Shidduch Crisis

Shidduch Crisis

When I was a kallah (bride), a friend of my husband-to-be asked me to introduce him to one of my friends in Boston, where we all were at that time. That is how Chaim and Esther met, subsequently married, and still continue to live in Boston as proud parents, grandparents and great grand-parents. It was an exciting experience.

When my first child, Sterna Sarah, was born we received a beautiful highchair as a gift from the new couple. Bringing them together was a very pleasant experience. They both trusted me and relied on my information.
Since that time I have introduced many people to each other and suggested names to many friends and acquaintances. However, I have successfully made only eight shidduchim (match), which averages to about one in seven years. Making a shidduch is very difficult but also incredibly rewarding. I always enjoy meeting people and trying to help them whenever possible. The scene today, however, has become increasingly difficult in regard to making shidduchim and I am becoming far less interested in this particular Mitzva.
Of course, it is important to obtain information and check references -- but this is becoming far too detailed in my opinion. Lately one or two names is not enough -- six or eight names are required! References should represent friends, teachers/Rabbis, family friends, and neighbors (past and present). Often the checking period can be as long as three and four weeks. Information often includes family history, including grandparents.

By the time all these calls have been made, surveyed and digested, I have already lost interest. Is it really meaningful to know if the mother goes shopping with a shopping cart? I use a cart by choice because I no longer drive my car due to my husband's limitations. Since basically our household consists of just us two, and I like to buy fresh products, I can easily fit my bags into the cart. Walking is a good exercise, so I think a cart is great. Imagine that this could be an obstacle to a shidduch? What about using a plastic tablecloth? Or what about the debate on cloth versus paper napkins? The list goes on and on -- often including issues quite insignificant in life.

I am very disappointed in the list of both young men and women as to the priorities of a possible mate. The first question is generally related to size: size two to four being in high demand among the boys. That comes before personality, middos(character), intelligence, sincerity, compassion and other basic traits.

I don't ever remember anyone asking about homemaking ability, cooking/baking, managing a budget or keeping a home in order. How about love of children and patience for them? How about basic nature – the ability to deal with challenging situations? Today the outward appearance has become most important factor. The parents likewise focus on the physical aspects.

The girls are searching for someone smart, handsome, hopefully from a well-to-do family or with good possibilities for providing them with a good income. Often the demands are quite high and even unrealistic.

In the secular world beauty and wealth are admired. Unfortunately, with superficial concepts of life's values  marriages frequently fail. The divorce rate today is 70 % with numerous marriages failing after only seven years.

In our world we sadly notice an increase in divorces and unhappy couples as well. When two people enter into marriage with unrealistic expectations, when "being happy" is uppermost in mind, we are entering a very difficult situation.

There is often confusion as to the meaning of LOVE. The explanation or rather discussion on this topic that I was blessed to have had with The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, is as valid today as it was then. I believed that the love presented in romantic novels was real love, a magical flame of excitement and yearning. Smilingly, The Rebbe explained that this was fictional love, quite unrelated to enduring and real love. When two people meet and discuss values and goals in life, they build a relationship. When they become chosson (groom) and kallah they feel a connection to each other. With time this flicker of love grows into a deep involvement, a long lasting REAL love as day by day they build a home, raise a family, grow and mature together. In time these two people become as one and reach a point where neither can view life apart from the other.

Real love can only grow when based on real values, not outward appearances and insignificant details.

Our young people, and everyone who is looking for a shidduch, needs to introspect and carefully and honestly evaluate themselves -- review strong points and weaknesses -- rethink what the qualities should be in a life partner. Realistic views and greater understanding will with G-d's help allow us to build wholesome homes.
Years ago a man came to our street with a machine to sharpen knives. In those days there were many repair shops for small appliances. Irons and radios were brought in to be fixed. Everything was of value.

Today we are a throw away society -- with problems on how to dispose of our waste. The motto is -- if it doesn't work, get rid of it.

Unfortunately, this idea has entered other aspects of life as well. Perfectly good furniture, clothing and personal possessions -- cars, computers, phones etc. are discarded, to be replaced by newer models. This has entered our lives as well. If marriage is no longer "fun" get a divorce and try again. Patience and hard work are no longer of great importance.

I have presented the following suggestions at panel discussions on the topic of Shidduchim:

1. Imagine the Scene: After weeks of checking and investigating you finally meet. You are very disappointed. Maybe he is shorter than described. Maybe the thick glasses or thinning hairline were never brought to your attention. You know immediately that this young man is of no interest to you. You have two choices- actually in my opinion only ONE. You must be YOUR VERY BEST. You must be attentive, pleasant, kind and display your good middos. This evening must be a pleasant experience for the young man. Why? Because when you are your very best, you feel good about yourself. There are possible benefits. Even though you may never date him again, he will have a good opinion of you and one never knows with whom this might be shared.  Trust me, this is a Golden Rule.

Likewise this holds true for the disappointment of a young man. Perhaps the girt is a size 8 instead of 4, or her hair is too straight or too curly, perhaps she is too shy or too talkative- you must make the evening a very pleasant and rewarding experience. A shidduch meeting is difficult and both people involved must try their best to leave the best impression.

2. My second point is that UNLESS one is 100% certain that this is not "the right one" a SECOND MEETING is ESSENTIAL. Both parties will be more relaxed, for now they know what they will encounter. The behavior might be quite different. The awkwardness and shyness may be gone. Hesitancy and discomfort will hopefully have disappeared and there might be quite a change on both sides. Perhaps the thick glasses will no longer be a concern as one encounters a kind smile. The size 8 may no longer be an obstacle as one recognizes a good listener and a sharp mind. The trivialities may become just that, as one can now focus on more essential values.

It is very important to always have a POSITIVE attitude in both thought and action. A pleasant smile and an feeling of hopefulness increase our attractiveness. While waiting for something wonderful to happen, let's use this time to grow in all areas of life- emotionally, intellectually and socially- to maximize our potential. In developing our inner beauty we in fact become more attractive and beautiful. Attending to needs of others, increasing in responsiveness to those around us are powerful ways in self development. There is light at the end of the tunnel and hope EMUNAH lights the way.

Always remember to thank people involved with your introductions. If the meeting was quite unrewarding, you still must remember to be appreciative of the efforts of the Shadchen. Each step brings you closer to the "real one' and their help should be noted. Personally when I feel that my efforts are unappreciated I no longer am very interested in continuing helping that person.

It always amazes me how one day one can feel quite discouraged and then- the magic moment happens and HE appears, the one that will make our life complete. It is indeed a Living Miracle. Be ready and prepared, just "beautify" yourself in the process. 

We presently have a shidduch crisis. This does not just involve people seeking shidduchim. As mature adults we need to be involved in restoring wholesome values. This situation must be dealt with now so the next generation will have hopefully good role-models as inspiration. 

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