I just went on a fifth date with a bochur. He seemed like he was everything I was looking for in a husband, until he dropped a bombshell by disclosing that neither he nor his parents checked any of my references. His rationale behind refusing to check references was his preference for natural face-to-face communication, rather than using reference checking – which I actually consider to be the only valid form of dating someone. I think I feel cheated. Is this a reason to end it with him?
As a bit of a preface, if one has been zocheh to identify everything they are looking for in a spouse, and then the discovery of a difference in attitude and perspective towards the relatively trivial realm of the importance of reference checking is enough to throw one completely off kilter, attempting to maintain a pleasant marriage and family life amidst divergent standpoints on far more critical issues, which are as sure to arise as the sun is to rise, is really going to send one into a tizzy.
Returning, then, to the topic at hand, I would like to offer an analogy. In the working world, there are individuals who devote great lengths of time pursuing advanced degrees, who work exceptionally hard, and who make a very respectable living. There are also individuals who lack even the equivalent of a high school diploma, who do not work particularly hard, and who make an absolute killing. And of course, there are also many who toil endlessly, working themselves to the bone, and who find themselves interminably behind the eight-ball of the economy.
With that inarguable reality in mind, if it should happen that a person who slaves from dusk to dawn and beyond to earn a generous income notes an inner sense of resentment towards their counterparts who are succeeding in equal or exceeding measure while apparently also living a life of leisure, as understandable as those feelings may be, I think we can all agree that they are rooted in the grasp of the yeitzer hara. The objective goal is not to be tethered to one’s occupation, as evidenced by those who do so and have little to show for it in terms of money in the bank. The objective goal is to succeed financially, and for reasons known only to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, some of us will achieve that goal, subsequent to varying intensities of exertion, and some of us will never attain that aspiration – no matter how much time, effort, and energy is invested into the venture.
Accordingly, it occurs to me that we are seeing something similar in the narrative presented here. Checking references is not an objective or inherently value-laden goal within the arena of shidduchim. This can be clearly seen simply by looking a few decades into the past, back to a time when the concept of references and résumés was non-existent, and people seemed to do just fine getting themselves happily married. In fact, many would argue, and probably correctly so, that the inflated and sclerotic infrastructure which we are persistently building around the edifice of shidduchim is doing more harm than good, and is in large part rooted in our collective entitlement and insistence that we get everything we want, when we want is, and exactly the way we want it to be. Obviously, that is impossible, foolish, and a recipe for grave disappointment more often than not.
Rather, getting married is the raison d’être, and all that we do surrounding that singular, true, and intrinsically lofty purpose is merely the means which we utilize in order to accomplish that elevated and primary goal. Thus, the manner which best suits any one individual is inevitably not going to mirror the manner best suited for everyone else. Some will have to go on scores and scores of dates, and some will date only one person. Some will have to spend vast sums of money, and some will expend minimal resources. Some will travel great distances, and some will walk to the chupah to greet their next-door neighbor. Some will spend countless hours on the phone looking into each idea before proceeding, and others will trust that the shadchan is not going to set them up with an axe murderer, and figure the rest out on the dates themselves.
None of these items are fundamental or central to the enterprise. They are nothing more than contrasting means to the same end. As such, for one to resent another because that person’s principal place of labor does not match up with their own is also but the atzas hayeitzer in thinly veiled disguise. We must be able to recognize and respect that dissimilar paths can be of identical validity, and can lead to the fruitful actualization of a shared and holy goal.
May the Nora Yimino redeem us all from constricted vantage points, and bring each of us the salvation we so deeply yearn for.