The woman in her mid-thirties who initiated this discussion a few weeks ago bemoaned what she considers the indifference and the insensitivity of most people to the plight of singles. She cited the apparently well-meaning individuals who offer to make introductions only to forget to make that crucial phone call, as well as those who make hurtful comments without realizing how their words pierce lonely hearts that yearn for their own homes, their own children.
Undoubtedly, there is much validity to these criticisms. Ours is a self-centered “me” generation. People have difficulty focusing on the needs of others. There is much talk and little commitment; promises are made only to be forgotten.
However, as I noted in last week’s column, there is another side to the coin. Singles themselves often contribute to their own predicament. As people get older, they become more entrenched in their ways, and as much as they sincerely desire to marry, they can find it difficult to make that final leap.
Today’s successful shadchan not only has to be a matchmaker but very often also assume the role of a “life coach” who has to encourage, cajole, and help the shidduch candidate overcome the doubts and fears so many singles harbor (frequently without even being aware of them).
To be a shidduch “life coach” is a formidable task, requiring much patience, perseverance, sensitivity and concern for one’s fellow Jews, traits not easily come by in our indifferent and self-indulgent world.
As I mentioned in my previous columns, singles have an obligation to scrutinize themselves and determine whether they are doing their hishtadlus, investing their best efforts, to make the shidduch happen. As many of my readers may know, with the help of Hashem I have had the zechus, the merit, to have made a great many shidduchim. In most cases it was hard work, entailing endless phone calls, infinite patience, and the sensitivity to know when to stop and when to continue to push. I will mention here just one of the difficulties I encountered that I found to be all too prevalent in our singles world: the failure to be realistic.
Singles often form a certain image of the man or woman they want to marry. Though the years may pass, the image does not change. They still desire “the girl” or “the boy” they envisioned years ago, and they refuse to compromise. To be sure, those who harbor these feelings will be quick to deny them and protest that they are willing to compromise but have just not found “the right one” as yet.
I have seen 60-year-old men who want only young women of childbearing age. They are not interested in “taking chances” with older women who might need medical intervention in order to conceive. “It’s too iffy,” they assert, and refuse to compromise. It’s true that men who are successful (read: “wealthy”) will most likely find young, willing candidates. And others who observe this think to themselves, “If so-and-so was able to find someone young, why not me?”
Women can be equally difficult, though by nature they are nest builders, anxious to get married and yearning to hold babies in their arms. But they can also be reluctant to compromise in their search for the “perfect shidduch” they set their hearts on years earlier when they started dating.
At this point a clarification is in order. I am not suggesting that anyone marry a person to whom he or she is not attracted. I am recommending that singles be more realistic and learn to move on.
Obviously, I am speaking in generalities. I realize there are many exceptions that do not fit this mold; but just the same, the attitude is all too prevalent. Even as I write this, I know there may be loud protests from those who deny the validity of this analysis. They can’t acknowledge the fact that while they desire to marry, they live in the past, clinging to visions that are no longer realistic and refusing to move on.
This concept of moving on regarding shidduchim has a Torah source. The first person in the Torah commissioned to take on the role of a shadchan was Eliezer, the loyal servant of our father Avraham. Eliezer is charged with the mission of finding a shidduch for Yitzchak. Avraham tells him specifically what the qualifications of the bride must be.
Miraculously, Eliezer finds that “perfect girl.” She not only meets Avraham’s expectations, she exceeds them. Despite all this, when Eliezer proposes the shidduch to Rivkah’s family, he tells them, “Give me a yes or a no so that I may know whether I should move on to the right or to the left” (Genesis: 24:49).
This is a lesson the singles population should take to heart. Yes, we recognize you have a vision of a perfect shidduch, but if it doesn’t work, if it’s not happening, take your cue from Eliezer and move on, either to the right or to the left. But don’t become stagnant.