Speaking and Listening

On Shabbos Shirah we mark one of the defining moments in history: The splitting of the Yam Suf before Bnei Yisrael. Each morning we recite the praise uttered by Moshe Rabbeinu and Bnei Yisrael at the time, and before the Shemoneh Esrei of both Shacharis and Maariv we thank Hashem for this great miracle.

At a time when so many individuals are struggling as they seek to find their preordained mates, the Chazal (Sanhedrin 22a) that compares the difficulty of splitting the sea to the difficulty in arranging shidduchim often comes to mind.

What, indeed, are the similarities between the two?

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When Bnei Yisrael arrived at the edge of the Yam Suf, they envisioned various possibilities: Perhaps Hashem would help them and they would somehow continue their way on land into the desert. Perhaps they would successfully defeat the Egyptians in battle. Perhaps they would be forced to return to Egypt. What they could not possibly think of was the unimaginable — that the mighty sea would actually split, and they would cross over on dry land.

The same applies to shidduchim. One often thinks that this shadchan or that hishtadlus is the key to the right shidduch. In the end, the shidduch comes via a totally unexpected route. (Based on a teaching by the Tzelemer Rav, zt”l)

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When the sea was first formed during the Six Days of Creation, it was with the explicit condition that it would split for the Bnei Yisrael. In that case, one would have expected the sea to split just as Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim; then they would have arrived to a dry crossing. Instead, Hashem waited until Bnei Yisrael cried out in desperation — and then the sea split. This is because Hakadosh Baruch Hu — so to speak — longs for the tefillos of His beloved children.

The same is true regarding shidduchim. Although a shidduch is preordained, it is sometimes delayed, so that the groom- and bride-to-be — as well as their families and friends — should daven. (Adapted from the sefer Asarah L’meah, Harav Tzvi Hirsch of Voideslav, zy”a, the father of the Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa)

This powerful thought is not only enlightening but also demanding. We often think of davening on behalf of those who need shidduchim as a requisite hishtadlus, a means to an end. But according to this approach, a lack of tefillos may be the very reason that a shidduch has not yet been finalized.

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There is a seemingly puzzling Midrash that states: “The sea saw and fled: What did it see? It saw the braisa of Rabi Yishmael.”

One approach is that this refers to the braisa (Kesubos 5b) that explains why the human earlobe is soft while the ear itself is hard. This is so that when a person hears something that is inappropriate, he can bend the earlobe to his ear and thus not listen any further.

When Bnei Yisrael were being pursued by the Egyptians, an angel named Uzza argued before Hashem that the Bnei Yisrael were unworthy of a miracle, as both the Egyptians and Bnei Yisrael had worshipped idols. The sea “saw” this braisa, closed its “ear” to the words of the prosecuting angel and proceeded to split.

The Ribbono shel Olam, so to speak, in His boundless love for Bnei Yisrael, found it difficult to listen to the words of this angel. So, too, during the shidduch process, words of lashon hara are often uttered; negative comments are made about the prospective groom, the prospective bride and their parents. Much like the words of the prosecuting angel, Hashem finds it difficult to hear these words of lashon hara. (Based on the Pardes Yosef)

In the world of shidduchim, we find two equally dangerous extremes. On one hand, individuals, sometimes blinded by self-interest or subconscious jealousy, give erroneous and misleading negative information. Third-hand innuendo is transmitted as undeniable fact, and reputations are unfairly besmirched. Details that have absolutely no relevance are often repeated and stressed, and a very flawed portrait is drawn. On the other hand, information that, according to halachah, one is obligated to divulge, is too often not told. So many divorces could have been avoided, so much devastation and heartache prevented, if only the individuals involved had been proficient in the relevant halachos and had given crucial and truthful information.

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A Yid once came to Rav Yechezkel, zy”a, the Rebbe of Kuzmir, and asked whether he should conclude a shidduch for one of his offspring or hold off a little longer.

The Rebbe replied that shidduchim are compared to the splitting of the Yam Suf. Just as then Hashem instructed that it was not a time for tefillah, but “Speak to Bnei Yisrael and let them journey forth,” so, too, in regard to shidduchim, whenever appropriate, one should seek to conclude a shidduch at the earliest possible moment, and not to delay it at all.

May all those in need of shidduchim find their bashert zivug quickly and easily.