The Initial Reaction
“Good evening, I’m calling regarding a shidduch. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
“My daughter was just redt (suggested to go out with) to so-and-so, what do you think of the idea?”
“I was just redt to so-and-so, should I go out with her?”
Once a shidduch is redt – be it by a friend, relative, or shadchan – conversations and quick interactions such as the above are the locus at which almost every shidduch either blossoms or withers. It is at that seemingly innocuous juncture that every shidduch lies in its most vulnerable and precarious position, and it is vital that we are all fully prepared with the tools and knowledge necessary to handle these situations.
Much of the guidance to follow in this three-part series is based on an outstanding session that Rabbi Tzodek Katz gave at a recent Agudah Mid-West Convention, along with some ideas that I have gleaned from speaking with shadchanim and those involved in the shidduch parsha.
The first and foremost matter I would like to discuss is what I would label the four most dangerous words known to the world of shidduchim: “I don’t see it.” While almost everyone has uttered these words at some time as a knee-jerk reaction to a shidduch, they remain, innately, both vapid and hazardous in nature. Although seemingly insignificant to the one who utters them, in the mind of someone at the precipice of saying yes or no to a shidduch, hearing those words immediately plants a negative seed and has left countless shidduchim dead in the water for no substantive reason whatsoever.
We all surely know of happily married couples about whom we would have laughed at the idea of their ever coexisting had we been asked for our thoughts before they started dating. I am also quite certain that if we took a survey of many happily married couples and asked them if, looking at themselves as individuals, they “saw” a shidduch between them, the first thought of many might be “No, I don’t see it.” And yet, they maintain beautiful marriages.
Not long ago, a shadchan who had successfully completed a shidduch shared with me the following story: The young man whom she had just set up related that he had actually asked a different shadchan to redt the same shidduch for him some time before, and the first shadchan’s response was, “I don’t see it.” The young man thus left the shidduch alone until the second shadchan independently redt him to that same young woman, and, after some persuasion, he agreed to give it a try.
A common response to such scenarios is that, “obviously,” the shidduch wasn’t meant to be at the earlier time, and it was bashert (destined to be) that the shidduch did not happen until later. Such replies are nothing more than an easy out for missing an opportunity due to poor decision making. Bashert and hashgacha (divine providence), are G-d’s business and His alone; it is our business to do what is right and exercise proper and thoughtful hishtadlus (efforts) along the way.
To give a rather extreme example, what if 10 young women were to ask me about 10 different shidduch prospects, and I responded to all of them, “Don’t do it; that guy is a horrible person” – or, for that matter, if I knew of a serious issue about each young man but withheld the information. And then, within a year or two, all of those 10 young men and 10 young women were redt different shidduchim and were all now happily married to those other singles. Could I justifiably claim that, in retrospect, it was bashert for me to have stood in the way of the previous shidduchim which were redt to them, and that, as such, my actions were an appropriate vehicle for Hashem’s hashgacha?
Absolutely not. I would have acted disgracefully, and any modicum of bashert would have been accomplished despite me, not thanks to me. When it comes to shidduchim, as the saying goes, “the ends do not justify the means.”
A Lesson from Megilas Esther
In Megilas Esther, we find that when Mordechai Hatzadik instructs Esther Hamalka to appear before Achashveirosh and plead with him to spare the Jewish people, Esther expresses trepidation in response; she fears that Achashveirosh may take her life for appearing before him without being summoned. Mordechai then replies to Esther, “Do not think that as a denizen of the palace you will be spared from the [fate of the] Jews. If you are quiet at this time, a savior and salvation will come from another source and you and your father’s house will be lost. And who knows, perhaps this is the reason why you have been placed in the position of queen.”
In a recent chabura I attended, Rabbi Shraga Neuberger pointed out how unusual the end of Mordechai’s narrative is. If anyone else were in that position, they likely would have posited definitively, “This is the reason why Hashem placed you as queen!” Why does Mordechai say, “who knows…” and “perhaps…”?
Rabbi Neuberger explained that Mordechai Hatzadik understood that, no matter how obvious it seems to be, no human being can ever be sure what Hakadosh Boruch Hu’s plan is.
What Mordechai did say to Esther with absolute certainly was that her duty to do her hishtadlus in this situation was unquestionable. What one must do and what will happen if one does not do it can be clear, but what G-d is thinking is speculation at best. No matter what plays out, one can never stake a claim that their actions are sanctioned or excused by what they understood or believed to be bashert. The only matter that lies in our hands is making the right hishtadlus.
Not Every Thought Needs to be Verbalized
Now, this is not to say that every time one is asked about a shidduch, the response must be, “Yes, awesome idea, get married right away.” However, just because any one person does not personally see the idea does not mean that he or she must share that tidbit. It is rather difficult in most cases to “see” a man and woman living together harmoniously as husband and wife, and conjecturing about which singles are truly best for each other is a capricious endeavor at best. We are all but emissaries for Hashem; He is the true mezaveig zivugim (matchmaker).
If one has an actual concern about a shidduch, one with substance and with an actual understanding of the two people involved, and the information one wishes to convey is halachically acceptable to share, that is fine. It is perfectly apropos to make a note and set a time to have that conversation, but to blurt out an unqualified statement of “I don’t see it,” even if one, in fact, really doesn’t see the shidduch, is an empty utterance that very often carries heavy consequences.
And lastly, for those on the receiving end, whether it be an acquaintance at the grocery store or one’s tenth-grade brother in yeshiva who only peripherally knows the bachur who was redt to their sibling, or even one’s best friend in the world, who offers the nebulous words, “I don’t see it,” please do not let that be the guide to saying yes or no. Set those words aside with the understanding that they are almost entirely meaningless in the scope of deciding who one will marry. Instead, do some real research about the shidduch, and let that lead the way. Shidduch decisions are best made based on real information, real knowledge, and ideas with substance.
Be’ezras Hashem, the ideas and guidelines provided here, in part one of this series, will assist us when it comes to discussing shidduch ideas and will enable all of us to partner with Hakadosh Boruch Hu in being mezaveig zivugim yachdav (bringing individuals together as one).