Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

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.


  1. I am personally looking for a guy who is working or on the path to working. From time to time, someone will call up and suggest someone who is learning. I am not offended; why should I be?

    My sister ended up with everything she wasn't looking for. I learned from that to not be so sure of myself, and to be open.

    The only reason why you would be offended is if you find working to be on a lower level than learning. Do you?

    Nothing from what this girl said sounds particularly demeaning. This guy went into the family business after learning, it doesn't mean he is any less devoted to his learning. Maybe he's keeping up a full daily allotment, since there are all sorts of perks to being in a family business.

    A learning lifestyle is not what I am looking for. Yet I have gone out with learning guys, in the spirit of being open. I am not offended if someone calls me up with such a suggestion.

    Of course I have been offended with some suggestions, but not because someone is learning when I would prefer working.

    1. After I published the post, I was worried that it would be misunderstood. I was not offended because she suggested someone who is working. We've had plenty of suggestions like that before. It's not what my daughter is looking for, but it is not insulting. Like anon said, It was the caller's attitude. It is something she sees as demeaning, and it's okay for my poor, old daughter who isn't married yet, but she would never have considered it for herself.

    2. But the shadchan herself does not determine if the fellow himself is a good guy or not. People have called up with a snide tone to their voice, but that has no bearing on the quality of the fellow himself.

      As for your daughter, and "what she wants" . . . like I said, my sister ended up with everything she wasn't looking for. My mother took that lesson very much to heart, encouraging me to go on a harmless date with someone who is not what I envision myself ending up with.

      She makes a point to tell people, "If you put my children-in-law in a line up before they went out with my children, in a million years I would not have been able to pick them out."

      As a mother, you can encourage your daughter to go out, not marry, just go out with a fellow who is not doing exactly what she would like, at this point in time.

      Stranger marriages have happened.

    3. True. I was insulted by the shadchan's attitude, not by the actual suggestion.

      You're right - and like I said in my post...shidduchim, often, do not make sense. And I do encourage her to consider someone who is not exactly what she has in mind. And she does. She is pretty flexible in some ways. But this is something that - to her - is very basic. It's about the whole lifestyle. She's not ready to give up on that yet.

  2. I know this is not the kind of response that perhaps you wanted nor expected, but if I understand correctly, the only point was "offensive" was that he was working? Not only is that the responsible thing to do, it's not that this guy had bad middot or smoked or partied or had a past or that he didn't value Torah, but that he worked. Is that honestly what it has gotten to? He might have chosen to work part-time or to make time for Torah.

    I don't want to go on a rant about the Kollel system, which I think cannot stand on its own and will eventually crumble. I think the focus should not be learning the torah but also living it. There are plenty of "great learners" who lack in essential middot. Furthermore, its not a realistic system for those that do not have wealthy parents. And even if they do, would such an "ideal" system last for their kids?

    With all due respect, I think if the guy in question has good middot, values Torah, but "just" works, you should reconsider. Sometimes those that work, instead of having (yes, having because in some circles it is atrocious if you don't choose to go into learning even if you do not care about it and actually waste your time in the beis) to learn full time, they value their time in learning much more.

    1. I actually agree with you. I once wrote a post where I express a little bit of how feel. Here it is:

      But this is not about me or how I feel. It's about my daughter. This is what she wants.

    2. As a mother, though, you have more experience in the ways of the world than your daughter. You have a right to express an opinion about what might affect her future happiness.

      The elephant in the room (which no one is mentioning) is that as a girl gets older, it's harder to get a "learning" boy. There are many reasons for this, but that is the way it is. I have seen a lovely neighbor hold on to principle for this and remain single as her younger,more flexible sisters married working men.

      I know this wasn't the point of your post (explained in a comment below), and I know I am not telling you something you are not aware of, but as a parent, it's your right (and duty!) to make sure your child has all the facts.

    3. Of course. And I do express my opinion about plenty of other things. But this is something that's important to her, and I respect that. There's actually so much beauty in that lifestyle, and if it is what she wants, I have no problem with that. I have more of a problem with the whole system.

    4. A life is only as beautiful as one makes it to be.

  3. I agree with much of the first two comments. That said, I understand Mystery Woman's POV,'s not necessarily that the suggestion is an "insult" it's that the person suggesting it would never, ever have considered it for herself/her daughter. I've gotten suggestions like that too (not the working vs. learning--I'm not looking for a kollel lifestyle anyway-- but the "it's ok for you, just not for me" type) and it does sting a little bit.
    At least, Mystery Woman, the person didn't lecture you or tell you that you need to "think outside the box"--at this point in my life, I cannot STAND that phrase.

    1. Thank you, anon. You explained that better than I could. We've gotten suggestions that were so ridiculous, and it wasn't insulting at all. Her attitude was insulting, not her suggestion.

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  5. I have to admit that my initial thought when I read this post was that maybe you were being a bit narrow-minded for getting so annoyed by such a suggestion. But then I thought about it and realized that rewind me a few years back, and I probably would've been really upset too. So I can't call you out on something I've been guilty of :-). But also, you're right, she isn't that old that she should give up on something this important to her. Her dream to marry a full time learner is a beautiful one and she still has a good chance of getting it. I hope she does realize her dream, very, very soon!

    1. Thank you, SIR. She is young and idealistic, and her dream is a beautiful one, and it's what she wants. If someday she has to compromise on that, we'll deal with that then. Meanwhile, I see no reason she shouldn't go for it.

  6. MW, I totally and completely agree with you. That friend was wrong, that friend was offensive, that friend was not looking out for your daughter. I read through all the comments here, and many are missing the point. The point is she suggested something which she CONFIRMED your daughter doesn't want, which she herself would NEVER go into, and yet, because in her mind your daughter is "old" (which she is definitely not), she thinks she should take anything and everything offered...*anything* to get married. It's elitist and insulting. Sure, compromise is in order in shidduchim, but a guy who goes out to work at the young age of 23 is not for your long-term-learner-minded daughter.

    And to respond to your last line that shidduchim sometimes only come about through the tactics of the shadchan...a shadchan must act in good faith. Halachically a shadchan cannot suggest something she knows you don't want. She cannot hide a detail which she knows is important to you, even if it's trivial to most people. The end does not always justify the means.

    1. Thank you for understanding, SIS. When she asked if anything changed in the last 2 years as far as what my daughter wants, it's not the question that bothered me as much as the attitude - the implication that something should have changed not that my daughter is so "old".

      You may be right about shadchanim, but I don't necessarily have a problem with whatever tactics they use, in most cases. There is one shadchan I deal with who exaggerates and twists the facts, and I know that all I can be sure of is the boy's name. Anything else...I'm on my own. But I'm okay with it. She means well. I can deal with that.

    2. *now that my daughter is so "old".

  7. I'm chiming in a little late here...but I still wanted to leave a comment.

    First, did you ever hear what Shadchan stands for? It's a good one!
    (Shin)Sheker (Daled) Dovrim, (Kaf)Kesef (Nun)Notlin-they speak lies and take the money. LOL! It's a little funny...but it's also true. But sometimes I wonder, how much are they making up just to make the guy/girl sound good and how much are they really lying about?

    Over here, I think the issue is not whether a learning boy is more superior than a working boy-because what matters most is not what the guy does but who he is as a person. It's a lifestyle choice that a girl makes when she chooses one over the other. A girl is entitled to make that choice-whether or not others agree with those ideals.

    The part that bothers me most is the way the suggestion was made and who made it. A girl who...if she would be in your daughters shoes would probably never listen to the same suggestion! That's what bothers me. When making a suggestion, try putting yourself in the other person's shoes and think about whether or not you are being realistic. Don't think girls are so desperate to get married that they'll listen to something that is totally off their radar screen.

    Same for my sister...I cannot tell you what rediculous suggestions she has gotten. Just because she is single, doesn't mean she'll marry the next guy who walks through the door-so long as he is wearing pants! It's insulting...and sometimes I am thankful that I get to hear the suggestions and it doesn't have to go back to she's saved from a little bit of the hurt.