web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Eliezer And The Shidduch System


Share Button

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.

This reaction to criticism of the shidduch system is predictable and uniform, and typically disregards or deflects the deep problems with dating and marriage that afflict the entire Jewish community.

A question no one seems to be asking is whether the story of Eliezer is really much of a justification or precedent for today’s shidduch system. It is simply taken for granted that because Eliezer was directed to find a wife for Yitzchak, he was a shadchan just like today’s shadchanim, and this is the most preferred way for Jews to find a spouse.

This rationale is not only simplistic but rife with inherent fallacies.

Right off the bat, Eliezer bears little similarity to today’s shadchanim, since the first time Yitzchak and Rivkah met they were already betrothed to one another. This was an arranged marriage, and arranged marriages are no longer mainstream in our society (for good reason). Hence, those who claim this story is a practical guide to shidduchim should be faithful to this most important detail and promote arranged marriages instead of going halfway. The account of Yitzchak and Rivkah is not a precedent for singles to merely go out on dates that have been arranged by a shadchan.

In today’s shidduch world it is considered unacceptable for singles to meet and arrange their own dates. Presumably the fact that Yitzchak did not find his own spouse is proof that this is “The Torah Way.” This approach, however, requires a highly selective reading of the Torah. Tanach is filled with narratives of our heroes finding those they married, and it is highly questionable to select one of the very few in which a quasi-shadchan is used to determine “The Torah Way.”

The majority of our forefathers met in ways that would be considered completely unacceptable today – but if one is to say their methods are unacceptable because society has changed, then why is Eliezer’s method perfectly appropriate for modern times?

Indeed, the Gemara discourages Eliezer’s approach. Eliezer’s prayer that the first maiden who offers to give his animals drink when he asks only for water for himself is counted among inappropriate prayers that were nevertheless answered favorably (Ta’anis 4A). There is considerable discussion among the commentaries as to how much stock Eliezer actually put into this test; many suggest that if she were wholly inappropriate for Yitzchak in spite of passing the test he would have searched for someone else. Nevertheless, the message of the Gemara is clear: don’t try this at home.

It is hard to fathom how anyone can take this tale as a practical halachic guide to shidduchim. The story clearly bears no greater practical halachic significance than any of the other shidduch stories in the Torah. For example, no one suggests that because Yaakov kissed Rachel upon meeting her, physical contact between singles has a clear Torah precedent. Nor does anyone recommend searching for a spouse the way King David found some of the women he married. Mind you, my intention is not to criticize our forefathers, but to demonstrate that stories in Tanach are not necessarily halachic precedents for all people in all times – and neither is the story with Eliezer.

If anything, the fact that most of our biblical heroes met their wives on their own, without any third-party intervention, should give great pause to those who want to derive practical dating guidance from Torah narratives. The story with Eliezer is quite exceptional. In fact, the other times third parties were involved would hardly be considered precedents: Hagar found a wife for Yishmael (not a role model), Paroh gave a wife to Yosef (ditto), Yehuda took a wife for his eldest son (with tragic consequences), and Yitchak returned the favor and helped Avraham remarry after Sarah’s death (highly unusual).

Further, the last example only illustrates that Yitzchak hardly refrained from searching for his own wife because he was too busy learning or otherwise incapable of such a task. Most likely he simply was not allowed to leave Eretz Yisrael after being offered as a sacrifice, and thus Eliezer had to perform this agency for him. It clearly had nothing to do with a shadchan being the most preferred method of people meeting or parents running the show for their grown children.

Share Button

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Eliezer And The Shidduch System”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
US Special Envoy Martin Indyk, Secy of State John Kerry, at a special briefing. (archive)
Indyk Returns to Raise the Dead (Israel-PA Talks)
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

Dov Shurin

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

More Articles from Chananya Weissman

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.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/eliezer-and-the-shidduch-system/2008/12/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: