A Roman noblewoman asked Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta, "In how many days did G-d create the world?"
"In six days," he replied.
"What has He been doing since?" she asked.
"Since then," Rabbi Yosi replied, "He's been matchmaking."
"That's ridiculous!" the noblewoman exclaimed. "Why, even I could do that!"
To prove her point, the noblewoman took one thousand of her male servants and one thousand of her female servants and matched them together as husband and wife.
The next morning, men and women came to her with broken bones and wounds, pleading, "I don't want this one! Please get me out of this!"
The noblewoman immediately called for Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta. "There is no god like your G-d!" she proclaimed. "It is all true, your Torah is indeed beautiful and praiseworthy, and you spoke the truth!"
Rabbi Yosi replied, "It seemed easy in your eyes, but it is as difficult before G-d as the splitting of the Red Sea."
Shidduch suggestions for my daughter do not come often, and as unlikely as some of them seem to be at first glance, I can't afford to easily dismiss them. But sometimes the suggestions are so completely inappropriate, they would be insulting, if not for the fact that the people making these suggestions do not know my daughter at all.
It's hard to excuse, though, when the caller knows her well.
This time it is someone my daughter was friends with in high school. She asks what my daughter is looking for.
It's an interesting question, coming from her. I know she has a pretty good idea of what my daughter is hoping for. She and my daughter are not in touch as often as they once were - she is married and has a little boy - but they were close friends for years. Long enough for her to know the answer to that question.
I answer it anyway. I describe some of the qualities my daughter would like to have in a husband. I tell her that she would like to marry someone who is seriously learning and hopes to continue to do so for a little while. I know she knows all this. I know these are not foreign concepts to her. It is what she, too, was hoping for and who she married. I know she understands exactly what I am saying, and I'm not sure why she is asking.
"I spoke to her about two years ago," she says, "and she told me all of this. I was just wondering if anything changed - if she still wants the same thing."
"Yes. Absolutely." I am a little annoyed. I do not like her superior tone of voice. Yes, she is married for two years, and I am happy for her. But my daughter is still young. Too young to give up on her dream of the kind of person she wants to marry and the type of home she hopes to build.
She hesitates. Maybe she senses my annoyance.
"The boy I have in mind was seriously learning full time. But -" she pauses, and then rushes on, "he's already 23, so he joined his brothers in their business."
I thank her for thinking about my daughter, I explain that this is not what she wants, and I hang up.
"What chutzpah!" I tell my husband.
"Such chutzpah!" I tell my daughter later.
I can deal with inappropriate - even ridiculous - suggestions, when I can justify it because the caller doesn't know my daughter. But not this. Not from someone who knows my daughter well enough to understand that her suggestion was not suitable.
I am highly insulted. Angry, even.
The splitting of the sea was an entirely supernatural event. Why did Rabbi Yosi believe that matchmaking is as hard as splitting the sea?
To the Roman noblewoman, everything makes sense, including marriages. She sets out to prove herself. She doesn't just match haphazardly. She takes into account height and weight, disposition, likes and dislikes. Everything makes sense, and so all the matches should work perfectly.
But they don't. Because marriage is not a sensible act. Marriage is not the result of natural order or logic. Marriage is the result of a voice from heaven declaring, "So and so is to marry so and so."
And that is where the shadchan comes in.
Intellect does not have the power to complete a match. Shidduchim don't fit into any pattern. They follow no law or logic, and sometimes make no sense at all. Matches are made by turning nature upside-down. The shadchan, sometimes, resorts to strategies that are less than honest. She sometimes suggests matches that are inappropriate and insulting.
But she is doing her job. I see that now.
I am now thankful for the work they do. And I am thankful when they think of my daughter. Even when I don't like their suggestion. Even when they employ mistruths.
Shidduchim sometimes don't make sense. And sometimes, the only way they happen is through the strategies of the shadchan.
Because shidduchim are as supernatural as the splitting of the sea.