bachurim as sought after as you.” [Such inspiring words. Don't worry, Meir, you're a commodity, too.]

Meir was not consoled. “I thought so too. But you see what's been happening. Such things leak out, you know? Who's going to want to get engaged to a bachur others have rejected?” [This statement alone should have us recoil from what the kollel-centric lifestyle has morphed into. If someone has been turned down by others as a marriage prospect, then it is assumed there is something wrong with the person, and his value on the market drops considerably. Surely this is what Hashem had in mind all along.]

“No one has rejected you,” Eisik protests. “One shidduch was blown for financial reasons.” [I thought the vaunted shidduch system was supposed to transcend materialistic considerations. Also, does Meir plan on working?]

Meir was still not consoled.

Eisik now had a problem on his hands. The three minutes he dedicated to preparing for bed each night had passed and unless he hurried to close his eyes now, tomorrow's learning would suffer. [I call it “madness” for a reason, folks. Oh, and so much for providing a listening ear and a warm caring heart for a friend. My three minutes of distracted listening as I fret about staying precisely on schedule for morning seder are up, buddy. Time to close my eyes.]

Three years passed. Eisik was now the father of two children despite being younger than Meir by nearly a full year. Meir was the last one left. [No word about being lonely, craving a relationship, having what to contribute to a relationship, etc. No, he's just behind his peers in the race.]

Someone four years younger who just got engaged [a shanda!] advised Meir to pray by a certain grave, since it worked for him and his sister. He was going there the following day to give thanks to Hashem, just as the segulah requires: you go there once to ask and once to say thank you.” [Sefer Segulos K'hilchasa?]

When Meir heard about these engagements, his heart broke for the umpteenth time. [Jealousy at the good fortune of others so suits a yeshiva bochur.]

The segula didn't work. [No explanation given. As I said, segulos get credit when good things happen, but no blame when they don't. Sweet deal.]

More segulos, more failure.

“When you're a twenty-five-year-old single bachur, you can't be too picky about shidduch suggestions or segulos,” he often said, making peace with the “label” people had begun sticking him with. [Indeed. Loss of leverage in the commodity-driven shidduch world is the worst of nightmares.

And don't mistake it: it's all about leverage.]

Meir realized that he was past the age and needed something beyond nature to have any hope of getting married. He needed to contribute a sum beyond his means to Kupat Ha'ir. He decided on $2,000 because that's what worked for a woman he read about, and began to solicit contributions.

Even before Meir had reached his goal of $2,000, Uncle Baruch phoned his parents and suggested a shidduch. [Why couldn’t Uncle Baruch phone Meir directly? Of course, we know such things just aren’t done. Silly me.]

They got married, of course. A miracle! Whoever contributes to Kupat Ha’ir beyond derech hateva merits a yeshua that is beyond derech hateva. [Can I get a money-back guarantee?]

This insidious story booklet concludes with the words of a noted rabbi:

“Certainly, contributing tzedaka to a worthy cause such as Kupat Ha’ir is a proper form of hishtadlus, which effects many yeshuos to both individuals and the general public. We see many such examples in Tanach and Chazal. [That’s not the sort of hishtadlus I normally find in Tanach and Chazal.] Of course, the intention is not that whoever gives tzedaka will certainly be helped; sometimes, there are certain other factors that hold back a yeshua. [In other words, give us the credit if things work out, but if they don’t, it’s all on you.] The intention of the Tanach and Chazal is that the merit of giving tzedakah to the poor is very powerful indeed, and that this is a suitable and proper form of hishtadlus.”

Very nice, rabbi, thanks.

In fine print at the bottom of the page, like a political commercial: “Hagaon Harav Ploni, shlita, saw and approved this massage [sic].”

Amazing! A slick marketing pro wrote his dubious inspirational Torah message for him and he just signed off on it.

End the madness. Stand up to it. Call it what it is. Then run away from it. If you can’t save anyone else, save yourself.

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness (www.endthemadness.org ). His collection of original divrei Torah, “Sefer Keser Chananya,” can be obtained by contacting him at admin@endthemadness.org.