Hylton I Lightman, MD, DCH (FAAP), FAAP
At the graduation ceremony from a local girls’ high school some years ago, the school’s top lay leader concluded the program by stepping to the microphone and saying, “Mazel tov. You have now all reached the exalted status of Kallah Maydel.”
There wasn’t a parent in the room who wasn’t trembling.
At a Bris, we say “L’Torah, L’Chuppah u-L’Maasim Tovim.” As little girls, many of our daughters ask their mothers for white dresses they in turn call “Kallah dresses.” Every Orthodox child knows through Parsha HaShavua from a young age about the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka. After all, it is acted out in almost all our schools, boys and girls, without exception.
We invest our efforts in this process because the choice of a spouse is one of the most important life decisions. Marriage is also the best forum for growth. And it’s through marriage that our sons and daughters meet, make Jewish homes, have Jewish babies and pass on the Mesorah to the next generation. It is a never-ending cycle that has been continued under the most trying of circumstances. It has been said that following World War II, there was a minimum of one wedding daily in each displaced persons camp.
Torah Jews are “uber” focused on shidduchim and getting married. Thank G-d for that. By putting the word out there, meeting with shadchanim, and davening, we help our children to meet and to make one of the most important decisions of their lives. What’s the alternative? To meet in a bar?
A recent Wall Street Journal article afforded its readers a glimpse into what’s happen today with online dating and dating through apps. In an article entitled “The New Dating No-No: Asking for a Last Name,” Nicole Hong depicts how, in these worlds, one doesn’t ask for a last name until the relationship has progressed to something more serious. Apparently, for the most part, dating apps typically limit singles to displaying their first names only which, according to Hong, is done in the effort not to sacrifice people’s safety. Yet Hong says internet savvy millennials are skilled at sleuthing out, with just a first name and a career or name of the person’s alma mater, the full name of the potential significant other and their entire biography. This constitutes a breach of online dating etiquette and it kills any possibility for a date, let alone a relationship.
You might be horrified and think that this has nothing to do with our world. Allow me to reframe your thinking: This is closer to our world than any of us would like to think about.
Let’s go further.
There’s little that stands in the way of Jewish parents who wish to marry off their children. The research process of a prospective spouse is second to none. Many parents take the shidduch resume and use it as a jumping off point to reach out to people not on the resume but who may know the person. Undoubtedly, this yields important information. However, it’s not uncommon that too much research can lead to killing the shidduch before it even gets off the ground.
Are we so different from what Hong writes about?
The shidduch process is here to stay and, with G-d’s help, may all Jewish singles find their zivuggim through it. However, there’s no time like the present to air some concerns about its shortcomings and what the community might do differently.
Research means questions need to be asked and the questions asked reveal a lot about the person asking the questions. My wife reminds me questions asked say a lot about one’s values. A woman called not so long ago for information about a local family, asking, among other questions, “And what camps did the parents go to?” I answered, “Bergen Belsen.” The silence on the other end of the phone still reverberates in my ears.
Kudos to the schools and communities that have engaged Shadchanim. There are community chats, WhatsApp groups, and volunteers who come together regularly to set up people. It’s a hard job on a good day. But at least people recognize its importance and are helping.
Yet we can’t rely only on professional and volunteer shadchanim to get the job done. We should all be involved in thinking of people and who we may know for them. Let’s say you’ve thought of a shidduch and not sure how to redt it? Speak to your Rav or neighbor. Start somewhere. And when starting, consult with your local Rav or someone who knows the halachos so everything you do is a Kiddush HaShem and does not hurt or offend people.
Let’s be honest here. Not everyone is meant to meet through a shidduch. Some people just don’t present well in shidduchim. It’s kind of like the very bright child who does not perform well on standard tests yet their potential in life is extraordinary. Rather, they shine more brightly in “natural” arenas. Today, we hear less and less of couples who meet on the registration line or in class at Queens or Brooklyn College because, for good reasons, the frum world has separated the genders. But it’s to a fault and people are suffering.
So what are we to do?
Singles — Please hear me out on this. If you’re reading this and are single, then the system may have failed you on some level. However, don’t give up. Strengthen your Bitachon and know that HaShem did not make you this way to spend the rest of your life alone.
Next, involve yourself with Chesed. Chesed is a middah that is essential in forming a relationship and family. Perhaps through Chesed, you will find your soul mate. There’s a reason that Camp HASC is known as Halachically Accredited Shidduch Camp. Chesed can bring together likeminded people. It’s a great way to launch a relationship.
The same can be said about learning. We should all always try to learn and grow “Jewishly”; this is not reserved for married people only. How many of us have made friends and formed relationships through learning and shiurim?
Imagine if a community sponsored on a regular basis a shiur with a dynamic, well known speaker and geared it to singles. There’d be separate seating followed a collation where men and women could mingle and meet. Perhaps a couple of Shadchanim would be present to facilitate helping people to meet.
It’s so clear that we need to rethink the way our community goes about Shidduchim. The system works only partially.
Who will have the courage to begin filling the void so we can strike a homerun in this area?
Let’s stop calling it the “Shidduch Crisis” and use our collective imaginations and creativity to effect positive change and growth. Now that would bring on another challenge – building more (affordable) Simcha halls to meet, please G-d, the need.
As always, daven.