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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Shidduch’

Shidduch Problems Are Nothing New

Friday, June 17th, 2016

For the past couple of weeks in this column we’ve been discussing shudduchim; specifically the challenges singles face in finding their intended mates.

My husband, of blessed memory, related to me that prior to the Holocaust his father, the revered sage HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Osher Anshil HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, tried to make a shidduch for his daughter, my husband’s older sister. She was stunningly beautiful, bright, talented, and blessed with exemplary middos. Her chesed was of legendary proportions, but despite all these attributes there were terrible difficulties in making a shidduch for her.

The reason was simple enough – a prerequisite for a good shidduch in those days was for the girl’s family to offer a substantial dowry. As a rabbi struggling on a meager salary, my father-in-law barely managed to support his family and could not offer the dowry that parents of outstanding boys were seeking for their sons.

Having no option, my revered father-in-law approached various members of his congregation, explained his predicament, and asked for a raise in salary. They were all sympathetic and understanding of their beloved rabbi’s situation. The long-awaited night of the congregational meeting arrived – and, incredibly, the request was voted down.

You can imagine the terrible disappointment. Trying to understand what could possibly have gone wrong, my husband’s older brother, HaRav HaGaon Moshe Nossen Notte, Hy”d, quipped, “It’s like bassar v’cholov [meat and milk]: separately, they’re kosher, but when you combine then, they become treif!”

And so it was that my beautiful sister-in-law was taken to Auschwitz without having known the joy of going under the chuppah.

Why do I relate this painfully sad story? The answer should be obvious. Every generation has its own daunting shidduch challenges. Unfortunately, finding the right shidduch is not a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to our contemporary world.

We, the Jewish people, have always been keenly aware of the overwhelming difficulty inherent in this search. No sooner is a child born than we bless the new arrival with an amazing berachah: “L’Torah, l’chuppah, l’ma’asim tovim – May this child live a life of Torah, go under the chuppah and be an embodiment of good deeds.”

Once, as this blessing was being pronounced at a bris, I happened to overhear a young women laughingly say to her friend, “We Jews are something else. The poor kid just came into this world and we are already worried about his shidduch!”

“Forgive me,” I said to her, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. You are quite correct. From the very moment of birth we beseech the Almighty to guide our child to his designated soul mate, for that is the most daunting challenge to humankind – a challenge so awesome it can make or break a man and leave indelible marks on future generations.

“So it is that even as we wish mazel tov, we understand the wish must go with a prayer that G-d grant the parent the merit of seeing that child under the chuppah. It is a gift no Jewish parent takes for granted. The Torah itself testifies to this by relating in great detail the efforts of Avraham Avinu when he sought a wife for his son Yitzchak. Indeed, one might wonder why the Torah, the holiest of Books, in which G-d proclaims His Divine commandments, would dwell on a parent’s shidduch search. But the question itself is the answer, for the very fact that Hashem devotes an entire parshah to it testifies to its importance. There can be no greater priority for Jewish parents.”

Tragically, in our society parents have little if anything to say. Very often mothers or fathers quietly consult me to see if I can do something for their children, and they invariably add that their children are not to know.

Just consider that for a moment. I, a non-family member, can ask or recommend, but a mother or father has to remain silent. This is the culture we’ve created.

Our father Avraham was the wealthiest, most prominent man in his generation. He had vast holdings – real estate, livestock, servants, etc. The shidduch parshah opens (Bereishis: 24:1) with the Torah relating that Avraham was on in years and had made his last will and testament. He called in the loyal executor of his estate, Eliezer, and charged him with the responsibility of carrying out his will. Amazingly, nothing was said of his material possessions. Avraham made only one demand of Eliezer: that he find a shidduch for Yitzchak in accordance with his specifications.

In our day this would be laughable. The money, the real estate, the livestock – all are of no consequence. The only priority is a shidduch – and that the girl Yitzchak would marry should meet Avraham’s specifications. Obviously the Torah is teaching us something we have yet to learn.

 

To be continued

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Shidduchim – The View from the Other Side

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

I received an e-mail from young man who asked to be identified only by his initials, JS. He otherwise prefers to remain anonymous. Considering the sensitive nature of his post I have agreed. His letter follows.

Dear Rabbi Maryles,

We have been in touch in the past. While rarely commenting, I have been an avid reader of your blog since the last 4 years.

As a frum Jew, the frum world has disappointed me again with the age gap theory. I am a 25 year old male, and it drives me crazy to hear things presented as if only girls have a hard time in shidduchim.

In the last 2 years, I have gone out only 5 times. Truth to be told, I don’t buy it that nice guys are in short supply or that it is an age gap problem.

Do you think that if people were told that it is because of corrupt values and lack of meeting opportunities that we have a shidduch crisis? No way!

Hint: what happened to mixed seated weddings and kiddushim that used to be common 40 years ago? And why on earth is it so wrong to ask a girl out after having met her at a kiddush (whether directly or asking a mutual friend). Yet dating in a hotel for hours is ok (I am sure you are aware that rooms can be booked to fool around and it DOES happen)????

The reason I write to you this email is to give a voice to the men aged 18-30 who have no voice at all in this so called “shidduch crisis.”

This letter was obviously written out of a sense of frustration at what he believes are flaws in the Shidduch system.

As I have said before many times, the dating game in the Charedi world has evolved into something untenable as evidenced by the massive numbers of young women who have little to no chance of getting married once they reach the age of 25.

But as JS points out, it is not the one way street as is commonly believed. It isn’t only young women who aren’t getting a lot of dates. There are plenty of men who fall into that category. I know some very fine Charedi men who are still not married well into their 40s. And it’s not for a lack of trying. It is because they do not measure up to the ideal mate that young Charedi women are indoctrinated to seek: The full time learner. While being Charedi in every other sense these young men have opted to prepare for and join the workforce. They set aside time for Torah study either before or after work. (Sometimes both.)

The fact is that there are a lot of fine young Charedi men who are simply not cut out for the Yeshiva life for various different and very legitimate reasons. And though some of them (maybe even most of them) tend to stick it out and stay in Yeshiva anyway – they do this either because of peer pressure – or so they can have the ‘right’ resume for Shidduch purposes.

This is why many young men of dating age become students in Lakewood Yeshiva. And it is why Lakewood instituted ‘the Freezer’. Which is a policy of not letting their students date for at least six months so as to discourage those who attend their Yeshiva mostly for dating purposes. To a Charedi – having ‘Lakewood’ on your resume when looking for a Shidduch is as important as having Harvard on your resume when looking for a job.

Harry Maryles

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.

Michelle Mond

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.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

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.

Rabbi Josh Yuter

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/orthodox-matchmaking-needs-huge-fixing/2012/12/27/

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