Thursday, July 14, 2005

On Shidduchim and Relatives

DovBear's recent post about Shidduchim got me thinking to an episode earlier in my life.

I happened to consider myself very lucky. Why, do you ask? Very simple... I met my wife on my own. I didn't have to endure the shidduch scene. I happened to marry the second girl I ever went out with... and I don't regret it for a moment.

When my wife and I met, we were very young. I was only 18 and just starting my first year of college. She was in high school. It wasn't planned, but we just happened to meet and knew that we were going to marry each other. It wasn't a matter of if, just a matter of when.

I first met my father-in-law about a month or so later. When I first met him, he was sitting shiva for his father. It was certainly an unusual way to meet one's future in-laws. Fortunately, I seemed to have impressed him enough. So, I never had to go through the whole "shidduch" scene, the "checking out" of the perspective spouse and family and the whole "money" thing. As "unJewish" as it sounds, we simply fell in love and that was that.

During the three years between the time we met and the time we finally married, my sister (who is about three years younger than I) was terribly upset at me. Not necessarily because of the girl I was dating (they soon learned to get along and become friends) but because she felt that my actions were costing her a potential good shidduch. She felt that I was "ruining" her name with my actions.

Well, all's well that ends well. She ended up with a very fine shidduch, she's married to a wonderful mentsch and we're all very happy. I guess I didn't ruin her life after all. :)

But, all flippancy aside, how is it that we've set up a system where people are held to account for other people's actions? There are circles where, if one family member goes "off the derech," it leaves a black mark on the entire family. Heaven forbid if a sibling breaks an engagement or gets a divorce; that could seriously diminish a younger sibling's chances of getting an acceptable match. It's one thing if the prospective bride or groom themselves has a broken engagement/divorce; but I see no reason to stigmatize the rest of the family. The same goes true for any other actions that someone in the family may commit. You're not marrying that person's brother, sister, aunt, uncle or grandparent - you're marrying the person - and you should look to that person's qualities. Punishing them for something that they have no control over is simply not fair. And besides, I'm willing to bet just about everyone has some skeletons in their family closet.

And while we're at it - was this the norm in the "freidikia doros" (previous generations)? Were prospective brides and grooms checked out as thouroughly 100 years ago as they are today? Did anyone really go around "hiring" private investigators to find out about tablecloths, robes, snoods/wigs and/or extended family? Or is this a recent form of insanity?

The Wolf

35 comments:

Ben Avuyah said...

Wolf,

Insanity is the wrong word.

What do you think happens when, let’s say for example, I feel, that family members, even distant ones, can ruin my life, my reputation, even when I may be as pure as a white linen table cloth (clearly a hypothetical scenario).

I’ll tell you… my own deeds, my own character, begin to pale in comparison to the general reputation of the family as a whole.

Individuality withers into a shadow of it’s former self and is replaced by a communal form of rigorous status quo. People become more concerned with whether or not their uncle is towing the party line, than with the essence of their own character.

Far from insane, this is a rather ingenious tool that religion uses very efficiently for control. This is not outward pressure applied by the clergy, rather the individual is squeezed into conformity by the ones they love the most.

Clever isn’t it….

Still Wonderin' said...

"Clever isn't it..."

Clever indeed. The Nazi Youth, as were children of Communist party members, were indoctrinated to keep an ever-watchful eye and report of family and friends.

You never who could be pulling the whole ideology down by having an individual thought.

Same thing here. It's tough to keep your kids mesmorized by the divinity of the yeshivish/chasidish lifestyle. So you gotta do what works.

Essie said...

oh...don't get me started on the craziness of the shidduch system...it is sheer insanity!

PsychoToddler said...

Living in the midwest, I have to say that people in new york need to get a grip on reality. Most of the marriages here are intermarriage. If I hear about 2 Jews getting married to each other, I just about get up and dance a little jig.

We have bigger problems to worry about than if my second cousin twice removed once looked at a shikse.

Enigma4U said...

Wolf,

Ben Avuyah beat me to it, but your post can be summed up in two words:

SOCIAL CONTROL

Air Time said...

I have trouble seeing what the big deal is here.

Shidduch insanity was brought on by yourselves (NY jews, feel free to blame another segment of NY jews if you want but you guys created it), not some kind of big brother.

If you don't like it, find another way for your kids to date, like tell them to call a girl they met at the grocery store or bar or work.

BrooklynWolf said...

That's actually what I did, AirTime.

I'm curious, though. Did this insanity exist fifty or a hundred years ago? Did parents go through so much effort to dig up dirt on prospective matches for their kids? Or is this paranoia a recent innovation?

The Wolf

Air Time said...

I met my wife in my friends car, and called her a few days later to ask her out.

I get the sense that this level of investigation is a new phenomenon. Whereas in the past you would ask if the boy/girl was a good girl, today it goes to extremes.

Still Wonderin' said...

i met my wife in the third grade at a frined's house.

But today, RW Jews seem to feel that mundane activity like socializing is bittul torah and clearly assur.....more fantasies from the mythical land of Learnalot.

daat y said...

Excellent post.
The shidduch system has much to offer.This includes getting together individuals with similar backgrounds and desires for their future.
However what you are relating is the system going haywire.
Of course there is a gemara in avodah zara that states one should look at the brother,

Oleh Yahshan said...

Daat - it looks like you in the middle of something with your comment!!

Anyways... my wife and I are also a product of self finding... and more than that.. there is no way that a Shiduch would have put us together (not profesional or friends)... but here we are (happily married for 2 weeks :>)...

as for the whole "who are you realted to " issue, I think it is one of the most horrible things in the system. it goes together with the yichus concept... I fail to see how my uncle being a rabbi (he isn't...) makes me a better Jew! but then again what do I know..

daat y said...

oleh yahshan'
mazel tov to you and your spouse.
May you continue to grow together
in happiness.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a symptom of what happens when the need to preserve certain behaviours becomes the goal of a society, rather than the preservation of the values that those behaviours were originally created to preserve.

Shidduch rituals were about helping people find good spouses, make good marriages etc. Now, it has become about the form, not the content.

And the form gets fossilised, made more extreme because it has to be protected from those who would change the form. And no matter that the form is being changed to preserve the value of marriage.

What matters is that we preserve behavior
An that makes for a bad mess.

HESHY said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fsgsf said...

From a Torah perspective, it definitely says by a shidduch to inspect her brothers ( see Rashi By rivkah it says Yidbok B'Acheha)

From a personal perspective though, I agree the shidduch scene is full of insanity!!

God bless you and yours. You are happy and sis is happy, and thats the main thing!

Peace!

NJ from NJ

BrooklynWolf said...

Heshy,

I've told you before. If you want to intelligently discuss the issues, you are more than welcome. But you will not use this blog simply to advertise.

The Wolf

HESHY said...

WOLF!

The fix is in. When you can't respond to the comment, you just delete it!!

Now that is a class act! How come I didn't think of it on my blog? FOr some reason, your "profound" comment remains for all to read and "enjoy"!!!

BrooklynWolf said...

Heshy,

What fix? All your comment was was an advertisement for people to go to your house.

Say something substanstive, and I'll be more than happy to let it remain. But I won't have you simply using my blog for ad space.

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Oleh Yahshan - if you've been married for only two weeks, get the heck off the web and get back to your spouse!

To the rest of you, it is interesting. Yesterday was the day of that familiar summer ritual in many places - Camp Visiting Day. My wife and I along with our kids jumped into the van and drove up to the Catskills to visit our child in sleepaway camp. While on the way home, in keeping a promise to our 5 year old, we drove past the Homowak Hotel where, as I explained to my children, their mother and I met at a singles weekend 21 years ago next month bAruch Hashem and B'li Ayin Hora. As our eldest child is getting near the age of marriage and shiduchim, we both wondered if frum people still met the way we did any more.

BrooklynWolf said...

Anonymous,

I highly doubt it. It seems to me (and, admittedly, my perspective may be wrong) that the only "acceptable" way to meet a spouse is through the shidduch system.

A relative of a relative-through-marriage of mine recently became engaged to a young man she met in college. While it certainly wasn't a major scandal, I could tell from speaking to my relative-through-marriage that the family was less than thrilled with the way it happened (although he, himself, didn't think it was a big deal).

The Wolf

Mis-nagid said...

It's interesting that psychotoddler's and enigma4u's posts, despite seeming so different, actually say the same thing. Think about it.

Oleh Yahshan said...

Anonymous - I spend enough time with my wife thank you very much..

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you've seen this, but Dov Bear's comment pasted below, makes for a pretty strong argument that doing research and checking out a prospective mate is imperative.



DovBear said...


" And with feminism, I think in many ways women have a lot more tribulations than ever.... "

Your point is well made, and precisely the idea that I was trying to convey.

Look, the Ketubah, the marriage contract, sets forth the rights and obligations between the husband/wife within the parameter of marriage. As with any other halacha, true and authentic torah hashkafa (as opposed to some of the ideas espoused by 'some' in the MO crowd) remains constant, and does not develop or evolve as do many other philosophies or ideologies.

Viewed form this perspectice, when I got married, I envisioned (and still do) a relationship with my wife whereby she viewed her position as my EIZER to be the dominant and perfect role for her in the marriage.

I don't want to play seconf fiddle to some CFO who feels that he has to suck every last bit of energy from my wife for the salary (which she deserves)that they pay. The corporate perspective, is that a professional employee is married to the job and is supposed to dedicate him/her self to the job as him/her self's first priority.

Additionally, it is important that this perspective be understood, since it is well known that there is a lot of sexual tension in the professional workplace. (Especially, in this instance where my wife is extremely sexy and very good looking). I don't want some WASP oggling my woman and trying to win over her heart.

In short, It is imperative that the woman of the house appreciates her role and views that as her FIRST priority. Anything other than that is a perversion of true Torah's perspective.

It is wrong to change any part of torah, whether to accomodate the feminist, or any other leftist REgressive movement.

Anonymous said...

DovBear didn't write that, it was an imposter.

Anonymous said...

Oleh Yashan - there should have been a smiley at the end of my comment to you. Sorry if it was misunderstood.

Much of the shidduch scene today is scary. I'll admit that perhaps, people have to be more careful with whom they meet. On the other hand, I am aware of quite a number of "wonderful shidduchim" that turned out to be horror stories. In short, there is a great deal of misrepresentation out there.

BTW, as it turned out, technically, when I met my wife, she was talking to someone I happened to know. When I went over to that person to talk to him, he said, "Oh hi. Do you two know each other? X, this is Y, Y this is X." and we began to speak. So, technically, one can call that a sort of shidduch. After we started going out, we discovered that we had a good number of common friends, all of whom commented what a great couple we were and they all were kicking themselves for not thinking of setting us up.

godol hador said...

Have to hand it to you on your comment. Well put!


http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=13560355&postID=112177808451788976&isPopup=true

BrooklynWolf said...

That wasn't me; it was an impostor.

Thanks for the heads up.

The Wolf

godol hador said...

Time to get the Wolf after the imposter!

Godol Hador said...

That wasn't me either. You are such a shmuck.

Godol Hador said...

Wolf, please forward me the ip of this impersonator. We can catch him and expose him. Thanks.

BishulAkum said...

" Air Time said...
I met my wife in my friends car """

July 15, 2005 1:52 PM

Ever heard of a motel?

Un-Orthodox Jew said...

As is clear from the comment posted on my blog, it is very important that you do research before you get involved in any relationship


http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11275435&postID=112183505576337327&isPopup=true

Anonymous said...

I'm giving even odds that the impostor is Rachack.

Air Time said...

You know bishul akum, i used to be sorry when you battled Bishul Akum 1 on DB, but now I wish there was BA2, BA3 and BA4 for you to contend with.

Besides we were young and didn't have the money for a full hour.

PsychoToddler said...

If someone can explain to me what enigma4u said, then maybe I'll be able to figure out what it was that I said.