In the past few columns I’ve discussed the suffering of young people and their families when wedding plans are terminated shortly before the scheduled simcha.
Last week I responded to a mother who wrote of the pain her daughter endured when she realized she needed to call off her wedding due to negative information about her young man that came to light.
This week I’m responding to a woman whose letter I shared with readers three weeks ago. Just days prior to her daughter’s wedding, the chosson’s rabbi came to this woman and her husband to inform them the young man could not go through with the marriage.
As I noted last week, there are no magical solutions for parents who wish to protect their children from painful experiences. There are, however, some practical suggestions I can offer.
Evaluate what sort of shidduch you are looking for. Parents invariably say they are looking for a balabatish shidduch – a candidate who comes from a respectful, honorable home. Increasingly, however, balabatish has become synonymous with wealthy. Hakesef ya’aneh es hakol – money resolves everything. So someone dull becomes smart; someone homely becomes average looking or better; someone crude becomes presentable. At least that’s the attitude when money becomes central.
If parents make shidduchim for their children based on money, they can’t really complain when they are disappointed. The truth is, money does not resolve everything. A good shidduch refers to someone who is kind, positive, committed, reliable, honest, and truthful. Above all, he or she must be a Torahdik person.
Family background is important. Whether we like it or not, we are all, to one extent or another, products of our past – even if intellectually we reject the dysfunctional behavior we may have witnessed in our homes. As much as a person is determined never to repeat those mistakes, he or she may well find that despite themselves they engage in similar destructive activity. So examine the family carefully.
Friends, classmates, dorm partners, co-workers, rabbis, teachers, camp counselors, friends and neighbors of a potential marriage partner must all be spoken with and questioned. Someone is certain to ask, “But are we permitted to speak lashon hara?” The answer is no. But – and this is a big but – when it comes to a shidduch situation, where people’s lives are at stake, we must relate the truth.
Of course we have to know in our heart that we do not have ulterior motives – that we do not speak out of bias, that we are not injecting our own prejudices and hostile feelings toward a shidduch candidate or the shidduch candidate’s family. When in doubt, ask a rabbi for guidance.
When we ask questions we must be specific and clear. I’ll use the male pronoun for brevity’s sake, but this obviously applies to both men and women:
Does he have a positive and joyous attitude toward life?
Is he moody?
Does he have a short temper?
Does he get along with his classmates or co-workers?
Does he hold grudges?
Is he helpful to others?
Is he on any medication?
Does he have an attitude of entitlement?
Is he possessive and jealous?
How does he handle money?
Is his word to be trusted?
Does he have self-destructive habits?
Does he refer to his parents or siblings pejoratively?
Does he smile easily or does he have a long grouchy face that cries out “I have issues”?
Now let us assess his Torah commitments.
Does he get to minyan in time?
Does he talk throughout davening?
If he is no longer learning in yeshiva does he set aside time for Torah study?
Does he give tzedakah? It’s not the amount that counts but the manner in which he gives it. Does he do it grudgingly or with an open hand?
None of these questions can be overlooked. They are all crucial to building a genuine Jewish home where shalom bayis will prevail and children will thrive under the loving care of their parents. When it comes to a shidduch we cannot just fall into a situation hoping for the best or make a hasty shidduch because all the friends of our children are already married.
Having said this, I have to concede we are all human beings and as much as we may think we made a thorough investigation, we cannot be too confident. Disappointments come, and they come quickly and painfully.
The only solution is to daven with a full heart and beg Hashem to lead us to the “right one.” It is only Hashem who knows what is good, and we place our total trust in Him.
In the final analysis, my answer to the mother who wrote about her daughter being abandoned by her young man a few days before the wedding is this: Don’t flagellate yourself. Even if you would have done all your hishtadlus, unforeseen situations can occur. But try to remember that in every sorrow there’s always something good. Better that you learned about the problems now rather than later when further generations could be hurt with a dark shadow of a broken home hovering over them.
B’ezrat Hashem, your daughter will soon find her true bashert with whom she will build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding!