When our community judges each person as an individual – not as a statistic; when people get off their “high horses” and see in the mirror that they are actually “riding on mules”; when we lose our collective sense of “I deserve only the best” – but use superficial criteria in assessing what the “best” means, then I truly believe the shidduch crisis will resolve itself and the trip to the chuppah will be once again one of welcome excitement.
In my previous column I wrote how apprehension has replaced anticipation when a son or daughter enters the shidduch parsha. What used to be a time of excitement a generation ago, when young frum men and women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, etc. dated and eventually married – has today become one of worry, as girls wonder if they are deemed worthy enough to get on a boy’s ” list” – let alone be asked out on a date – and boys seem to be on a dating merry-go-round – going in circles and not getting anywhere.
Why has the natural process of finding a mate and getting married become an ordeal in the heimishe community?
Before I express my thoughts on the matter I want to emphasize that I am not a social scientist or a psychologist. I’m someone who had children in the parsha as well as having friends whose children currently are in the shidduch scene. My comments are based on their collective experiences.
This sorry state of affairs as I see it, is the inevitable outcome of an unfortunate mind-set that has imploded in our frum community- that of “kimt mir” literally translated as “it’s coming to me” but meaning “I deserve” Young people and/or their families are saturated with a sense of entitlement, the by-product of gayva – preening inflated pride.
People seem to think that they are way above average – that there is something special and superior about them and consequently they have to be very selective over who they are m’chidduch with – who they can let their children marry.
Money, looks, and yichus (status) are on the top of the list, which is understandable to an extent. Why not want this for your child? Unfortunately those who feel this is coming to them reject wonderful shidduchim, young men and women who have great midos and are true avdei Hashem, just because they fall a little short in the looks, money or status department. So these amazing young people are overlooked and ignored and getting older. Meanwhile the fussy parents often end up with their own “gems” tarnishing with age – because often their kids are rejected by those who consider themselves to be on an even higher level. Ironically, most of these families have a skewed view of their own “importance.” They are not the “big deals” they like to gloat that they are.
There is also too much focus on the superficial and not enough on what really counts – midos, maturity and flexibility.
Instead people accept a shidduch based on ever increasingly ridiculous criteria, such as the quality of the robe the mother wears on Shabbat, the brand of the frozen gefilte fish she serves, whether the bubbie lugs her groceries in a cart or instead takes a car service after shopping. I recently came across a new one in The Jewish Press in which a woman writes that a pre-teen boy from a heimishe family who spends his summer at home as opposed to his school’s summer camp in the mountains will damage his ability to make a “good” shidduch.
Intelligence agencies probably do not scrutinize job applicants as thoroughly as our community does when considering a shidduch. I won’t be surprised if things will get to such a state that the dating candidate will be checked for the kind of diapers he/she wore – whether they were brand name shtatie (fancy) or just generic.
In my day – if a family was shomer Shabbat and kosher, if the boy/girl went to a yeshiva or had a Bais Yaakov or day school education that was good enough for most Orthodox families. We’ve become so stuck on labeling people and evaluating them accordingly based on nonsense – like the kind of hat the boy wears – instead of focusing on what’s in his head. There is so much micro-labeling that it’s a wonder that any two families match. I sincerely believe that if it were halachically allowed, brothers and sisters would marry because no one else would be good enough for their parents. (As it is, in some circles, cousins marry each other for generations.)
And of course kids from divorced families are “treif.” Never mind that there are so many organizations for off-the-derech kids – kids who are on the street, or still home but who secretly are alcoholics, drug users or who have eating disorders – who come from two-parent “heimish” families. And what about those young people who grew up in one-parent homes who are now leading lights in the community?
Those who had a parent who died of a disease like cancer are also on the “not for my kid” list. Many of them have elderly grandparents. I had friends who sadly died of breast cancer years ago and yet their mothers are well into their eighties. Obviously, the Angel of Death has his own timetable.