OK, with a long, impressive title like this you’re probably expecting some deep philosophical explanations and Kabbalistic insights. Nope. Not here. Not now. Instead, you’ll get a bit of homespun wisdom combined with basic Jewish insights you’re probably familiar with.
Now, let’s ask the basic question everyone should be asking about the shidduch crisis: If, since Creation, Hashem has been sitting and making matches, the daughter of so-and-so to so-and-so, the wife of so-and-so to so-and-so, the money of so-and-so to so-and-so, and so on, how can there be a crisis? If Hashem is making shidduchim all the time, what’s the problem?
So you may say, “There aren’t enough boys to go around; there are more girls,” but that doesn’t make it any better. Hashem is the One Who decides boy or girl (various gemaras notwithstanding), so shouldn’t He be able to make a better system?
I recall a conversation I once had with a fellow who had a son-in-law who was a talmid chacham. “I got him,” he said with a proud smile. “Everyone else wanted him but I got him.” I was surprised. Didn’t the daughter get him? Didn’t Hashem arrange it? It sounded strange to hear him declare that he was the one who “made” the shidduch.
True, Chazal say a person should always try to marry the daughter of a talmid chacham and marry his daughter to a talmid chacham, but can a person actually take credit for that? Perhaps, though, that’s part of the crisis.
In Chovos HaLevavos Shaar HaBitachon, R’ Bachya discusses the necessity of completely trusting in Hashem. He says that when a person trusts in his own intelligence, wealth or strength (all given to him by Hashem, of course) then Hashem will step back, as it were, and allow the person to pursue his objectives using those traits he possesses that he thinks will make him successful. When he is not successful, he will come to the realization that Hashem is in charge, and at that point God will come back and take over.
From my experience, I have seen parents, as well as young men and women, thinking they had all the insights and answers and approach shidduchim like those relying on their own abilities. They come up with lists of things they’re looking for and what they won’t consider as matches for their children, but they’re not the things Hashem thinks they should look for. Looks, money and yichus should not be the primary desired characteristics, but rather one who has good midos and is devoted to Hashem. A girl can be considered a “bas talmid chacham” if she is good and wise and a yarei Shamayim even if her father is an am ha’aretz and her brother dropped out of yeshiva.
A kind boy who is careful about mitzvos and making time to learn is more valuable than the brilliant yeshiva bochur who belittles those who know less than he does. Don’t you want your child to have a spouse who will be good to them rather than just be a feather in the parents’ caps?
What we need to do is stop imposing our own standards on people and follow Hashem’s guidelines. That’s how we’ll find the shidduch He wants us to have. (Of course, it’s a vicious cycle because even if we’re doing it right, the other side may not be, thus contributing to the national crisis.)
For a clue about what’s important, let’s look at Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur, when the girls would go to the vineyards to find husbands. First of all, they went to dance in the vineyard. Yes, even though the single men would see them, they would dance. Why? Because simcha is such an important ingredient in life that people had to dance to show their inner joy and love of life.
They borrowed dresses so those who didn’t have wouldn’t be embarrassed. In fact, they specifically had to borrow dresses from people of a lower station in life than they, not from equals, so as not to embarrass someone who didn’t have anyone to borrow from. This tells us that the feelings of others are more important than what people think of me. I can’t make sure I’m all decked out when someone else is suffering. This sensitivity is something to look for.
Wait a minute; white dresses? In a vineyard? How will you get the grape juice stains out?! That’s also part of it. People who can take challenges and disappointments in stride should be a hot commodity in the shidduch market.
Of course, the words they said, which end the Gemara’s recounting of the events, are that one should look for a woman who has yiras Hashem with good deeds. This is of primary importance. The best yichus one can have is their connection to Hashem.
If we remember that and try to take every opportunity to cleave to Hashem, improving our own yichus, and leaving the ins-and-outs of matchmaking to Him, I think we’ll be dancing at a lot more weddings.
What inspires you? I want to hear! Email [email protected].
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz