Thank you for featuring that fascinating and entertaining interview with a chassidish shadchan. I made multiple copies of the 3-part series and mailed them out to my friends and my adult children who are almost ready to marry off their own children.
I come from a mixed background. Though I grew up on the modern orthodox side, many of my close friends and cousins were chassidish. As a teenager I recall being horrified at the idea of having to be “set up” with a boy and getting to meet him under parents’ supervision, thereafter electing – based on one or two brief sessions – to marry him.
There was no way I would have ever considered this type of ludicrous arrangement for myself and I let my parents know it in no uncertain terms. In fact, I furthermore insisted that before I married anyone I’d need to get to know him well and that would mean dating him for a prolonged period of time.
Well, man proposes and G-d disposes, as the saying goes. I met my man, dated him, “fell in love” in short order and announced to my parents before they even got a chance to set their eyes on my pick that this was it — whether they approved of him or not. I made it clear that this was whom I was marrying, come what may.
It really didn’t take very long for me to realize that I didn’t know this person very well at all. It was already during our engagement period that I began to get a queasy feeling about the whole thing, but backtracking was out of the question. How could I possibly plead mea culpa after having shown such a strong front and practically daring anyone to challenge my choice?
It took several years of marriage for me to fully concede that I had erred and that there was no sense in continuing to be married to someone whom I didn’t relate to or have much in common with. We divorced, amicably I should add, but the damage was done. And I was left wondering what if…
True, some marriages between two people of different backgrounds who ostensibly “fall in love” end up working out. But mostly an alliance has a much better chance of succeeding when real compatibility exists. Physical attraction and so-called chemistry will last for only so long in the absence of the more pertinent shared hashkafah, like ideals and long-term goals. Let’s just say that within the framework of Judaism there is enough variance among us to seriously disrupt the smooth functioning of a marital relationship.
The way I’ve come to see it, after years of observing the shidduch process in action: the chassidish modus operandi is basically a win-win. To begin with, you automatically get to weed out the totally irrelevant suggestions with basically no discomfort at all. And even if it should happen that you do get to first base (sit down to a b’show) with one who is not your speed after all the weeding out, there is no need to schlep it out and agonize over how to break it to her or him. A simple message is relayed to the shadchan at the conclusion of the b’show and it’s over and done with and on to something else.
The proof is in the pudding. Falling in love during courting is sometimes real and often fluff. Falling in love after getting married is the real deal; it’s when you begin to live life in earnest and see one another in every possible scenario that a bond forms and strengthens. I’ve seen hundreds of couples get married after brief b’shows and fall madly in love after marriage.
Thank you for presenting a colorful perspective on many issues that effect our communities.
A long-time reader
One of the reasons for the success of the chassidish model of shidduch-making is the young age of the singles. A girl or boy of 18 or even 20 is hardly mature enough under any circumstance to gauge real compatibility. Once their parents have already ascertained the suitability of one for the other, the young ones are left to take it from there. If there is a mutual attraction, it is comforting to be assured that the adults have already taken into account all else.
Conversely, the non-chassidic single often wastes time dating endlessly in his or her quest to determine whether Yoni Ploni will make a good spouse in spite of his or her seemingly amiable persona.
All this brings to mind a story about a talmid of the Vilna Gaon who was blind in both eyes, yet he did not allow his impediment to hold him back from his learning as he diligently reviewed the shiurim and committed them to memory.
The Gaon, immensely impressed with his outstanding student, went out on a limb to seek a shidduch for him and found a good girl from a fine family that was also willing and able to support the young couple.
The wedding day arrived, with many in attendance to be sameach the bride and groom. When it came time for the badeken, the Vilna Gaon himself accompanied the chosson to his kallah. On their way, however, the Gaon stopped, turned to the chosson and told him that our holy sages ordained that one is forbidden to enter into Kiddushin before actually seeing his intended. In other words, a chosson must see his kallah before taking her to be his wife.
Upon hearing the words the Gaon just spoke to him, the chosson lifted his head, opened up his eyes and discovered that his eyesight was miraculously restored!
May the attraction between every chosson and kallah endure a lifetime.
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