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Look In The Mirror


Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:

I have long been an admirer who has followed your work for many years, but this past week, you really outdid yourself. You were right on the mark!

I am referring to the outstanding segment broadcast on NBC News. It was a kiddush Hashem! I especially loved your concluding line, “Just look in the mirror!” in response to the interviewer who asked you what you tell people who can’t seem to find the man or woman of their dreams.

And then, Jean Simmons repeated your response and said: “Maybe we should all look in the mirror!” It was a classic – Congratulations!

Your words resonated for me in a very special way, and I decided that I had to write you and ask if you could publish my letter in your column, for I do believe that this is a subject that must be addressed. Everyone is bemoaning the difficulties that singles and their parents are experiencing when it comes to the shidduch parsha. We all sympathize, and to be sure, it’s a real problem, but there is another side which you encapsulated so pithily with, “Just look in the mirror” which I feel has yet to be addressed. People just don’t see themselves and they don’t have realistic expectations.

I am the mother of six children and five are, baruch Hashem, married. Our youngest is 12. I am very grateful that Hashem granted me this blessing, and I felt a responsibility to give back by trying to make shidduchim for others. My friends who are looking for shidduchim for their children always tell me how lucky I am and how they envy the fact that I can go to a chasuna – wedding – and relax without having to look around; that I don’t have to sit on the phone for hours calling this one and that one, asking them to keep my son or my daughter in mind. I remember making those calls, and they were degrading. Baruch HaShem, I no longer have to go to shadchanim, who more often than not, make the most outlandish recommendations and tend to treat you cavalierly if you don’t have money.

So, for all these reasons and more, I decided to become active in making shidduchim. After all, can there be a greater privilege than to become partners with Hashem who is Mezaveg Zivugim, arranges matches. After a few years of trial and error, however, I have come to the conclusion that many of the people who complain that they have difficulty making shidduchim have no one to blame but themselves! They just have too many issues and too many demands.

Allow me to describe the scenario: I make recommendations and they tell me, “I’ll get back to
you. I have to check it out.” And they don’t – I have to call again and again to remind them.

“I didn’t have a chance to check it out yet,” they tell me. Now, “checking out” is perfectly legitimate – before you go out with someone, you have a responsibility to look into that person’s background, but – and here comes the big “BUT” – it’s one thing to check someone out and something else again to launch an inquisition. The most ridiculous questions are asked, and shidduchim are rejected out of hand for the most outlandish reasons…. without the parties ever meeting.

To be candid, if I had gone through such a screening process when my children were up for
shidduchim, I couldn’t have married off any of them. If you really want to investigate, there is always something you can find. No family is perfect. But people expect “perfect” matches, and they don’t recognize that they themselves are less than perfect. Once again, your advice, “Look in the mirror!” That’s something that people have to learn to do if they truly want to make a shidduch. All my children made imperfect shidduchim, but baruch Hashem, they are perfectly happy and that what counts.

Let me share with you some of the answers that I get when I make a shidduch suggestion. If I call a boy’s mother very often, she will say to me, “I’ll put her on my list. I have about 13 girls before her.” or “My son spoke to his Rebbe and he doesn’t think it’s “shayach – appropriate.” Whatever that means…I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Then there are those who want to know “Did she study in Eretz Yisrael and where?” and if she didn’t, it would become also a major problem. I know many lovely young girls whose parents did not want them to go away, for whatever reason, and they are now labeled. Then there are certain seminaries and schools in Israel that are black-listed. Instead of looking at the girl, they judge her by the school that she attended and decide that her values are not up to par. And then they investigate the family. What schools did the parents and the grandparents attend? And they even ask ridiculous questions like, “Do you they use plastic dishes in the house. And then comes the Dun and Bradstreet and the health check-up, both of which have to be impeccable. We live in a world in which in every family, there are all kinds of physical, emotional and spiritual ailments. No family enjoys perfect health, but these people just don’t look in the mirror.

At the end of the day, I’ve discovered that most people are looking for three things, although they won’t quite admit to it, and resort to all kinds of euphemisms to cloak their ambition – and those three things are money, money and money. I know it sounds crude and awful, but unfortunately, it’s true. Everyone is looking for that big “glick shidduch” which most often turns out to be not such a glick after all.

As for the girls, I will say that they are somewhat easier. Their mothers are more open to suggestion, but they have their own mishshugas as well. Many of them are looking for Rabbi Akivas, someone brilliant who will devote himself to learning day and night - but who will eventually be able to support a family. Now, I ask you, if the young man is learning day and night, how can he prepare himself  for a career that will sustain a family? I haven’t even mentioned the unrealistic expectations of most of our singles in regard to physical appearance. Again, they would do well to look in the mirror before demanding Miss or Mr. Perfect!

Having had little luck in the Orthodox community, I decided to try my hand with the ever growing singles population in the ba’al teshuva world. I invite young men and women for Shabbos dinner or lunch. They are more than happy to accept my invitations, but none of them has made a move toward a shidduch. They are just stuck in their niches, and as much as they bewail their single state and their loneliness, and they just don’t move. I have come to the conclusion that they are quite comfortable with their lifestyles – invitations to Shabbos dinners and participating in the many functions sponsored by the various ba’al teshuva organizations… it’s a whole social life.

As I said, I was prompted to write this letter to you by the story on NBC TV and also by the fact that, as I write these words, we are coming to Parshas Chayei Sara – the shidduch parsha in which Avraham Avinu tells us what our priority should be when it comes to a shidduch – and that is chesed – kindness. And that is the one trait that doesn’t figure prominently on anyone’s list.

I don’t expect an answer to this letter - I just had to get it off my chest, but when people cry about the terrible situation with shidduchim, they would do well to remember that there is another side to the coin - and that is that very often, we fail to see ourselves!

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