I have two married daughters who my wife and I help support. Our son is now in shidduchim, and while we are not looking to “put him up for sale,” we would like some assurance that the other side will at least provide some support. (Our financial situation is very tight.)
I have a relative who was recently assured by his mechutan of support, but the support lasted no more than a few months. I would thus like to somehow confirm the track record of a given prospective mechutan vis-à-vis support.
Is it “normal,” or accepted, for me to call past mechutanim of a proposed shidduch to ask them straight out about whether our potential-shared-mechutan was forthcoming with support when their children got married? Is there a different way I should be going about this?
Though it is not difficult to appreciate the apprehension of having to unexpectedly support a young couple – especially given how financially hard-pressed so many of us are in the frum community – overall, I would personally advise against this proposed course of action.
Firstly, even if making such a call would be considered normal and acceptable by many, there is no way to be sure of how any one particular person will react to questions on the subject of money. Accordingly, I would imagine there to be a relatively high probability that subsequent to hanging up the phone at least one past-mechutan will immediately reach out to the family he was asked about in order to issue his abnegation of the shidduch, along with his recommendation that they do the same, after having been put on the spot by a stranger with so penetrating and private an inquiry.
Secondly, and as may have been going on behind the scenes where support abruptly disappeared in the case of the relative mentioned above, anyone’s financial situation is subject to change, and sometimes without warning at all. As such, while support may have been free-flowing in the past, such is no unassailable guarantee for the future.
Consequently, in instances where it is deemed necessary to determine the capability and willingness of the other side to provide support, before even entertaining a shidduch, I believe a more suitable plan might be as follows.
1. When meeting with shadchanim, it should be made clear that either a commitment of meaningful support is required, or that the young woman should be employed in a capacity that can sustain the couple until her husband is gainfully employed in whatever profession he ultimately pursues. And when a shidduch is then redd, one should confirm with the shadchan that this matter was discussed with the other side of this prospective match, and that an assurance was made one way or the other.
2. When speaking with trustworthy references of the family before giving a yes – particularly those who are highly unlikely to report back to the other side with full-color details of the conversation they just had, such as a rov, or a mutual friend that will uphold confidentiality in both directions – one should ascertain that the family their son or daughter has been redd to is of an upstanding nature and one that would always keep their word with respect to any monetary declarations.
3. Should the shidduch progress to the point where it appears to have real potential, the young daters will inevitably need to have a discussion about how they plan on paying their bills and remaining financially solvent once they are married. And it is at this juncture that support from either side must be reconfirmed, and details such as specific amounts and lengths of time should be clarified – usually with the shadchan serving as the conduit to relay these crucial, yet delicate and sensitive pieces of information from one side to the other.
At this point, when a pledge of support was secured at the outset of the shidduch; when dependable references have vouched for the honesty and reliability of the family; and when that pledge which was given prior to the commencement of the shidduch has been verified and established without any ambiguity as engagement looms near, one will then have a “chut hemeshulush” of an assurance to accompany the chezkas kashrus of the family that tells us when a yid says they will do something, they will indeed do it.
Does this mean that it will then be impossible for any turning of the tides to occur, or for support to dry up earlier than expected? Certainly not. However, I do believe that it is a more than reasonable exertion of proper hishtadlus, and a far safer and more appropriate path to follow than would be reaching out to the mechutanim of a family and dropping such a weighted question in their lap.
May the Peulaso Emes see that we are all earnest, upright, and honorable in thought, word, and deed.