I recently redd a shidduch to a talmid of mine. His mother got back to me before Yom Tov, telling me that she was interested in her son meeting the girl who I had suggested. I let the girl’s family know right away and waited to hear back from them. Even though it was a busy week of Yom Tov, they got back to me about a week after I had called them, saying that they, too, were interested in the shidduch. The girl, being from out of town, started making travel plans to come in before the week was over. I called my talmid’s mother the next day to inform her that the girl’s side was interested and wanted to set up a date. To my surprise, she informed me that her son had just begun dating a different girl and that she would get back to me if that shidduch didn’t go anywhere.
I was shocked to hear that they had gone ahead with a different shidduch after giving a yes to this girl, but I am wondering if maybe I’m just being naive. Is this how it works? Can a boy’s mother give a yes to more than one girl at a time and let her son go out with whoever gets back to her first? Or was this wrong on her part? I am aware that it’s a “boys’ market” out there, but does that mean that parents can use that to their advantage in this way?
Another question: Is there anything I could/should have done differently? Should I have kept them posted more frequently? Should the girl’s side have given an answer sooner? Maybe there should be an official time limit when research time expires and the next girl gets a chance to come up to bat.
I’m hoping you can share your insight into this matter. Thank you.
Stepping aside from the particulars of the narrative presented, I would like to first delve into three related points.
1. Highly imbalanced and unfair though the following expectation is, once a “yes” has been submitted by the bochur’s side, the young woman’s side is generally expected to make a final decision within 48-72 hours at most (provided, of course, that no unexpected revelations are unearthed, and no impediments beyond their control arise, which would allow for additional time to research and make a determination). Radio silence, however, for any duration, is unacceptable. There should be regular, daily communication between the shadchan and both sides, and the shadchan must carefully and calmly walk everyone through any hiccups, whether the young woman takes one day or ten days to respond definitively. Keeping everyone well-informed and on an even keel whenever there is an obstacle or interruption that exceeds the norm is a vital component to shidduch management.
2. If the other side does go completely AWOL after a bochur gives a yes, the correct response is for his side to check in with the shadchan and ascertain the cause for delay. If the explanation is insufficient, or if they feel they cannot wait any longer, they should then instruct the shadchan to let the other side know that without an answer by such-and-such time, they will have to move on. And even once that has been shared, a second call should be made after the deadline to let everyone know that the window is now officially closed, so that no one is left hung out to dry. A yes should never be revoked without communicating that verdict to the other side. This would seem to me to be basic mentchlichkeit, and I think it plenty reasonable if that is our touchstone, even when we feel others are shirking their duties of mentchlichkeit towards us.
3. For a bochur’s family to issue multiple yeses from the get-go and then wait to see who takes the bait first is an egregious wrongdoing. It is an avlah gedolah ad meod. Doing so is manipulatory, selfish, and cruel, and displays a colossal and inexcusable lack of interest or ability in exemplifying the character traits that make a Yid a Yid. Indeed, it would be a woeful trifecta of nonexistent rachmanus, bayshanus, and gemillus chassodim.
That said, lacking a near verbatim recounting of the words that were communicated by the young man’s family, I am finding it very challenging to determine whether this was all an unfortunate miscommunication; a regrettable oversight on the shadchan’s part, combined with some degree of impropriety on the bochur’s side; or if a disgraceful act was, in fact, perpetrated by the bochur’s side. And silly though it may seem, I believe the brunt of the quandary hinges on one word: Interested. Meaning to say, when the bochur’s family expressed an “interest” in meeting this young woman, were they merely noting that the match captured their attention and that they would be happy to keep her in mind for the future, at which time they would formally commit to a meeting? Or did they tender an unambiguous “yes,” and unequivocally mean that they were “interested” in meeting her now, which would obligate their son to go out with her pronto?
As such, if a yes was not undoubtedly offered, it could be argued that a relatively innocent mistake with grave consequences was made by not deciphering, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether the bochur’s side was saying yes to the suggestion. When one side remarks that they are “interested” in an idea that has been proposed, that statement could be interpreted in a great many ways, and it is critical to gain absolute surety about such a declaration before taking any further steps, and certainly so before reporting back to the other side with assurances of a date that is to be arranged.
Conversely, if the “interest” conveyed was accompanied by a positively unmistakable yes, it would then appear to me that the measure of misconduct rests upon knowing when that second yes was bestowed. If both yeses were given at the same exact time, the transgression rests wholly on the shoulders of the bochur’s family and is a blatant manifestation of playing-the-field without care or concern for anyone but oneself. And if that is the reality here, so loathsome and dishonorable is this offense that it would be my recommendation that the bochur’s family ask mechilah from this young woman and her family, upon whom they assuredly wrought untold pain and shame. Alternatively, if the second yes was only supplied after having gone days and days without hearing any report whatsoever from the young woman’s side, I would opine that we are looking at a mutual error. On the one hand, clandestinely retracting a yes due to non-response is unjust and uncouth. Yet, on the other hand, right or wrong, when a shadchan falls off the face of the earth for upwards of a week, some families will interpret that muteness as an implied no and simply segue to the next idea.
All told, then, if there is one primary lesson to be learned here, I imagine it would be the value of open, upright, and continual dialogue between all three entities, from the second the shidduch is redd until its culmination. And the better we all can be at doing that, the more likely we are to forfend these sorts of lamentable situations, be’ezras Hashem.
May the Kevodo Malei Olam ensure that we all retain the highest levels of honor and honesty, both with ourselves and others, in all of our dealings.