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Friendly Rebuttal

In this week’s column by Dr. Yael Respler, she addresses a letter sent to her by a reader who had “bones to pick” with some of the points I made regarding shidduchim in the various Orthodox communities.

The author correctly stated: “In Ms. Kupfer’s estimation, there are a significant number of couples who are not happy. Consequently, the solution is that young adults and their parents should choose the shidduch method they prefer, and that will produce happier couples.”

I pointed out that while Chassidishe parents marry off their children at a very young age – getting happily married should be the ultimate goal, not just becoming a husband or wife. In
the Chassidish community, dating means that young men and women meet who are pre-screened by the parents, and then get engaged one or two meetings later.

In the Yeshivish community, young people are set up by relatives, friends (usually married) and
shadchans and date over a period of weeks or months.

The Modern Orthodox often meet on their own in school, shul, Shabbatons, singles events, and are introduced by friends. I concluded by saying that no one system necessarily works better than the other, and that whatever works for the individual is the best method.

The writer cast doubt as to “the widespread condition of marriage disharmony in the frum
community that I alluded to in my article. He also stated that Chazal and the Gedolim of this generation have advocated the shidduch system of dating since it falls within the Torah guidelines of modesty – as opposed to mixed activities that are not imbued with the proper Torah ideology.

Dr. Respler diplomatically and wisely answered that everyone is entitled to their opinions as long as they are presented respectfully and that at the end of the day, “the most important concern is that we treasure our marriages and try to have Sholom Bayis. After getting to the chupah, it is everyone’s challenge to try to make our marriages work.”

While I will agree to disagree with some of the letter writer’s views, I totally agree on one point that he made. The solution to having a happy marriage is good midos developed from true Torah values. However, he implies, that these wonderful traits are exclusive to those who utilize the shidduch date method. I want to inform him that there are many modern Orthodox young people who are the epitome of good midos and act with the utmost tzniut in their
interactions with the young ladies and men who they meet in college, at the ice skating rink, or at a singles gathering.

Conversely, there are individuals from the “best” yeshivas who are secretly living a lifestyle that would cause their community’s collective hair to turn gray with shame. There are dire problems of drug abuse, gambling, promiscuity, and alcoholism. Exposure to Torahdik behavior does not guarantee an individual will grow up to be a mensch. Dysfunctional parents – often the product of dysfunctional homes – are raising socially inept, emotional impaired children who grow up with negative personality traits like self-absorption, laziness, anger, low self-esteem and dependence which will make it difficult for them to be good spouses.

I reiterate that being raised “frum” does not automatically make such a person have good midos. There are thousands of baalei teshuva who were brought up in homes that were devoid of Torah, who grew up to become exemplary members of the frum community and are role models themselves.

As to his doubt about the widespread phenomenon of marital disharmony - the numbers
speak for themselves. At any gathering of Orthodox singles, the majority of the attendees are divorced. Where are these people coming from, if the frum community does not have a large number of miserably married people who had the courage or desperation to get out of horribly unhappy unions? There are also hundreds of agunot waiting for their release from the chains of a life-shattering marriage. Obviously these are frum, Torah observant women, who, unlike their secular counterparts, care about obtaining a religious divorce, not just a secular one.

Many of the divorcees are women with children. They would not have taken the risk of community censure, loneliness, economic loss and single motherhood if they were in good marriages. And divorces are not indigenous to the modern Orthodox. Elite, yichusdik Yeshivish and chassidishe families have sons, daughters, and siblings who are divorced.

It all goes back to what I originally said in my article. One cannot generalize about the pros or cons of any the methods used by various Orthodox communities to get their young people married. The individuals involved should use the method that they feel will work for them.

Proper Torah based behavior and midos during the meeting/dating ? and long after the chupah – is what counts. I feel we all can agree on that.

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