In the glorious era when we still merited that the Beis Hamikdash stood in Yerushalayim, 15 Av — which we marked this week — was a joyous Yom Tov. It was on this day that bnos Yerushalayim would gather in the vineyards for the purpose of shidduchim. Each had borrowed a dress from another, so that the poor among them would not be embarrassed.
As we eagerly await the Geulah Sheleimah and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, this is a most opportune time to address the plight of the many in our community who are still searching for their zivug — and try to do something concrete about it.
The following letters address a few angles of this most crucial issue, and we hope that in addition to raising awareness, we can begin a conversation that will, b’ezras Hashem, bring positive, actual results.
We welcome feedback on this important topic to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a teacher in several local high schools, I am frequently called by mothers of bachurim seeking information about my students.
On the one hand, I am encouraged to find that parents are starting to ask much more relevant and thoughtful questions than they did a few years ago. While we still have a considerable way to go, in my experience, our community is beginning to move away from their focus on external aspects of the people they are researching, and are now concentrating more on what the girls are really all about.
At the same time, there are numerous assumptions that mothers make which often cause them to draw erroneous conclusions.
For example, very often I am asked about the type of “job” a girl had in high school. It is statistically impossible for every future eishes chayil to have a “top job,” and the notion that if she wasn’t a G.O. or chessed leader she isn’t a “top girl,” is absurd.
Equally ludicrous is the commonly posed question: “Why didn’t she go to seminary in Eretz Yisrael?”
That type of inquiry is based on the puzzling premise that every top-caliber girl should leave her family, neighbors and promising local opportunities, in order to study abroad. It isn’t the norm in many circles, and it should be reconsidered on an individual basis even in those circles where it is the norm.
On another important note, I am taken aback by parents who overestimate the relevance of the views of a ninth-grade teacher. Many girls change a lot over the four years of high school, and even more after graduation.
Another important point to keep in mind when calling a teacher is that a lot depends on the type of subject taught and how much this particular student liked that subject or “clicked” with the teacher. Just because she didn’t do well in dikduk or math, or failed to establish a connection with the particular teacher you happen to know, doesn’t mean she isn’t a perfect shidduch for your son. Many teachers teach only two 45-minute periods a week, hardly enough time to really know a student. Unless she is a mechaneches who forged a close relationship with the girl, it is advisable to call several teachers before drawing any conclusions.
Finally, and most importantly, so many parents fail to realize that what really counts in marriage isn’t how “book smart” a girl is, but how “people smart” she is. I have seen many girls who may have average intelligence or knowledge, but when it comes to being a wife, mother, or even engaging conversationalist, they prove to be more life-smart than their classmates with a perfect average.
A Concerned High-School Teacher in Brooklyn
To say that being a shadchan is a frustrating profession is an understatement. While I am persistently pursued by some parents desperate to marry off their children, I am consistently ignored by others. I invest long hours — sometimes until the wee hours of the morning — trying to help build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael, only to see my efforts demolished by a single careless comment by a biased party.
While certain elements are unlikely to change anytime soon, some relatively small things can benefit the whole shidduch scene.
First and foremost, I know I speak for many shadchanim — and many parents on the “other side” — when I plead for parents to get back with a yes or no answer in a timely fashion. If your custom is to abstain from rejecting any specific shidduch, please get back to us and tell us that at this time you don’t wish to pursue this shidduch. If you feel you need more time to make a decision, or need more people to call for references, please call us back and tell us so. But the incessant foot-dragging is unfair.
Please don’t pressure us to say why the other side said no. Even if we were told — so that next time we can try to redt a more suitable shidduch — that doesn’t give us the right to repeat the information.
Another important issue I have frequently found to be a great challenge is the generalization that is so common in our community. Don’t make assumptions based on the yeshivah the bachur attended, the shul the father davens in, or who the mechutanim are. Give every suggestion a fair chance. Make your calls, do your homework. It is very likely you will come to a very different conclusion.
Last but not least, please remember that regardless of how much time and energy we may expend in trying, we only get paid if the shidduch actually happens.
A Sincere Shadchan
While I was considerably older than most of my classmates when I finally merited to walk under the chuppah, my kallah was only 19. (Yes, I know that this is a contributing factor to the shidduch crisis, and my parents seriously looked into girls my age or older. But they were simply not bashert for me.)
My wife was already very mature for her age, and I was touched and inspired by the way she treasures my Torah learning.
Baruch Hashem, we were quickly blessed with three children born in rapid succession, and although my wife greatly wanted to be moser nefesh so that I could stay in kollel longer, after consulting daas Torah, I recently entered the workforce.
I get up at the crack of dawn to attend an early-morning Daf Yomi shiur, and every night after supper I learn with my longtime night–seder chavrusa. My wife tries her hardest to hide her emotions from me, but I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
She knows that since I got married later, I actually learned (in a yeshivah that also housed a kollel) for considerably longer than the husbands of her friends, most of whom are still in kollel. But at the end of the day, what counts in her mind is the length of time since we got married, and she is terribly embarrassed in front of her friends and family members.
My plea to the mechanchos is a simple one: When inspiring your students about the beauty and zechuyos of being a selfless and long-term kollel wife, please keep in mind that not everyone can stay in kollel indefinitely after the chasunah. Please realize that your choice of words may have a major impact on the shalom bayis of many couples down the line.
There are many ways wives can have mesirus nefesh for Torah even when the husband isn’t in full-time kollel. When a wife is ready to forego a convenience and encourages her husband to go to a shiur instead, when she refrains from asking him to do some chores so he can catch up with his chavrusa, she too is accruing great zechuyos.
Please help prepare your students for the realities of life, and help them find ways to respect their husbands — even when he isn’t serving Hashem precisely the same way all her friends’ husbands are.
A Husband No Longer in Kollel