Now, let the truth be told…
Here goes. How many times must we hear it before finally moving on in life? Yes, I am speaking of the great social dilemma, that of the “Shidduch Crisis.” Letters from single “guys” and “girls” and even from matchmakers descending from all walks of life have converged on all outlets of Jewish media to voice and justify their opinions. And aren’t we frustrated? Sure, it is easy to point to one of the many imperfections of society as the blame for this so-described “crisis.” Real obstacles are experienced by everyone involved in this tragic stage of life. Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States, pushed a theory called “trickle down economics.” As the name insinuates, the belief is that it all starts on top and “trickles” down to the bottom. You don’t change the young or the inexperienced; you lead by example on the leadership level. Those in the subordinate level will respond in kind. So to you, dear readers, I would like to take it “from the top,” addressing the “crisis” on our hands, and, along the way, to see how we can help remedy this situation. We will begin with shadchanim (matchmakers), and move on to parents and singles in forthcoming columns.
First, some background:
Let’s face it: Many, if not most, of the parents and shadchanim of today did not have the “formal” shidduch experience prevalent in today’s society. In the days of old, some met in college; others were introduced by mutual friends and relatives. Our parents immigrated from Poland, Russia and Hungary; a people who just wanted their children to keep the Torah alive in their families, to rebuild what was so ruthlessly destroyed. Did they demand a “resume” of a prospective boy or girl, detailing every minute aspect of their lives? Did they research families to determine if they were socially compatible based on impressions gleaned from inaccurate pieces of paper? Certainly not. The “perfect” paper was a good person, responsible and focusing on good Midos. It was only when their married children became the parents of dating children that the new era began; an era of social definition in the orthodox-hat and snood wearing, Yeshiva/Beis Yakov culture. Boys and girls have been alienated to the greatest degree, and with this we began the new, “proper” method of dating. Impressions are not based upon people, but on a paper, opinion, and anything abstract from the reality of what makes a caring couple.
Today we find the very people who have cultivated societal norms preach about what has gone awry in our society. They are “getting involved” in a crisis that they created. They advise younger boys to marry older girls based on “trends” and statistics, advocating weekends, single events and websites that seek to remove the very barriers that they created, albeit with Rabbinical “sanctions.” Oftentimes I wonder where one registers to become self appointed shidduch expert and “askan” to take my wisdom to the podium as well; cuz hey, not much is being fixed. Who’s suffering? The lounge sitting, Coke sipping, I-can’t-believe-this-is-what-they-set-me-up-with singles trying to find their true spouses in a world complicated by an incessant need for instant information, gratification, and reporting back to parents, shadchanim, and of course, accredited third parties.
We shall begin by addressing the famed shadchanim. Never feel that your efforts are unappreciated by the single who you may be calling at the worst possible time for them to receive your call. Your idea may be great; or, it may not be relevant for reasons beyond your deep, intuitive, understanding. Know that the single is happy that you are thinking of them - unless you are one of “those.” Guess what? Singles are people too. They know it takes time to put a shidduch together if you are a homemaker. They know that you are “On It” if you are a professional. And they know that you are there if you are from the gray area “Yenta” class. Singles wish they would not need others to introduce them. Heck, remember thirty five years ago what Fourteenth Avenue in Boro Park looked like? How the world has changed! But know one thing: If you are a shadchan due to domestic boredom while the kids are in school (or are married and out of the house) and your spouse is hard at work, there are many other activities of great chesed which would really appreciate your volunteerism. Try your local chapter of Bikur Cholim or Tomchei Shabbos. Maybe help families that are going through difficulties. Use your imagination. But having free time does not make a person a life coach, dating therapist or any other function without a formal understanding of the topic, in this case interpersonal relationships. All having extra time does is make you a bored person.
Do you have interpersonal intuition? The answer to that question will be found fairly quickly. Economists use ratios to determine success; we should do the same. If you have a high ratio of setting people up and they have positive responses on a consistent basis - even if they do not get married - continue on. That would be a good “hit” rate. If you see that the people you set up do not feel that your ideas are on target, please focus your energies on one of the aforementioned organizations. You will have better luck, feel better about yourself, and help those who appreciate your involvement more. Give yourself about ten set-ups, then step back and evaluate your recent performance. Pretend that you are a financial advisor with quarterly assessments. This is no less important. Maybe you have had success in the past, but have just, how do we say, “burned out?” We are dealing with life here, so let’s take a reality check.
Congratulations! You’ve acquired “shadchan” status! You feel that you have the intuition, tact and the science of interpersonal communication down pretty well. So, why doesn’t anybody call you back? After all, you are a shadchan, a Rabbi, Rebbitzen or a very concerned individual who knows that these two people should be together in eternal bliss! The first step is to realize that you are not G-d. Surprise! Nope, you cannot impose your will on others. There are barriers, lines defining personal lives that you cannot cross just because you have an idea. Expect to be ignored if you consistently suggest ideas that people feel are off base, indicating that you lack any concept of what makes a shidduch tick or are totally clueless about how to speak to people. It is not a major lacking, fret not. It is a talent that some have, and some do not. Do not read names off a list, displaying a completely inept method of gaining trust and sensitivity to the very people behind the names you are reading. Do not throw a name - or, for you shidduch groupies, initials - in a group that has been unsuccessful at anything other than wasting precious time of life permitting “dust” of Loshon Hara in the name of the greater good; it is not. You will be ignored if you ask a single a personal question that is not necessarily your business, such as “Are you seeing anyone now?” That is personal and is not relevant to your idea; if it is, you would not be asking. Offering advice? If your opinion was desired, don’t you think you would be called upon for your saintly advice? Would you mind if others inquired into your personal life? Just because you’re married does not give you the right to mind other people’s business. Do not meet a single in a social setting and discuss names in front of other people; how do you know who is present, or who will hear you? At the same token, don’t walk over to a single and say “Why don’t you ever call back?” when you haven’t ever called them, just to try and sound “cool.” You don’t. You sound like a dork that is less likely to ever receive recognition from the single. With such lack of character, how do you expect to be responded to? Talk about people in negative fashion? I wouldn’t want to talk to you cuz you’re going to be talking about me next! For your own good, do not be nosy; there is no way for you to know what anybody is feeling.
Know how to take a hint. You may be an individual for whom the person has great respect. If they need time or are unable to get back to you on your time scale, please realize that it is not a bad reflection on them. They are probably getting back to someone else. Yes, there are other people besides you! Please, do not categorize in any way; who says your criteria are accurate and applicable to other people? Please don’t psychoanalyze words and speak for another single - if one is old enough to get married, one is old enough to discuss important issues with the prospective boy/girl on the date as you probably did with your spouse. If there is an issue warranting outside intervention, allow the parties to select the advisors with whom they feel most comfortable and trusting. You may not know the boy/girl as well as you think; a bad experience may give a shadchan the wrong perception. Finally, keep all conversations confidential. That’s right - please don’t repeat them to your husband, your wife, your best friend, or your great aunt’s second cousin from Brazil who gave you the name and number of her second cousin three times removed who is such a wonderful person. Loshon Hara prevents true soul-mates from meeting one another.
Act with maturity
Focus on quality
Wishing all shadchanim, the messengers of Hashem, the best of luck.