My objective with this article is to address a number of points that I hope will make married people and matchmakers more caring – moving them towards a more intelligent discourse. I will also mention to singles some constructive suggestions that I feel will be welcomed.
These are two groups that can hurt more than help. Parents should discuss dating with their children to advise them constructively about a poor date choice, or about a new prospect with fine qualities and a compatible personality. But when a parent forcefully suggests a match for his or her son or daughter based on subjective likes…this is wrong. Allow your child to select: he or she must live with the marriage partner, not you. So it is wise to allow them to gravitate towards a match. Imposing a match is never productive, but happens all to often: followed by divorce. Many times, families who share so much in common, have children who are not a match. Parents also seek a “popular” single for their child, all for ego, not for their child’s happiness. Some parents dream of their respective children marrying each other, and impose the match. Again, allow the child to select and reject, regardless of the possible friction you might have to face for not “approving” of your neighbor’s child for yours. Place your child’s happily married life before your temporal discomfort you experience, when you tell your friends that your son did not select their daughter for marriage. And singles should be strong, and make certain you are marrying for yourself first. You must not marry to please others…no decision should be for the sake of public approval. Do not marry or avoid someone because of what your friends or family will say. If he or she is a virtuous person, that is all you need, and what God endorses. Place God’s goals above those of your friends and family.
As a single, ask yourself what you feel offers you the promise of happiness with a mate. Are you honestly guiding your selections by the Torah’s numerous accounts of successful relationships? Or, are you giving meaning to matters that will reduce or even eliminate good prospects?
You may have a list of 10 traits you deem essential, and when you find only 8 in a prospect, you reject him or her, assuming someone else out there has all 10. That is foolish: any mate you find was raised differently than you, and has a different personality than you. She or he has different likes, and experiences that have shaped them. By definition, an exact match to your list will not be found in anyone, so compromise is essential. The question arises: on what shall we compromise? Let’s address a few common mistakes.
Many younger singles from more “religious” circles seek a male who dons a “black hat”. Our Torah actually ridicules Jews who dress different than other Jews, and the majority of Jews do not wear black hats. So the Torah’s mandatory conformity must be with this modernly garbed majority. In the book of Zephaniah (1:8) Radak explains what the “strange garments” were that invited God’s rebuke. Radak states that certain Jews dressed to stand out from their brethren so as to distinguish them as “more righteous”. Radak calls their way “evil”. This means that the “evil” was in their practice which they sought to externally express religiosity, in their clothes…a very foolish and egotistical endeavor.
We do not find the Torah endorsing external dress as having any connection with internal perfection. This makes clear sense, and we are to follow Torah, not popular practices in Jewish communities. How many times do we hear of a “frum” looking Jew who engaged in sexual misconduct, stealing, and committing other sins? If we seek a good match, we must not give any weight to matters that are irrelevant. Furthermore, when observant Jews dress differently and even archaically from other Jews, why would those other non-religious Jews desire a Torah lifestyle? Such dress appears strange to me, and certainly stranger to the non-religious. The Torah says we are to be an attractive looking people, since our objective is to attract others to Judaism and Noachide law. We are not to mislead, and imply that dress is a means of reaching God. Upholding a dress code implies the opposite message to Sefer Zephaniah quoted above. If Moses were alive today, those seeking black hats would reject him. On this note, many Jews reject converts or Baalei Teshuva, when God favors them, as seen in Ruth, our Rabbis who were converts, and others. Furthermore, rejecting someone based on something external to the person – I mean if they have children – is completely self destructive, since someone with a child is no reflection at all on the parent. Many singles are still single due to this error.
Ruth was 40 when Boaz, 80, married her. Jacob was 84 when he married Leah and Rachel. But Jews today respond that they cannot have this. They suggest the Torah is “antiquated”: that was “back then” they murmur. This sentiment expresses ignorance of human nature…a nature that never changes. We share the exact design of those people. God didn’t reinvent humans. If those people could be happy regardless of age differences, we too can be that happy. And what is age anyway? Does age equate to fine qualities? If not, of what value is it? Additionally, Torah accounts of marriages and relationships are to be “lessons”, and are not to be ignored. Those people were of outstanding intelligence and values, so they should be the ones we look to for guidance, as opposed to today’s generation. Therefore, we reject the onion of those who say “that was back then”.
So in terms of what we should seek, we are wise to examine the person: not their lineage, not their status as convert, not be concerned for public approval, or any other historical issue. Make certain the prospect possesses solid values and intelligence, and that the person will follow Torah principles, not fabricated, cultural standards.
Determine if there is physical attraction, shared interests and personality compatibilities. To this end, many websites are a fine resource to review a possible match. Singles are wise to join these sites. There is no such thing as “poor advertising”, so by any means, may we all find our match. And if you are not comfortable using these websites, it is wise to change your preference, and become comfortable. Do the same with all traits that impede your chances. I know of many happily married couples who met on websites. These websites are true blessings. And on the note of attraction, it s wise that both young men and women maintain a healthy lifestyle, and make themselves presentable to prospects. If you are overweight, address it with diet and exercise, or counseling if needed. Don’t allow the stigma of seeing a therapist weigh more than marriage. If marriage is that important to you, do what is necessary to make yourself appealing. The Torah teaches that one may not wed another sight unseen, lest he or she violate “hating a fellow Jew”. This is a sensitive issue for some, so address this with sensitivity. If you know someone who misses opportunities due to weight, poor hygiene, or other matters, be a true friend, risk your friendship, and share you thoughts and advice. Better they don’t talk to you out of anger, than staying single. At the very least, they are now aware of a possibility for their single status. They may now address it thanks to your concern.
Whether it is a personal issue like weight, or a relationship issue, some singles run, instead of working matters out. Making personal changes, and accepting differences with compromise does not mean we will be less happily married. For by making personal changes, we can finally appeal to others who might have rejected us based on good grounds. And many times, differences in our mate can be enlightening and refreshing. So do not view differences as a negative, and do not avoid reflection, seeking advice, and then implementing change. Do not be afraid of difficulty, as Rashi teaches, “All beginnings are difficult”. But note: Rashi doesn’t say we should not make the new beginning.
Are matchmakers truly fit to match singles? What are matchmakers’ motives in matching singles? Certainly, many are truly concerned for the good of others. And we must appreciate the amount of work and trouble they suffer in dealing with numerous personalities. But some people are simply not fit to match others.
Here’s a test. Has a matchmaker said, “You’re too picky”? This is highly improper. It is accusative, and not constructive. The matchmaker views the single not as an equal, which he or she is, but as less deserving. It is the matchmaker venting, and not helping. If this matchmaker was truly interested in matching the person at hand, he or she would sit the single down, and learn his or her preferences, understand his or her dating experiences, and acquaint themselves with the single’s personality and likes. This displays concern, as opposed to accusative words. And even if the single is very picky, the correct response is to unveil to the single, how a highly selective approach will hurt and not help. If a matchmaker is accusative, or appears to not comply with what you seek, the best course is to abandon this matchmaker. But a good matchmaker is to be thanked, and I hold that they should be properly compensated.
What does it mean to be a “successful matchmaker”? Can anyone truly have a “track record” at matching people? Yes, someone could have a number of matches under their belt, but people are very deep and different, and many times, it is sheer chance that the matchmaker was successful. Or, sometimes a matchmaker can have a good sense of people. In either case, as a single, we do not know which explanation is the correct one. So how should a single approach a matchmaker? Again, we must be clear about what the Torah views as important, and we must reach the point where we too are convinced of these values. We must be diligent, and patient. We should also critique a matchmaker if she or he is not assisting us based on what we seek in a mate, but is wasting our time with inappropriate matches. Make certain, above all else that the matchmaker has met, and knows about whom they speak. If they have not met the prospect, ask who has, and get first hand information. If you do not, then you have yourself to blame if you wasted your time.
Don’t beat yourself up if relationships don’t work out, or you find it difficult to find a match. Not everything is within our power. We will invariably be attracted to someone who is not attracted to us. I recall cases where I was rejected because I didn’t wear a black hat. How foolish and superficial I felt they were, and how frustrated I was. But I could do nothing, and I was not in error. I could masquerade with a back hat, but the charade would soon be over, and I would violate Zephaniah’s teachings. I would also be deceiving myself, for why would I desire someone who values what the Torah rejects?
I was engaged to someone who was becoming religious, but who soon could not commit, and she broke the engagement. From this I learned to seek someone with a firm commitment to observance, although there are never guarantees. Nonetheless, it is wiser to assume that people do not often times change. It is the Tzaddik and the Tzadekas (the righteous) who can make changes in themselves. We see from Chana that she had to elevate her motive for children, before God would grant this request. We see this again in connection with Rachel, who was reprimanded by her husband Jacob regarding her views. She too eventually received children, as she heard Jacob’s words, applied them, and then raised herself to a higher level…a lever worthy of children. We too should seek this character trait: one who has the ability to admit error, and make changes in their values and actions. We to must follow this lifestyle.
There may be many matters we must address: some in our control, and some out of our control. We are only capable of addressing the former.
Singles are sometimes very reluctant to give someone one date. They feel this means commitment, when it really means a single date. To make it easier, agree over the phone that you will meet for 30 minutes, and no longer. Remove the stress, without removing the opportunity. You can always express your feelings and the end of the date or the relationship, if it seems inappropriate. So don’t view one date as terminal. You only increase your chances, with increased dates. Don’t be rigid; be flexible in all areas.
And regarding the “fear of commitment”, examine yourself: for this quite common fear. If you sense it, but you don’t understand your fear, then seek counseling from a wise individual. And it is wise that each of us ask a wise individual who knows us well to share their sense about our dating habits. Locate a therapist or psychologist who can detect destructive feelings, behaviors or notions. Do not let any stone go unturned. This applies to all areas of life, which are important to us.
Be always mindful that a good relationship is what God designed each of us to enjoy. We will all be truly happy with a partner who shares our Torah philosophy, in theory and in action. When you seek a Torah personality, you will seek one who is patient, considerate, humorous, virtuous, and caring. Don’t concern yourself with his or her career. They should enjoy what they do. And make certain that when seeking a wife that she – not the maid – plans to raise the kids. Otherwise, why have you sought “her” out?
Be optimistic, and do all in your power to meet new people. Pray for a good match, as King Solomon says, “A home and riches are inheritances from fathers, but an intelligent wife is from God”. The same applies to a husband.
Seeking riches does not lead to a happy marriage, and a rich person who is not wise, will soon lose all his money. But a wise person, who might currently earn a moderate income, will grow wiser, and be better positioned to provide better than the rich man. The Torah says, “One who learns Torah initially in a poor state, will eventually learn Torah when wealthy.”
When you finally meet a fine person, and you will if you live properly with the Torah’s guidance, be careful to be flexible and considerate. Talk matters openly, gently, and honestly. Let small problems slide, express your feelings, and you will start seeing your mate reciprocate your generosity and kindness. You will both value what is important, and realize what little concern you should have for minor differences. You will admire each other, and value the relationship. Seek the guidance of wise individuals when needed. And from the very outset, be honest with your partner. Let them know where Torah stands in your life, and all that matters to you, and that you wish to follow Torah philosophy and laws, as the sole arbiter in your relationship. Follow the examples of Torah personalities and relationships in our Chumash and Prophets. Concern yourself with issues which they concerned themselves, and disregard irrelevant matters. Earnestly seek a mate of high quality with all your ingenuity and all avenues, and continue to pray.
Don’t despair. God created the universe…He can also provide you a mate…but not without your use of wisdom and adherence to His ways. So listen to those wiser than you, so you too become wise. Abandon all areas that have until now impeded your success…and be courageous to make changes.
Look at marriage as a reality, your top priority, and you will get there…and make sure you send me an invitation!