TITLES AT A GLANCE
SINGLES TO "CATCH-A-MATCH"
TEN KEYS TO BEING A GOOD
HOW TO HELP SINGLES FIND
THEIR MATE (AND HOW NOT TO)
WHEN IT'S RELATIVELY
DEALING WITH THE
TRUTH IN MATE-SEEKING
VARIOUS QUESTIONS THAT
COME UP IN MATCHMAKING
MEANINGFULLY KNOWING THE
SINGLE WHEN IN THE ROLE OF MATCHMAKER
CONTENT OF THE
USING LOTS OF WORDS AND SAYING TOO LITTLE
WHEN THERE IS
SENSITIVE MATERIAL TO TELL ABOUT AN INDIVIDUAL
MATCHMAKING AS SERVICE
THE SHADCHAN'S ROLE AFTER
THE COUPLE MEETS
MARRYING THE RIGHT WAY FOR
THE RIGHT REASONS
[Note 1: Rabbi Forsythe refers to personal
matchmaking in these writings, which were written over several years. However, for the
last few years, he has restricted matchmaking to people who he knows personally and knows
well for a considerable period of time. He no longer does matchmaking for the public
at-large. His current work with singles is primarily compatibility-profiling interviews,
private counseling, public lecturing, shabatones, workshops and the like.]
[Note 2: In halacha, there is NO kibud av
ve'aim in shidduchim. A single should marry the person who he gets along with and who is
good for him/her. There is a world of difference in halacha between a parent giving mature
advice or sharing life experience vs. making or killing a shidduch. The ultimate criteria
for suitability of a shidduch is: what is good for the couple.]
[Note 3: The reader is referred to the
other related subjects on this "Finding Your Zivug/Mate" site e.g. lashon hora,
criteria for readiness and healthy mate-selection, "Frus-Dating," etc.]
In this age of more and older singles in
the Jewish community, there are a number of good-hearted and well-meaning individuals who
want to help. They call themselves shadchanim. Most singles who I ever have known
recurrently tell me that the vast majority of set-ups they've had were frustrating and
senseless. I work with individuals and couples as a counselor. I work with live audiences
who bring personal problems and questions to me. I have studied human relations and
personality since '77. I have spoken to numerous singles, shadchanim, rabbis and married
people over the years. I have some observations to share. Summer weeks after Shabos
Nachamu are an appropriate time for this.
Many in the matchmaking role use relatively
shallow criteria for set-ups. One in Brooklyn matches index cards. One in another state
matches only on the basis of whether "FFB" [frum from birth] vs. baal tshuva
[returnee to Torah observance] and whether a person seems normal or unstable [as if it's
OK for unstable people to marry]. Another elsewhere matches on the basis of preferred
height and hair color. It is indiscriminate and sometimes even destructive.
Well, you never know who the shliach (agent
of G-d) will be! Right? Eliezer brought Rivka to Yitzchok and they had a loving marriage.
The Torah says so! The Torah also provides Eliezer's complete speech to Besuel and Lavan
to tell us [Beraishis Raba 60:8 and Rashi to Beraishis 24:42] that he was on such a high
madraiga [spiritual level] that all of his words were precious to Hashem! However, no
shadchan today can compare him/herself to Eliezer.
If one does a chesed, it is good for the
recipient or it is not a chesed (just because one wants to do it). Hashem is "Gomail
Chasodim Tovim [bestows good kindnesses," Shmoneh Esray prayer]. Why add
"tovim" [good]? Isn't chesed automatically good? Kindness is NOT good unless it
benefits the recipient. To speak to singles in ways that hurt or insult them, to waste
people's time and money, to set up and dash hopes, to omit relevant information, to
partially or totally deceive or misrepresent...is not chesed. Although some shadchanim are
competent, insightful and responsible, many are not. Unless one has depth, saichel
[sense], patience, skill, time to get to know each single, respect, understanding, and the
capacity to listen - like any job that requires skill and competence - you can't just
simply declare yourself to be a shadchan.
Sometimes shidduchim are unnecessarily lost
because one or both cannot communicate or relate meaningfully or effectively. A shadchan
can genuinely do significant kindness if (s)he can coach the single in how to talk beyond
the shallow surface nonsense with which shidduchim always start - and all too often
quickly end. If more singles knew how to clear up misunderstandings, extend communication
to a deeper and more emotionally mature level, apologize, compromise, sacrifice, make
another "know you are there," and develop that crucial sense of connection to
and importance in the other person, many more singles would become "unstuck" in
the "revolving door of non-relationships."
There are personality criteria which can
make or break compatibility. Not always do opposites attract nor likes attract likes. For
example, intellect and sensitivity levels have to be in the same "ballpark." For
the relationship to function, at least one partner must be practical, at least one must be
flexible, at least one must be extraverted. If one is domineering, the other must be the
opposite - passive. A stingy man will explode with his wife's generosity to others but a
comparably stingy woman is more likely to tolerate a husband who is generous to others.
Various traits have their own rules.
The Shulchan Oruch [Evven Ha'Ezzer, Hilchos
Pirya ViRivya, chapter two] prohibits or firmly dissuades (depending on problem) couplings
with prognosis for disaster or divorce (e.g. not to marry someone cruel or brazen, who
fights with or hates others, who does not do kindness or whose family has severe or
congenital illness). There should be a meaningful basis for long-run success.
The Baal HaTurim [Hakdoma to Evven
Ha'Ezzer] cites love and respect for each other as obligations on Jewish husbands and
wives, plus requires that husbands give compassion and protectiveness to their wives and
that wives serve their husbands. The gemora (Yevamos 62b) cites that, for there to be
shalom bayis, a man must love his wife as much as himself and must honor her more than
himself. Another gemora (Kidushin 31a) says that a woman owes so much honor to a husband
that she must cancel her honor if it conflicts with her husband's honor. We see that BOTH
SPOUSES OWE MASSIVE HONOR TO THE OTHER.
Goals, values and religiosity have to be
similar. Mates have to have strengths and talents which help or compensate for the
weaknesses and shortcomings of the other. Marriage is giving the best OF each other TO
each other and bringing out the best IN each other, together with the offer of love to
each other. In order for the relationship to be honest, the couple must be open about
weaknesses [although, flaws that are harmful to the other can never be allowed]. Part of a
good shidduch is each having strengths that compensate for the weaknesses of the other. If
either is embarrassed or deceiving about weaknesses, (s)he is too immature, selfish or
mentally ill for marriage. G-d made marriage to bring incomplete people to completion. In
a Jewish marriage, each helps bring the other to olam habo [eternal life].
A shadchan with skill, care and integrity
knows the severity of a damaging relationship as well as the nachas and simcha of a
successful, healthy and productive relationship. The Novominsker Rov, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow,
once told me that, since we no longer have neveeyim [prophets], sometimes one can only do
his best to purify his heart and, then, listen to it, when confronted with major life
questions for which his rov finds no clear-cut law.
The Torah, in "Shma," tells us
there are three levels from which one loves: the "laiv," the "nefesh"
and the "mi'ode." The laiv (heart) is the innermost person and essence: values,
qualities, midos and free-will. Nefesh is the personality, the emotions, skills, and
talents; the way you externalize what is in your heart and express your inner self to the
world outside of your self. Mi'ode is external to the person: property, looks, status.
Each of these three levels builds on the next. For example, if I care about a person in my
heart, I choose to express it with something I'll write, or by going to the store to buy a
present, or painting a picture (extending my essence in the laiv through the abilities or
powers of my nefesh). The last step is giving the person a tangible gift, the meaning
coming from my heart, expressing love through my nefesh and, lastly, through my mi'ode
(the physical object given as a thoughtful and pleasing gift). First and foremost always
is a good heart.
When people relate starting from the heart,
together with relating skills and traits such as communication, flexibility, giving,
patience, humility, appreciativeness, responsibility and derech eretz [polite, civil and
thoughtful behavior], with the essence of the connection being heart-to-heart, there can
be a compatible, fulfilling, peaceful and stable marriage. I'll give two examples to be
1. If one's heart responds to mi'ode (eg
money, looks, car, house, status in society), such a person's heart is not responding to
the inner person. The person is probably not in touch with his/her own heart also. I
believe that people connect with others to the level of depth that they are connected to
in themselves. The bond is teluya bidovor (conditional, fragile and tenuous).
2. A young man told a shadchan he is a
"sophisticated neshama (soul)." He meant that he has high spiritual ideals,
prioritizes midos [character qualities] and values, is deep and sensitive [all being on
the laiv level]. The shadchan set him up with a girl who is "sophisticated" in
business, a go-getter, aggressive, upwardly mobile, has worldly skills (e.g. she could
change a flat tire herself), is cosmopolitan [nefesh and mi'ode levels]. There was no
basis for a relationship; just another forced, artificial, polite - and meaningless -
date; a "road to nowhere." The shadchan didn't grasp laiv level.
The heart, nefesh and mi'ode progression is
part of a complex "Torah Personality Matrix" that is a model that I've been
developing for years and it applies to relating, whether to another person or to Hashem.
Rabbi Avraham Asher Zimmerman, z'l, said
that it is healthiest for the couple to have the wedding no longer than six to eight weeks
after their agreement to marry.
Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that a
shidduch should be attractive, good-natured and healthy. The Steipler said that you should
only select someone with good midos - and who will apply them in practical every day
living (e.g. never hits, takes out the garbage, takes good care when the other is sick).
Rov Chaim Krauss, a posek and dayan in Brooklyn, cited fine midos, being comfortable being
oneself with the other, the ability to relate to the real (inner) person, enjoying the
company of the other and enjoying doing chesed for the other (WITHOUT expecting
remuneration) as signs of a good match.
People praise intelligence as a virtue in a
shidduch. As a counselor, I repeatedly see relationships that are terrible, precisely
because a person has high intelligence and garbage midos. Therefore, THE HIGHER
INTELLIGENCE, THE BETTER THE MIDOS MUST BE (COMMENSURATELY) IN ORDER FOR THAT INTELLIGENCE
TO BE A POSITIVE ATTRIBUTE that can be used responsibly, constructively, healthily,
maturely. Otherwise you can be giving the other person a partner who has MORE
"TOOLS" AND "WEAPONS" with which to be cruel, sadistic, manipulating,
cunning, controlling, punitive, disparaging and destructive. No one marries for these.
It is significant to ask what may be
unrealistic about one's idealized mate or check-list, that it has not worked out yet. On
what can you be flexible, adaptive or compromising? What are non-negotiables (highest
priorities), preferences (secondary priorities) and frills (dispensable)? What do you
value, respect, understand, appreciate and care for in another? What do you want to be
valued, respected, understood, appreciated and cared for by another? What potential and
mission do you want marriage to actualize for yourself and a mate? What makes you want to
give to another? What attracts you, turns you off, what needs do you have, TO WHAT NEEDS
CAN YOU GIVE? Are your expectations, self-awareness and behavior patterns realistic? How
well do they do when tested in the "real world?" Are they the basis for a
relationship that can last? How can you be a gain for another person's life...and be happy
about it? Do you learn from mature, experienced, wise people?
"Reading" and being sensitive to
people are as important to shadchanus [matchmaking] as knowing what pipe fits where to a
plumber or how an accountant will do taxes so as to keep his client from trouble with the
government. The same way that no one would use a plumber who hooks up your running water
to your electricity cable, nor use an accountant who gets clients put into jail due to
their taxes, so too for individuals who practice shadchanus without "people
skills," insight, honesty, concern, competence, kavod ha'adam [human dignity/respect
for people] and daas Torah [Torah instruction]. In speaking with the singles, apply the
saying, "Words that come out of the heart enter into the heart." Establish trust
and rapport which permit you and each single to dialogue maturely, comfortably and openly.
There is one shadchan who uses relative
surface criteria. Every person I know who was set up by that shadchan is divorced. Some of
the people were not ready, or stable enough, to merit marriage. That didn't stop this
shadchan from aggressively building a "scorecard." Although I admittedly do not
know every one who was set up by that shadchan, this does give me a jarring and
frightening message that there is no set of objective, uniform or professional standards
in the current matchmaking scene. A matchmaker is playing with lives, and the potential
lives of children to be born from the couples who are set up. This is an area which needs
quality over quantity. There has to be correlation between the things the single DOES and
what (s)he IS as a person.
If you read and understand people, give
them time and respect, have a presentable ratio of 1. overall dates to 2. good dates to 3.
relationships to 4. WORKABLE AND LASTING MARRIAGES, you are a gift to our generation and
"mee she'oskim bitzrkay tzibur bi'emuna HaKadosh Baruch Hu Yishalaim s'charam [May
Hashem reward all who sincerely work for the Jewish community," Shabos Shachris
prayer] applies to you and your hishtadlus [efforts].
To the single, I urge you to make sure the
shadchan is one who can find out enough of the "true you" and of prospective
matches. Instead of focusing on getting a great mate, how can you focus on BEING a great
mate...a superb human being who truly has only [or, primarily] good, well-being,
reliability, supportiveness and happiness to offer another? Are your criteria for choosing
a partner a true basis for a lasting relationship; backed up by realistic expectations,
self-awareness and behavior patterns? What criteria for your mate-search should be
negotiable or subject to re-evaluation? Think of your "track record," the
consequences of your views and choices. Can your "system" stand the test of time
and endure for the long run? Has your "system" succeeded in other couples? Do
you use successful couples as your model?
I recommend that you think twice about
matchings in which one party knows the man and a separate party knows the woman. This can
be insultingly arbitrary. How can anyone validate such a matching (with someone totally
unknown and "undefined" to either of these two "shadchanim")? If such
a possible set-up sounds good, the shadchan with the best judgement should meet the other,
To the single and to the shadchan: always
have a qualified rov who you can go to for questions, guidance, objectivity and Torah
No halachic discussion of shidduchim can
avoid the serious subject of what the Torah calls "momzer." A momzer is the
descendant of a coupling prohibited by the Torah (e.g. adultery or close relatives) and is
only allowed to marry another momzer. Momzer status is irreversible and continues in all
descendants for all generations. All Jewish families are considered kosher when there is
no reason to suspect otherwise. But, when there is reason to suspect a single might be a
momzer (e.g. if the single person's mother was married previously to a man other than the
single's father, and there is reason to believe there was no halachic get [Jewish law
divorce] from the first husband) this requires investigation (check practical questions
with a rov). A "soffaik momzer" [a "maybe momzer"] is more serious, in
shidduchim terms, than a "definite momzer" [Evven Ha'Ezzer, Hilchos Pirya
Virivya] because he or she can not marry anyone at all, since marriage between a momzer
and non-momzer is a strict Torah prohibition. If (s)he turns out to be a momzer, (s)he
cannot marry a kosher Jew. If (s)he turns out to be a kosher Jew, (s)he cannot marry a
momzer. A soffaik momzer is stuck, unable to marry anybody, until a determination one way
or the other is made by a universally accepted rov [Torah law authority who has fear of
Heaven] or bais din [Torah court]. A definite momzer can marry another definite momzer. A
SHIDDUCH MUST ONLY BE BETWEEN DEFINITE MEMBERS OF THE SAME CATEGORY.
I once had a tragic case of a young woman
whose mother was an agunah. A first husband abandoned her mother. He disappeared without a
trace. The mother made no effort to search for the husband or to consult a rov. After 16
years, the mother, tired of being alone, "married" another man [it was probably
an invalid marriage]. There was no way of knowing if the first husband, on a different
continent, was still alive. The single woman, fathered by the second man, was a soffaik
momzer and not allowed to marry anyone.
To the shadchan, I urge you to make a
cheshbon hanefesh (introspection). In your role, what really counts is quality, not
quantity. You're dealing with lives. The rate of troubled marriages and divorces in our
generation is high enough to ruin your appetite. Singles have enough hurt, frustration and
hardship from loneliness, from disappointing and pointless dates and from not having
children. The gemora [Bava Metzia 58b] says that making a person feel shame is one of
several sins whose punishment of gehenom is eternal. The last thing a shadchan has any
right to do is to be blunt, wounding, condescending, judgmental, arrogant or
inconsiderate. The following are true examples:
* Nu, so why aren't you married yet? *
You're unrealistic * You're not [religious, wealthy, yeshivish, intellectual, classy,
thin] enough for the people I set up. * Hold the phone [and keep single holding
interminably]. * What do you mean you won't go out again with [him/her]? You're too picky.
* Misrepresenting materially about a prospective match (deception, omission, misleading,
half-truth) especially about age; or emotional, religious or physical defects which
competence and a reasonable measure of investigation by a shadchan could discern). One
shadchan justifies saying nasty things because she is "saying the truth" [You're
too fat/old/short, etc. to be a shidduch for this person]. The gemora [Kesuvos 17a] says
that one should always be sweet with people, and not be hurtful, harsh or critical in the
name of "truth." The mitzva of tochocho [rebuke] has many laws. Learn them
before you criticize.
If you don't have a match for the person,
or if the person is not suitable for marriage, say that you can't think of anyone suitably
matched or that people you set up tend to be in a given category [age group, religious
type, etc.] which does not apply to the single. In a nice way, you are reporting a fact;
not being judgmental, contemptuous, harsh, attacking, rejecting or callous. Shadchanim
have hurt so many feelings in these ways that it is yotzee s'charo bihefsaido [more harm
than good, Pirkei Avos]. Remember that ona'as devorim [hurting with words] is a de'Oraisa
(serious and severely punishable Torah sin) [Bava Metzia 58 & 59; Sefer HaChinuch
Similarly, be careful how you express why a
shidduch does not go. One shadchan would say "So-and-so says you're too [fat, old,
etc.] for him/her]," which violates the Torah laws of richiluss [saying a harmful,
slanderous or shaming report], ono'as devarim [hurting with words], motzee shaim ra
[ruining reputations] and shalom [killing peace, making enemies]. Rabbi Avraham Asher
Zimmerman, z'l, told me that when he was going out, and a girl was not for him, he would
simply say, without criticism or judgement, "She is not the one who Heaven destined
for me." This is how a tzadik and talmid chochom talks.
The Jew is born to serve. The birth of our
people was above nature. Avraham and Sara were 99 and 89 when they had Yitzchok, and Sara
was barren (incapable of having children even when young)! Either we rise above nature and
serve Hashem or, if we serve ourself, we succumb to the worst in nature, and G-d sees to
it that we are subjected to Romans, inquisitors, Nazis, Arafat or personal tzoros
[troubles] and yisurim [suffering]. This applies all across the Torah, including making
shidduchim. Making matches must be to serve G-d, not ego, not to build a
"scorecard," not to feel good by doing something arbitrary or irresponsible that
one wants to think is a mitzva. Like all mitzvos, there are rules. If you don't know them,
bow out of matchmaking or learn the rules from a qualified rov, before you tamper with
The single must have a rov and mature,
capable advisors who can furnish clarification and feedback and can help to direct and to
Hashem is "Gomail Chasadim Tovim
[bestower of good kindnesses," Shmoneh Esray prayer]. Kindness must be pleasing and
benefitting for the recipient, not just doing something that one will feel good to do.
Matchmaking is a matter of serious responsibility...to the feelings and needs of
singles...and the creation of healthy and Torah-observing generations who stand to come
out of every Jewish coupling. The Torah says, "Go after G-d" [Deut. 13:5], which
means to emulate His kind deeds [Sota 14a], and "You shall go in His ways"
[Deut. 28:9], which means to emulate His good midos [Rambam, Dayos 1:6].
Matters of the heart are the highest
priority in evaluating a shidduch: e.g. the person's values, midos [character traits],
human qualities, hashkofos [views], ne'emonus [honesty/trustworthiness], yoshrus
[integrity], gentleness, mentshlachkeit, rachus [softness and flexibility], ne'eemus
[sweetness, ability to blend well with others], mesiras nefesh [ability to sacrifice and
extend oneself], acharayus [responsibility], bechira [the ability to choose to obey Torah,
especially when put to a test] and koach-hanesinah [generosity, the ability to give
unconditionally and steadily].
The standards for shadchanim matching
singles - and singles accepting matches - can be upgraded significantly by shadchanim and
singles who are prepared to make the effort to start with the heart - in the relationship
between the shadchan and the single - so that more singles find the marriage relationship
that starts with the heart...for keeps...so we can see TOV come alive with "gomail
chasadim TOVim" [doing good kindnesses] and "sha'a TOVah umutzlachas [finding
one's destined mate at the good and successful time].
SINGLES TO "CATCH-A-MATCH"
One of the difficulties of the
"singles scene" is getting singles on dates or at events past the superficial
nonsense that keeps them from forming meaningful interest and serious relationships. Let
me share a sampling of some event formats that have been useful for bringing singles
together. Events must be well planned - well in advance! Allow sufficient time for all
staffing, training, arrangements and publicizing. To be effective and successful, my
experience; in devising, planning, advertising, preparing and presenting any event; is
that the entirety must be done; from initial idea to final clean-up; in a prudent,
organized, warm but business-like, well-delegated fashion. This applies no matter what
form it takes: dinner at a restaurant or shul, holiday or after-shabos party, lectures,
workshops, shabatone, weekend - anything. Events must be designed to create meaningful
communication and acquaintance.
The event can and should be modified to
factor in the individual audience (religiosity, location from which the population comes,
sophistication, age, etc.), goals (making introductions, widening of networks,
relationship skill development or obstacle reduction, etc.), nature and size of the
facilities (shul, hall, private home, restaurant, business board room, hotel, etc.),
desired atmosphere (provided by the physical facilities and to be created by the
organizers), expense, time, staff and all other germane characteristics and resources. All
such considerations MUST fit into your final operational plans. Often, the means by which
you can advertise and promote will play an important role in determining how and when to
set-up and schedule an event, as well as in determining who (and how many people) show up.
Also: what else may be going on at the same time - will you have competition, will every
one be away that weekend? To the extent possible, generate favorable and widespread
"word of mouth." It is wiser to use a network of contacts, such as rabbis and
rebitzens who personally know singles, than to advertise in the "open market."
This provides "quality control" and helps assure marriageability of attendees.
The organizer must have a rov because shaalos (questions) invariably arise.
One strategy that I have often and
effectively used is to give lectures on relationship topics - when I do workshops for
single or married audiences - talking right to the point (although some audiences prefer
other subjects). Not only do relationship subjects meaningfully and impactfully "hit
home," I often am asked practical questions from listeners' personal lives right
after the presentation. I can receive phone calls with real-life-questions for up to
months after. Such developments often help singles to find, choose, develop, improve or
retain a relationship; or to get rid of an unhealthy or dead-ended relationship and,
thereby, move on. This approach can be adapted to and integrated into any scenario, event,
location, audience, budget or format.
When I do events, I generally start
activities with a relevant lecture on a purposeful topic. The point is that a qualified
moderator would make a presentation on the aspects of relationship (or difficulty) to be
dealt with in the workshop. He explains that the issue plays an important part in getting
along, selecting a mate, matching people with similar goals or values, not being stopped
by fears or poor self-image, communication, defining "true love" or whatever. He
then goes on to explain how the first exercise plays a role in achieving the intended goal
of the workshop (giving it background and a sense of context and purpose). Each lecture
should be relevant to relating or to finding a compatible mate, and designed to evoke
interest and enthusiasm.
The "relationship workshop" can
be structured in different ways. One example is taking a meaningful topic that has some
bearing on the "singles situation" (e.g. dealing with anger or rejection, family
values, bad dating or shadchan experiences, relationship conduct or sabotage, how to
"break the ice" or to overcome shyness when meeting someone new, what makes a
relationship grow or endure, or any topic that can evoke interest and enthusiastic debate
and discussion). An important element that should be built in is to help the singles learn
how to communicate maturely so that they really "explore" and get to know one
another, honestly bring out the "real person" inside, learn to trust and make
each other feel secure, address the obstacles to forming a relationship or building
gradual and healthy closeness with true "candidates."
A trained and informed moderator can
"bring people out," evoke interest, and direct discussion and the event, so that
people open up and lunge into a lively session. Attendees get insights into the
personalities, values, attitudes, qualities and relating styles of the other people. Men
and women who may not have given a member of the opposite gender a second look can be
impressed by or attracted to a person when that person displays views or personality
strengths brought out by the discussion. In addition to finding "candidates" of
the opposite gender when people open up to each other, some start friendships with other
participants of the same gender.
One workshop approach - which can only work
well if it is excellently organized - is to break up a large audience into sensible and
compatible groups (e.g. by such criteria as age, religiosity, goals, etc.) of
marriage-minded men and women, with equal numbers of men and women in each group.
Immediately after a relevant lecture,
attendees are divided into groups. In each group, men and women form couples and are given
relating assignments in which skills and sensitivities are developed for getting to know a
member of the opposite gender. Unproductive fears, behaviors and shortcomings can be
worked on. "Role-plays" can sometimes be used e.g. to address excessive shyness
or hesitation, to understand the thinking or behavior of the opposite gender, to learn how
to start or maintain a relationship or to improve sensitivity and resposiveness to another
person. After each assigned exercise, men can rotate to the next woman in the same group,
so that there is no sense of pressure or discomfort, as typically can develop when one man
stays with one woman for an entire workshop. The moderator makes a presentation that sets
up for each subsequent exercise. Staff members must be carefully selected, well-trained,
managed and coordinated. They must supervise each group to keep the program running
smoothly, tastefully and effectively. There generally are questions and complications
which require a professional, and sometimes rabbinic, response. There should always be
access to a rov. This kind of program, depending how well it is organized and managed, can
be a productive and significant success, and help singles to find a relationship that
Each group has a table. Each attendee
introduces and describes him or her self so that everyone else can learn about each
person, and be on the lookout for appropriate matches between individuals who each
attendee meets at these tables, and other people who each attendee knows (or comes to
meet) back in everyday life. If man A hears woman B describe herself (or if her
personality makes a certain impression), man A can suggest a set-up for a date for woman B
with man C who man A knows presently in his town, or man D who man A will meet in a week
or a month into the future. Man A may have a friend or neighbor who may be ideal for woman
B. Woman B may have a cousin, co-worker or high-school comrade who would suit another man
at one of the tables. Man A may notice that someone a half dozen tables away would suit
woman B. Men rotate to each table.
Meanwhile, there would be at least one
skilled, tactful and diligent matchmaker - who understands people and who has trustworthy,
mature judgement - who is on hand to promote matches (and do follow-up afterwards) if any
of the women or men happen to have interest in one another. While the stated goal is
networking, of course, interest in attendees by attendees is really ideal.
Forms may be devised, printed and given out
to attendees, which allow them to discretely provide the names of individuals who 1.(s)he
is interested in or 2. would be a "candidate" for the attendee's friend or
relative. Forms would not be an option for events which take place on shabos or major
Jewish holidays, when Torah law prohibits writing (unless their use is saved for the night
after, when writing becomes permitted again). The larger the crowd, the larger the staff
has to be, to manage the event with commensurate efficiency.
If you want to get sophisticated, you can
add a variation to the program which enables each person to network much more than the
After all the men have met all the women at
the tables, break the crowd into groups. The men go to one half of the hall, the women go
to the opposite side. Divide the men into small groups and the women into small groups. By
dividing the men into several groups and the women into several groups, you can have all
the men meet all the other men, you can have all the women meet all the other women, so
that literally every attendee can network with literally every other attendee. You use
then same basic technique. The men describe themselves so that the other men can "go
on the lookout" for each other, and the women describe themselves so that the other
women can "go on the lookout" for each other. One half of the men and one half
of the women are assigned to stationary positions at given tables on their respective
side. The other half of each gender is assigned to rotate around their half of the hall.
This way, literally everybody gets an opportunity to meet everybody else.
Data about who is interesting for 1. any
attendee or 2. any friend or relative of any attendee is supplied to the on-hand
shadchan(s). You may hear things like, "I got a cousin/neighbor/co-worker who is
perfect for so-and-so!" One time when I was a leader of such a workshop, I made a
match for one of the men in attendance with a woman I knew from my neighborhood. One time,
when I led a networking program at a singles shabatone, I thought of a set-up for one of
the women with one of my former students. At that same event, two of the women became good
friends. It is not unusual for a well-executed, well-managed and well-attended event to
produce a shidduch or two, and new friendships.
TEN KEYS TO BEING A GOOD
1. OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS. The single must
be able to express who he or she is. The matchmaker must hear the single and answer
to-the-point, on each point.
2. REAL COMMUNICATION. The communication
must be comfortable and productive. The shadchan must be receptive to the single's reality
and priorities, without being judgmental.
3. REAL PERSON. The shadchan must take
enough time to get to know the single as a unique individual; without superficiality,
impositions of the shadchan's agenda or assumptions or sweeping generalizations.
4. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. Since some
singles do not know themselves or how unrealistic their expectations may be, the shadchan
may have valid and constructive criticism. However, Torah law requires that it be
delivered with concern, warmth, respect, tact and softness. If the criticism cannot be
properly administered, it may not be given at all.
5. DILIGENT RESEARCH TO
"DAMAGE-PROOF" A MATCH. Jewish law prescribes priorities and criteria for
finding a suitable mate. The internal qualities are of highest priority, the surface
matters are subsidiary. Candidates must be prepared for the mature responsibilities of
marriage, functional (in psychological and practical terms), mentshlach (fine, honorable
and decent as human beings). If a person can be a cause of damage to a marriage partner;
is untrustworthy, cruel, irresponsible, abusive, antagonistic, rude, insolent or unstable;
call a known rov before making a match. Reasonable and diligent research must be made,
since every single represents him/herself as wonderful. Err on the side of getting more
(not fewer) references and check not only for reliable and meaningful data; check for
inconsistencies and fabrications. Lives are at stake, children stand to be emotionally
crippled, future generations stand to be burdened by the societal ills of dysfunctional
and broken families. Much of this can be avoided by competent and responsible matchmaking.
The shadchan must have a reasonably reliable and honest knowledge of each single.
6. DON'T PRESSURE. The good shadchan does
not pressure, impose his taste or will, rush or manipulate a single. The single's
intuitive feel must be given weight. If the single doesn't like a match enough to want to
marry, that cannot be disrespected. Some people can use some mild prodding or dialogue
about the match. Look first and foremost at the prospects for a successful and lifelong
marriage, minimizing the chance for a marriage that is shortlived and destructive.
7. MUTUAL AVAILABILITY. Return phone calls
or be reasonably accessible to receive them. The single and the matchmaker must both be
available or there is no basis for any practical working relationship. When you don't have
a match at the time, tell the single how often to keep in touch (different shadchanim vary
- once a month, once in three or six months, etc.).
8. HAVE A VALID CASE. Be able to articulate
the attributes or basis for recommending a match. This must be substantive and specific.
To say that two unstable, rude or dysfunctional people "have something in common so
it should work out" is superficial and destructive. Convey that your thought went
into it and why it should succeed. This is not accomplished until the single agrees that
the criteria are meaningful, valid and indicate a reasonable prospect for a marriage that
can last. Never be evasive or vague. Never use generalizations nor impose your priorities
or taste. Remember the difference between answering a question and negating it. Have
answers. Don't be judgmental, arrogant or rejecting.
9. BE SCRUPULOUSLY HONEST. This includes:
no substantive omissions, shtick or deception. If someone thinks he is marrying A and you
are delivering B, the marriage may be subject to annulment or you may have an avaira or
enemy on your hands who you would be better off without. For example, do not misrepresent
age, physical health or psychological condition. Be more interested in success and
integrity then the "scorecard." Quality counts more than quantity. Lasting and
happy marriages count. Round-trip tickets into and out of marriage don't. If a divorce is
attributed to the absence of competence or integrity on the part of the shadchan, it is a
blight on that shadchan, who should be chased out of the profession; like an accountant
who keeps getting tax clients jailed by the I.R.S., an engineer whose bridges keep falling
into the river, a surgeon who maims more patients than he heals or a plumber who keeps
flooding his customer's homes.
10. DON'T HAVE IMPERFECTION-PARANOIA. Don't
be afraid of singles' shortcomings (when they are not destructive ones). An important part
of successful, meaningful and realistic matchmaking is completing each person's
shortcomings with the other person's strengths. Also, each must be able to accept the
faults which another person has. To say that just because they are married "it will
work out" is not true nor reliable. Remember that today's divorce rates are
frightening and staggering. Get to know the single well enough for him/her to talk about
shortcomings so that you can work with what is truly there (what to reveal to a
prospective match is a matter for a rabbinical shaala, but you should have a sensible idea
as to which couple is a match and which is a disaster). Know when shortcomings can get in
the way of a match. There won't always be one. That's better than being the cause of a
disaster. If in doubt, ask a rov a shaala or just don't promote a match. Your goal is: a
good, responsible and lasting match. Know which differences allow a couple to complete
each other and which differences mean that a couple is incompatible.
HOW TO HELP SINGLES FIND
THEIR MATE (AND HOW NOT TO)
One of the most practical issues in the
entire singles question is helping singles who are having difficulty in finding a suitable
mate. Besides singles who are, obviously, concerned about their singlehood, there are
thousands of people - friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers - who know one or more
single people about whom they have considerable concern. This is especially bothersome in
cases where the situation seems to drag on and on for a long period of time. People
wonder, "What's the answer?"
Often the issues involved are very
sensitive, so it doesn't work to approach them bluntly or directly. Yet, we see that the
singles population is getting bigger and older. As if that weren't enough, the population
of returnees to the singles population, after failed marriage and divorce, is increasing
at a frighteningly rapid rate.
What can a person do? What shouldn't a
person do? For oneself? For others? How do you evaluate a single's readiness for
commitment, capacity to handle responsibility, qualification as a relating partner? How do
you asses your responsibilities and capabilities in helping and in dealing with singles?
What else can you do when you can't do the job with any particular individual?
Concerned individuals and organizations
sponsor singles events and match up singles for dates one after the other. This is very
generous and meritorious. On a certain level, this helps. We must be appreciative for
every couple that meets through these efforts and marries successfully. But, on a
percentage basis, the contribution is tiny.
To the extent that individuals are not in
any way - midos, psychology, maturity, whatever - ready or equipped for marriage, the
handling of the singles crisis is like the fireman who aims his hose at the surface of the
fire. He will momentarily make the top level of flames jump a little less. But, he will
only extinguish the fire if he aims his hose at the base of the fire where the wood is
fueling the fire.
The contemporary relationship crisis is
analogous. Unless the concerned individuals and organizations aim their effort at the
base, the root of the issue - in the heart of each individual, one person at a time - the
societal "relationship conflagration" will not be extinguished.
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna,
eighteenth century; "gaon" means "towering peak"), one of the greatest
geniuses in history and one of the greatest rabbis known to have ever lived, writes (Evven
Shlaima) that the ESSENCE PURPOSE OF HUMAN LIFE IS FULL-TIME WORK ON CONQUERING ONE'S
INNER FLAWS AND BUILDING ONE'S INNER CHARACTER, AND EVERY MOMENT THAT YOU ARE NOT WORKING
AT THIS YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE. The soul needs Torah just as the soil needs rain. Just
as rain causes whatever was planted to sprout forth - whether for good or for bad - so
does Torah cause whatever is in a person's heart to sprout forth. The Torah develops
whatever is in the heart. If one's heart is good, his spiritual qualities will increase.
If one's heart is evil, Torah will increase his laziness, wickedness or bitterness. Torah
increases whatever is naturally in one and you must consciously make strong effort to
smash the inner bad and to develop the inner good. Each day before study, one must cleanse
his heart of impure thoughts or conduct which can effect fear of sin and doing of good
deeds. One must labor from youth till old age to develop oneself for the good. Further,
one must never stray so far as to be unable to help himself. One must constantly examine
himself, plan changes against evil traits with craftiness and without laziness. One must
cure inner traits before character improvement is externally recognizable. All good
behavior depends upon repairing character traits, which are like garments to mitzvos and
embody central principles of the Torah. All sins are rooted in faults of character.
The foundation of today's relationship
crisis is in the heart of every single individual. Relating stems from each individual's
character, relating skills, emotions and behavior, and use of free will choice. We are the
fireman at a massive societal conflagration. We are aiming our hoses at the surface of the
problem wondering why the flame never comes under control.
Instead, we must aim for the root.
Relationships are made up of people. People
are made up of their inner character traits. Character traits are manifested as emotions
and behaviors. Relationships are expressed through emotions and behaviors. Deficient
emotions and behaviors come from deficient character traits. Deficient emotions and
behaviors produce deficient relationships.
The root of long-run solution to the
relationship crisis is "aiming the hose" at character traits, and, thereby
upgrading emotions and behaviors. Individual by individual. Heart by heart. Person by
person. Life by life. Relationship by relationship. Quality of effort over quantity. These
are things that our ancestors knew just from watching and assimilating from their parents
and home environment. Relating nicely and warmly was self-understood. With the decline of
the generations, we've gotten lost. There are fewer and fewer role models. Values are
further and further away from that which is human, that which is basic, that which works,
that which is truly good.
In the best of cases, singles feel pain,
frustration, loneliness, and sometimes even a sense of failure. Not only do singles feel
fed-up with the prolonged state of singlehood, there are also the agonizingly senseless
set-ups, the sour relationships, the empty singles events and the dashed hopes.
This can be an amazingly complex issue.
WHEN IT'S RELATIVELY
Sometimes you can help enormously, in
simpler cases, by sensitively inviting singles for shabos, yom tov, Purim, or once-a-week
lecture-and-nosh gatherings in your home. You can have heart-to-heart talks with singles
who you know, as to how each could present or express themselves more favorably or
attractively. Or, explain tactfully how to treat the opposite gender. Or, explore with
singles how to choose people as dating or relationship partners more realistically, being
careful not to impose your values or judgements on another person in the process.
This entire subject requires enormous
skill, tact, sensitivity, patience and respect for the single and his or her feelings.
Wrong moves can hurt, alienate, emotionally damage or be offensive. Effective moves, in
essence, can save lives and help to build the next generation.
Sometimes the best help is to make sensible
and thought-out set-ups for people who are ready for commitment. I know one fellow who
says, half jokingly and half seriously, "Do you have a shidduch for me? If not, don't
Don't be quick to know more about the
single than he knows about himself. It is very angering, hurtful and offensive
* to speak disrespectfully
* to condescend to the single
* to presume the single is defective in any
* to "know" why someone who you
don't know well isn't married
* to speak in grandiose platitudes
* to offer unsolicited advice
* to criticize the person for being single
* to make the person feel second-class for
* to offer off-base help just to feel
* to be more personal than your
relationship should allow.
Every individual is his own story. There
are countless potential causes for singlehood. Any number or combination could be possible
in any one individual. Any could be reasons which are not the single's fault. Only Heaven
know's the whole story. Each single is G-d's creation and must be duly respected and
treated as such.
It is very to be insensitive and callous,
especially when the speaker is not single (to know the suffering of being lonely or
childless, the frustration of countless senseless dates, the pain of rejection, the
badgering of family or society. The single has probably been told numerous times: you're
not getting any younger, you're unrealistically picky, you're selfish, you're not giving
your parents "nachas," grow up already, you're a failure - or things of the
like. "Meaning well" is never license to wrong the single.
In order to be effective when working with
people, especially in a personal or sensitive area, it is mandatory - in both Torah and
practical terms - to be tactful, skillful, respectful, loving and empathetic.
DEALING WITH THE
Let's look at sabotage and defeat behavior
patterns. One of the most interesting and unfortunate parts of the singles problem is the
frequency of recurring self-defeating and self-sabotaging behavior patterns.
After one failed relationship we often see
that the single plunges into the next relationship containing the same exact problems and
patterns. The most basic question is: does the person truly want to get married?
Now, on the surface it seems a silly
question. In the subconscious, it's a serious and complex question. It's not easy to be
prepared for an intense, intimate, committed relationship. It can often be frightening and
threatening under the best of conditions.
What about when the single saw fighting,
disharmony, divorce in his or her parents? What about when the single was not emotionally
nurtured and supported as a child, so that the single has an insecurity or a lack of trust
that the single can be loved, accepted, approved of, understood, respected, appreciated or
validated? This makes it frightening and "risky" to get close to another human
being; especially in a committed, intense, vulnerable way. This is even more significant
if trauma or abuse happened at an early age. Closeness or commitment may be unmanageably
frightening or threatening, beneath the conscious level. This means that the person is
going to be acted upon very powerfully on a very deeply buried emotional level, often
times not even being aware of it.
Depending on the type and depth of
personality trouble, professional help may be necessary. If the problem is not so severe,
a tactful, understanding and communicative friend may be able to help.
There must be a desire for the other
person's benefit, when you counsel people; and the singles must have the ability to see
their own shortcomings, and to work around them, and to work them out.
It can be permissible to interfere and
disrupt and break-up an unhealthy, destructive relationship, although you MUST ask an
orthodox rabbi IN ADVANCE on a case-by-case basis to:
* establish the objective, halachic merit
of the intrusion,
* assess the probability of divorce or
* determine all guidelines for HOW to
proceed and how NOT to proceed, and
* to determine WHO is qualified to perform
the intrusion/salvation campaign.
This is a serious question of complex
Jewish law and you may not give yourself permission to handle it without detailed orthodox
Is the person's hishtadluss (practical
mate-seeking effort) appropriate in quality and quantity? Are relationship situations
recurrent patterns repeatedly? Is the single attracted to people with problems,
particularly the same kind over and over again? Does the single disqualify with
fault-finding? For example: the person is not sensitive to me, or: it could work but [then
it's always the same "but"].
The sages of the Talmud teach that a person
doesn't see fault in oneself. In another teaching, they also say all who find fault in the
other person are actually delegitimizing/criticizing their own fault by projecting it onto
the other person. By not admitting that one has the fault, the mind, which deep down in
the subconscious, knows that the fault is there, escapes facing the fault in oneself by
pointing to the other person as having the fault. By this psychological subterfuge and
deception, one can feel free to consider him or her self off the hook and blemish-free.
The person is spared the pain and embarrassment of facing the fault in him/herself.
This applies to every mida
(characteristic). This is made obvious by the Talmud choosing the term "all"
when it says, "All who delegitimatize another do so in their own shortcoming."
This does not include when the fault is determined objectively, such as by DAAS TORAH.
This also may not include a person who can 1. document the fault objectively and 2. does
not fault-find steadily. The Talmud goes on to say that if one faults A and praises B, it
is an indication the person is not exhibiting a "projection" of fault. The
"projection" is probable in one who more generally criticizes. Such a person
does not speak SINCERE good about anyone (the person is capable of saying good for
"non-real" purposes such as 1. to manipulate, 2. to flatter, 3. to make a
wonderful albeit phoney impression, 4. because the praise applies to something that
selfishly pleases or suits the person, 5. because the "projection" applies in
one area of the personality and the person can praise something which is associated with a
different, undamaged segment of the personality or 6. it would "look bad" for
the person or be embarrassing to criticize someone or something that a listener would
Are the person's expectations or
self-knowledge unrealistic? Is the person incapable of being content, calm or happy? Is
the person attracted to the unattainable? Does the person behave in ways which don't work
or which don't attract? Are the dates with reasonably matched candidates? Does the person
believe that others find fault with or disapprove of him/her? Is the individual insulted
easily? Oversensitive? Unrealistically needy or demanding? Angry? Bitter? A "turn
off" to other people in any way?
In broaching such problems, there are
several principles which my counseling experience has consistently shown must be
operative. Furthermore, there are numerous points of Torah law and DERECH ERETZ
(propriety, thoughtful and respectful treatment, decency) which must be practiced.
Present the subject gently, sensitively,
and determine if the single is interested in hearing. Keep in mind:
* "Words which come from the heart
enter into the heart (Alshich)"
* "Harsh words are not heard (Kesser
Torah, Rabbi Chaim MiVeloshin)." and
* "Who is honored? The one who honors
others (Pirkei Avos, chapter four)."
Your exclusive motivation must be for the
other person's good in this world and for his attainment of everlasting life in the next.
Your voice must be soft and the atmosphere must be unthreatening, unaccusing,
non-judgmental and calm.
In order not to produce resistance, hurt or
alienation, start by building the person up. Point out the person's strengths, qualities
and attributes. Make a point to say that you appreciate the person, the person has a lot
to offer a spouse and that you recognize the person's positives.
Then gently mention that you notice that
certain things don't appear to be working or that the person seems to be unhappy or is
doing things that hurt others or prevent people from getting close.
If the person is receptive, present what
you see. Objective observations are not as likely to be perceived as attacks, put-downs or
accusations. For example: the behaviors and their counter-productive results. Be
supportive, positive and non-judgmental. It doesn't take much to sound critical or
condescending. Refrain from language of value judgement, such as things that imply good or
bad, right or wrong, or "How come you're not married?" [as if there's some
"pat answer" that will simplistically fix everything up - there are no "pat
answers;" without care, words can't say how hurtful, wounding and rejecting things
like that can be].
Use, instead, objective, non-judgmental
terms such as: such and such
* hurts or helps,
* works or doesn't work,
* is effective or is not effective,
* is useful or not useful, etc.
Provide empathy, without pity, belittling,
condescending, being critical or "know-it-all." The person is a human being and
is probably hurting and frustrated enough, without tactless wounding, even if you are
If the person is some way not ready to be
considered marriageable, or if you see a more serious problem, perhaps suggest
professional help. If the person would resist this if stated directly, mention that
therapy helped someone else who now is happy or better or more effective. Recommend
someone good, or help the person find an appropriate professional. Better still, research
some professionals in advance of broaching therapy. Have one or more recommended names and
numbers ready. Don't mention therapy in the abstract. Don't leave the person
"hanging." Don't just give general ideas - be practical.
If the person in any way gets upset, Shlomo
HaMelech teaches, "A soft response will turn away anger." Remain calm and loving
At every possible occasion, ask questions.
Craft things that you want to say in the form of questions. Do not make statements.
Targeted questions evoke answers that come from the person. This is non-threatening,
non-attacking, non-judging. After all, the statement or disclosure or insight came from
the person - not you.
Instead of saying, "Doing that on a
date is stupid," say, "When one person says or does that to another person, how
do you think that makes the other person feel?"
If you can't approach a sensitive person or
issue directly, try discussing the topic indirectly. Borrow from the just-suggested
question idea. For example, instead of saying, "I'll bet you blew it again,"
pleasantly and caringly say, "How did that date go?"
Questioning can also be applied to
recommending professional help. For example, "Is doing things your way working for
you?" Be supportive, yet decisive. Point out patterns. Talk entirely from the heart
and consistently convey that you care, that you're concerned, you want the best for the
single, you want him/her to be happy.
By allowing the person to talk out and
release pains and worries, you offer a tremendous kindness. There are no easy or general
or simplistic rules. What is "correct and good in the eyes of G-d" varies in
every single individual case, and requires extreme tact, intellect, patience, skill and
The Shulchan Aruch says plain,
"No," or "forbidden" to certain kinds of couplings, generally because
of the prognosis of disaster, misery or for high likelihood of divorce. Experience tells
us that shoving someone in pants and someone in a dress together, and expecting
"they'll work it out," is neither fair nor reliable.
When the prospective mate or a member of
his or her family displays fighting, antagonism, insolence or cruelty, the law is to get
oneself far away from such a prospective marriage. The Shulchan Aruch uses the term
"to distance yourself far away from" such a shidduch. In practical cases, take
the question to an orthodox rabbi with expertise in these sensitive laws.
The Shulchan Aruch forbids marrying if you
have in mind to marry and divorce. This can include either:
1. The intention to marry someone
temporarily, with it being in your mind, before the marriage, to divorce after marrying,
2. A marriage that is unstable or
destructive, which DAAS TORAH says before the marriage, would have a risk of ending in
Jewish marriage is entered into for keeps,
and with it being the intention of both partners for it to be for keeps, and with no
disagreement from DAAS TORAH that the relationship shows the capacity to remain for keeps.
Also trouble in a prospective shidduch
would be when the midos of anger, arrogance, falsehood, the three midos which "take
one out of the world (jealousy, uncontrollable desire, or hunger for honor),
irresponsibility or untrustworthiness are in a prospective mate.
Man and woman relationships are key
scenarios for manifesting the Talmudic teaching that a person does not see fault in
himself. People can be very subjective and emotional about relationships, and often cannot
navigate the waters of rocky, confusing or unstable relationships without competent
If one does not address his or her
problems, the person will find the same block in relating, repeatedly without
understanding what the trouble is. It will just keep recurring, dismaying, sabotaging and
disappointing the person time after time (as well as disappointing anyone who that party
has a relationship with, and any people who care about that single). It will always be the
other person's fault, if one does not realize one's own blockage, emotional or relating
problem and behavior pattern. The individual must first suspect and look at oneself.
Shlomo HaMelech says that a scoffer will hate advice and a wise person will love it. And
in another verse he says a friend who can wound you for your good to exhibit genuine love
is trustworthy, while the one who indulges you can be presumed to hate you because of
greater concern for your approval or benefits that he may want from you than for your
Further, in Pirkei Avos it says that a
person who learns from everyone is wise. Therefore, a wise person should want insight and
objectivity from those who are equipped to give it competently. If you can offer help to
someone whose life will gain from it, even gradually, then this is a huge mitzva. Can you
influence the single to do things that correct problems, habits, patterns and
shortcomings? Can you get the person to do more chesed (so that he/she will be conditioned
to have kinder, more tender relationships); have more benefit of doubt when judging
people; treat people with more gentleness, respect, appreciation, reliability,
consideration, sensitivity, self-control, communicative dialogue, flexibility, patience,
thoughtfulness, humility, honesty or compassion? Meriting one's zivug requires the
capacity to be entrusted with the care, well-being and happiness of a mate and children.
Behaviors that get in the way of being a producer of beneficence and responsibility, by
definition, are blockages to finding one's soulmate. Expertise and stability in producing
beneficence and responsibility make one a "good investment" in terms of being a
Those who say that "others can't
understand me" should suspect themselves for what is internally wrong, rather than
suspecting the entire world, time after time. Offering unsolicited advice to such
resistant people can make you an enemy. You must wait until a closed person comes to you.
If you determine that the person is not capable of hearing, there is no mitzva to tell the
person what is wrong. Find another mitzva to give your time constructively to.
A tactful option is the course of asking
questions that bring the person to answers by him or her self. Questions don't attack or
judge (as statements can). Each question that can bring an answer to the person's mind
accomplishes the same goal as a statement, without as much risk of setting up an emotional
* Why is each date or relationship not
* What pattern can be seen emerging?
* Are one or both parties looking out for
* Are one or both not showing care?
Other "tactful" approaches may be
in order in accordance with the situation, nature of the personality or emotions involved,
nature of the cause or depth of resistance. You may try being creative. Could you
recommend (or join the single for) a lecture which addresses an issue related to the
problem? Do you know a relationship that is succeeding in the area where the single is
having a problem, and strategically refer to the basis for the succeeding, happy
relationship (to give the single a chance to enter into discussion with you about
something which could stand to help, if interested)?
Rav Krauss, again sharing years of
practical experience, says that
* the lack of care for the other person,
* doing and giving too little for the other
* when one is in the relationship for one's
own needs or wants or satisfaction,
* when one is self-centered,
besides damaging the relationship, one
doesn't see how enjoyable it is to do for the other person.
People today often get married for wrong
reasons, such as money, family (yeechus - lineage, status), and looks. This, Rav Krauss
warns, is not marrying the "person." With such motivation, one marries the
covers, the outside, the extremity. Without seeing the real person, the relationship is
empty and is based on attraction to what is NOT the person. It degenerates to vicious
speech and behavior, and to lack of self-control or principle. The selfish orientation is
rooted in wanting what one wants, loss of self, blindness to one's effect on the other,
lack of feeling and of recognition of the other and appreciation for the other, and
contemptuous attitude that the other is a "shtender (learning podium)" to lean
As cited before, training in unconditional
chesed, particularly for dependent and vulnerable people, without the mobility to escape
from you or to care for themselves, can repair such faults gradually, IF the goal is to
truly attain emotional and behavioral repair. I might cite the familiar teaching of
Rambam, if one bends to the opposite extreme in a bad mida or behavior pattern, one can
eventually come to the golden mean, appropriate and balanced behavior and attitudes.
Rav Krauss emphasizes that for a harmonious
marriage, the pair should have the same hashkofos, ideas in Yiddishkeit, and ideas about
their lives. For example, education of the children, how to practice their religious
observance. (Find out what people argue about and learn, thereby, what are things to have
settled when choosing a mate, in an effort to increase compatibility and the number of
issues of life in which you have harmony.)
Both partners must be consistently
displaying fine midos, which are integrated into the depth of the personality, so that
they are operative at all times, in conjunction with true enjoyment in doing good for the
other person, in a caring way. He says that there are signs which suggest a shidduch:
enjoying the pleasure of the other's company, looking forward to meet the other person,
enjoying being with the other person, the ability to be one's self and honest with the
other person, not feeling any need to cover up or to act, the ability to show your real
self, having your true emotions and feelings (without these being harmful to the other
person in any way), and the ability to each help each other grow.
If there is a problem, a Rav or Torah
observant professional should be consulted. Rav Krauss poskins that a concerned third
party may pay for another's therapy and apply the payments to maaser kesafim (one's
charity allocations). If there are significant personality problems, a close outsider is
permitted to interfere if there is Torah-substantiated contribution/benefit (e.g. breaking
a destructive relationship or resolving a relationship with potential). If the problem is
apparent, one may either be available and responsive to requests for help or offer (in a
tactful, not-pushy way) to help. If, according to DAAS TORAH:
* the relationship is damaging, and
* correction of the problem will not be
likely or enough
Rav Krauss says to "nip it in the
bud" rather than risk divorce.
He recommends, if the single has a relating
problem, approaching it in a nice and subtle way. Befriend the individual. Find
opportunities to point out that, maybe, a certain cause is causing the problem, and needs
to be rectified. Get him or her used to doing things to repair the problem, and to teach
him or her to do new things, and to get used to new behavior. Where the person would not
be receptive, you can be resourceful and do this without the person even knowing. For
example, Rav Krauss says: ask the person to help you do a mitzva and create a condition in
which the individual will feel good about it. This reinforces development of good
behavior. As a concrete illustration, he furnished this scenario. You say to the person,
"I have to help an old lady, an elderly widow, with shopping. I can't do it alone.
Would you please help me?" Then, when you're finished, say how fulfilling and
meritorious it was, and that it really helped the old lady, and doesn't it feel good?
I found when I've done counseling for
singles and couples, that it is of particular help; in conjunction with promoting
sensitization, trustworthiness and chesed (active lovingkindness); promoting development
of key midos tovos (good character traits) of
* rachamim (compassion, mercy), which
increases the sense of feeling and consideration and connectedness with others;
* anava (humility), a key mida (trait) for
developing perspective on one's place in the "big scheme" of the world and in
relation to the will of G-d;
* yiras chaite (fear of sin), the mature
person should be frightened to do wrong;
* gevura, (self-control, self-conquest,
discipline for will outside of oneself, and for all responsible relating behavior);
* kavod (honor, respect): the other person
is precious, important, imbued with G-dly dignity and worth, the other person has rights
and needs; and
* shalom (peace) - nothing is greater than
shalom and nothing is complete without peace.
Remember that relating means manifestation
of the bain adam lechavairo mitzvos and halachos (interpersonal commandments and laws),
and that literally includes hundreds and hundreds of things, everything from tochacha
(giving constructive and loving verbal encouragement and assistance, to correct a person
and to help a person grow or be more fulfilled and effective), to azov ta'azov imo (the
requirement to help someone when he is burdened by things in his life), and so many more
Besides the active positive mitzvos, there
are numerous interpersonal negatives that are prohibited. Some examples are ono'as devarim
(causing suffering verbally), lo sitor (bearing a grudge), nekama (revenge), sina (hating
another Jew), ka'as (anger), gaiva (arrogance, haughtiness, pride), machlokess (fights,
arguments, strife), lashon hora (slander, defamation), halbonos panim (embarrassing,
shaming; all the moreso in public), etc.
Also remember mida kineged mida, whatever
you do to people comes back to you; and that would suggest, that if you want to be wise,
you must behave with all people, with giving and with generosity, with patience and
kindness, with honesty and with all of the goodness that's humanly possible for you, so
that G-d will say that you merit to be treated well in return.
Another key personality principle that is
fundamental, is that the one's view of
* another person and
* the other's view of him
are all the same. It's all the same place
in the mind. You can learn about a person by how the person behaves to other people, what
his attitudes and statements regarding other people are. Often there's a lot of insight as
to what the person himself is and how he ticks. Therefore, one's attitudes, speech,
behavior towards anyone discloses to me what this person's personality is, where they're
holding. Their feelings about others, their feelings about how others perceive them, often
gives a lot of instructive insight into how they feel about themselves and who they are,
as a psychological entity. For example, if Rafael does not respect himself, he does not
respect you and he presumes that you do not respect him. Even if he is not consciously
aware of this, this is how he is psychologically "wired." So, if he goes out on
a date with a woman and treats her contemptuously with no objective cause, he has some
self-respect problem. If Sara is not secure, she will not trust you and will presume that
you cannot trust her. She has no conscious awareness that this is the case and has
"reasons" why no one can be trusted, it's a jungle out there and you can't find
any good men.
Further, I strive to observe three levels:
the inner self, the outer level of self and externals, as a natural progression. Often
aspects of life and personality that should pertain to one applies to the other. If one's
priorities, for example, are materialistic, that's level number three, external, how can
one link up from the heart, which is level one (inner)? Such a person
can't have a bonded heart-to-heart marriage
relationship. As Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakai said (Pirkei Avos, chapter two): a good heart
contains all good things.
Let's go from here to attempting to make a
realistic "compatibility profile."
There are two fallacious maxims and
assumptions which are commonly believed: 1. opposites attract and 2. "birds of a
feather flock together (or: likes attract likes)." Neither is true. Human personality
is far too subtle and complex to pigeon-hole into simplistic sayings. And a shidduch is
composed of two people. And one person alone is subtle and complex. How much moreso when
you put two packages of subtlety and complexity together!
Sometimes one or both of these two maxims
are BOTH false. For example, in the attribute of "practicality" in a marriage
neither is true. At least one member of a couple must be practical. Two people may be
deeply in love but if they both end up out on the street because neither remembered to pay
the rent, that's no marriage! The marriage must contain a dose of practicality. If at
least one member of the couple isn't practical, the couple won't be able to function. You
don't NEED one to be impractical (opposites attract) and you don't need BOTH to be
practical (birds of a feather...). Both maxims are meaningless.
Some traits, because of the dynamics, must
fit one of the two maxims. When you witness a couple who are opposites or the same, you
assume, respectively, that opposites attract or likes attract (just the fact that two
mutually existing maxims exist shows that both are suspect). You are witnessing AND
FOCUSING ON one of the traits whose dynamics are mutually exclusive or whose dynamics
require similarity for a functional, compatible marriage.
A couple SHOULD be at opposite points on
the spectrum between domineering and passive. Two strong-willed people will repeatedly
clash and two passive people may sleep through life. The more one is controlling, the more
the other should be passive. If you see two who are opposites on the spectrum between
passive and domineering, you haven't proved that opposites attract. You've proven that
there's more to life than banging heads together.
Intellectual level must be similar for a
couple to have compatibility. Otherwise, they may never be able to talk to each other.
Humaneness and sensitivity level must be somewhat similar. Otherwise, they may never be
able to understand, relate to, "read" or fulfill each other.
Let me give an example of a complex case.
If a woman has a domineering nature and (in her family) her father was the decision maker,
she will expect the man to make decisions. But, she won't accept a husband's authority.
This will undermine compatibility. She will be in a dilemma. She won't accept or respect a
man who won't be a strong decision maker, while if she marries a strong decision-maker,
she won't accept or respect his strong decisions. She is going to have to work hard to
reconcile strongly contradictory and mutually exclusive elements within, in order to have
a compatible and stable marriage.
The spectrum between stinginess and
generosity presents another type of complex condition. If both are generous, or to a
lesser degree, if the man is generous and the woman is stingy, the match is OK. But if the
man is stingy and the woman is generous, the marriage can be explosive. The Talmud says
that "women's minds are close to money." In practical married life, women tend
more to spend and make most purchasing decisions around the household. Since she
understands spending somewhat in her nature, a stingy woman has some "margin" to
understand a spending mate. The stingy man is further away from spending, so he is the
opposite. A stingy man will get angry and fight when his wife spends money in ways that he
feels are unjustifiable.
You can't match two people who are
introverts because neither will come out of their proverbial "corner." One or
both must be an extrovert. It's not a case of opposites, nor likes. Like practicality must
be in the relationship, extroversion must be in the relationship, for it to go.
Each personality trait must be analyzed
separately for a compatibility profile, for whether each trait requires - on its own
unique merits - that which is similar, opposite or otherwise between the man and the
woman. Never push a single into a marriage in which compatibility is suspect. Get outside
orthodox rabbinical guidance from a Rav with expertise in this area, when you have
Compatibility is subtle and complex, and
depends on a multiplicity of factors. Singles sense compatibility, so advice to them can
be wrong. Respect the single's own decision and intuitive feel.
TRUTH IN MATE-SEEKING
A key necessity for an enduring marriage is
truth. G-d's chasima (seal, signature) is "truth." It is a Torah mitzva to
emulate His beneficent midos [Acharay Hashem Elokaichem taylaychu; Sota 14] and it is a
Torah mitzva to emulate G-d's beneficent behaviors [vihalachta bidrachav, Rambam Hilchos
Dayos, chapter one, halachos 5, 6 and 7]. Truth is consistent with long-run good as
defined by Torah instruction [S'fas emmess tikone li'ad - lips of truth are substantiated
forever, aizeh hu hachacham ha ro'eh es hanolad - who is wise? the one who sees the
outcome of decisions/actions, habotayach bashem chesed yesovevenu - the one who trusts in
G-d is surrounded by lovingkindness]. The signature of Hashem is: truth. The Hebrew word
for truth is emess; spelled alef, mem, sov. Hebrew words have numerical values. Alef
corresponds to number one. The Maharal writes that if you take "one little alef"
off of emess (i.e. referring to taking "one little thing" off of the truth),
that leaves you with the Hebrew word mess, which means: dead. Those who design or plan
evil, damage with their lips or deceive with their tongue are on a dark and slippery path
and the angel of Hashem pursues them (Tractate Derech Eretz Raba, chapter two).
Lies, by a matchmaker or single, is a
presumption of license for which there is no Torah justification. Motivations are
egocentric. Some unprincipled matchmakers will do anything for their fee. The single feels
desperate to marry. The matchmaker is desperate to get onto the charts (who cares if a
marriage gets "onto the charts" but lasts twelve hours?). I tell singles: Don't
only judge a matchmaker by making marriages. How many inappropriate (unsuitable,
destructive, etc.) relationships did he or she have the character strength and integrity
to actively break up? What percent of his or her marriages ended up in divorce, misery or
dysfunction? QUALITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN QUANTITY! Flawed results happen a lot more
than some shadchans like to admit!
In representing oneself (regarding age,
background, personality, health, religious education, etc.) before you or any matchmaker
can say one word of lie or "bending of truth," you must ask shailos (Torah law
questions) to a known and expert orthodox rabbi who has experience and who will tell you
authoritatively and individually, on a case by case basis, in detail, what to say and what
not to say. No single nor any matchmaker may ever take any liberties at all to violate the
prohibition of lying in the least. The Torah says to distance yourself from a false word.
A Jew is obligated to be fully and scrupulously honest, to be holy, and to emulate G-d's
beneficent midos and behaviors towards people.
Lies at the beginning of a relationship can
accustom one to lying thereafter, can breed contempt for the "sucker" one
married, can set up a deficient relationship foundation, can set up for annulment or
divorce [mekach taos - an erroneous, deceptive, invalid acquisition], can breed resentment
and mistrust in the victim, and can do irreparable damage to the relationship, even if it
is not severed. You must ask a competent orthodox rabbi before you presume, never mind do,
anything. Maybe a speck of dishonesty or misrepresentation would be the basis for a
disaster with your coupling. You can't have peace without truth and the mutual capacity to
trust. Until one is an instrument of peace, generosity, compatibility, respect,
trustworthiness and responsibility, Heaven can withhold one's soulmate. A marriage to
someone before one meets one's zivug can be a set-up for catastrophe by which Heaven is
giving a lesson and a repair of spiritual fault to a person unwilling to learn in a nicer
way, in order to prepare one for the true soulmate (if the person gets the message).
Some rabbis say that lying is OK in a
shidduch. Often they are not really rabbis who know how to learn on the level of a genuine
posek. One rabbi, a lecturer and not a Torah law specialist, said one can lie a few years
off of one's age in shidduchim. Another one, the head of an institution for disabled frum
children and not a Torah law specialist said that one may lie about having retarded
children in the family to get a shidduch.
On the question of lying about one's age in
a shidduch, for example, a true posek, Rav Binyomin Zilber of Bnai Brak, Israel ruled that
one may not lie even a little about one's age in shidduchim. Besides, the midrash (quoted
by Maharal in Neseev Ha'Emunah) says that a person's true basherte will accept one's mumim
(faults, defects). The Maharal (explaining the midrash there) writes that trustworthiness
is the most essential thing between man and woman.
To make it simple, the Torah says,
"Midvar sheker tirchak [distance yourself from any false word, Exodus 23:7]." It
is a mitzva de'oraisa to not lie even a little bit. If one lies to make a shidduch, this
can do massive damage to the shadchan's neshama and, potentially, to the lives of the
couple and generations who come out them. If you are so sure that you have a basis for
lying or for bending or omitting substantive information; especially if it might lead to
hate, anger or a damaging relationship; make sure you bring this as a shaalo (Torah law
question) to a gadol hador (Torah leader of that generation), a true daas Torah (an
authority in Torah knowledge and fear of Hashem). Your "scorecard" as a shadchan
is less important than your "scorecard" with Hashem.
VARIOUS QUESTIONS THAT
COME UP IN MATCHMAKING
Another issue that I get questions about is
seeing more than one person at a time. It is basically prohibited to see more than one
person at a time - even if some special "catch" is coming in briefly from out of
town, but you haven't finished - one way or the other - with someone else locally. Each
person deserves the other's full consideration. There are several Jewish law problems
including genaivas daas (misleading), bitul zman (wasting one or both singles' time),
bitul momon (wasting money - whether yours or the other's), kavod habrios (human dignity),
etc. If the person is still involved with one person, (s)he owes the relationship full
attention until it either leads to break-up or marriage. If the single can't fully give
attention to the first one, (s)he generally should break off and then see the second. As a
practical matter, from my counseling experience, people who want to see more than one
person at a time generally can't form a serious relationship with one person, anyway.
Another question which comes up is: what
are appropriate age differences? Common custom generally has the man one to a few years
older than the woman. But this is not absolute. The main things are that the couple can
live peacefully together and (if they are not an elderly second marriage or the like) that
they produce a wholesome and spiritual family together. In Jewish law only prohibits a
youth from marrying someone elderly. If there isn't an extreme difference in age, such as
a teenager marrying a great grandfather, there is no halachic age restriction. If the man
has not yet had children, he is obligated to marry a woman from whom he may reasonably
expect to have a family. To marry a woman who he cannot expect to have children (e.g. she
has some reproductive deficiency or she is too old), he must either have already had
enough children to fulfill the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" or he
must know himself to be incapable of having children. Consult a rabbinical authority for
At one of my seminars, a woman (who I would
estimate was in her low 40's) came up to speak with me after the public presentation. She
was very upset and frustrated that she was repeatedly rejected by men for whom she claimed
to be "age appropriate" because they each wanted a younger women. The men have
the right to choose whom they see fit to live with and the only answer for her is to work
on HERSELF to be the best spouse anyone could hope for, do diligent hishtadlus (practical
effort to find a good husband) and to pray to Hashem to send her basherte to her. Instead
of spending her energy on being angry at the male gender, she stood to gain more by become
the most compelling prospective wife that any man could ask for. When the Chofetz Chayim
was asked how he changed the Jewish world, he said that he changed the world by changing
himself, not the world. When he changed himself, he changed the world. If a person works
to elevate and perfect himself or herself, he or she can achieve significant changes.
Because of this, when people tell me that
they pray for G-d to send them their mate, and the mate does not come, I tell them to
pray, instead, that Hashem help them be the mate who is right for the other. I tell them
to change themselves, not "make demands of G-d." That will do more to make their
prayers impactful. If they focus on fixing faults and imperfections, on getting internal
obstacles and shortcomings out of the way, on being the spouse G-d wants them to be, and
on accepting their responsibilities for what G-d wants from the marriage that they hope to
have, they will accomplish more. I suspect that when G-d holds back a mate, it often
relates to the single being oriented around what (s)he wants to take. I tell people that
readiness for marriage comes when one is oriented more on giving to a mate, not taking
from a mate. Only two givers who are more concerned about the other can have a happy
A Polish Jew had a family before World War
Two. They were altogether killed by the Nazis. He alone survived. He sought to re-marry
after the war. He was offered two shidduchim and couldn't decide which woman to marry, so
he went to bring his question to the Pizhnitzer Rebbi.
He told the Rebbi that one woman was
"age appropriate" for him. She was 38 but ugly in his eyes and not far from the
end of childbearing years. The other was 18, attractive, compatible, capable of having
many children, but he feared leaving over a young widow. Which should he marry?
The Pizhnitzer told him to marry the
"bas bonim," the younger one who could give him children. If she is pleasing in
his eyes and he sees that they can get along, she is the one who is basherte. If the
marriage is basherte, G-d will not leave her over as a young widow and they should marry
as soon as possible.
As it turned out, the man lived so long
that he outlived the young wife! They had several children and the marriage was a success,
characterized by love, respect, kindness and happiness for nearly 50 years. I heard this
true story from the husband of one of the daughters produced by this marriage. The
Pizhnitzer knew how to be a shadchan.
The daughter of one of my rabbis married a
choshuv (highly esteemed and accomplished) man. They were both from the yeshivish world
and were very well suited for each other. It was a classic shidduch. They had seven
children over about ten years. While the wife was pregnant with their seventh child, the
husband was riding in a car. A lightening bolt suddenly hit a phone poll and knocked it
down. Its angle of fall precisely matched the direction and speed of the car and, in a
freak and tragic accident, the pole landed right over where the young man was sitting,
crashed right through the roof of the car, and he was instantly crushed to death.
What appeared to the eye to be a perfect
and ideal marriage was, in the eyes of G-d, not meant to be. I know the family and I can
vouch that every single member of the family is a fine and frum person. By any criteria
known to humans, the woman is very fit to be married. She is psychologically very healthy,
mature, functional, good-natured, good-spirited, has superb midos and hashkofos, is a fine
mother who is raising wholesome and sweet children. She is superbly fit to be a wonderful
wife. Although she and the children are coping and managing, about ten years after, she
remains alone unmarried.
I only cite the story to show, "who
knows what is meant to be in the eyes of G-d?" True, we have to do our best do act in
practical, sensible, effective and productive ways. But who knows what is right? Who,
besides G-d, knows the ultimate divine plan?
A European rebbe had a wife and children
before the war. When Hitler came, most of the family was killed. Only the rebbitzen and
one daughter survived. The rebitzen was too old to have children. The mother and daughter
settled in America, and the rebitzen was very eager to marry off her daughter to someone
with "yeechus (lineage, status)." The daughter met a man she was seriously
interested in and they both wanted to marry each other. Since he was not from any special
rabbinical lineage, the mother killed the match. The daughter never again found someone
she wanted to marry. The mother grew elderly and died, never seeing her daughter marry.
The daughter is now in her sixties, alone and too old to have children. Because the mother
blocked the daughter from marrying the man she wanted, the family line will end with this
Sometimes our assumptions and axioms are
invalid, possibly for reasons we can never know. This can manifest in any number of ways.
We must open our minds and hearts to options that derive from widening our base of
assumptions and axioms. When it comes to making marriages, we must do what it takes to
bring people together so that they can live happily and successfully. If you asked me to
"boil down" matchmaking to its bottom line, it is bringing two people together
who are prepared to be good to each other, to get along together, to function effectively
and responsibly in practical life, and to raise a wholesome family together.
It is also vital to state that human
beings, human relationships and "real life" are very complex. People,
situations, moods, consequences, backgrounds, upbringing, timing, ramifications and
atmosphere can vary. In all cases in which practical questions or issues arise, please
consult your competent, G-d fearing and experienced Orthodox rabbi, each time, on a
"case by case" basis, for individual instruction. The Torah instructs us to do
what is "correct and good in the eyes of G-d that it be good with you (Deuteronomy
6:18)." Why correct AND good? If I do what is correct in one situation, it may be
wrong in another. If I do what is good at one time, it may be out of place or destructive
at another. All must be correct AND good. I may be acting subjectively, ignorantly or
self-servingly. Do what is correct and good - in the eyes of Hashem - in every time and
MEANINGFULLY KNOWING THE
SINGLE WHEN IN THE ROLE OF MATCHMAKER
"Man sees the outer appearance and G-d
looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)."
When I do matchmaking, I prohibit myself
from superficiality or snap judgements with a person who I do not know. I go in depth with
a new person, for up to two or three hours sometimes. I don't only want to find out the
obvious or surface things. I want to find out about the personality dynamics that have to
do with getting along in a practical, intimate, functional, committed relationship. I want
to find out what's "between the lines," what meaning is in what is NOT said.
Omission and avoidance can be significantly instructive. I want to know about the
temperament and the personality faults that another person would have to be able to live
with. Occasionally a person says to me after hearing me speak or when referred to me to do
matchmaking, "Why do we have to talk? I'll give you my business card. Do you have
someone for me?" My experience with such people is that they tend to "stay
around" [i.e. remain single]. It's comforting to know, however, that they remain on
quite good terms with their business cards.
When occupying the role of shadchan
(matchmaker), you must have a fine understanding of people; and you must give time,
respect and concern to each individual single. If you can't, bow out of the matchmaking
Get to know each individual enough to have
a sense of what they are each about - beneath the surface and in terms of relationship
essentials. A lasting marriage is predicated on the qualities of the heart and the linkage
of two hearts. Both partners must be functional, responsible and mature. The questioning
by the matchmaker and the establishing of priorities should start with 1. laiv (matters of
the heart: the midos, values, human qualities, world-views, spiritual goals, etc.). The
heart is the most important level, it most identifies who the real person is and how (s)he
relates to people. The next level is 2. nefesh (personality, talents, capabilities, etc.).
Last place is for 3. mi'ode (looks, height, hair and eye color, family, social status,
wealth, occupation, car). Be clear as to each person's
* goals in life,
* personality (including weaknesses that a
mate must be able to work with or live with, and strengths which could complete another's
* concept of marriage,
* appropriate profile of a compatible mate
(including what is realistic and unrealistic & knowing what to believe and what to
discount in what the singles says).
Differentiate between priority levels of
each criteria. Items of highest priority are non-negotiable. Examples include midos
(character traits), compatible religiosity and mission in life, issues of the
"laiv." There can be selected compromising and flexibility on secondary priority
levels (non-essential preferences). The most dispensable level are "frills" -
nice to have but not real issues for building a healthy life together.
Know what the single values, respects,
understands, appreciates and cares for in another. Know what the singles wants a mate to
value, respect, understand, appreciate and care for in him or her. Without solid knowledge
of these, a fulfilling relationship is improbable.
What were the single's background and
education? Could the single's upbringing or family be an issue e.g. were the parents
divorced or in any way dysfunctional or holocaust survivors - in what way may the single
have been effected? Are there any unique questions that matter e.g. vegetarian, smoker,
taste in music, physical or psychological health problems?
What potential should marriage actualize
for the single? What strengths does the single have to offer another? To what needs in
another can the single give? What weaknesses does the single have that a mate has to
compensate for? What in another makes the single want to give the other? What has proven
attractive to the single (and does the answer sound healthy)? What kind of person would
find this single attractive? What has worked for the single in past relationships? What
has not worked?
Are the single's expectations,
self-awareness and behavior patterns realistic? Are they the basis for a relationship that
can last? When the single has to change a behavior, does (s)he resist? Can the person be a
gain for another - and be happy about it? If not how can you get through with some caring
Find out from each girl if she may marry a
Kohain (ask a rabbi about the laws of who a male Kohain can and cannot marry). Find out
from each guy whether he is a Kohain.
Get each single's HONEST date of birth. If
anyone evades (or is caught in a lie - about age or otherwise), I discontinue dealing with
If the woman had been married, is there any
reason to suspect the validity of her "get" or the bais din which issued it? Is
there reason to believe that the woman ever had kidushin, particularly in a way about
which she may be unaware? Is there any reason to suspect that the person may be unfit to
be a marriage partner (for example, in my shadchan experience I met people who turned out
to have been unstable, violent, adulterous, irresponsible, self-absorbed, etc.). Is there
reason to believe that the single is an actual or suspected momzer/momzerress e.g. his/her
unreligious or unlearned mother was divorced before marrying his/her father? Such
questions MUST be handled in conjunction with HIGH-LEVEL daas Torah. Do not deal with such
questions by yourself ever. They are the halachic equivalent of "playing with
fire" and pose very serious halachic questions about marriageability or bring need
for authoritative halachic handling. If the person claims to be a convert, was the bais
din which did the conversion kosher and reliable? A potential shidduch for a person who
went through divorce or conversion must have his/her rov approve the validity of any get
or giyur, and the bais din which did either, before becoming serious about that person.
Get two or more rabbinical references and
two or more reliable references who are mature people who know the single well from
"real life." The more references, the better. Increasing the number of
references increases the "data base" about the person; and can increase the
chance that inconsistencies, half-truths, exaggerations or deception may come out. If any
reference is all flowery and only says good, do NOT count the reference. We match people,
not angels. References should be balanced and should create similar impressions of the
person, if they are truthful. Your investigation should be diligent.
CONTENT OF THE
The conduct or content of the matchmaking
interview may vary. For example, Chasidic people tend to focus more on family or dynasty
than on deep, probing psychological profiling. For a more a somewhat in-depth profile of a
single, some of the following questions will be helpful. It is important to develop a
profile of the single based on the meaningful and crucial. A single who focuses on
externals such as eye color or profession is headed for a fairly empty, and possibly
short-lived, married life. You don't marry a plumber's wrench or the music-lover's tape
collection. When the baby cries and the kettle boils and the phone is ringing and the
bills come and your spouse asks you to change a lightbulb, the blue eyes don't get the job
done - or assure that your spouse will take out the garbage or call the pediatrician. How
suited are men and women to function responsibly in real life and how prepared are they to
get along maturely in a real relationship? Nowadays, these are crucial questions and
serious concerns. In regard to them, today's matchmaker must be responsible, wise,
skillful and effective in dealing with them.
Personality faults and lies during
mate-seeking will be thrown back in a person's face when they emerge after marriage. It is
important to make clear that it is better to be candid now than to risk disaster later.
Many singles will answer these questions
with they think you want to hear. The questions contain opportunity for contradiction and
inconsistency. Try to make some conversation on each point and look for signals. The more
you can get beneath the surface, the more real your interchange will be and the more
likely you will be to weed out matchmaking mistakes.
The questions are often intentionally
structured as "open ended" so that they don't suggest answers. If you ask
"closed ended" questions (yes or no, A or B) you limit the answers. If your
questions are "open ended" (what do you like, what is your belief, etc.), you
open up the possible range of answers and you let the listener answer altogether from
his/her own mind. You do not limit, suggest or bias answers. The answer is completely from
the other person. For matchmaking, this gives you very meaningful, and sometimes
surprisingly informative, answers. You may think of a match for a person near the
beginning of an interview and see, by the end, that the idea is futile. This one is mild
and the other is nervous. This one won't get along with that one's hashkofos. This one is
more materialistic and that one is more idealistic. This one is more sensitive and that
one is too rough and inconsiderate. Once you get acclimated, your ratio of "wild
goose chase" pointless dates to compatible reasonable dates will significantly
improve. No matchmaker can altogether guarantee making marriages. Therefore, one of the
most important criteria for judging the set ups is how free of complaints the dates are.
Even if a couple doesn't get married, will they at least have a nice and somewhat
interesting time on a date, and see that there was some sensible basis for your having set
The interview questions follow. They often
get people thinking. Let them come up with the answers themselves, unless they draw a
total blank and the conversation comes to a standstill. Then, you can help and give them
small elaboration - just enough for them to start thinking of their own answers.
Try to honestly judge if THEY would be
happy in marriage if they went according to their own statements and thoughts. How often
would it be yes, no and somewhere in between? The number of times that it would NOT be
"yes" indicates how UNHAPPY a marriage the person could have. How often can you
address a "no" or a "somewhat" and get the person to a
"yes?" This indicates how happy and lasting a marriage, which is based on the
information from the interview, could be.
Throughout the interview, NEVER be
critical, disparaging, attacking or judgmental. You may say (with no emotion, condemnation
or rejection), "This will/will not help me to help you find the "right one.
Please work with me." Be supportive. Encourage the single to speak sincerely and
comfortably. Except for something frightening or drastic, let what the single says be
"OK" for him or her to say, so (s)he will be encouraged to say what (s)he really
feels. This way, you will know more truly and accurately who and what you are dealing
with, and what to do or not do in your matchmaking role.
Use judgement. For some people it will be
appropriate to add or delete questions, or to infuse different questions of your own, that
suit the situation. You don't have to ask a sweet and innocent 18 year old Bais Yaakov
girl why she destroyed her first three marriages. You don't have to ask a Satmar Chasid if
he's a modern orthodox professional looking for a woman with a college degree.
* What are your religious goals, hashkafa
(worldview) and direction?
* What psychological and midos (personality
traits) characteristics in another cause you to be (not) attracted, (not) compatible,
* What weaknesses and habits in you would a
mate have to tolerate or compensate for?
* What strengths and qualities in you would
allow you to tolerate or compensate for weaknesses or habits in a mate?
* Describe your ideal mate and
relationship; and, what are your needs?
* Describe who you will be an ideal mate
for; what needs in another could you truly supply?
* In what would you be willing to
compromise and change, if it meant getting rid of obstacle to finding your mate? On what
would you give-in and be flexible? How so and to what extent?
* What do you value, respect, understand,
appreciate and care for in another?
* What do you want another to value,
respect, understand, appreciate and care for in you?
* What personal potential and life mission
would you want marriage to bring out?
* What potential(s) in another can you
* What is marriage to you? What are the
components of the relationship that make it work?
* When you have to change a behavior or
admit you were wrong, do you resist?
* What is there about you that is
aesthetic, artistic or musical? How important is this to you? How important is this for a
* Where are you originally from?
* In what ways have you made relating
* In what ways have relating partners made
* In what ways have you made relating
* In what ways have relating partners made
* In what ways have you mistreated or
neglected relating partners? How have you turned people off to you or sabotaged
* Describe as thoroughly as possible what
makes you want to please, give or do for another person.
* What is your religious affiliation,
education and background (Litvish, Sefardi, black hat, modern, yeshivish, if Chasidish
which group, etc.)?
* What has been unrealistic and
counterproductive in your mate search? Why has your mate-search not worked - let's assume
it's not all G-d's fault? What on your side of it has not worked (such as: how you are
going about searching; how clearly, accurately, honestly or effectively you describe
yourself or what you are looking for to matchmakers; what your criteria, priorities and
* Describe your parents, home and
upbringing. How have you been effected (especially if divorce, trauma, loss of parent,
parents had hostile marriage, escaped from Russia or Iran)?
* Have you been divorced or had a broken
engagement? Why? What would the other partner say about why you broke up?
* What are your values about learning or
sacrificing for Torah? How often do you learn?
* How do you handle anger, fights and not
getting your way?
* If a male, is he a Kohain?
* If a female, is she eligible for a
* If convert or baal tshuva, for how many
years? What level is the person?
* Can the person produce the document of
divorce or conversion for rabbinical examination? Which Bais Din did the "get"
or the conversion?
* Would you relocate (to marry someone not
from your area)?
* What is your shul affiliation?
* Which rabbi(s) do you call for shaalos?
* What is your Torah learning schedule?
* Is there anything about your physical or
psychological health that someone would want to know before deciding upon marrying you?
* What are your attitudes about having
* What is your profession/livelihood?
* What are your attitudes and values about
money (e.g. having, spending, needing, prioritizing)?
* What is your secular education?
* What are things you can't stand in
someone you are dating?
* What are things that you consider to be
positive or admirable about someone you are dating?
* What are things that you consider to be
negative or a "turn off" about someone you are dating?
* Is there any question of the person's
commitment to Family Purity observance?
* What are your attitude about men's and
woman's roles in a marriage?
* What kinds of things do you tell a
shadchan because they are things that you think the shadchan wants to hear (instead of
answering sincerely or fully from your true self)? Are you aware that when you don't tell
me who you authentically are and what you truly have to say about yourself, you help me to
mismatch you? Do you want to be with people who are a mismatch for you? If you want me to
be impressed with you, help me to see you happily married to your soul-mate.
* What height and age range is the person
* Jewish name(s) and those of the parents?
* Any special issues (vegetarian, smoker,
snoring, the person was widowed, weight, disabilities, languages spoken, can't marry
someone with parent's name, would you travel to date someone in a distant city, he doesn't
drive a car, momzer/momzeress, can't have children, has children from previous marriage,
baal tshuva Kohain whose mother was a grusha (divorced woman, who his father was not
allowed to marry, which makes the child invalid as a Kohain), etc.)?
* Any other questions (e.g. from other
subjects addressed here, things from your experience with singles which work, things
suitable to any particular individual you are ever interviewing, etc.)?
USING LOTS OF WORDS AND SAYING TOO LITTLE
One pitfall when interviewing a single is:
generalization. The critical information that you must have and must be able to rely on,
to evaluate a single and what constitutes a compatible match, must be clear and specific.
One time I was asking a fellow what he did
with his time. From what he described, he didn't give the impression that he did much of
anything with his time. He only worked part-time and there was a huge, glaring and
bothersome gap in his description of what he was doing with his life. He said he fills in
his time with "chesed." He gave one example of something he did once for an
elderly man. I asked if he does this on a recurrent schedule? He was evasive. I asked what
he did in the afternoons and evenings, on Sundays or Mondays. He continued to be evasive
and had no substantive answers. He did "stuff" or "things like that
(referring to the old man)." I told him that I was sorry, but the girls who I know
would want a more substantive and satisfying accounting of what a guy was doing with his
A Chasidic girl in her mid-twenties had
somehow been referred to me and called to ask my help in getting her a shidduch. It
registered with me as curious because in chasidic circles it is customary to marry girls
off by nineteen or twenty. Hers were words that could not be taken at face value. I picked
up some inconsistencies in her story. I sensed that there was something deficient and I
plowed further to get more input about who this person is. She held a very low-level job
which suggested some deficiency in her level of functioning. I asked her to describe her
history and personality in more detail. She didn't lie but she did some real "picking
and choosing" about what she told about herself and I saw that her story was flawed.
She said that she did not live with her family. For "heimish" people it is
unusual for a young unmarried girl to live alone. I asked her to call me back with her
mother, who it turned out fortunately, was a sincere and honest woman. It turned out that
the girl had been under psychiatric care and had been hospitalized for several months for
manic behavior. Her living alone was psychiatrically prescribed since she is too
anti-social to live with people and she needs to learn how to manage in life
independently. Her mother told me how she refused to follow the doctors orders or to
steadily take her medicine. She was jealous of her peers who were married and she wanted a
shidduch like other girls. I told her that other girls getting married does not mean that
she is ready to. I told her that marriage is a big responsibility that one has to be ready
for. When I wasn't rushing to give her a shidduch she started screaming violently, making
threats and hitting her mother. I heard her mother telling her to stop hitting and trying
to explain to her over her screaming that one has to be ready first in order to marry.
After the mother repeated my point that marriage is a big responsibility, the daughter
slammed the phone down.
A fellow called me and asked for help in
finding a shidduch. At the beginning of our discussion, I asked him to describe his
personality, religiosity and life-goals. All he said was that he was a baal tshuva, frum
for a certain number of years, and that his personality is mild and not aggressive. I told
him that he really hadn't answered my question and I rephrased it and modified it several
times. Besides getting his age and profession, I got no additional substantive
information, he just said the same things over and over. I pointed out that he wasn't
communicating. He was a sincere, warm fellow. He was not being evasive or sneaky. He
really could not express himself. In plowing further, it turned out that he was from a
broken home. His father left his mother when he was an infant, disappeared, and he never
knew his father at all. He was raised by a couple who were close relatives of the mother,
who was unfit, for some reason, as a mother. The wife who raised him was nervous and the
husband was harsh. The atmosphere in which he was raised was not emotionally wholesome or
supportive. He had never had emotional nurturance or validation. He kept feelings to
himself. He was never taught or encouraged to express himself, to request his needs or to
attribute legitimacy to his ideas and feelings. He never learned to feel cared for and he
operated from intellect, abstracted from human contact. His internal understanding of
reality and lack of skill left him unequipped for close personal relating and
communicating. When he spoke to shadchanim, they set him up on the basis of: he had a
troubled upbringing , so set him up with girls from troubled upbringing. He had nine dates
in four years, none of which were with a girl with whom there was a basis for a
relationship, and none of which led to more than a brief and fruitless meeting. This boy
had superlative human qualities - polite, nice, open-minded, gentle midos. This fellow
needed psychotherapy, not set-ups with dysfunctional girls. You'd never know it by the
shadchanim who set him up.
The shadchan must also not resort to
generalities or evasions. Make clear the amount of time that you dedicate to a person, how
often the person should call to stay in touch, how much you do or do not check people out,
what your charges are and what you give for those charges, what criteria you use for a
match and whether you call the woman to present a shidduch (some matchmakers just have a
guy call without the matchmaker first talking to the girl, so the girl is surprised or
"off guard" when he calls).
WHEN THERE IS SENSITIVE
MATERIAL TO TELL ABOUT AN INDIVIDUAL
If there is some sensitive material about a
single (e.g. about a health or psychological problem, being in therapy, or something about
one's past or origins, inability to have children, etc.), there is a balance in
determining WHEN to tell the person whom one is dating. Take every issue as a case-by-case
question to a known, experienced and capable orthodox rabbi.
One doesn't want to tell too soon (if
halacha allows some delay in the individual case). The single doesn't need to tell
everybody he or she dates. The single doesn't need to make him or herself unnecessarily
look bad nor to tell outside of a relationship context. On the other hand, it is brutally
unfair to wait until someone is emotionally involved or has expectations. Ask a rov for
guidance because the halachos are complex and there can be many variables that impact the
shaalos and answers.
Sometimes, the information must be
disclosed before a first meeting. Sometimes, the time to tell is in-between i.e. after the
single is dating a person long enough to determine there is "something" there,
but before the other person would feel hurt or deceived upon finding out the single's
secret. You want to wait until some rapport, relationship and trust is developing. You've
screened the person to know it's more than "just another date who the single won't
see ever again." But you can't wait too long. The other person MUST be still able to
objectively and rationally decide what the information means to him or her, and be able to
decide whether it matters in making a decision about marrying the single. The other person
has a right to true information and the right to make informed decisions. If the single
won't tell, the shadchan has to. I know a man who found out a girl had cancer. He cared
for her and pursued her even with this knowledge. If a relationship is meant to be, it is
going to be. G-d is a partner in every match.
In Jewish law, when deception or
misrepresentation are used to "hook" a marriage partner, the marriage can be
called a "mekach taos" (erroneous acquisition) and this can be grounds for
annulment. This is perpetration of evil against the partner and demonstrates a fundamental
flaw in the foundation of such an ill-conceived "relationship." A matchmaker is
not only to be judged by how many marriages (s)he gets onto the "scoreboard."
How much misery, how many divorces and how many damaged children resulted from a
matchmaker's failure to perform "due diligence" and to maintain integrity
standards? A marriage is a "score" for a matchmaker when it is basically
workable and happy.
Of course, each single must be capable of
the commitment, work, responsibility, maturity, trustworthiness, unselfishness, and
stability that marriage and parenthood demands. There is, therefore, a balance between
* the diligence required of the matchmaker
* the readiness required for marriage in
If a single wants to get married but isn't
equipped for marriage, it is the single's job to work on whatever is needed. Being lonely
or sentimental does not automatically qualify one for marriage.
MATCHMAKING AS SERVICE OF
We refer to G-d (in Shmoneh Esray) as
"gomail chasadim tovim (the bestower of good kindnesses." It would seen that
"good kindnesses" is a redundancy. Since there is no redundancy in Torah
terminology, there is an extra lesson being conveyed. A kindness cannot be something one
wants to dump onto a recipient - because the giver wants to give it. Kindness must
specifically be good for the recipient. A shadchan who tries to dump a shidduch on a
single/couple, who forces or coerces or intimidates or criticizes, is guilty of this
mistake. The shadchan who says, "I don't have time or interest for all the
[diligence, effort, involvement, investigation, supportiveness, etc.] is unfit for the
name "shadchan." To be a valid, competent and responsible shadchan, you must be
gomail chasadim tovim - exclusively bestow kindness that is good:
* for any single who you ever work with (on
the individual level) and
* for both members of any couple that you
bring together (on the level of how the man and woman are together).
Chazal say that G-d is the "Ultimate
Matchmaker" who brings destined couples together at their destined time. Human
matchmakers are agents of Hashem's work. And we are required to emulate His acts and
traits. A human shadchan is required to only bestow GOOD KINDNESS through his/her
If a person is ill, he has several options.
He may lie in bed and suffer. He may decide on his own to take certain pills or remedies.
He may decide to take a kitchen knife and give himself an operation. Or he can go to a
professional doctor. If he goes to the doctor, there may be no guarantee that he will
heal. But, he probably increases his odds with a professional doctor than suffering alone
in bed or giving himself surgery. A shadchan is somewhat like a doctor. Even if you cannot
give a guarantee to "cure" someone's singlehood, you can increase his chances.
But, this only if the matchmaker is competent and reputable - like a skilled doctor. There
is no gain in "spinning wheels," doing ineffective things or, worse, causing
damage. A doctor who is a "quack" or incompetent can do damage of criminal
proportions. A doctor can be great when he effects cure and leaves patients well and
happy. A shadchan is only worthy of the name if (s)he makes appropriate and lasting
marriages that leave men and women well and happy.
Matchmaking, like marriage, is a serious
responsibility. It is a solemn duty on behalf of every man and woman. A matchmaker who is
dishonest or strives after selfish purposes, or who is a party to any single's dishonesty
or selfishness, whether by commission or omission, is likewise evil. We pray at the end of
Shmoneh Esray every day, "My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from
deceit." When you face Hashem, can you say to Him that you are doing your part in
keeping your mouth from evil or deceit? Is your work characterized by consistently
bestowing good kindnesses on single men and women?
THE SHADCHAN'S ROLE AFTER
THE COUPLE MEETS
One question that is asked is: once a
couple is introduced, how much of a role should the matchmaker play? The answer is: as
much of a role as would be constructive.
Some relationships move smoothly and the
shadchan can substantially bow out. The couple can proceed most healthily on their own.
Sometimes, one or both parties may be shy, uncommunicative, wrongly have the impression
the other is disinterested, etc.
If two nice people could get along but one
is a bit insecure, or made a poor impression due, for example, to
* nervousness or
* arriving late for a date due to a traffic
* misunderstanding something the date said
* responding in a way that turned out to be
that does not necessarily mean that the
match should be deemed bad. In such cases, a competent shadchan should play an ongoing and
active role, to eliminate negatives that would UNNECESSARILY destroy a match that
otherwise is viable. Couples have started strong and ended up a dud. Couples have started
out as a dud and gradually cultivated a beautiful and loving marriage. You never know. And
it's always case by case.
One practical problem that recurs in
matchmaking is when one party says to the matchmaker, after a date, "I'm not
interested in seeing this person anymore," with the reason being UNFOUNDED FEAR OF
REJECTION - rather than out of true absence of interest. There could actually be a genuine
basis for a relationship (or at least a serious exploration). When you suspect that one
party (after a date) is unnecessarily expecting rejection, an effective strategy is to
say, "IF THE OTHER WERE INTERESTED, would you be interested ALSO?" You have to
know how to coach, coax and be supportive - at the right time and in the right measure. I
have a saying, "Don't be stifled, be creative!"
The diligent matchmaker will participate as
much as it takes to get as much potential as is possible out of a suitable coupling. He
will smoke out false negatives and cultivate potential true positives. However, the
responsible matchmaker is interested in HEALTHY AND LASTING MARRIAGES, not to get numbers
onto a "wedding scorecard." Marriage is achievement, divorce is damage. Lives
and generations are at stake. The amount of involvement that is right is the amount that
is constructive in each case. Constructive, in matchmaking, includes:
* causing appropriate couples to marry and
* causing inappropriate couples to part.
If you can't tell the difference, leave
matchmaking and go into haberdashery.
No mortal can guarantee a match. However,
matchmaking requires judgement, character and due effort to provide compatibility in
matches - never in being arbitrary, glib, rushed, rude or superficial. Being well-intended
without diligence is still ineptitude, incompetence and irresponsibility - which are far
too common in contemporary matchmaking. THE TORAH REQUIRES QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.
I strive to insure against a disaster
relationship or the "bomb date" that you often hear about. At the very least, I
would want the date to be interesting. And since the goal of a set-up is never just an
interesting date, I do what I can to set it up such that the couple has a reasonable
chance to really succeed, and that the match has reasonable chance to fulfill both
partners and to meet their REAL needs, survive their REAL shortcomings, relate to the REAL
person in each partner and withstand the vicissitudes of REAL life - AND THE TEST OF TIME.
Very often, peers, rabbis, rebitzens or
matchmakers pressure singles to marry. They say that it isn't good to be alone, it's a
mitzva to marry, staying single can be problematic in various ways. However, if the person
is pressured and
* the party isn't ready to marry,
* if the party's judgement isn't clear,
* if the person isn't adequately self-aware
* if the prospective partner has problems,
* if their isn't enough care and
responsibility in matching the two as individual human beings,
the coupling can lead to disaster. If there
is a reasonable chance, according to daas Torah, that the marriage can end up with misery,
dysfunction and/or divorce, the Shulchan Aruch does NOT want such a marriage (Evven
Ha'Ezzer - Marriage Laws). Menoras HaMeor (Bi'Aichuss HaZivug - Section: What Is A Match)
says not to marry an unfit person and to check very diligently into the prospect's
character qualities and background. If the person is a baal tshuva, orphan or ger tzedek,
inspecting the family may not be applicable. But, inspection should be made to the extent
necessary to ascertain psychological health, character, physical health or wholeness and
suitability as a mate for the other individual. "One who marries one unfit for him is
considered by the Torah to have damaged the world...is tied by Eliyahu and whipped by
Hashem" (Kidushin 70a).
Anyone who pressures one or more singles
into an ill-chosen marriage which produces destructive consequences is NOT representing
Jewish law, even with all their spiritual intentions. This is all the moreso the case when
a shadchan has self-interest motivating him or her to push the single(s). Although it is
kept hushed, I have heard of very many divorces in America and Israel which have been
caused because of this. Many damaged children have been produced because of this. A
shidduch must be responsibly thought-out and good for both the man and woman, before the
Shulchan Aruch agrees to the shidduch. Reasonable, diligent and normal hishtadluss must be
exercised to determine the readiness, stability and character of both parties; and their
true suitability for each other. Never forget the basics: a shidduch must be comprised of
two compatible, responsible and mature individuals. Each must be a mentsh and be capable
of being good to and committed to each other.
If a matchmaker is ever tempted to
pressure, manipulate or rush a marriage-decision, the shadchan should ask him or herself:
are you able to guarantee that it will succeed; are you willing to say in writing that you
will pay for a divorce, the support and psychotherapy of children if it fails; will you
step into the pressured-person's body and take all heartache, hardship, aggravation,
imposition and suffering from him or her if the marriage is miserable or fails; to the
extent that it is not the single's exclusive and wholehearted decision, are you equipped
to take total responsibility and to bear all of the consequences; if the single ends up
miserable or divorced, will you refund the money you take from for the shidduch plus
interest at the going rate between now and the time of the refund? No shadchan can ever
predict success, but (s)he can be diligent in his/her part and respect the single's
intuitive feel and decision-making process.
There are indeed times when an individual
or couple needs advice and guidance. To spin around with confusion, ambivalence or
instability is bad news, to be sure. On the one hand, the couple must be left to decide
themselves on their marriage to each other without the meddling or pressure of any
outsiders. On the other hand the couple should seek objective advice and guidance from
individuals with concern and competence, and come to a yes or no decision within a
reasonable period of time. Any shadchan who takes money has a vested interest and
subjectivity and the need for help must be addressed by an objective outside party. One
who pressures a single who ends up in a destructive or short-lived marriage will have to
answer for it at the din vicheshbon (Heavenly judgement).
After Eliezer explained his mission to
Rivka's family and proposed Rivka's marriage to Yitzchok, her family asked for a delay of
several days. Eliezer replied that there should be no delay, since Hashem made it clear
that the marriage was destined ("basherte") and his journey had been granted
success from G-d. He wanted to immediately return with Rivka to Yitzchok. As a "last
ditch" effort," the family asked Rivka, "Will you go with the man?"
and she answered, "I will go" (Genesis 24:55-58). Her family blessed her to be
the mother of tens of thousands (verse 60).
We learn many important things from this
passage. Once a shidduch/engagement has been established, the wedding should be scheduled
for as soon thereafter as is possible. One of the Torah authorities from whom I learn,
Rabbi Avraham Asher Zimmerman, said to me that a wedding should be scheduled for between
six and eight weeks after the decision to marry. It is not healthy, he continued, for the
couple to be in the non-married state any longer than necessary. He said to just allow
time necessary for the practical needs of preparing for and making a wedding. Treat
engagement as meaning "we both agree that we should be married, and let's be married
as close to immediately as possible." Make getting married very "real."
Consider becoming engaged a promise to be married as soon as humanly possible.
In recording that Rivka was asked if she
would go and marry Yitzchok, the Torah is making it clear that marrying must be with
consent. It is not for parents, relatives, one party in a couple (to the exclusion of the
other), teachers or anyone else to push, manipulate, bribe, intimidate one or both parties
to marry. The marrying parties must enter into the marriage of their own free will.
Continuously keep some kind of meaningful,
organized and accessible records - including who gets married - so you know to
"retire" the file. My general policy is have the singles keep in touch with me.
Sometimes I meet people who are exceptionally suitable for marriage. For these lovely,
especially marriageable people, I consider it to be appropriate to follow up occasionally.
MARRYING THE RIGHT WAY FOR
THE RIGHT REASONS
Marriage for social pressure is another way
of saying the marrying party/parties are not involved in the decision to marry. That is
NOT marrying a person - it is marrying social approval. That is far too often a ticket to
misery or divorce. Marriage must be between two hearts, not between two photo-album
When a couple closes their door behind
them, they are alone with each other and their problems. The members of the public who
pressured a couple into the marriage is on the other side of that locked door (and plays
no part in the quality of the marriage that is or isn't inside the couple's walls). The
public accepts no responsibility for helping or salvaging a marriage that they've
pressured a couple into.
The Hebrew word for
"responsibility" is acharayuss, from the word "acher (after)." The
meaning is that true responsibility is "follow-up," - staying with something
"after" - making sure that what should be is, and that what shouldn't be isn't -
in practical and effective terms. To pressure people into a marriage and then disappear,
leaving the questionably suited couple to "the elements," is the height of
irresponsibility and is potentially very destructive.
The Torah makes a point to say that Rivka
said "yes" in OPPOSITION to pressure to say "no," to emphasize that
the will to marry must actively and exclusively come from the parties who will marry, and
the pressure by outsiders (i.e. other than the couple) is IRRELEVANT. If someone can offer
mature advice, then the couple should be open to it. The Torah, keep in mind, depicts that
the shidduch, from Yitzchok's point of view, was entirely handled by Avraham and Eliezer.
This was to make clear that they knew how to handle mate-seeking more objectively, wisely
and maturely than Yitzchok, who totally gave his search over to them.
When the choice of partner and inauguration
of marriage are wholesome, than they key goal of marriage - healthy and spiritually strong
children - can be reality. The first mitzva in the Torah and the first section of Evven
Ha'Ezzer (the segment of the Shulchan Aruch [Code Of Jewish Law] relating to marriage) is:
having children and multiplying.
Readiness requires being able to see
marriage through, to make a commitment and stick to it. Ask yourself, in your "heart
of hearts," if a single would be capable of accepting, and, more important, acting on
the following: Don't fight with a spouse. Don't scream or get angry. Talk to each other -
with respect, dignity, softness and gentleness; resolving all differences in a fair,
two-way and Torah-sanctioned manner. Invest heart and time in each other. Give to each
other. Be pleasant to each other. Care about the marriage. Care about not making the other
feel hurt. Be warm, nice, attentive, respectful and truthful. Share your lives. Ask each
other for ideas, help, support and input. Take care of each other as partners, teammates
and best friends.
If a couple separates when there are
problems in the marriage which could be solved, this can deeply damage the children. There
is a time and a place when marriage should be terminated, so divorce does exist. But,
divorce is something that must be used judiciously and cautiously; not wantonly or
capriciously. People today jump to get divorced as if it is a game - or as if marriage is.
They figure that as soon as they don't get what they want, they should run. This is so
destructive, especially to their children. And, this is often, in my experience, an
indication that the person should never have been
* allowed to marry,
* deemed ready for marriage, or
* deemed fit for parenthood,
in the first place. This is dealing with
lives - especially innocent, vulnerable children who are left shortchanged and emotionally
Work constructively to build as much as you
can. Try every reasonable approach and recourse to preserve and build the marriage. A
divorce is no accomplishment. It should mean "there was nothing left to try."
Having (or saving) a marriage is an accomplishment.
Could you see every given single who you
are working with as able to live up to this? Is it reasonable to believe that each person
will exert reasonable effort to succeed it? Have you done your best to be sure?
When a marriage is set up so that it is
genuinely good for the couple and provides the basis for an enduring bayis ne'eman
bi'Yisroel (a faithful Jewish home) and a healthy family, the truly helping person's
mitzva, or the matchmaker's role, has then been successfully achieved.