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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

What Does It Take to Make a Match?

by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff (Posted on September 7, 2016)
Topics: Torah, Sefer Breishit, Chayei Sarah, Machshava/Jewish Thought, Gender, Marriage & Family

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This article is part of Torat Chovevei, a Community Learning Program led by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah with the support of the Covenant Foundation. The goal of the program is to connect communities to YCT through the medium of Torah learning. All topics discussed weave relevant contemporary issues together with Torah and non-Torah sources in monthly home-based learning groups (chaburot). These groups are guided by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff, Rebbe and Director of Community Learning at YCT. For further information about Torat Chovevei, and how your community can get involved, please contact Rabbi Resnikoff at hresnikoff@yctorah.org.

There is a need in our community for a review of the criteria we use in selecting mates (values and personal traits rather than aesthetic and material concerns). In addition there is a need to reemphasize that making the choice is not enough- there is tremendous work that still needs to go into a marriage and that very work is the source of the love between the partners. The following texts explore the questions of how do people choose their life partners, and, once they’ve made the choice, what makes a marriage work?

Questions:

  1. What is Avraham looking for in a wife for his son? What are deal breakers? What might be acceptable for him? Does this resonate today?
  2. How important is choice for Avraham? Who does he expect to choose Isaac’s wife? Does this resonate?

Bereshit 24

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֗ם אֶל־עַבְדּוֹ֙ זְקַ֣ן בֵּית֔וֹ הַמֹּשֵׁ֖ל בְּכָל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֑וֹ שִֽׂים־נָ֥א יָדְךָ֖ תַּ֥חַת יְרֵכִֽי:
וְאַשְׁבִּ֣יעֲךָ֔ בַּֽיקֹוָק֙ אֱ-לֹהֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וֵֽא-לֹהֵ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־תִקַּ֤ח אִשָּׁה֙ לִבְנִ֔י מִבְּנוֹת֙ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אָנֹכִ֖י יוֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ:כִּ֧י אֶל־אַרְצִ֛י וְאֶל־מוֹלַדְתִּ֖י תֵּלֵ֑ךְ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֖ה לִבְנִ֥י לְיִצְחָֽק:וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ הָעֶ֔בֶד אוּלַי֙ לֹא־תֹאבֶ֣ה הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה לָלֶ֥כֶת אַחֲרַ֖י אֶל־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את הֶֽהָשֵׁ֤ב אָשִׁיב֙ אֶת־ בִּנְךָ֔ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יָצָ֥אתָ מִשָּֽׁם:וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אַבְרָהָ֑ם הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֔ פֶּן־תָּשִׁ֥יב אֶת־בְּנִ֖י שָֽׁמָּה:יְקֹוָ֣ק׀ אֱ-לֹהֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם אֲשֶׁ֨ר לְקָחַ֜נִי מִבֵּ֣ית אָבִי֘ וּמֵאֶ֣רֶץ מֽוֹלַדְתִּי֒ וַאֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּר־לִ֜י וַאֲשֶׁ֤ר נִֽשְׁבַּֽע־לִי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְזַ֨רְעֲךָ֔ אֶתֵּ֖ן אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את ה֗וּא יִשְׁלַ֤ח מַלְאָכוֹ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ וְלָקַחְתָּ֥ אִשָּׁ֛ה לִבְנִ֖י מִשָּֽׁם:וְאִם־לֹ֨א תֹאבֶ֤ה הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ לָלֶ֣כֶת אַחֲרֶ֔יךָ וְנִקִּ֕יתָ מִשְּׁבֻעָתִ֖י זֹ֑את רַ֣ק אֶת־בְּנִ֔י לֹ֥א תָשֵׁ֖ב שָֽׁמָּה:
And Abraham said unto his servant, the elder of his house, that ruled over all that he had: ‘Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh. And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife for my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son, even for Isaac.’ And the servant said unto him: ‘Peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land; must I needs bring thy son back unto the land from whence thou camest?’ And Abraham said unto him: ‘Beware thou that thou bring not my son back thither. The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my nativity, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: Unto thy seed will I give this land; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence. And if the woman be not willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath; only thou shalt not bring my son back thither.’

Bereshit 24

וַיִּקַּ֣ח הָ֠עֶבֶד עֲשָׂרָ֨ה גְמַלִּ֜ים מִגְּמַלֵּ֤י אֲדֹנָיו֙ וַיֵּ֔לֶךְ וְכָל־ט֥וּב אֲדֹנָ֖יו בְּיָד֑וֹ וַיָּ֔קָם וַיֵּ֛לֶךְ אֶל־אֲרַ֥ם נַֽהֲרַ֖יִם אֶל־עִ֥יר נָחֽוֹר:
וַיַּבְרֵ֧ךְ הַגְּמַלִּ֛ים מִח֥וּץ לָעִ֖יר אֶל־בְּאֵ֣ר הַמָּ֑יִם לְעֵ֣ת עֶ֔רֶב לְעֵ֖ת צֵ֥את הַשֹּׁאֲבֹֽת:וַיֹּאמַ֓ר׀ יְקֹוָ֗ק אֱ-לֹהֵי֙ אֲדֹנִ֣י אַבְרָהָ֔ם הַקְרֵה־נָ֥א לְפָנַ֖י הַיּ֑וֹם וַעֲשֵׂה־חֶ֕סֶד עִ֖ם אֲדֹנִ֥י אַבְרָהָֽם:הִנֵּ֛ה אָנֹכִ֥י נִצָּ֖ב עַל־עֵ֣ין הַמָּ֑יִם וּבְנוֹת֙ אַנְשֵׁ֣י הָעִ֔יר יֹצְאֹ֖ת לִשְׁאֹ֥ב מָֽיִם:וְהָיָ֣ה הַֽנַּעֲרָ֗ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֹמַ֤ר אֵלֶ֙יהָ֙ הַטִּי־נָ֤א כַדֵּךְ֙ וְאֶשְׁתֶּ֔ה וְאָמְרָ֣ה שְׁתֵ֔ה וְגַם־גְּמַלֶּ֖יךָ אַשְׁקֶ֑ה אֹתָ֤הּ הֹכַ֙חְתָּ֙ לְעַבְדְּךָ֣ לְיִצְחָ֔ק וּבָ֣הּ אֵדַ֔ע כִּי־עָשִׂ֥יתָ חֶ֖סֶד עִם־אֲדֹנִֽי:וַֽיְהִי־ה֗וּא טֶרֶם֘ כִּלָּ֣ה לְדַבֵּר֒ וְהִנֵּ֧ה רִבְקָ֣ה יֹצֵ֗את אֲשֶׁ֤ר יֻלְּדָה֙ לִבְתוּאֵ֣ל בֶּן־מִלְכָּ֔ה אֵ֥שֶׁת נָח֖וֹר אֲחִ֣י אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְכַדָּ֖הּ ל־שִׁכְמָֽהּ:
וְהַֽנַּעֲרָ֗ טֹבַ֤ת מַרְאֶה֙ מְאֹ֔ד בְּתוּלָ֕ה וְאִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יְדָעָ֑הּ וַתֵּ֣רֶד הָעַ֔יְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּ֥א כַדָּ֖הּ וַתָּֽעַל:וַיָּ֥רָץ הָעֶ֖בֶד לִקְרָאתָ֑הּ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר הַגְמִיאִ֥ינִי נָ֛א מְעַט־מַ֖יִם מִכַּדֵּֽךְ:וַתֹּ֖אמֶר שְׁתֵ֣ה אֲדֹנִ֑י וַתְּמַהֵ֗ר וַתֹּ֧רֶד כַּדָּ֛הּ עַל־יָדָ֖הּ וַתַּשְׁקֵֽהוּ:וַתְּכַ֖ל לְהַשְׁקֹת֑וֹ וַתֹּ֗אמֶר גַּ֤ם לִגְמַלֶּ֙יךָ֙ אֶשְׁאָ֔ב עַ֥ד אִם־כִּלּ֖וּ לִשְׁתֹּֽת:וַתְּמַהֵ֗ר וַתְּעַ֤ר כַּדָּהּ֙ אֶל־הַשֹּׁ֔קֶת וַתָּ֥רָץ ע֛וֹד אֶֽל־הַבְּאֵ֖ר לִשְׁאֹ֑ב וַתִּשְׁאַ֖ב לְכָל־גְּמַלָּֽיו:וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מִשְׁתָּאֵ֖ה לָ֑הּ מַחֲרִ֕ישׁ לָדַ֗עַת הַֽהִצְלִ֧יחַ יְקֹוָ֛ק דַּרְכּ֖וֹ אִם־לֹֽא:וַיְהִ֗י כַּאֲשֶׁ֨ר כִּלּ֤וּ הַגְּמַלִּים֙ לִשְׁתּ֔וֹת וַיִּקַּ֤ח הָאִישׁ֙ נֶ֣זֶם זָהָ֔ב בֶּ֖קַע מִשְׁקָל֑וֹ וּשְׁנֵ֤י צְמִידִים֙ עַל־יָדֶ֔יהָ עֲשָׂרָ֥ה זָהָ֖ב מִשְׁקָלָֽם:
And the servant took ten camels, of the camels of his master, and departed; having all goodly things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose, and went to Aram-naharaim, unto the city of Nahor. And he made the camels to kneel down without the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time that women go out to draw water. And he said: ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, send me, I pray Thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand by the fountain of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water. So let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say: Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let the same be she that Thou hast appointed for Thy servant, even for Isaac; and thereby shall I know that Thou hast shown kindness unto my master.’ And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder. And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her; and she went down to the fountain, and filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her, and said: ‘Give me to drink, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher.’ And she said: ‘Drink, my lord’; and she hastened, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink. And when she had done giving him drink, she said: ‘I will draw for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.’ And she hastened, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw, and drew for all his camels. And the man looked steadfastly on her; holding his peace, to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. And it came to pass, as the camels had done drinking, that the man took a golden ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets on her hands of ten shekels weight of gold…

Questions:

  1. What is Avraham’s servant looking for in a wife for Isaac? Who does he expect to make the choice? Does this resonate?
  2. What details does the Torah tell us that suggest different values in terms of what is part of the criteria for a mate than Avraham’s servant may have set up? How relevant are these categories?

Bereshit 24

וַתִּשָּׂ֤א רִבְקָה֙ אֶת־עֵינֶ֔יהָ וַתֵּ֖רֶא אֶת־יִצְחָ֑ק וַתִּפֹּ֖ל מֵעַ֥ל הַגָּמָֽל: וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֶל־הָעֶ֗בֶד מִֽי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הַלָּזֶה֙ הַהֹלֵ֤ךְ בַּשָּׂדֶה֙ לִקְרָאתֵ֔נוּ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הָעֶ֖בֶד ה֣וּא אֲדֹנִ֑י וַתִּקַּ֥ח הַצָּעִ֖יף וַתִּתְכָּֽס:וַיְסַפֵּ֥ר הָעֶ֖בֶד לְיִצְחָ֑ק אֵ֥ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה:וַיְבִאֶ֣הָ יִצְחָ֗ק הָאֹ֙הֱלָה֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִמּ֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֧ח אֶת־רִבְקָ֛ה וַתְּהִי־ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֖ה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶ֑הָ וַיִּנָּחֵ֥ם יִצְחָ֖ק אַחֲרֵ֥י אִמּֽוֹ:
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel. And she said unto the servant: ‘What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said: ‘It is my master.’ And she took her veil, and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for his mother.

Rashi, Bereshit 24

האהלה שרה אמו – ויביאה האהלה ונעשית דוגמת שרה אמו, כלומר והרי היא שרה אמו, שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת, וברכה מצויה בעיסה, וענן קשור על האהל, ומשמתה פסקו, וכשבאת רבקה חזרו:
Into his mother Sara’s tent – And he brought her into the tent, and she became the image of his mother Sarah. That is to say, behold she was Sarah his mother. For as long as Sarah was alive, the lamp was lit from Friday night to Friday night, and there was a blessing on her dough, and there was a cloud attached to the tent. And when she died, these things stopped and when Rivka came, they returned.

Questions:

  1. What is Isaac looking for in a wife? Is there a difference between the simple read of the Torah and the addition of Rashi?
  2. When does Isaac actually fall in love with his wife? What message might we take from this? Does this resonate with us today?

What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis, John Birger, Time, August 24, 2015.

…Multiple studies show that college-educated Americans are increasingly reluctant to marry those lacking a college degree. This bias is having a devastating impact on the dating market for college-educated women. Why? According to 2012 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are 5.5 million college-educated women in the U.S. between the ages of 22 and 29 versus 4.1 million such men. That’s four women for every three men. Among college grads age 30 to 39, there are 7.4 million women versus 6.0 million men—five women for every four men.
…I wanted to show that god-fearing folks steeped in old-fashioned values are just as susceptible to the effects of shifting sex ratios as cosmopolitan, hookup-happy 20-somethings who frequent Upper East Side wine bars…
Eventually I hit pay dirt.
One of my web searches turned up a study from Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) on the demographics of Mormons. According to the ARIS study, there are now 150 Mormon women for every 100 Mormon men in the state of Utah—a 50 percent oversupply of women…
For Orthodox Jewish women, as for Mormon ones, getting married and having children is more than a lifestyle choice. Marriage and motherhood are essentially spiritual obligations, which is why the Orthodox marriage crisis is so hotly debated and why it has earned its own moniker…
In fact, the root causes of both the Shidduch Crisis and the Mormon marriage crisis have little to do with culture or religion. The true culprit in both cases is demographics. The fact is that there are more marriage-age women than men both in the Orthodox Jewish community and in the Utah LDS church. And just as I predicted, lopsided gender ratios affect conservative religious communities in much the same way they affect secular ones…
The sex ratio is especially lopsided among Mormon singles. Many individual LDS churches—known as “wards”—are organized by marital status, with families attending different Sunday services from single people. Parley’s Seventh, one of Salt Lake City’s singles wards, had 429 women on its rolls in 2013 versus only 264 men, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper…
The lopsided numbers encourage Mormon men to hold out for the perfect wife, Blake said. “I call it the paradox of choice,” she explained. “For men, there are so many choices that choices are not made. The dream for the Mormon man is to get married and have six kids. As he ages, his dream never changes. But when you’re a thirty-seven-year-old woman, you’ve already aged out of that dream.”
So why are there so many more Mormon women than Mormon men? The simple answer is that over the past twenty-five years, Utah men have been quitting the LDS church in unusually large numbers…
There is ample evidence that Mormon men are delaying marriage. News articles on this topic tend to be filled with tales of Mormon women who want to marry but cannot find a good Mormon man. The Salt Lake Tribune published an article in 2011 (headline: “Why Young LDS Men Are Pushing Back Marriage”), which blamed the marriage crisis on Facebook (“After we’ve learned everything about each other on Facebook, what do we talk about on the first date?”) as well as a “modern nonchalance” about marriage. LDS leader Richard Scott was quoted chastising young men to grow up: “If you are a young man of appropriate age and are not married, don’t waste time in idle pursuits. Get on with life and focus on getting married. Don’t just coast through this period of life.”
The Tribune story cited a survey of Mormon college students in which men expressed a belief that age 30 is now the right age to get married. The finding was unexpected, given that most Utah Mormons marry by their early twenties. In the same article, Brigham Young University professor David Dollahite complained of a “market mentality” among men at the LDS-dominated campus. When it came to dating, BYU men seemed paralyzed by indecision. “The young men think, ‘I am dating a 9.7, but if I wait, maybe I could get a 9.9,’” Dollahite told the Tribune…

Questions:

  1. Is there an equivalent tendency in the Orthodox community for men to delay marriage because of the abundance of choice? What values does this reflect? Is there anything wrong with this?

Ibid. (Continued)

Psychologists Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord argued in Too Many Women?— the pioneering book on lopsided gender ratios—that women are more likely to be treated as sex objects whenever men are scarce. That is precisely what Mormon women now experience.
“Women’s bodies are up for debate,” Wheelwright complained. Mormon men have become much more demanding about women’s looks, which in turn has made women obsessed with standing out from the competition. One consequence: A culture of plastic surgery has taken root among Mormon women.
“I have seen more outrageous boob jobs and facial plastic surgery in Utah than almost anywhere in the country—especially among Mormon women,” said Bowman. “They may claim chastity as a virtue overall, but that’s not stopping anyone from getting a set of double-Ds.”
Mormons rushing to get boob jobs may sound far-fetched, but Bowman’s assertion is supported by the leading consumer review site for cosmetic surgery, RealSelf.com. According to a 2011 RealSelf study, Salt Lake City residents did more searches for breast implants on the RealSelf website than residents of any other city. Moreover, a 2007 Forbes story labeled Salt Lake City “America’s Vainest City,” with four plastic surgeons for every 100,000 people, which was 2.5 times the national average. Salt Lake City residents also spent inordinate sums on beauty products—$2.2 million in 2006 on hair coloring and $6.9 million on cosmetics and skin care products, according to Forbes. By comparison, Oklahoma City, a city with a slightly larger population, spent $172,000 and $594,000, respectively…
The statistical explanation for why Orthodox men are in short supply is different from the one for the shortage of Mormon men. Orthodox men are not abandoning their faith in large numbers and leaving Orthodox women behind. According to a recent Pew Research study, only 2 percent of Orthodox Jews are married to non-Jews, and the attrition rate from the Orthodox movement to the more mainstream Reform or Conservative branches of Judaism has actually been declining.
The imbalance in the Orthodox marriage market boils down to a demographic quirk: The Orthodox community has an extremely high birth rate, and a high birth rate means there will be more 18-year-olds than 19-year-olds, more 19-year-olds than 20-year-olds, and so on and so on. Couple the increasing number of children born every year with the traditional age gap at marriage—the typical marriage age for Orthodox Jews is 19 for women and 22 for men, according to Michael Salamon, a psychologist who works with the Orthodox community and wrote a book on the Shidduch Crisis—and you wind up with a marriage market with more 19-year-old women than 22-year-old men…
That is the Shidduch Crisis in a nutshell. Unfortunately, relatively few Orthodox Jews realize that the Shidduch Crisis boils down to a math problem. Most explanations for the Shidduch Crisis blame cultural influences for causing men to delay marriage. “Those of us who’ve tossed and turned with this, we don’t necessarily believe that there are more girls than boys,” said Elefant. “We believe God created everybody, and God created a match for everybody.”…
Perhaps the most controversial—and definitely the most misogynistic— explanation for the Shidduch Crisis was offered up by Yitta Halberstam, coauthor of the best-selling Small Miracles series of books…
“Yes,” she wrote, “spiritual beauty makes a woman’s eyes glow and casts a luminous sheen over her face; there is no beauty like a pure soul. Makeup, however, goes a long way in both correcting facial flaws and accentuating one’s assets, and if my cursory inspection was indeed accurate (and I apologize if the girls used such natural makeup that I simply couldn’t tell), barely any of these girls seemed to have made a huge effort to deck themselves out.”
In other words, the real reason these young women were still unmarried was because they were homely. Halberstam then doubled down on heartlessness, suggesting that a visit to the plastic surgeon might be in order for some of these Plain Janes: “Mothers, this is my plea to you: There is no reason in today’s day and age with the panoply of cosmetic and surgical procedures available, why any girl can’t be transformed into a swan. Borrow the money if you have to; it’s an investment in your daughter’s future, her life.”
Of the 648 mostly shocked and outraged comments posted to The Jewish Press website, one stood out: “Dear Mrs. Halberstam, I am also a Jewish mother,” it began. “But I no longer share your joyful anticipation of walking my child down to the chuppa [the Jewish wedding canopy]. She died last year, of anorexia.
“It all began six years ago, when, at the age of 21, a shadchan who professed to be as well-meaning as you do suggested that she lose a few pounds (she was a size 6 at the time) in order to make herself more ‘marketable’ (that is the term she used then). What followed was a nightmare for her, me, and our whole family that I can only hope you will never know from. If you have a modicum of rachmunus [pity] in your Jewish neshama [soul] I beg you to retract this article and apologize for your deeply, dangerously misguided advice. I am crying now as I write this and think of what my daughter had to suffer because of exactly the type of things that you have written here, and I am just so afraid for all the other impressionable young girls who will read your words and reach the same end. This is not a joke, and it is not funny at all. You could literally be killing people by making these suggestions and perpetuating the ethos that underlies them.”
Anorexia has become a quiet scourge of the Orthodox Jewish community. A report on the National Eating Disorders Association website described the intense pressure that single Orthodox women feel to stay thin during the matchmaking process. NEDA cited a study by eating disorder specialist Dr. Ira Sacker, who found that one in nineteen girls in one Orthodox community had been diagnosed with an eating disorder—a rate 50 percent above the national average.
One cultural by-product of the Shidduch Crisis that has not been hushed up is the ever-larger dowries that Orthodox brides and their families are now expected to pay for the privilege of getting married…
Salamon noted that the practice of brides’ families paying five- and six-figure dowries has leached from the traditional Orthodox community into the more assimilated Modern Orthodox one. Indeed, the Summer 2013 issue of Jewish Action, the official magazine of the Modern Orthodox umbrella organization Orthodox Union, included an essay by Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen, a well-known Jewish scholar and lecturer. Kelemen told the story of his attempt to arrange a marriage for his daughter: “When I contacted the head of a prestigious American yeshiva [an Orthodox Jewish seminary] to ask if he might have a shidduch for my daughter, he asked me ‘what level boy’ I was interested in. Unsure what he meant, I asked for clarification. ‘Top boys go for $100,000 a year, but we also have boys for $70,000 a year and even $50,000 a year.’ He said that if I was ready to make the commitment, he could begin making recommendations immediately.”
The Orthodox Union’s executive vice president, Rabbi Steven Weil, told me he believed a backlash to the increasingly outlandish dowries was brewing. “You don’t marry for money,” Weil said. “This is not our religion.”…

Questions:

  1. What values are reflected in the Mormon obsession with cosmetic surgery and the rise of eating disorders in the Orthodox community? Can we see any reflection of these values in the Parsha? What about the issue of rising dowries?
  2. What shift in values in our culture might help resolve the Shidduch crisis?

Ben Rohr, I Have Zero Interest in Your Shidduch Resume, I Want to See THIS Instead, 10/18/15

I Have Zero Interest In Your Shidduch Resume, I Want To See THIS Instead
I don’t know the history of the resume or how it got to its current socially acceptable version but I would comfortably guess it was not conceived of by one person. Somehow as a community we have decided that a human being is the sum total of the schools they attended +their jobs+their shul affiliation+ their parents jobs,+ the number of siblings they have and their current social role. The funny thing is that nothing in that equation is about who you are as a unique, individual human being.
Instead I would be deeply fascinated to learn the following 4 things.
1. What Are Your Unique Values?
Whats drives/inspires you? Which ideas/aspirations/values have you been influenced by? What ideas/values are you attempting to embody in your life?
2. What Goals are you working on?
What are you deeply passionate about? How are you pursuing that? What are you working hard on in spite of your fear of failure?
3. What’s your personality like?
What makes you…well you?
Are you more extroverted or introverted?
Are you open to new things and experiences or prefer routine?
Do you tend to go with the flow of what others are doing or prefer to do things your way?
Do you tend to worry about things or do you tend to remain calm in most situations?
Do you prefer to have your life organized in all aspects or are you comfortable with uncertainty and messiness in general?
4. How did you get to where you are?
Whats your story? Where are you from beyond your geographic origins? How did you become who you are? What twists and turns have you gone through? What key events have you experienced that played a key role in making you you?
That’s it.
I know many of us in our community feel that certain things are impossible to change specifically in the area of Shidduchim but I believe in the combined power of every individual…

Questions:

  1. How well does this list cover the things that should be of interest in a shidduch? Does anything need to be added? Is it so clear that the other stuff (shul affiliation, number of siblings, etc.) is unnecessary?
  2. Is it realistic to demand that people focus on values rather than appearance in dating? How do we strike the balance?

Talmud Bavli, Sotah, 2a

א”ר שמואל בר רב יצחק: כי הוה פתח ריש לקיש בסוטה, אמר הכי: אין מזווגין לו לאדם אשה אלא לפי מעשיו, שנא’: כי לא ינוח שבט הרשע על גורל הצדיקים. אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר ר’ יוחנן: וקשין לזווגן כקריעת ים סוף, שנאמר: א-להים מושיב יחידים ביתה מוציא אסירים בכושרות. איני? והא אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: ארבעים יום קודם יצירת הולד, בת קול יוצאת ואומרת: בת פלוני לפלוני בית פלוני לפלוני שדה פלוני לפלוני! לא קשיא: הא בזוג ראשון, הא בזוג שני.
Rabbi Shemuel bar Rav Yitzchak said, “When Reish Lakish used to sermonize about Sotah, he would say as follows, ‘People are only matched to one another based on their actions. As it says, ‘For the staff of the wicked shall not rest on the fate of the righteous.’”
Rabba bar bar Chana said Rabbi Yochanan said, “It is as difficult to find matches for people as it was to part the Red Sea. As it says, ‘God maketh the solitary to dwell in a house; He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity’” Is this true? But Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, “Forty days before an embryo is formed, a Heavenly Voice calls out and says, ‘The daughter of So-and-So is for the son of So-and-So…” This is not a difficulty, one is for a first marriage and the second is for a second marriage.

Questions:

  1. What tension is introduced in the Gemara about the nature of searching for a mate? How does the Gemara resolve the issue? Is this resolution necessary?
  2. What complication does Reish Lakish’s statement, at the beginning of the passage introduce to the idea of Basheret? Can the two be reconciled?

Bereshit Rabba, Parasha 68

מטרונה שאלה את ר’ יוסי בר חלפתא אמרה לו לכמה ימים ברא הקדוש ברוך הוא את עולמו אמר לה לשש… אמרה לו מה הוא עושה מאותה שעה ועד עכשיו, אמר לה הקדוש ברוך הוא יושב ומזווג זיווגים בתו של פלוני לפלוני… אמרה לו ודא הוא אומנתיה אף אני יכולה לעשות כן כמה עבדים כמה שפחות יש לי לשעה קלה אני יכולה לזווגן, אמר לה אם קלה היא בעיניך, קשה היא לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כקריעת ים סוף… מה עשתה נטלה אלף עבדים ואלף שפחות והעמידה אותן שורות שורות אמרה פלן יסב לפלונית ופלונית תיסב לפלוני, וזיווגה אותן בלילה אחת, למחר אתון לגבה דין מוחיה פציעא, דין עינו שמיטא, דין רגליה תבירא, אמרה להון מה לכון, דא אמרה לית אנא בעי לדין, ודין אמר לית אנא בעי לדא, מיד שלחה והביאה את ר’ יוסי בר חלפתא אמרה לו לית אלוה כאלהכון אמת היא תורתכון נאה ומשובחת יפה אמרת, אמר לא כך אמרתי לך אם קלה היא בעיניך קשה היא לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא כקריעת ים סוף, הקדוש ברוך הוא מה עושה להן מזווגן בעל כרחן שלא בטובתן, הה”ד (תהלים סח) אלהים מושיב יחידים ביתה מוציא אסירים בכושרות, מהו בכושרות בכי ושירות, מאן דבעי אומר שירה ומאן דלא בעי בכי
A Roman matron asked Rabbi Yose bar Chalafta. She said, “In how many days did the Holy Blessed One create the world?” He said to her, “In six days…” She said to him, “What has he done from that time until now?” He said to her, “The Holy Blessed One sits and makes matches: The daughter of So-and-So is for So-and-So…” She said to him, “This is what God’s craft is? Even I could do that! How many slaves and maid servants do I have? In a moment I could match them all!” He said to her, “It may be easy for you but it’s as difficult for the Holy Blessed One as parting the Red Sea.”…
What did she do? She took a thousand slaves and a thousand maid servants and stood them in rows. She said, “So-and-So will marry So-and-So…” and she matched them all in a single night. The next day they came to her: this one is has a broken head, this one lost and eye, this one has a broken leg. She said to them, “What’s with you?” This woman said, “I don’t want this man.” And this man said, “I don’t want this woman.” Immediately she sent for Rabbi Yose bar Chalafta. She said to him, “There is no God like your God. Your Torah is true and pleasant and praiseworthy. You spoke well.” He said, “Did I not say to you, ‘It may be easy for you but it’s as difficult for the Holy Blessed One as parting the Red Sea.’ What does the Holy Blessed One do? God matches them against their will and without regard for their welfare…Those who wish it (the match) sing and those who don’t wish it cry.”

Questions:

  1. How does this Midrash see the Shidduch crisis differently than the Gemara?
  2. What message is the story of the matron’s experiment telling us? Why was she so unsuccessful?
  3. What is the significance of Rabbi Yose’s response to the matron? Does he think that successful matches are simply a matter of luck? Do we have to read this text as deeply jaded or is there a more fundamental message associated?

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav MeEliyahu, ch. 4, The Basis of Love

…כאן שאלה יפה עומד לפנינו: הן האהבה והנתינה באות באחת. האם הנתינה היא תולדת האהבה, או להפך, האהבה באה מן הנתינה? הורגלנו לחשוב את הנתינה לתולדת האהבה, כי לאשר יאהב האדם, ייטיב לו. אבל הסברה השנייה היא, כי יאהב האדם את פרי מעשיו, בהרגישו אשר חלק מן עצמיותו בהם הוא – אם בן יהיה, אשר ילד או אימן, או חיה אשר גידל, ואם צמח אשר נטע, או אם גם מן הדומם, כמו בית אשר בנה – הנהו דבוק למעשי ידיו באהבה, כי את עצמו ימצא בהם.
…Here an important question stands before us: Both love and giving come as one. Is giving a result of love or the opposite, does love come from giving? We are accustomed to think that giving is a result of love, because what a person is good to the person that they love. However, the other reasoning is that a person loves the fruits of their labors; when they feel that part of themselves is in them – if it’s a child that they gave birth to or raised, or an animal that they raised, or a plant that they planted. Or even in the non-living world, like a house that they built – they are attached to their labors with love. Because they find themselves in them.

Questions:

  1. According to Rav Dessler, is it necessary to say that love precedes marriage? What would be the reasoning to suggest that perhaps marriage leads to love?
  2. Is there space for this kind of reasoning in our modern culture? Would it help if there were?