Every so often, my uncle calls me about boys, looking for a shidduch for his daughter. Alert: My uncle tells me that he’s looking for “the best guy.” But his daughter doesn’t need “the best guy.” How do I know? It doesn’t take a professor in quantum physics or thermodynamics to see that she’s a fine girl, from a fine family, who deserves a fine boy. But no Ketzos-Nesivos expert needed here.
My question: Should I just fib one time and tell them that Yankel Klein is the best guy when he might not be? In fact, he, like Moish Goldberg and Chaim Schwartz, might be just fine. Or should I just keep playing along with their unrealistic chase after that future Rav Chaim Kanievsky who they don’t realize is not what their run-of-the-mill, average, typical, middling daughter needs?
Now you might tell me that this is a precious bas Yisroel who deserves to marry a gadol hador. Well, I’m also precious. And I didn’t marry a Rebbetzin Kanievsky.
Ela mai, we all deserve the greatest and the best, but we have to be realistic.
So should I play manipulator or should I go along with what they think they need?
While this narrative certainly introduces a number of salient and critical topics related to shidduchim that we will soon address, once again, I would urge caution against the obtuse depiction and portrayal of others – family members in particular – in words that are meant for public consumption. As much as we all may appreciate the feelings of satisfaction associated with expressive writing, it must not come at the expense of others.
Before attending to the specific question being posed, there is one particular matter which is touched upon in the question that I feel is most integral to address, and that is the ideation that “we all deserve the greatest and the best, but we have to be realistic”.
We do not all deserve anything other than that which we need to accomplish our tachlis hachaim; we are not placating some hopeless lot we have been unavoidably dealt; and we are not settling only for what we can realistically attain, despite being worthy of more. We are simply aspiring to find that which is best for each of our own needs.
While it is inarguable that there are those who either by nature, or through sheer willpower and untiring effort, are able to distinguish themselves as remarkable individuals, the notion that such persons are to be seen as commodities to be had, and that their companionship is appropriate only to the select few who deserve such a spouse, is fallacious, and perpetuates a highly unhealthy approach to marriage and how we value one another in society.
Indiscriminately designating individuals as elite, and perching them atop pedestals to tower over the rest of the common folk, is no favor to those forced atop the pedestal, nor to those cowering beneath it, and is ultimately detrimental to the Klal.
It is not a question of who hierarchically deserves to be married to whom, but who will best complement and complete whom, and do these two individuals have personalities, philosophies, hashkafos, and goals which are in-sync enough to build a family together.
Returning our attention to the specifically stated inquiry, there are a number of points which I believe require clarification before an answer can be given.
To begin with, it is not wholly clear to me from the question whether or not this father and daughter are on the same page with regard to seeking out the exceptional.
If they are indeed on the same page, there may be no issue here whatsoever. To elaborate a little further, if the pursuit of an extraordinary bachur is an objective they are striving towards in tandem, that is completely within their rights, regardless of whether anyone else believes that is what she needs.
Not every extraordinary young man or woman is looking for the same level of uniqueness in a spouse, and there is no shortage of outstanding individuals who have chosen to marry someone who is seemingly on a different plane, and who then go one to live wonderful lives together. Such a balance is often crucial. That being the case, this father and daughter might be perfectly self-aware, and are seeking greatness all the same. In which case, any outside opinion of her needs is entirely irrelevant.
Furthermore, despite the stature one may perceive this woman to be of, they may, in fact, be incorrect. It is quite possible for one to have underestimated her abilities, and that she is, in actuality, looking for someone of congruent aptitudes.
Nonetheless, marriage to someone who has tremendous abilities can be, within and of itself, a significant responsibility and commitment, and not everyone is prepared for such a journey. If this woman is truly not cut from such a cloth, a kind and astute mentor or coach may be able to help her reach such a determination, without injuring her emotions terribly, or irreparably damaging how she would view herself living a life married to someone below the caliber she had previously expected.
Such a recognition – accompanied by the subsequent re-charting of one’s projected life-course – can be challenging and difficult, and it would not seem that a relative is the one to shoulder that responsibility. As such, this would be an issue best left for the father and daughter to discover on their own; or one might be able to engage someone more adept at accomplishing such tasks to conceive of a path to broach the subject with them, if possible and appropriate.
Alternatively, if it is only the father who is looking for such an exclusive fellow for his daughter, but she herself would prefer to be looking for someone of similar faculties to those her own, that is another issue completely. Namely, the unfortunately common problem of a parent and their child being on utterly contradictory pages as it pertains to the shidduch of the child, and perhaps even that of a parent projecting their desires onto the decisions of their child.
Again, such a matter is best brought to light by someone with experience in these types of family dynamics, and who can lend proper guidance; or it may be left for the parent and child to discuss on their own – when ready – to settle their differences and expectations. Either way, this would equally seem to be an issue that is best steered clear of, as the likelihood for compounding and worsening this type of problem is often greatest when introduced by a relative, rather than by a respected rov or master mentor.
Whatever the case may be, as far as your personal responsibility in suggesting shidduchim for your cousin, in my estimation, either of your proposed strategies are fair and reasonable.
On the one hand, you may choose to recommend shidduchim to your cousin with bachurim who you believe to be more aptly compatible with her. At which point, it would then be in their hands to determine whether or not they are interesting in pursuing the ideas you have offered.
On the other hand, you could acquiesce to their request, and suggest only those bachurim who you deem to be the cream of the crop. At which point, it would then again be in their hands to navigate whether such a shidduch is fitting and can be maintained, as well as handle the potential issue that although this is what her father would like for her, it may not be what she would like for herself.
Employing either strategy, you will have dispensed your obligation and kept your nose clean from insertion into areas where it does not belong, and where it may do more harm than good. You will have made your recommendation responsibly, and imparted on them the duty to make a sound assessment.
May the Tamim B’Maasav see that all the bnei and bnos Yisroel find themselves shidduchim which are mehudarim u’maatimim k’fei amitius tzorcheihem.