As a (fantastic) 23-year-old girl in shidduchim, my parents (and I) are often asked, “So why isn’t she married? If she’s such a great girl, why is she still on the market?”
I’ve been thinking about this response very much, and I have the following question: If someone is looking into me seriously, then they obviously feel that there is a chance that I am their basherte. If that is the case, then it should be clear why I am still on the market – because they didn’t come around until now.
This seems like a very logical understanding of a situation such as mine. This thus leaves me wondering, again, why we often hear people asking, in all seriousness, “So then why isn’t she married?”
Perhaps the panelists can explain the basis – if there is any – for this ubiquitous question.
Before answering your question, I must note that your confidence and positivity are both refreshing and inspiring. I am sure that these qualities will serve you well in your search for a spouse and throughout your life, ad meah v’esrim shana.
There is really no way for anyone to know why a person is not married yet; that is G-d’s business. Almost everyone knows of young men and women who kind of schlepped along through high school and beyond, and then “surprisingly” they got married the moment they entered shidduchim. All the while, other young men and women who were perceived as extraordinarily gifted with alla mailos, have a vastly less smooth ride through shidduchim. Only Hashem knows the reason behind these phenomena.
While I can’t speak definitively for other people, or assume why people say the things they do, it is human nature for people to make such comments. To be dan l’caf zechus, it is generally well-meaning, and, to a degree, sometimes people just can’t help themselves and don’t realize the impact of their words on the receiving end.
It is akin to when people ask questions such as, “She is a such a great student, why wasn’t she accepted to X seminary?” Or, “He is so capable, why doesn’t he have a job yet?”
When people ask these questions, it is most often rooted in admiration of the person being discussed, coupled with bewilderment at how such an accomplished person has not yet achieved a certain milestone.
Internally, the questioner may even perceive their words as complimentary because they stem from a positive view of the person being spoken of; and, consequently, they do not always appreciate how hurtful these questions can be to those being asked.
There is, however, another vital matter which you allude to in your narrative that I feel is most worthy of discussion – namely, your line of thought as to why it is that a fantastic young man or woman could still possibly still be single after any number of years in shidduchim. I believe that shidduchim are far too multifaceted to posit that if one is still single it must be because their basherte hasn’t stumbled into them yet.
To be very clear from the onset, I do not mean to impugn your level of assiduousness whatsoever when it comes to doing everything in your power to find a spouse. As such, the following is not meant to be directed at you. Rather, your words provide an opportunity to delve deeper into a topic which I feel is crucial to address.
There are two concepts – neither exclusively related to shidduchim – which, although seemingly contradictory at times, are inherently complementary, hashgacha and hishtadlus.
It is told that Brisker Rav was once m’sader kiddushin at a chasuna, and there was a mishap of some sort which left everyone waiting by the chupah for some time before they could continue. When the Brisker Rav was asked how such a thing could happen, he replied, Hashem is goizer the time that everyone gets married, and it will not happen a moment sooner or later than that predetermined time.
This idea is often extended to one’s time spent looking for their basherte. Everything happens at precisely the right time, people are told, and thus there should be no cause for concern. Be patient and it will happen.
On the other hand, we are all told that we must do our hishtadlus, and absent that hishtadlus, we will not get what it is we want.
So, which is it? Do we have to wait for it or work for it?
The answer, of course, is that both are true.
There are two very well known chazal’s which are commonly mentioned when discussing shidduchim. This first is the chazal that teaches us of a bas kol which announces one’s zivug before they are even born. The second is the chazal teaching us that HaKadosh Boruch Hu Himself spends a third of his day oisek b’zivugim.
Does this mean, then, that no matter what there is nothing to worry about when it comes to finding one’s shidduch? That would appear to be a little too simplistic, and the reality we live in proves rather clearly that this is not the case. If a person were to lock themselves up in a room for their entire life and, as a result, were never to marry, does that mean that no bas kol was made on their behalf? Would that mean that during all the time Hashem was oisek b’zivugim that He was never thinking of that individual?
Obviously not. Everyone has a match out there somewhere, but we all have to make the effort to find them. More effort for some and less for others.
Hishtadlus is not like paying for groceries. It does not mean that when one does X, that Y will follow within any parameters that we are aware of. It means that Hakadosh Boruch Hu has a great many things in store for us, but if we do not exert hishtadlus – which comes in many different forms for many different people – some of what is in our heavenly storehouse may be left unmaterialized.
Hashgacha and hishtadlus are separate, yet intimately connected. Separate in that we cannot say that doing A guarantees us B, but connected in that if we do not do A, it leaves a distinct possibility that we may not receive B.
There is unbelievable hashgacha in every shidduch, but we can also use our bechira to choose to push away the hashgacha or lose the right to ever receive it. Shidduchim are no different than any other area of life. We are given the keys to make our own decisions on how to act. Hashem can drop a shidduch in someone’s lap, and that person can just as easily cast it aside.
This is a reality which we must be cognizant of at all times. It is crucial to remember that just as much as it is true that if one is still single it is because Hashem hasn’t brought them their basherte yet, it is equally true that without putting in the required hishtadlus, one may not be brought their basherte, or they may choose to pass them up.
May Hashem grant you the wisdom to properly assess what your hishtadlus is and how much of it you must put in, and may it lead you to the chupah, k’heref eyin.