No one in the family has ever gotten angry, lost a job, struggled in school, faced a challenge in life (let alone failed one, heaven forbid), or experienced a moment when he did not perfectly observe every minute detail of Jewish law. No one in the family has ever experienced uncertainty in life, become depressed, questioned an authority figure, disagreed with anything he was taught in yeshiva, or expressed an opinion that is different than the one opinion we are all supposed to have on any given matter.
Everyone in the family is a certified “great catch” and married another certified “great catch” with ease and immediacy, and strictly on his or her own terms. This is the perfect Jewish family in the shidduch world.
Not surprisingly, our gedolim and all their successors are supposed to be perfect, and Jewish history is sanitized to reflect this. In the absence of role models to portray the modern Jewish version of perfection, we simply imagine or create them. Those who don’t play along with the charade… well, there are ways of dealing with such people.
Some people are finally willing to express the epiphany that there is no such thing as the perfect family. After all, there might be an aunt who wears short sleeves, a child with a disability, or something similar that stands out for shame and ignominy. We must be willing to “settle” for shidduchim that come from such blemished origins. So goes the current punditry in many circles.
What is lost in this relentless search for perfection is the truth about perfection itself. It runs deeper than the fact that “no one is perfect.” It is the realization that our imperfections are often what make us beautiful. It is the great fact of this world that God created that one can only grow through facing and overcoming challenges, and that it is normal to have a less than 100 percent success rate.
Those among us who are closest to perfection are those who have faced and overcome the greatest and most numerous challenges. These include ba’alei teshuvah (those who have repented for any sin, especially those who were formerly not halachically observant), those who are not the best and the brightest but work their tails off, and those from disadvantaged family and social backgrounds who forged a better path. Honorable mention goes to those who can think for themselves, make a serious life decision, and then go ahead and implement it.
One who has the most impressively bland shidduch résumé but has never had to solve a real problem or face a meaningful challenge is highly questionable marriage material. One whose first experience with stress and uncertainty is matrimony itself is no better off than the child who grows up in a sterile environment to protect him from germs, and thus lacks an immune system. Not surprisingly, marriage therapists and divorce attorneys are doing quite well these days. Lessons not learned early in life will be learned later at a higher price.
True perfection is not the avoidance of failure or the appearance thereof, but, as the advertising slogan goes, the relentless pursuit of perfection. One who is continuously growing and is committed to a lifetime of growth will make the most wonderful spouse. One who would rather pretend that he has never failed and that any failure contaminates a person forever is already a failure and an even greater failure just waiting to happen.
Let our résumés reflect who we really are and who we really hope to be. Let us feel disappointed by our flaws and shortcomings, but let us never run from them. These are what make us human. We would not be happy being married to someone truly perfect, nor would someone truly perfect be happy being married to us.
Indeed, it is only human beings, with our many flaws and shortcomings, who have the institution of marriage altogether – because we aren’t supposed to be perfect. That’s what gives us room for a spouse to help bring us closer. The person who will do that for us is the greatest catch of all and the most perfect shidduch.