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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Shidduch’

Tips for Singles: How to Maximize your Shidduchim and More Easily Find Your Bashert

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Once upon a time, the grandmother of a boy would see a girl at shul and say, “I have the best boy for you!” She’d give a few details, and the young people would agree to go out and see for themselves if the shidduch was shayach (suitable).

Today, “resumes” are crucial to our shidduchim, and yet they have their drawbacks. It very often happens that a shidduch is stopped in its tracks even before the couple gets to meet. Yes, there is a great deal of information on paper, but could it be that that is the problem? A piece of paper should never replace going out on a first date and seeing where it goes. But, unfortunately, when “everything” about a person is in front of you on that resume, it can lead singles to forget the “big picture” of who a person is. Rather, singles tend to revert to the “perfect picture” that exists only in their minds. Feeling that nothing can be compromised on, they say it doesn’t seem ideal, so “why give it a date?” This happens even when the girl and boy are in the same town.

I have seen many examples of such situations, which can serve as a learning experience for others. For instance, one boy said no to meeting a wonderful, beautiful girl, living in the same town. This was because, after inquiring how outgoing the girl was, on a scale of one to ten, he heard she was a seven – and said, “I need more of an eight, personality-wise.” I heard from the parent of a kollel boy that he would like a girl who shops at high-end stores like Anthropologie, rather than Macy’s-type stores, yet she should also be open to supporting him in learning for the first five years. (These are real stories!)

It’s not just the boys, though. Many girls will not give a wonderful guy a chance because something on his resume is not perfectly in line with her ideal picture. For instance, I have seen girls nix shidduchim with wonderfully shtark (religiously strong) and learned boys, because they were looking for someone in full-time learning, but the boy on paper had plans to go to work. I have also often heard girls say no because a boy seemed “too quiet” on paper.

There is nothing wrong with having a general picture of what you are looking for, but even if you have everything planned out, and you see something different on a resume, don’t make the mistake of not meeting the boy. A resume should never replace a date.

As long as the important basics are there – basics such as middos (character), how the person treats others, chesed, and other qualities that are crucial to a happy marriage, please do yourselves a favor and give it a date to see if things go well in person.

See for Yourself

I know a girl who called a relative in the same yeshiva as a boy she had heard of. This relative made it seem as though the boy was extremely introverted and quiet. The girl knew that this was not what she wanted in a personality and did not pursue the shidduch. A year later, she saw a boy at a simcha – a lively, leibedik boy who really made an impression on her. She went out of her way to find out who he was, and sure enough, it was the same boy whose name had been mentioned a year before! Seeing him in person, she was shocked that he had been described as very quiet. In reality he was quite lively, and always had been! It turns out her relative did not know the boy well at all and had the wrong perception.

The Other Side Of The Mechitzah

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis,

I’ve been following your articles on divorce and you’ve been right on target. However, something was missing from your presentation – the plight of divorced men.

In a divorce situation most people sympathize with the wife. They assume she was mistreated. When it comes to custody, most often it is the wife who is given that privilege. I realize of course that mothers are usually the homemakers, though I have seen many instances where mothers abandoned their responsibilities and did not give proper care to their children.

I attended the recent Shabboton for frum divorced people and listened to your talk. You gave me hope to go on. I was very despondent when I came and went home considerably more upbeat. It was all due to your focus on “being a blessing.”

I was married at 23, an age considered young for marriage in the secular world but proper in the frum community. I was studying at a yeshiva in Israel. My parents received many recommendations for a shidduch for me. After some investigation they settled on “Miss X.” She was lovely to look at. She came from a good family and had a good educational background. On paper she met all my expectations. She was my first date and the only one. From the moment we met I felt this was it.

My entire family was involved in my shidduch search. A cousin who went to school with the girl was drilled by my parents. She confirmed that the girl was beautiful but added that sometimes she was moody. (Who isn’t, my parents thought.) They also asked friends and family about her home life. Were there conflicts between the parents? Was there shalom bayis? Were they hospitable?

My parents didn’t leave a stone unturned. They spoke with the rabbi of the synagogue where the parents of the girl davened. They spoke with the rabbi and rebbetzin in charge of the seminary where she studied in Israel. Everyone agreed she was a very nice girl. Our families met on neutral ground at a restaurant in New York. Everything seemed to go well.

We dated for two months. We had an open house for family and friends and the engagement was sealed. Three months later we were married. A few days after the marriage I started noticing strange things, especially wild mood swings, but I dismissed them. Then my wife became pregnant. It was a very exciting time. Everyone was so happy.

For my parents this would be the first grandchild and for my in-laws the second. My wife became increasingly temperamental. I ignored it and attributed it to her pregnancy. After she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, she fell into a terrible depression. She went for help, and many people told me that it’s not unusual for women to have post partum depression. So I had patience.

Soon, however, I discovered that the depression had nothing to do with having had a baby but rather something much more serious. My wife had been on medication for many years but was able to keep it from me during our dating period and the early part of our marriage. But I did find out about it and I realized her moods were caused by her neglecting to take her medication.

Things gradually grew worse. Our shalom bayis crashed. It was painful for me. Just the same, I was ready to accept it. I wanted to protect our baby and I had compassion on my wife and didn’t want to hurt her. I tried with every ounce of my being to avoid even thinking about a divorce but it became increasingly difficult to do so. For seven long years I lived with the problem, during which time we had another child. This time we had a little girl. And now there were two children I couldn’t bear to leave.

Hashem Is The Ultimate Shadchan

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Last week I shared a letter from a mother who was grappling with the challenge of finding the proper shidduch for her daughter. This was the first shidduch in her family and she sought guidance as to how she might best go about it. The following is my response.

The difficulty of finding the right shidduch is all too acute in our Jewish world. I have traveled in every continent, and parents and young people all over share this concern.

Time and again I have said and written that when in a quandary we must always turn to our holy books and search for answers.

Our father Abraham was the first Jewish parent who was overcome with this challenge. In his old age he called Eliezer, ­the executor of his estate, and instructed him regarding his last will and testament. Abraham was the wealthiest man of his generation, so it was only natural that he would take great caution in arranging his will.

Amazingly, it was not his money, his real estate, or his livestock that concerned him. The one concern he had was that a shidduch be found for his son Yitzchak. He instructed Eliezer in precise terms, leaving no room for misunderstanding. He charged him with the awesome responsibility of finding Isaac’s wife. Nothing else mattered to Abraham – a lesson our money-obsessed generation would do well to learn.

This priority of finding the right shidduch is one of the pillars on which our people stand. Abraham’s teaching is so deeply engraved on our hearts that to this day when a child is born we pray that G-d will grant that he or she will one day go under the chuppah, the marriage canopy.

While finding the right shidduch for your child is the most critical responsibility parents are charged with, you are far from the only one who is worried.

You are treading on familiar ground; our parents and grandparents throughout the generations shared your concern.

In your letter you wrote that you have been told by shadchanim and other so-called knowing people that the fact your parents are not observant may be a major problem for your daughter in her search for a shidduch.

Sometimes I think to myself that if Rivkah Imeini were alive today she would have a tough time finding a shidduch – after all, she was the daughter of Besuel, a degenerate, corrupt man, and the sister of Laban, an immoral scoundrel in every way. Who would ever think of marrying such a girl? And this holds true not only for Rivkah but for Rochel and Leah as well. In fact, I could write a megillah about the giants of our people who came from difficult and dysfunctional families and yet became leaders of Am Yisrael.

Additionally, we’ve had sages and great women who were descendants of converts and they too became Torah leaders. Surely it would be impossible, given our contemporary standards, for any of them to find a shidduch today. Who would accept them? Who would even look at them?

In our fractious, money-grubbing society, a man is measured by standards our forefathers were not familiar with. They valued the souls, the hearts, the middos of potential shidduch candidates, not their outward appearance or their wealth or popularity.

Do not worry about your parents’ lack of observance. Your children are standing on solid ground. Their exemplary character traits, devotion to Torah, and commitment to our people all speak loudly and clearly for them. No, your parents’ lack of observance will not hold them back from finding their spouses. The young man Hashem has chosen for your daughter is waiting in the wings. He’s there. Just daven and ask Hashem to send him soon, without grief or aggravation.

I would, however, like to clarify why it is that some sincere, observant families object to making a shidduch with someone whose grandparents are not shomer mitzvot. It’s not because of snobbish elitism or delusions of grandeur. It’s simply based on their fear that when the grandchildren will visit Grandma and Grandpa and witness the violation of kashrus, Shabbos, etc., it will have a damaging effect on them.

In your case, though, that does not apply. Baruch Hashem, it is you and your husband who will be the loving Grandma and Grandpa. While your daughter’s future children may visit Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa, it is unlikely they would stay over on Shabbos or be invited for non-kosher dinners.

Myths and Realities of the ‘Shidduch Crisis’

Monday, February 11th, 2013

There are few topics in Jewish society which can simultaneously evoke rage, empathy, and unsolicited opinions and advice as Jewish dating. There are numerous books on the world of Jewish dating including “Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures,” which ironically can be added to your wedding registry.

To be sure, I’ve done my share of personal reflections as a single – after all it’s great blog fodder. I’ve written my own share of articles on the subject, including a “Guide to Jewish Dating.” But fast forward several years, countless women, forgettable dates, even more encouragement, criticism, and unsolicited advice, I am still single.

However in the past few years serving as a Rabbi I’ve also gained a much better perspective. While my community attracts young Jews, it is by no means a “scene” which means there is significantly less communal pressure for single’s to get married. Furthermore, I have personally adopted a “no dating congregants” policy, meaning my religious communal experience of synagogue attendance is uncharacteristically devoid of any pretense of trying to impress women.

Thus I write from the relatively unique perspective of being a single rabbi – aware of the struggles of others while experiencing the same challenges first hand. Consider it unintentional participant observation if you will. And with this dual perspective I have come to the following conclusion: the so-called “shidduch crisis” is a collection of myths which only exacerbate the social pressures and anxieties at the core of the Jewish single’s community, specifically the denial of individuation.

Let’s start with just one example of the alarmist rhetoric regarding Jewish singles. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld writes on the Orthodox Union’s website:

Shidduchim – Singles 12. Treat the topic of singles like the crisis it is. This is a plague affecting all segments of Orthodoxy and threatens our very continuity. Synagogues and organizations must put this on the front burner. Singles themselves must change attitudes. Women must put marriage before career. Men must consider the woman as a valued helpmate not just as a means of advancing their own life goals, be it career or learning. There is more to a human beings worth other than their money or looks.

There are several assumptions embedded in this paragraph which I hope to dispell one at a time.

Myth: Marriage is a Communal Issue

One would think that getting married is merely a union between two individuals who make a lifelong commitment to each other – i.e. it is a personal decision. But for R. Schonfeld, the “plague” of the shidduch crisis “threatens our very continuity.” From a demographic perspective R. Schonfeld has a point; the later in life Jewish couples get married the fewer Jewish children will be born.

Procreation is certainly important in Judaism as evidenced by the rabbinic dictum, “the world was not created except for procreation” (M. Gittin 4:5. Though notably this statement is not particular to Jew). But there is no indication that the intent is simply to produce more biological Jews, and I would suspect R. Schonfeld and others would not promote premarital sex with the intent of producing babies.

Yes, there are demographic concerns when the average marriage age rises, but the implication is that people should get married “for the sake of the children” or alternatively, singles should “take one for the team” regardless of the implications for their own well-being.

The reality is that no one should get married to meet the approval of others and certainly not out of a sense of communal responsibility (see T. Sotah 5:1).

Myth: Getting Married is a Goal

Related to the previous point is the sentiment that getting married is an goal in and of itself. One example from an Aish column states, “Admitting that you’d like to get married does not signal an affliction; it’s merely a defensible life goal.”

Getting married may be a strong desire for many people, but by no means should marriage be treated as a goal. The dictionary definition of “goal” is, “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” Following this definition, the “goal” of getting married can be accomplished simply by getting married disregarding any concern as to the quality of said marriage. If marriage is a goal then people should just marry the first consenting person who comes their way and as soon as the ring is taken mission accomplished.

Orthodox Matchmaking Needs Huge Fixing

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

If there is one area of orthodox Jewish life that is truly messed up and needs fixing it’s matchmaking. In our communities we eschew the recreational dating scene of the secular world. As a counselor in that world and someone who once served as matchmaker-in-chief for JDate, I agree that it is too flawed. External qualities like beauty and money play an outsized role. People don’t date to commit but to have fun, except that there is nothing ultimately pleasurable about relationships that are expected, from the outset, not to last. Who needs a broken heart? Life has enough uncontrollable pain not to have add the self-inflicted variety.

So what is our solution? Is the alternative that we offer in orthodoxy of young men and women never meeting at all and connecting only through matchmakers a viable alternative?

Well, it once was when the orthodox community was, say, a tenth of the size it is today. But let’s be proud of our growth. From the time I got marriage nearly 25 years ago, thank God, to today the orthodox community has absolutely exploded in growth. We’re having a lot of kids, which is wonderful but it has strained the shidduch-matchmaking system to the limit. Some would say it has broken it almost completely. How the heck are a few, mostly volunteer matchmakers supposed to cope with this vast demand? Are young orthodox men and women really supposed to sit around, preparing their resumes, as if their on a job interview, and badgering shadchanim to prioritize them amid so many others clamoring for the same attention? Is it a workable system? Is there any dignity in it?

I am the proud father of nine children thank God and I just became a grandfather. My first three children are daughters, all raised with my standards of dating to marry and dating within the shidduch system. This is particularly important to me given my considerable exposure to the romantic and sexual challenges, not to mention the sky-high divorce rate,  that is prevalent in mainstream culture and which I address.  However, I’m not the kind of guy who believes in delegating life’s most important responsibilities to others. But here I am, as an orthodox father, forced to relegate my daughters’ dating life to matchmakers who are very well-intentioned and who care but who cannot possibly know my daughters well or prioritize them, given the vast demands on their time and energies from so many other parents.

In the Chabad system it’s especially challenging because of the absolutely vast increase in the size of the community, thank God, how spread out it is internationally, and because most of the shadchanim, trying to be pure of heart, offer their services in a volunteer capacity rather than professionally. But that also means there is no real accountability.

So, I am being fair to my daughters when I tell them, based on my personal values, that they should only date within the shidduch system? Should they be reduced, like so many other young Chabad men and women, to friends and matchmaker’s introductions? Should their involvement in their own dating life really be so passive?

I have to admit that my own experiences within the shidduch system has caused me to question it considerably, though my own children would probably disagree and say the system functions well enough. They would say that being ‘frum’ means certain things and they embrace the shidduch system, whatever its shortcomings. But Yeshiva University, where my daughter is an undergraduate, does events that brings young men and women together. It is not seen as scandalous or secular. Indeed, I applaud it. Chabad and the more ‘black hat’ communities would not countenance such interactions. And there is a part of me that not only understands that and agrees with it but even, for years, advocated it.

When a leading Chabad Rabbi with unquestionable credentials suggested a few years back in a column that Chabad begin limited interactions between the young men and women, in a controlled environment, to have them meet for the purposes of marriage, I attacked the suggestion as being a slippery slope. I who counsel so many secular singles and know how screwed up the singles scene is in secular singles-events and party communities.

But having said that, I now have a much more open mind. I do not believe it’s fair to my daughters, and my sons when they come of age, that the limited interaction they will have with a potential spouse will come from people who really don’t have a lot of time to commit to the endeavor. Less so do I believe that such an important stage in life become so fundamentally disempowering that one cannot take any kind of personal initiative but is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Indeed, a few years back I was prevailed upon, by young Chabad men and women writing to me, to host a small Shabbos gathering in Englewood where I would offer talks on Judaism and dating and where young Chabad men and women, thoroughly committed to the shidduch system, could have the opportunity to meet. I did it as an experiment. It worked well. It was very educational and, though I don’t know what couples resulted, I know it gave people hope.

And this is but one idea about how to fix a broken system. I welcome all other positive suggestions.

In the final analysis, the Jewish people are still here, after thousands of years of persecution, because our young people have married and produced strong families. This crisis, therefore, is an existential crisis that must be courageously addressed.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Make Men More Mature Rather than Send Girls Under the Knife

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Few columns I have read from the orthodox community have disturbed me as much as Yitta Halberstam’s recent piece in the Jewish Press advocating that young women engage in plastic surgery in order to be more in demand for a shidduch (Jewish marital match). Worse, Yitta encourages us parents to be the ones to send our daughters under the knife. I was so floored by what I read that I decided to take time from my all-consuming Congressional campaign to respond.

I have met Yitta. She’s a fine woman with a luminous soul. So Yitta, please don’t take this personally. I mean no disrespect. But you can’t be serious.

Here is Yitta begging orthodox Jewish parents to heed her call: “Mothers this is my plea to you: There is no reason in today’s day and age with the panoply of cosmetic and surgical procedures available, why any girl can’t be transformed into a swan. Borrow the money if you have to; it’s an investment in your daughter’s future, her life.”

Witness the modern Jewish tragedy writ large. Had this piece been published even in a secular magazine it would have come in for the sharpest criticism and condemnation. Yitta, are you not aware that we face an epidemic of young American women dying of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia because of the kind of misogyny you advocate above? About eight million American women have an eating disorder and the numbers are increasing greatly in the orthodox community. I published a column a few years back about a seventeen-year-old girl in a seminary in Jerusalem, known to my family, that died of anorexia. The root cause of eating disorders is this dangerous belief that a young woman is not born a princess but an ugly duckling in need of some radical personal makeover in order to appeal physically to a man.

How dangerous is the kind of drivel about young girls undergoing surgical procedures as advocated in Yitta’s column? Well, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Ten percent of anorexics die within 10 years of contracting the disease, twenty percent will be dead after 20 years, and only about thirty-five percent ever fully recover. And the mortality rate associated with anorexia is twelve times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females aged fifteen to twenty-four years old. (Source: South Carolina Department of Mental Health)

The assault on women in our time is serious, concentrated, and deadly. It’s remedy is a more wholesome, more spiritual culture that looks at a women in her totality: mind, body, heart, and spirit. This is the kind of world that Judaism, with its unique emphasis on a woman’s spiritual gifts, has always sought to create.

How tragic, therefore, that columns of this ilk are appearing more frequently in orthodox Jewish publications, as if the words of King Solomon “that beauty is negligible but a woman who fears G-d is to be praised” is something of a bygone era, replaced even in the religious Jewish community by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.

Is the author really suggesting that we take our young daughters – and I, thank God, am blessed with six – and put them under the knife, bankrupting our families in the process, so that they can better appeal to shallow religious charlatans who would prefer a woman who is all form and little substance? Is this what three thousand and three hundred years of Jewish tradition has come to, that a nation that has always dared to walk alone, with different ideals and values from the wider culture, should so fully capitulate to the most corrupt, misogynistic values, that we would advocate that our young women have plastic surgery in order to get married?

Earth to Yitta: It’s not women who have to have breast enlargements, collagen injections in their lips, and Botox needles shoved in their foreheads in order to marry. Rather, it’s men who need a deeper, spiritual inoculation. Tell the Yeshiva students that the Torah they are learning is supposed to actually change their hearts. They’re supposed to be influenced by its values and judge a woman’s beauty not just by her hourglass shape but by her incisive opinions, graciousness of character, and spiritual glow. It’s the feminine which draws the masculine, and the feminine is something subtle, noble and refined. It is vulgarized when it becomes entirely about the physical form and rapidly loses its appeal.

And by the way, Yitta, I assume, in the interests of egalitarianism and fairness, that you’re also advocating that the young guys who indulged a bit too much in the cholent  get their stomachs stapled and liposuction to make them more appealing to the girls?

I have worked in the field of human relationships in the secular world for most of my professional life and I have never even heard it suggested by the most superficial relationship expert that we should take young women for plastic surgery in order to attract a husband. Because most of those experts would rightly say that any man that expected extensive surgical procedures prior to marriage is a shallow jerk, and any parent who would inflict that on their daughter might just be guilty of abuse.

Gila Manolson: A Response to Yitta Halberstam’s Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Don’t worry, Yitta, I’m not going to crucify you, as you feared. I actually agreed with the gist of your article, which was obviously heartfelt and well-intended. I just want to point out where you crossed a line, a problem that you unwittingly reinforced, and something crucial that you overlooked—all of which I suspect pressed a lot of people’s buttons.

First of all, a confession that should make my endorsement of your basic idea more meaningful: I’m an unabashed proponent of the “natural look.” I wore (gasp) absolutely no makeup when dating my husband, and not even when I stood under the chuppah with him. (In fact, the only time he has seen me in makeup has been on Purim.) Miraculously, he managed to find me attractive enough to actually marry me. One reason I foreswore makeup (and have, in fact, since age 16) is that I have a distinct allergy to fake things—I dislike makeup for the same reason I dislike plastic plants. The other, more compelling, reason is that I needed to know that, beyond our spiritual connection, my future husband would be attracted to the real, unadorned, physical me.

Having said that, I realize I’m an anomaly, and don’t expect the majority of women to follow my lead. While I’m a big believer in inner beauty and how much it can transform one’s appearance, I’m also a big believer in living in reality, and the reality is that purely physical looks count for a lot in this world. So I will wholeheartedly agree that a girl should make the best of her looks, especially when meeting a prospective mother-in-law (or his son)—including wearing a flattering hairstyle, flattering clothes, and yes, even a tasteful amount of makeup (if she has no ideological objection). And if she needs a total makeover, I’d say go for it.

In principle, then, you could say we see eye to eye. So what bothered me about your article?

First of all, your big blooper, in my opinion, was advocating not only cosmetics but “surgical procedures” to improve a girl’s appearance. For once we start surgically “improving” our appearance, where’s the end? Is cosmetic surgery called for only to “fix” a glaringly unattractive feature (which is all you may have had in mind), or to “upgrade” and “recreate” every possible part of ourselves that doesn’t look like what we see in women’s magazines?

Let me share with you two emails I received from young women approaching shidduchim age. One was from a girl who was seriously distraught about her large, hooked nose and wanted to “fix” it, but worried that this made her “superficial.” I wrote back that if her nose was objectively unattractive and it really bothered her, then I did not believe having a “nose job” made her “superficial,” and she should do it.

But then there was the 17-year-old girl who was unhappy with her small chest and wanted my opinion on whether she should get implants. Here was a girl whose body failed to meet some “ideal” but was probably perfectly lovely in its own way. I told her I knew many small-busted women who’ve gotten married, and that she should work on appreciating her own body’s beauty rather than surgically alter it.

The difference should be clear. Anyone in their right mind would advocate, as did the Satmar rebbe, that a girl who has no teeth should get dentures. But once you get beyond fixing a flagrant physical fault and talk about achieving some purported physical ideal, we’re in dangerous waters.

This blunder contributed to another likely reaction on the part of many readers: the disturbing sense that shidduchim are becoming increasingly unnatural and artificial, and that pressing for more emphasis on externalities is not what we need. Definitely, a girl should put her best foot forward. But when she has to pay a professional makeup artist and hair stylist before each date as if she were going to her sister’s wedding, haven’t we gone way overboard?

Furthermore, as we all know, our appearance affects our feelings and behavior. On the one hand, looking good can make us feel and “behave” good. On the other hand, looking not like our real selves can also make us feel and behave not like our real selves—and it’s pretty important to feel and behave like your real self on a date with a potential marriage partner.

But the biggest mistake you made was overlooking male responsibility in viewing women. Yes, the male brain is hardwired to be visual, meaning that men will always be stuck on looks more than women are. But who’s teaching boys that real, enduring attraction results from a potent mix of looks plus character and personality, and that to see if it can exist, you have to get to know a girl? (I address myself to males on this topic at the end of my book Choosing to Love.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/gila-manolson-a-response-to-yitta-halberstams-plea-to-mothers-of-girls-in-shidduchim/2012/03/26/

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