Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dating: How it was and How it is

How it was:

אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל, לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמישה עשר באב וכיום הכיפורים, שבהם בנות ירושלים יוצאין בכלי לבן שאולים, כדי שלא לבייש את מי שאין לו. וכל הכלים טעונין טבילה. ובנות ירושלים יוצאות וחולות בכרמים. וכך הן אומרות, שא נא בחור עיניך וראה, מה אתה בורר לך; אל תיתן עיניך בנואי, אלא תן עיניך במשפחה.

R. Shimon Ben Gamleil said: There were no greater holidays in Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur, since on those days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white clothing (so as not to embarass those who did not have - and all such garments requried tevilah). The daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vinyards and this is what they would say: "Young man lift up [your eyes] and see, what [girl] do you choose for yourself? Do not look for beauty, but set your eyes on family." Mishnah - Ta'anis 4:8

How it is:

You can't meet a girl except through the arrangement of a shadchan. The shadchan must first check out the girl by asking all sorts of questions regarding schooling, hashkafah, size of the father's bank account, if there are any skeletons in the family's closet (did her cousin once accidently eat cholov stam?)? What type of tablecloth does her mother put on the Shabbos table? Does the family do anything that in the slightest way deviates from the norm?

Of course, in some circles, before the shadchan can even approach the boy, s/he has to have the answer to the most important question of all: For how long will your father support the young man in learning and how much support will he be providing? The larger the figure, of course, the more doors open to the young woman. If the figure is small (or non-existant), then the options may be few and far-between.

Once the shadchan puts his/her stamp of approval on a potential match (and, of course, after the parents give their approval), then it's time for the prospective couple to meet in a stressful setting where every word, action and breath has to measured and thought out three times before being executed, lest it convey the wrong idea (If I use the word "religious" instead of "frum" will he think I'm not religious... I mean frum enough?? Can I tell her this joke, or will she think that I'm not serious enough?) . Throughout the date, both parties must hide behind a mask of frumkeit, since they are afraid to let their true selves show through (even though, in the end, it is the true selves, not the mask, that they will be marrying).

At the end of the date, the young man will take the young woman home (to her house!) and both sides will confer with the shadchan and with their respective camps for a strategy session and date review where every minute action that happened (and didn't) on the date is wheighed and analyzed. Of course, any direct contact between the boy and girl at this point is strictly forbidden -- all contact must occur through the shadchan. Why, if he were to call her up directly and say something like "I really enjoyed our date, I'd like to see you again," it would cause such a public scandal that the two of them would likely not be able to get another date with anyone else within 100 miles. So, both parties discreetly contact the shadchan and give their impressions of the date, telling everything that they felt was right or wrong about the date, and then both parties wait for the shadchun to let them know that the other one is interested (or not) in seeing them again. And so, another date gets arranged (or not).

But no dancing!

The Wolf

(Yes, I know it's not truly as bad as I make it out to be in my post. But the point remains how such a system as existed in the times of the Mishnah would *never* fly in certain circles today. I guess they're just frummer than R. Shimon ben Gamliel.)

P.S. Happy anniversary to the artist who designed the header for my blog and who is supposed to get back to me with information! :)

14 comments:

Tamara said...

Oy, simply oy. I can share nothing more. I'm just glad I have free will and free choice in these matters.

I definitely like some aspects of shidduch dating...but I know it just wouldn't click for me. My skeletons would scare the bejeezuz out of others

The Chainik Hocker said...

Now that I am safely engaged, I can say without fear of retribution: there is something seriously wrong with the shidduch system.

Funny story: I live in Lakewood. All my kallah's friends were impressed as all get out to find out that she is marrying a "Lakewood boy"... until they find out I work for a living.

I guess being koveya itim isn't enough for some people.

Eeees said...

Chainik..
Mazal Tov on your engagement!
I think that your kallah's friends leave something to be desired if they think that there is something wrong with your wanting to support your wife and family (IY"H!). Even some of the great Rabbonim were known to have (gasp!!) been shopkeepers who needed to (Shh..not in front of the children!!) work to put food on the table. And, sure, some only kept their stores open until they felt that they had made enough money to live on for the day, and then would close down
till the next day; but that probably wouldn't go over very well with one's boss nowadays. Its lucky that they were their own bosses!
Personally, I feel that a guy who earns an honest living and is koveya itim (sets time to learn) is doing the ratzon Hashem. (Really glad that I was zocheh to marry a certain Brooklyn wolf who does just that! ;)

Ilan goodman said...

Don't froget that back in the day, on Tu ba'av, it says that the yetzer Hara had no power, so girls could sing and dance and genrally boggie without a probelm.

It can't be as bad as you say,but I did'nt use a matchmaker. I found a girl knew I would marry, but who had no interst in me. I follow her around for four months, harassed her at work and school (same job and college) and generally was such a pest that considered calling the police on me for harassment. But she figured out we were meant for eac other and we got married. So the key is persistance. It's only stalking if it does'nt work.

Also, We are trying to marry off her mother, so don't write any more downer posts on the subject. We prefer illisuion to dispear.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I wonder if there are any shadchans who don't pass on messages of interest. Like if they have second thoughts about the match, not telling the man and woman that the other one is interested even though both of them are.

Anonymous said...

First of all, sorry for my bad English. Second, in my opinion, your posting is very biased.

Wolf, did you remember how Avraham Avinu seeked for Itzhak's bride? He dispatched his servant Eliezer (aka shadchan) who did all the searches and preparations. And Itzhak didn't see his bride till her arriving!

Let's suppose that there are - at least - two separate ways to make a shidduch: Avraham's (the chareidi way) and the common way, as it is described in the Talmud.

Eeees said...

Anonymous, its not that we are trying to knock using shadchanim..just those who believe that that is the absolute ONLY WAY. If everyone who ever went out on a shidduch date was blessed with a shadchan that had the divine "ok" that Hashem sent to Eliezer, then setting people up with their true bashert would be a lot easier, and there would be a lot less single people in the world.
Alas..that isn't the case!

Anonymous said...

Wolf, as I'm sure you really know, the problem isn't that we today are more frum than Rebbi Gamliel but that we are far, far less frum. And, I'm sure you know that!

Having said that, I think the rest of your post is pretty close to the mark, at least, in many circles. I have been married for almost 22 years, B"H. When I was 'in the parsha', I used a shadchan, but also met girls in that unholy of unholy places, The Homowak Hotel in New York! As Hashem would have it, despite all those shidduch dates, I met my wife at the Homowak. Technically, I guess, you might say I used a Shadchan in so far as a friend of mine who was there, knew her, and was talking to her when I walked over to talk to him said, "Oh by the way, XXXXX, this is YYYYY; YYYYY, this is XXXXX." We took it from there.
But it is now over 2 decades later and we have children who are going to be 'in the parsha' pretty soon. And what a different parsha it is. We are currently in the middle of making a few shidduchim and whereas the people with whom we are dealing are friends and so, we're not getting all the stupid questions, we are being exposed to this 'I can't talk to the girl except through the shadchan' business. It's very strange!

My impression is that boys and girls today are a bunch of wussies; they are too frail emotionally to handle rejection very well. I actually had someone tell me that they do not have the courage to tell the other partner that they wanted to break off the dating (they went out twice) and would, therefore, perfer that this information come from the shadchan. I can't remember how many girls I broke up with and visa versa in my dating career until the right one came along.
My wife and I hope we don't have to deal with this sort of thing when our children start dating. Especially since I don't think any of my boys will be Lakewood types.

Frum Jew

Incredulous! said...

Ilan Goodman said: "Don't froget that back in the day, on Tu ba'av, it says that the yetzer Hara had no power, so girls could sing and dance and genrally boggie without a probelm"

and

Frum Jew said: "the problem isn't that we today are more frum than Rebbi Gamliel but that we are far, far less frum. And, I'm sure you know that!"

OY OY OY! Where to begin??????

BrooklynWolf said...

Eeees... you say the sweetest things! :)

Steg... I don't know if there is a "Shadchan Code of Ethics" or not, but if there is, that would seem, to be, to be a breach of the highest order. The Shadchan's job is to bring people together. Once that's done, it not up to him/her to have second thoughts and pass judgement on the relationship (of course, assuming, of course, that it isn't something vital -- such as if s/he suddenly discovers that she's a gerusha and he's a Kohen).

Anonymous (first) - Firstly, your English is fine... no need to worry about it.

While you gave me the example of Yitzchok and Rivka, I can turn around and give you others where people simply met and became married without a formal Shadchan. Ya'akov and Rachel springs immediately to mind.

I guess my point is that with all the talk of a "shidduch crisis" and with examples of girls having difficulty finding someone to marry, we should be making it easier, not harder, for people to meet. We should be breaking down barriers that prevent men and women from finding each other, not erecting additional barriers that they have to go around.

Anonymous (second) - I'm not so sure that the average person today is less frum than the average person in R. Shimon ben Gamliel's time. I may have to do another post on Yeridas HaDoros... haven't done one in a while.

Somehow, I wonder if the problem you describe isn't because girls and boys simply don't know how to talk and relate to each other. After all, in many cases, the prospective chosson/kallah had absolutely no contact with the opposite gender (aside from siblings and cousins -- and in many cases even not the latter) in their age group from birth until shidduch dating. So, when they are thrust into this world, they have no idea how to relate to men and women of their own age. As such, when it comes time to make a mature decision to break off a relationship, they are afraid to do it face to face, because they have no idea what to expect.

Incredulous:

Where to begin? First, begin with a blog...

BTW, just for full disclosure... Eeees and I met on our own. The only Shadchan we had was HKBH.

The Wolf

SephardiLady said...

Eeees-I'm with you. We need to provide more opportunities for dating, not less. But, more important than providing opportunities, we need to make the alternatives acceptable!

And, I have to agree with anon that this generation is more fragile and that should be worked on too. I would even say that the shidduch system today creates a fragileness that hurts many daters.

FrumellasGoneWild said...

While I get where your coming from it wasn't as bad for me (and believe I should know I went on many many shidduchim). I still managed to meet some great and many not so great people- i.e. masks aren't as opaque one might think. If you think shidduchim are hard try being gay in the frum community! At least you're catered to if you're hetero:)

woodrow said...

My methods are less productive but less trouble.

1. Go on jdate.

2. Don't contact the only age-appropriate woman more observant than I am; I already know her.

3. Don't contact the 90% of the people who are so much less religious than I am that it would be a bad fit.

4. The in-between 9% are all single moms, and I definitely am not mature enough to be a stepdad (and probably won't be till I am, I don't know, 60).

5. Having wasted half an hour online, fantasize about moving to a bigger city with more Jews!

6. Repeat process a few weeks later!

ari kinsberg said...

Wolf:

"The Shadchan's job is to bring people together. "

speaking of professional shadchanim, my (second-hand)impression is that the shadchan's job is . . .well it is just a job. with all that this implies.