Monday, August 13, 2012

Losing Sight of What's Important In Shidduchim

The Flatbush Jewish Journal has a regular column titled "Ask the Flatbush Shadchan" by Mrs. Chana Rose.  The following letter appeared in a recent issue.  Any typos are mine and mine alone.

Dear Mrs. Rose,

We have a fabulous daughter in shidduchim.  She went to the right schools, seminary, camps.  She is a baalas midos, involved in chesed, smart, focused, etc.  We are a balabatish family, also involved in the community.  After seminary in Israel, she opted to pursue her studies in Brooklyn College.  After much soul searching, asking hadracha, and much davening, we agreed to let her pursue her studies there.  Everything has been going well, except for the fact that she is not in shidduchim anymore!

She has found "Mr. Right," or so she thinks, on her own.  Now, what is she thinking?  We are not that kind of home, this is not how things are done, not in our family, not in our community.  Mrs. Rose, how can we allow this?  And if we do, how can we legitimize the situation so that it does appear to be a Shidduch?  Truth be said, he does happen to be a great boy.  However, we feel like the "rug has been pulled out from under us."  We did not have the option or privilege of checking him out nor his family.  We did not have the experience of setting that grand table in anticipation of a boy's arrival for a date.  We did not wait up for hours till she came home.  All the dating was done on school time.  We were presented with a done deal!  How should we proceed now?

This letter typifies one of the things that has gone horribly wrong with the world of shidduchim today.  This woman* is completely missing the forest for the trees.  The goal of shidduchim isn't to "set a grand table" or "wait up for hours till she comes home" or to have the "privilege" of checking out another family.  The point is to find a match that will make the bride and groom happy.  Everything else, if it needs to be done at all, is just secondary.  

In this letter, the daughter has found someone who will make her happy.  Furthermore, the mother even agrees that he's a great boy!  Instead of being happy for her daughter and her happiness, she's contemplating having her daughter throw it away ("How can we allow this?  And if we do...") just so that she won't feel cheated out of what she feels is her due (the ability to set the table, wait up for her, check out the family, etc.).  She needs to realize that the shidduch process is not about her and her ability to do these things, it's about her daughter and her daughter's happiness and future.  She's completely lost sight of this, and instead is  so focused on the little play rituals that go on that she's forgotten the end goal.

The Wolf

* At least I'm assuming it's a woman.  The letter sounds like it was written by a woman.


azigra said...

yuck, this is gross. I'm not here for people like this mother.

Anonymous said...

I could understand (though wouldn't agree) if she were worried that younger children might take this success as a sign that parental wishes are unimportant. But she doesn't mention younger children. She should be counting her blessings that she saved thousands of dollars on a shadchan and that her daughter's not going to be an "older single".

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

> She has found "Mr. Right," or so she thinks, on her own. Now, what is she thinking?

This is the defining line. For this letter writer, going through "the motions" is more important than happiness. Better a lousy shidduch done the "right" way than a life of happiness even though the frumness of the match is not even a factor here!

Woodrow/Conservadox said...

This letter sounds like something that could have been written in Saudi Arabia.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the shadchan gave a great answer. I think you should post it as well.

BrooklynWolf said...

To be fair, the shadchan gave a great answer. I think you should post it as well.

Yes, she did. And to further give hope for the future, the people who responded to her in the next issue's Letters to the Editor also told her, in effect, to count her blessings and keep quiet.

The Wolf

The Hedyot said...

Something I find interesting about this letter-writer is that even though one wouldn't think that she's extremely narrow minded or overly worried about superficial ways of looking "frum enough", indicated by the fact that she seems to be fine with her daughter attending Brooklyn College, she clearly is still obviously very much like that.

Kind of inconsistent, no?

Mike S. said...

I think you misunderstand the woman's problem. The clues are the line about the "right seminaries and camps", the part about "After much soul searching, asking hadracha, and much davening, we agreed to let her pursue her studies there." And her basic question "We are not that kind of home, this is not how things are done, not in our family, not in our community. Mrs. Rose, how can we allow this? And if we do, how can we legitimize the situation so that it does appear to be a Shidduch?"

The letter writer is somewhat more open minded and independent than her social circle will permit, and is afraid that her neighbors will find out, and the consequent effects on her standing in the community. I suspect she is particularly worried about what this means for her other kids' shidduchim, or maybe even those of her nieces and nephews. And I am not sure there is an answer for her other than to grow enough backbone not to let herself be intimidated by a bunch of, pardon the expression, yentas.

Mark said...

It seems to me that it is possible that this letter isn't real and that it was written to highlight some of the absurdity of the current shidduch system.

However, if it is indeed real, the simple answer is that Hashem is also permitted to be a shadchan, and that Hashem may even get pleasure out of being the shadchan once in a while. And we don't have the right to deny Hashem this privilege if Hashem chooses to use it in certain cases.

shaya g said...

I'm curious what the response to the letter was. Did it set the letter writer in her place and explain that the shidduch process is just one acceptable way of getting 2 people together, or sis she commiserate and agree how terrible it is and suggest that a lie be created to protect the family?

BrooklynWolf said...


Follow the link in my post. Mrs. Rose's response is on page 63.

The Wolf

Chaim said...

I agree with Mark that this letter is in all likelihood a complete fabrication by the author.

That being said, in general, there is a tremendous benefit to being afforded the opportunity to research a potential shidduch's background to insure its appropriateness. Meeting, and falling in love, on one's own without this benefit, carries great risk.

Is the potential shidduch, in fact, as frum as he/she portrays him/herself? Are there hashkofos compatible?

Again, speaking generally.

Anonymous said...

Chaim, if you were correct about the benefit of shidduch investigations, there'd be no broken engagements and no divorce.

Chaim said...

That's incorrect. Even the best investigation is not perfect.

What it should mean, though, is that a shidduch after investigation would have a lower divorce rate than regular fall-in-love matches. And it does have a lower rate. (There are no official statistics, but I believe the anecdotal evidence of such is substantial.)

Mark said...

Chaim, the big problem with these things is that it is difficult to isolate one variable and see the effect on the result by varying just that variable. For example, maybe there are other factors within the shidduch-using community that reduces divorce?

Here's a good data point using the very same community. Twenty years ago, shidduchim had quite a bit less investigation than is done today. Twenty years ago, the divorce rate in that community was quite a bit lower than today. Ergo, more investigation causes more divorce.

[this may be a faulty conclusion, but illustrates the problem well]

Dave Arch said...

Twenty years ago shidduch research was no less investigating than today. So your point is invalid.

Mark said...

Of course it was less 20 years ago!!!

For the simplest of examples, today they ask what kind of mobile phone you carry, they ask if you have Internet at work or at home, and if you do, what kind of filter you use. Today they also do deeper research into the yichus of the family ironically using the Internet. Today they often require registration with Dor Yesharim. Sometimes they even require a signed financial affidavit from an accountant regarding ability to provide support for the young couple. All these are new and either didn't exist 20 years ago or were very rarely done. Today it is almost routine.

Dave Arch said...

And 20 years ago they researched whatever the issues were then. There was no mobile internet but there was television, etc. They researched yichus just as well, even if the tools available were perhaps less.

So your point is still invalid.

Mark said...

Invalid? But that was my whole point! 20 years ago they checked a bunch of things. Today they check all those things PLUS all the new ones!!!!

Dave Arch said...

And the point is then just as now research was as extensive as attainable. Today there are new things that exist that are researched and then there were old things that were relevant then that were checked.

Anonymous said...

Chodesh l'Shana Overview/Review
By Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer Thursday, August 16, 2012

In this week's parasha (15:14) we find the mitzvah of ha'anaka to a freed eved ivri. This mitza has served over the centuries as the basis for the minhag to grant severance pay to terminated workers. The word basis is very important to understand, as the basis for a minhag does not necessarily yield the parameters of the minhag that ultimately evolves from its basis. The minhag, once established, takes on a life of its own, is its own independent organism, and develops and evolves on its own.

The case of severance pay is a classic case in point. There is no point in attempting to correlate the parameters of this minhag with the parameters of the mitzvah of ha'anaka.

But there is very much a point in attempting to ascertain the parameters of the minhag of severance pay in and of themselves.

Particularly in our day and age, when the issue of severance pay is often a major issue in the worlds of chinuch, rabbonus and other klei kodesh positions - often culminating in Dinei Torah, which in and of themselves are often adjudicated by unscrupulous zavla courts.

The publication of the sefer - kettan ha'kamus ach rav ha'eichus - "Chodesh L'Shana" is a very positive development.

The author is Rabbi Naftali Zvi Frankel. His address and phone number are in the book, and he has email access as well. As he has not explicitly permitted me to publicize his email address, you can write to me and I will forward your comments to him.

It records the written opinions of many of the greatest yoshveial m'din in North America, Eretz Yisroel and Europe that the normative operative minhag is that formulated by the מרא דארעא of North America, Rav Moshe zt"l, of severance pay of a month of salary per year of employment.

I have a negi'a of family affinity, but I like best the way in which my uncle, R' Dovid Schochet shilta, an אב"ד in Toronto expresses the minhag:

1. Klei kodesh is defined as a role that only a Jew can fill - viz., a Mashgi'ach, a Mechanech, a Shamash in a shul, etc. For all these positions, severance pay is chodesh l'shana.

2. For any position that a non-Jew can also fill, the severance pay is in accordance with the general minhag ha'medinah of "shavu'a l'shana" - viz., a week of salary per year of employment. [He explains that it has to be this way, since otherwise no Jewish employer would hire a Jew for a position for which he could hire a non-Jew.]

3. The severance is only due if the employer terminates the employee, and vice versa.

4. The severance is only due if the position is still extant. [He does not mean that by eliminating a position the employer exempts himself from chodesh l'shana. So long as there is still demand or a necessity for the position, its "official" elimination does not exempt the employer from his obligation.]

5. An institution that has shut down and is no longer functioning is exempt from the obligation.

6. During the first two years in a position, a Mechanech is in a probationary status, and has no right to severance. However, if he continues in the position beyond the first two years, in the event of his eventual termination, the first two years are included in the calculation of chodesh l'shana.

[He continues on to give some practical advice on arrangements.]

To conclude, there are nevertheless mosdos and administrators who assert that they are not subject to the minhag of chodesh l'shana. Moreover, I have recently heard that some mosdos are now writing into their contracts that they do not abide by the minhag of chodesh l'shana. When I hear of such happening, I am often led to wonder whether these ostensible leaders are actually מאמינים שיש דין ויש דיין.

Pragmatician said...

Oi, this letter (I bet it's fake but could very well be true) frustrates me to no end.

Dovy said...

It's a shame you don't/can't post more often. I miss your down-to-earth, everyman, spproach to things -- especially as I go through terrible crises in my personal life.

(And is it possible to ease up on the verification process? I had to do a few retries before I could even think of entering the info!)

Unknown said...

Best part is the last line - how she has often "kashered up" shidduchim. Basically, a ton of couples meet on their own, then have to find someone to have it "set up" through to make it "kosher" for the community/their parents/whomever. Hilarious.

Mr. Cohen said...

My New Hashkafah of Shidduchim :-)

My new hashkafah of shidduchim is thanking and praising HASHEM always :-)

Even when my dating experiences are far from pleasant, I realize that HASHEM is guiding my life with His infinite wisdom and abundant love, and exact precision that only He is capable of :-)

HASHEM always knows what is truly good for me, even when I do not :-)

Often what I need most is atonement and humility, so G_d gives me those precious things through unpleasant dating experiences :-)

I now realize that I must always thank HASHEM for ALL of my dating experiences, because even the worst dates are for my eternal benefit, because they provide me with precious atonement and humility :-)

Tractate Avot teaches that the reward for a good deed is proportionate to its difficulty; by giving me difficult dating experiences, HASHEM is providing me with greater reward for Olam HaBa, in addition to precious atonement and humility :-)

G_d loves me even more than I love myself, and He would never give me an unpleasant dating experience unless it was for my eternal benefit in both Olam HaZeh and Olam HaBa :-)


Thank you for all my dating experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant or mediocre :-)
You are always guiding me with endless wisdom and love; You always help me and give me everything I need :-)

I regret all the times I complained;
instead of complaining, I should have been busy thanking You.