My son has gone out with a girl twice. After the second date, he told me that during the course of conversation, it emerged that this girl’s sisters are married to choshuve bnei Torah who are talmidei chachomim. He is concerned that, firstly, since he is not on their caliber, this girl will look down upon him, and, secondly, he will feel out place when, Yom Tov time and other times, these brothers-in-law talk in learning and the like, while he is not able to keep up with their conversation.
What do you advise?
The questions that you pose are both very important, particularly in that they are reflective of your son’s future relationship with his potential spouse, and his future relationship and place within the family of his potential in-laws. It is quite commendable how mindfully your son is approaching this shidduch, making certain, as best as he can, that he will be fully comfortable with his future wife and in-laws. However, what is not clear from these questions, is exactly how your son came to have these concerns. Was the stature of these brothers-in-law stated the by the young woman herself in such a way that it caused your son to worry that he would be considered inferior by her and her family if he does not stack up to them? Or was their prominence simply mentioned as a matter of fact in a conversation about her family, and your son’s concerns developed as a deductive train of reasoning which he pieced together on his own?
The first, and perhaps most important, step in addressing his concerns, would be to gain clarity on the above distinction. If your son would like to leave nothing to assumption, which is generally the best way to approach a quandary such as this, he should bring up his concerns with this young woman on one of their upcoming dates. If your son were to address his apprehensions in a calm, polite and straightforward fashion, clearly expressing his reservations, but without in any way even appearing to speak negatively about her or her family, it would likely go a long way towards his gaining clarity on the matter.
If after some discussion with this young woman, it becomes evident to your son that both she and her family would indeed look down upon him for not having achieved a level of chashivus in Torah commensurate with her brothers-in-law, perhaps this is not the right shidduch for him. I could not possibly make that assertion with any confidence, based only on the information provided, but it is certainly a shidduch worth reconsideration if he really feels that this is a young woman and family that will never appreciate him for who he is. However, if after this discussion, your son finds no indication that he will be viewed as a lesser person in the eyes on this young woman, or those of her family, and these concerns are solely his own, wondering if he himself will feel comfortable in this family, then there is much more to discuss here – and it is down that road that I would like to travel.
Supposing the latter conclusion to be the reality in this case, before even addressing the specific questions being asked, it must be stated that being a talmid chochom is not the only conduit to becoming a cherished part of Klal Yisroel, and your son must know that and internalize it. To share one very small example, being an attentive, devoted, and caring husband and father is a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. An accomplishment which can be sadly overlooked or underestimated because it seems so simple in nature, but as any husband and father knows, such traits are far from simple when it comes to practice. I am sure that your son has great value as a Jewish young man, and it might be beneficial for him – perhaps with the help of a Rebbi or mentor – to work on discovering what he can do to boost his recognition of his own inherent value as a yid.
Let us now return to the two precise questions that were posed. As far as the young woman herself is concerned, presumably she is aware that her two brothers-in-law are formidable talmidei chachomim, and it is rather conceivable that she is not looking for that in a husband, for herself. Not every young woman is looking to marry a future Rav or Rebbi, nor is every young woman comfortable with the lifestyle that marrying such a man can sometimes require. Not everyone is ready to be mikabeil chumras or take on inyanim of middas chasidus in daily life. Additionally, being married to a man who may assume a public position often involves a life of living in the public eye – a life which is not comfortable for everyone, and asks a great deal not just of the wife of such a man, but of their children as well. It is quite possible that this young woman is not looking to live such a way of life. And that is all 100% fine. It could very well be that because your son is not like her brothers-in-law, that is exactly why she is interested in dating him.
Furthermore, even if this young woman has not given much thought to the above, if she and your son are enjoying going out with one another, and they feel that there is potential for this to be a great shidduch, that is what he should be focusing on. Should they decide to get married to each other, with complete clarity on what their future expectations in life are of one another, he must be confident that she will see all of his personal mailos, and not be concerned with comparing him to whomever her sisters have married. In a happy and healthy marriage, each person is motzei chayn in the eyes of their spouse, and are the apple of their spouse’s eye. They see the value and beauty of one another and do not trouble themselves with worrying about any accomplishments that others have achieved which their spouse may not have.
As far as finding his place in the greater family unit of his potential in-laws, it is important to remember that it is quite rare for an entire family of sons and sons-in-law to all be massive talmidei chachomim. I know many families who have sons and/or sons-in-law that are considerable talmidei chachomim, including some with very chashuva positions, and other sons or sons-in-law who are kollel yungeleit, grade school rebbeim, accountants, real estate agents, businessmen, or other professionals. And they gather every yom-tov and fully enjoy what each child and child-in-law brings to the table, because that is how happy and healthy families function.
Granted that the following is not guaranteed, if these two brothers-in-law are genuine talmidei chachomim, in the truest sense of the word, not only would they would never look down on anyone – certainly not their very own mishpacha – for not being able to converse in learning at their level, they would also never allow their divrei torah to cause another member of their family to feel out of place or uncomfortable. True talmidei chachomim recognize the value of each and every Jew, and use their koichos in Torah to help build up those around them and bring them closer to HaKadosh Boruch Hu. If those are the kinds of brothers-in-law in this young woman’s family, and if your son can see the potential zechus of being a vital and valued part of such a family, rather than being apprehensive, he would see the opportunity that he is being afforded and count it as another mailah of the young woman he is dating.
May Hashem help your son to actualize all of his strengths and to find his eishes chayil, b’eito ub’shaito.