For the past few months, I have received numerous phone calls about shidduch references for my friends whom I have not seen or spoken to ever since the coronavirus hemorrhaged all of our social lives. Even after I say nice things about my friends, the girls or their mothers decide that the prospect is not shayach simply because I don’t have 100% up-to-date information on the bochur. Seriously? Why isn’t learning about his middos tovos enough information just to say yes for a first date? Not even a Zoom date?
Meanwhile, I continue to see shidduch résumés of singles being posted in WhatsApp groups where the most up-to-date résumés feature references that include the phone numbers of rabbonim who were niftar during the height of the pandemic between Nissan and Sivan 5780.
Perhaps the time has come to do away with or restructure the manner in which shidduch references are checked? If you want to get to know your spouse, why must you engage in excessively wasteful investigations rather than simply getting to know the other party in a natural face-to-face way? And for every shidduch suggestion that you reject over such nonsense, do you realize how much time you wasted by playing phone tag with the other party’s references who have their own busy lives?
I would love to read the panelists’ opinions on this matter.
Given the geographical breadth which frum yidden occupy, thoroughly eradicating résumé references is simply not possible. Other than in truly small communities, it has become progressively more common for people in the same city to be completely unfamiliar with one another, let alone people living in different states, countries, or continents. Accordingly, to satisfy the simple requirement of basic and normative shidduch research – read: ascertaining that there appears to be a reasonable degree of compatibility between the two daters, and that the person who has been redd, and their family, are of good and upstanding character – those listed references are generally the starting point for making a proper decision. And to suggest that young men and women could go out together absent any reference checking at all, is sadly not a reality in this day and age. With the myriad complexities of 21st-century life, unless the families already know each other well and do not need to gather any additional material before committing to and commencing with a date, it would be downright irresponsible to consent to a shidduch without ascertaining some baseline information about one’s counterpart.
Additionally, it is only natural for families to be more trusting of a rebbi or teacher from years past than they are of the cohort of freshly-minted young adults who are the friends of each prospective dater. Coupling that with a concomitant tendency for people be inconsistent, in certain respects, when it comes to whom we trust and how much we trust them, it should be no great surprise that there is no purely logical and coherent thread connecting the decision-making process. Once all the calls have been made, presuming that no bracing red-flags have emerged and that the two people do not appear obviously discordant, the final determination is generally more of a feeling based on the aggregate of the data amassed than it is a clear cut decision based on an algorithm of hierarchical points of reference.
Lastly, it is highly unlikely that the true and sole reason for a family passing on a shidduch would be due to a past friend or roommate lacking unimpeachable and up-to-date info on their compadre, and even less likely that said friend would be aware that their nebulous report was the primary cause for the putrefaction and perishing of the potential pairing. More often than not, when an idea is rebuffed, no one outside of the family is fully privy to the key factors behind their declination, and for the most part, we are all better off that way.
At the same time, there is no question that many, many families are gorging themselves on endless investigations; getting hung up on the most trivial of details; and refusing to believe that anyone is ever being 100% honest with them, as if there were some mass conspiracy going on behind every dater and every mishpacha. It has become rather endemic within the dating world, it is quite pitiable and ignoble, and indeed, it is wasting everybody’s precious time.
Thus, would I genuinely assert that we have collectively crossed the line of appropriate rationality and sensibility when it comes to shidduch research? Yes, I would. Is it my opinion that this entire enterprise is ultimately facile and bumptious? Absolutely. Would I correspondingly beseech the Jewish world to kindly step back, take a long, hard, and objective look at what we are doing, have a good laugh at ourselves and the foolishness we have become a party to, and then peel back a whole bunch from the anfractuous and extreme exploration we are delving into? Also, and most definitely, yes. Do I think it remotely plausible that such a change will actually occur? No, I do not. Like many other current communal customs which have slowly emerged from gradual mass participation in some novel activity for no particularly good reason at all, it seems that the train has left the station, and is never to return.
Anna Hashem hoshia na. Yeshuous Hashem k’heref ayin.