The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
For years I have been urging the greater Torah-observant community to discard the sort of questions that are typically asked of singles in the shidduch scene. (By now it is probably unnecessary to elaborate and provide copious examples of these questions; we all know what I’m talking about.) Indeed, it has been gratifying to see it become more mainstream for people to speak out about “crazy questions” and for popular opinion to begin to shift accordingly.
But I made a mistake.
No, this isn’t a retraction. My mistake was not in discouraging the invasive, superficial, nonsensical, ultimately vain questions that are still habitually resorted to, but in failing to provide an alternative. After all, even those who will readily acknowledge that the usual array of questions is inappropriate and unhelpful, if not worse, find it difficult to take the next step and figure out a better alternative. (The same goes for labels; people are increasingly willing to acknowledge that labels are a destructive force in the community, or at the very least misleading, but they lack the vocabulary, patience, and clarity to express themselves more precisely.)
I wish now to rectify this mistake, and have prepared a list of questions that I respectfully submit for the reader’s consideration. This is not meant to be an exhaustive and completely refined list, and in fact I hope that singles and those who act on their behalf will use these questions as a starting point for looking at themselves and others in a more meaningful and dignified way. As with all of Jewish life, one’s shidduch quest should be completely personalized within a general framework.
In addition, I wish to draw attention to the fact that, unlike the usual shidduch questions that will hopefully soon be obsolete, these questions are not meant to be answered in ten seconds or less; they are all entirely open-ended. Nor are there implicit “right” or “better” answers that the responder should strive to aspire to or conform to in order to improve his shidduch approval rating (though, of course, some answers could still be “wrong” in terms of objective Torah values).
Rather than try to peg human beings into narrow yet amorphous categories or grade someone’s responses to black and white questions, these questions are intended to discover the true essence and Jewish personality of the individual.
This list of questions is recommended for shadchanim, web sites, and singles themselves. It is not necessary for someone to respond in great detail to all of the questions, but the more one reveals about his true self (both to others and to his own self), the easier it will be to clarify what one truly wants and needs in a potential spouse. The usual sorts of shidduch questions encourage deception and a suppression of the true self.
These questions encourage deep honesty and careful introspection.
Finally, I don’t recommend that these questions to be asked on first dates or that they be presented in an interrogative style. Finding out about oneself and others should be a pleasant, gratifying experience, not something filled with discomfort and fear. Consequently, when two people are first meeting one another, it is more appropriate to establish a comfort level before asking deep personal questions such as these.
Here are the questions:
Tell me some things about yourself that you are most proud of. It could be personality traits, personal accomplishments, or specific things that you have done.
If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who are some people you would choose, and why?
How do you tend to go about things when you are in an environment in which you don’t know anyone (new shul, social event, etc.)?
What does it mean to you to be a Jew?
When you look back at your life at the end of 120 years, what would you like to have accomplished?
What would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years?
What misconception do people have about you?
If you had so much money that you never needed to work a day in your life, what would you do?
What would be the first thing you’d do after winning the Lottery?
How do you tend to resolve a difficult personal decision? Give appropriate examples if possible.
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We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.
The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.
“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”
A great human tragedy is taking place before our eyes, yet few can see it.
A singles event in Jerusalem, co-sponsored by no fewer than five groups or organizations, advertised the following:
“Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to get married? If the answer is NO, then carry on having a good time going to all those parties, Shabbat meals, lectures, supermarket aisles . If the answer is YES, then we’ll see you at the MEGA EVENT.”
Since creating EndTheMadness seven years ago I have received all manner of correspondence, and it should come as no surprise that for every gratifying e-mail I receive there are plenty more that are disturbing in one way or another. But what if I asked you to guess which e-mails disturb me the most, even momentarily shaking my optimism that there really is hope for our society?
I’ve long maintained that the large number of people having a difficult time getting and staying happily married is only a symptom of deeper problems in the community. Consequently, efforts to get more singles to go out on more dates will be largely unsuccessful unless the deeper problems are addressed. This thesis has been validated in recent years, as more attention to the “crisis” and various schemes to create shidduchim have yet to result in meaningful change or much cause for optimism.
Moshe was looking for employment (he wasn’t cut out to learn full-time), and was having a difficult time finding the right fit. Sometimes he went weeks without even landing an interview, and he rarely made it past the first round. People began to speculate that there was something wrong with Moshe, and his self-esteem took a blow every time he heard of someone else who found a job.
It’s all too common nowadays for people to defend the widespread method of shidduchim by pointing to the biblical story of Eliezer finding a wife for Yitzchak. Apparently the Torah mandates this method as proper, and therefore there is little else to discuss beyond perhaps fine-tuning the way singles are set up by shadchanim and further shielding them from outside influences and one another.
I find the Orthodox Jewish approach to problem-solving fascinating, in a dark sort of way. It consists of a series of steps that looks something like this:
“And you shall rejoice in your festival” says the pasuk at the end of Parshas Re’ei (16:14), and this is actually a mitzvah. I suspect this is not intended to be one of the more difficult mitzvot for us to fulfill, yet for many hard-working Jews the Yomim Tovim are far greater sources of stress than joy.
Nothing is more elusive than perfection, yet perfection is a notion that frequently surfaces in the realm of shidduchim. For example, singles are often told by people on the outermost fringes of their lives, “I know someone perfect for you.” How preposterous, how presumptuous! Yet singles permit themselves to be excited by this declaration so that they may be further disillusioned when the shidduch invariably turns out to be anything but perfect.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/appropriate-shidduch-questions/2006/09/13/
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