As the rov of a shul comprised of younger families, I have only begun to experience certain uncomfortable situations relating to fielding shidduch inquiries regarding members of our kehila. But while answering questions that seem to be just a portion of more comprehensive “investigations” presents its own challenges, what I am writing to you, Shidduch Forum panelists, about today is what you, based on your experience, believe is the responsibility of a rov in helping his constituents with their and their children’s shidduchim.
Many of my mispallelim are having their first experiences with a child in shidduchim. The older members of the shul might have one or two children already married. But there are definitely a large number of single boys and girls, children of my mispallelim, and I wonder what, if anything, I should actively be doing in terms of addressing their shidduch needs. I wonder if perhaps it is not my business per se and it is more appropriate for me to leave the redding of shidduchim to shadchanim.
While it is certainly commendable for anyone to be oisek in redding shidduchim when an idea presents itself, a task that everyone should work on when possible, for a rov to take on the mantle of active shadchan presents three distinct challenges that occur to me.
1. Being the rov of a kehillah is a tireless and full-time job, especially so when that rov also takes on a communal role. Commensurately, being an active shadchan is a tireless and full-time job in its own right. Inasmuch as rov and shadchan both require extensive time commitments, it can prove rather difficult for a rov to shoulder the responsibility of shadchan for his kehillah, on top of his responsibilities as rov.
2. The umnus of rov and shadchan, although similar in some ways, require their own distinct and unique skillsets, and not every rov has that skillset in his repertoire.
3. Although there are benefits to knowing singles and their families extremely well, and being able to perspicuously present their natures, in certain respects, having too much information can be an inhibitor of successful shidduch redding.
Only knowing a single person on a relatively surface level, the level at which most shadchanim know most singles, can often preclude the nixing of ideas based on assumed incompatibilities due to what might be termed too deep a knowledge of the single and their family.
Additionally, neither side expects a shadchan to know too great a deal about the single or the family, other than what has been gathered from what was most likely a 10-minute meeting with the single, and/or the single’s shidduch profile. As such, shadchanim generally do not have to contend with fielding those challenging research questions you made mention of.
However, if a rov is acting as shadchan, it may very well be expected of him to answer those interrogative questions every time he redds a shidduch for one of his mispallelim. Such a reality may compound the frustration involved in redding a shidduch; may greatly increase the time required to redd each shidduch; and may lead to the divulgence of information that results in no’s.
Regardless of whether such information is actually relevant to the idea being a good one, if a rov is continually probed for information he is expected to have, he may find himself in a lose-lose position. If it seems that the rov is withholding information, that may end the idea, and, yet, if he shares information that might otherwise not have come to light, which is found vexing, that may also initiate turbulence in the shidduch. Although such information may be truly harmless, in this day and age of perceived options and the pursuit of the “perfect” shidduch, people are oft to turn away from an idea for the smallest of concerns.
Consequently, if a rov feels that he has both the time and the skillset to regularly act as a shadchan for his congregants, and if he feels that he is deft enough at handling investigative questions each time he redds a shidduch, by all means, I see no reason for him not to add that responsibility to the long list of his rabbinical tasks.
Conversely, if a rov lacks this trifecta, it appears to me that his efforts towards the shidduchim of his mispallelim are best directed in the following areas, among what I am sure are many others.
Firstly, rabbonim have a singular ability to educate and advise. A person’s rov is often one of the most trusted figures in their life, and is one from whom they most readily accept direction and mussar. Hence, it is well within a rov’s purview to give over critical shidduch guidance. Be it in the area of do’s and don’ts, or best practices, a rov’s asseverations can be mashpia on many people in one fell swoop, in an effective, and often definitive manner, and in ways which most others cannot.
Akin to the above, a rov can make it known that he is available to mentor singles and their families through the shidduch process. No matter how renowned or intuitive a shadchan is believed to be, their counsel is often disregarded, and treated as yet just another Yiddishe dei’ah. Whereas, when someone sits down with their rov, and is advised to do, or not do, something, it generally carries much more weight in the eyes and ears of the recipient. Because people are far less likely to be cavalier or feckless with the hadracha of their rov, it puts him in a position to ensure, to as great a degree as possible, that those who come to him for counsel will make sage decisions.
Secondly, rabbonim have the capacity to conduct themselves as caring guardians for those in their kehillah, and as ardent supporters of their needs. When an otherwise progressing shidduch comes to a halt, it is often a rov who can be called upon to revive the shidduch through mediation, and bring both sides back together.
More often than not, rabbonim have vast networks of connections. Be it erstwhile chaverim or chavrusos who have become askonim and rabbonim in other communities across the globe, or long-standing klal leaders with whom they have developed new relationships, rabbonim have the capability of networking on behalf of their kehillos in ways that have a remarkable impact.
Whether by putting someone in touch with a hard-to-reach shadchan; helping them research a shidduch – either by making the calls himself or connecting those in his kehillah with contacts they cannot seem to find on their own; or by using his influence to bring shidduch events or programs to his shul that others may not be able to reign in, a rov is equipped to be a warrior and an advocate for his kehillah.
Guiding people towards intelligent decisions, preventing them from falling prey to shidduch-ending missteps, revitalizing near-finished shidduchim, and creating enhanced opportunities, are all just as integral to the making of shidduchim as is redding them. Such accomplishments are no smaller than those of the shadchanim themselves, and are all well within the scope of rabbonus.
May the Melech Adir give you the fortitude to lead your kehillah beko’ach ayom, both through shidduchim, and through all the other areas in which they turn to you.