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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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What Happens When The Freedom
To Choose Interferes With One’s Destiny?

Dear Rachel,

Several issues ago you featured some articles on the art of shidduch making from a chassidic perspective. Your response to readers who commented on the subject revealed that you are a proponent of their way of doing shidduchim. (If I misread you, please forgive me.) I just thought it might interest you to know that I am currently aware of at least three young chassidic couples whose marriages went bust.

One couple separated just weeks into their marriage, the second broke up before the first year was up, and the third divorced some years later, following the birth of four children.

At least one in each pair claims he or she was misled into marrying a person ill-suited for him or her. In the first case, the wife turned out to be on meds for a psychotic condition (unbeknownst to her new spouse); in the second instance the husband was unbearably overzealous in his religious practice. In the third the wife tolerated relentless emotional abuse before the breaking point finally came.

All of these couples, being of chassidic origin, met only briefly before making a life-altering decision to spend the rest of their lives with someone they hardly knew.

Is this what you were advocating? I am waiting for you to concede the folly of this type of arrangement. To my way of thinking, the relationships that do end up working out have pure luck to thank.

A Skeptical Onlooker

Dear Skeptical,

Mazel – luck – sure has lots to do with the way our lives turn out. Bashert (meant to be) is another undeniable component. Though the pairing of zivugim is Divinely ordained, we are still expected to do our part — and man, chassidic or other, has been known to mess up plenty along the way. (To be sure, effective prayer can positively alter our mazel, and conversely, a deliberate veering off of our destined path can impact it negatively.)

Furthermore, for all the courting and dating before marriage, it is a fact of life that really getting to know someone requires living with that person. As has been discussed at length in this space before, one of the advantages of the chassidish method is that parents take the trouble to weed out totally unsuitable proposals — so that if a couple’s marriage ends up on the rocks, a huge part of the blame rests with the parents who, for whatever reason, failed to choose wisely.

Take the mom of a large brood who was anxious to marry off her eldest daughter, a great kid but not particularly bright or good-looking. Her parents didn’t tarry and quickly settled on a mediocre boy who turned out to be innately inferior to their daughter.

After much heartache and tears on the part of the young wife, the couple divorced and the young lady soon met a wonderful young man who had also been mismatched in his first go-round and had subsequently divorced. For various reasons, neither of these two families would have considered their children a suitable match before, but their now-common ground brought them together and before long it became clear that they were a compatible pair.

Marrying the “wrong one” can sometimes clearly be seen as Divine orchestration intended to bring two elusive meant-for-one-another singles together, as in the story of the well-to-do parents who wouldn’t hear of having their son set up with the quality girl whose father happened to be a simple laborer just making do. This boy went on to marry a girl whose yichus was impressive and more in line with what his parents had in mind.

The two young ones, however, had little in common and eventually ended up going their separate ways. The poor girl who had been rejected the first time around now suddenly became worthy of a second glance, being that the boy’s shattered first marriage brought his credentials and his family’s standing down a notch. Unfortunately, his parents’ refusal to look beyond the façade to begin with had caused them to pass up a good thing, not to mention their son’s apparent zivug — hence the more complicated circuitous route came into play.

The bottom line is that no community or sect is immune to divorce. For that matter, divorce per se is not something to be ashamed of and can actually end up being a good thing for the parties involved, including children who might be better off not being raised in a loveless and toxic environment. And of course we know that the Torah allows for divorce since Hashem knew that as humans we are an imperfect lot. Naturally, trying to make a marriage work is preferable over calling it quits, but in certain circumstances staying the course is not possible or even advisable.

In conclusion, attributing divorce among chassidim (occurring much less frequently than in the Jewish population at large) to the shidduch process makes no sense — especially in view of the fact that it seems to work quite nicely for the most part.

Thank you for reading and getting in touch.

Rachel

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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