As promised, I will now try to offer some recommendations on how to find “Mr./Ms. Right.” Some years ago, an attractive young non-observant woman whom I shall refer to as “Kelly” came to consult me regarding a shidduch.
“Tell me,” I said, “What are you looking for?”
“What am I looking for?” she repeated pensively. “Nothing complicated – just a nice, quality guy. Although sometimes I wonder whether he exists.”
“Of course he does,” I assured her, “but your definition of quality may not be realistic.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me share with you an incident that occurred some years ago at one of our Hineni classes and you’ll understand.
“A young woman approached me. She was truly beautiful and many in our group recognized her since she was a television personality. She too told me, ‘I’m looking for a quality person,’ and when I challenged her to explain exactly what she meant by quality, she enumerated five musts on which she was not willing to compromise.
“1. Good looking – ‘Looks are important,’ she explained. ‘There has to be a certain chemistry.’
“2. Bright – ‘Someone who is well educated, but also has street smarts.’
“3. Wealthy – ‘He has to support me in the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed. At this stage of my life, I can’t go backwards!’
“4. A great personality and good sense of humor – ‘I have no patience for moody people. I like a man who is fun and with whom I can have a good laugh,’ – and finally,
“5. Someone who is athletic – ‘I love tennis.’ ”
“Good luck to her,” Kelly said, laughing. “That would take five different guys all wrapped into one!”
“That’s exactly what I said, but I also told her that her ‘big five’ was a bunch of ‘zeroes’ and did not add up to anything.”
“Why?” Kelly asked.
“Simple – ‘zeroes’ don’t add up to anything unless there is a digit in front of them.”
Kelly looked at me quizzically, so I repeated, “Five ‘zeroes’ without a digit in front of them, are what we call in Yiddish, ‘Gurnisht Mit Gurnisht’ – G.M.G. – nothing with nothing.”
“I don’t think that I’m obtuse, but I still don’t get it. What digit are you referring to, Rebbetzin?”
“A Torah digit – the first letter of the Torah, which is ‘B’ – ‘Bet’, and the last letter of the Torah which is ‘L’ – Lamed. Those two letters spell ‘lev’ – heart. If he doesn’t have a good heart, then his good looks will become repulsive overnight; his sharp mind and wit will be used to abuse and denigrate you; his wealth will control and manipulate you; and his ‘great personality’ will eclipse and suffocate yours. As for tennis, I told her, “You can always get him a trainer! But how will you train him to acquire a good heart?'”
“So, how do you train someone to have a good heart?” Kelly now asked.
“Finding a good-hearted person is no simple matter,” I told her. “As much as we would like to believe that, basically, we are all good people with a few ‘shtick’ here and there, the truth is that we are not so good, and we have to learn goodness.
“It is written in the Torah that ‘The heart of a man is wicked from his youth’ (Genesis, 8:21).
“We are born seeing only our own needs and must be taught to be sensitive to the concerns of others. This training must start at a tender age. Early on, children must be conditioned to be giving, to be patient, to be considerate, and to be kind. Even simple words like ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ must be taught and are not to be taken for granted – as evidenced by their absence from the vocabulary of so many adults.
“Unfortunately, in many homes, these values are never imparted. Often, parents regard inappropriate behavior as ‘cute’ or something that their children will outgrow. There are also those parents who have no clue as to what constitutes a ‘good heart.’ They raise their children without teaching the disciplines that foster goodness. So it is that there are so many obnoxious adults.”
“But can’t you acquire these disciplines later in life?” Kelly asked.
“Of course you can,” I assured her, “but it’s very difficult to un-learn ingrained character traits. And for a spouse to undo them is virtually impossible. No one should marry in the hope of changing the other. The best we can do is to change ourselves.”
“I wish that I could disagree with you,” Kelly sighed. “I guess I had to learn the hard way. I went out with some of those difficult obnoxious guys, and believe me, they robbed me of many good years. It was only after I suffered much pain and disappointment that I discovered what they were all about. But how can I prevent this from happening in the future? How can I know that the man that I am dating has a ‘good heart’ before I invest all that time?”
Kelly’s question should be of primary concern to all singles. Indeed, how can you tell?
While there is no silver bullet that can offer guarantees, there are nevertheless guidelines that we can follow that can assure us that we did our hishtadlus – due diligence – to ensure that the most important decision of our lives was being made on a solid foundation. What these guidelines constitute, I will, B’Ezrat Hashem, discuss in my next column.