I buy small things like battteries from a mountainous red head of a man on Rotshschild Str. The small shop is full of a disordered mix of electronic trash, like a Persian bazaar. The gingerhead giant looks like a Scottsman from the Highlands, but je is a pious long-bearded Persian Jew. There is a chair outside of the shop, on the street, where his elderly Father uses to spend the sunny afternoons. Although I am the most busy man in Kever Benjamin City, having reached the status of a senile great-grandfather, I enjoy the privilege of starting uninvited conversations with total strangers. Thus I got to knew that the real color of the beard of this devote Persian is white (I asked), and he uses henna to achieve that carrot red hue. This is common among Middle East old men, but I know of no other with such a fantastic beard.
The man has many worries, apart from the taxman (he sells only for cash). His daughter has finished the religious girl school and has to get married. They connected with a suitable yeshive-bocher but the boy demanded the down payment of an apartment for the couple. Barbarrosa has not the required amount so they went to the Rabbi. The Rabbi mediated and contacted several gmach Charity Funds dedicated to marrying off kosher meydele, and the sum was reduced to 30,000 shekel (about 8,000 dollars). Which Barbarossa says he hasnt, so the daughter is still a spinster.
Meditating on this issue, I envy Barbarossa. In his world, the marrying off his daughters is construed as a monetary arrangement, the discussion is about money and never about... that Western invention of love. All the family is involved in getting the money demanded by the future husband, and not only them, the Rabbi and the community. They debate the amount, the timing and so on, the bocher dominating the discussion with his material demands and the family trying to negotiate a reasonable arrangement. I think this bargaining is beautiful and effective, the bachur gets closely aquainted with the family from a powerful position, that of the buyer, and mutual obligations are being formalized in a nuptial contract, the ketubah. The beauty of the thing is that while bargaining about money, they are getting to know each other - the boy, the girl, the parents, the community - that leads to the mutual accomodation that any succesful marriage is, and to the blood contract that makes each one member of the family responsible for the others.
I compare this process with the gehennon (inferno) of a lonely girl, without the support of her parents and family and community, setting out in a bar to get to know boys and trying to establish mutual arrangements and obligations. My heart fills with pity when I see these good Jewish girls facing the Chateau-type bastards in the "meat market" and fighting valiantly for the right of a family. We have left them alone and unprotected. Western society has destroyed the traditional protective frameworks and has abandoned its young to their weak devices and inexperience. May be the West is in transition towards better social arrangements in the future, but as for now, my lifetime, it is a sink of death. I hope some Js will be among the fortunates that cross these murderous mid-times and emerge safely on the other side, two hundred years in the future.