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22 Adar II 5760 - March 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Unconventional Matchmaking

by D. Kol

Several months ago, HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein wrote a letter about the very painful problem of helping hundreds of older girls find suitable marriage partners. HaRav Zilberstein described the problem and suggested breaking the accepted conventions and considering alternatives for those who are having trouble finding a marriage partner. However, in his letter, Rav Zilberstein only suggested the general possibility but did not explain in detail how this should be done and what he has in mind.

This is a pressing problem for many pained and hurt families, who are awaiting a yeshua. After having consulted with a number of talmidei chachomim, we offer a few suggestions along these lines, which might help our readers. The first to truly break the old rules of accepted behavior will be credited with having a large part in releasing "agunos" from their shackles.

The Chazon Ish is quoted as saying that Hashgocho protis is especially evident in the area of shidduchim, where all sense Hashem's guiding hand in bringing about proper matches. The fact that older girls have to wait so long to meet up with their marriage partners is also Hashgocho protis, since many matches which are eventually made would not have been made under regular circumstances. It is only due to their age that some of the parties were willing to hear various offers. This too is miShomayim. As Sefer Hachareidim says, Shomayim sometimes even causes wars to break out between countries so that a young man will find his mate, and there is no more difficult or greater battle than the one that older, unmarried men and women must undergo.

We beg the forgiveness of all those to whom the problem pertains for perhaps making suggestions that they may find difficult, but at the same time we also ask permission to make a number of suggestions for compromise. We shall refer to certain types of marriage proposals which are viable, and which should in no way disrupt matrimonial harmony. The only problem in introducing these ideas into our social and family circles is that of breaking conventions and assumptions about "what is done." After the first difficult hurdle is overcome everything should work out. Following are the main problems and our suggestions how to overcome them:

a) Lack of a pleasing appearance: In general, if the young man has good character traits, and is a fine person, he also has a special grace which compensates for his lack of looks. Agreeing to marry such a person really involves no compromise, because in the long run, one becomes used to his appearance. As taught in Sota 47, people don't pay attention to such appearances, and a person's other characteristics and good qualities cause him to be liked by everyone. In response to questions regarding "attraction" the Steipler Rav would say: "A beast is acquired by meshicha (pulling -- a play on the homonym meshicha, which means attraction) while a person is acquired by good middos." He then stressed that after the wedding all of these considerations are meaningless and inconsequential, and that everything depends on the character traits of the marriage partner (except in cases of a truly repulsive external appearance).

b) One side's being less talented or on a lower intellectual level than the other is in general also an imaginary flaw. This shouldn't be a negative consideration, even when all those in one's circle are talmidei chachomim, because people should be assessed by their unique traits: one for his intelligence, another for his good nature or other good character. Even if a young man isn't the biggest lamdan, he can be a good Jew, both in Shomayim's eyes and the eyes of his fellow.

c) A divorcee or a widow (or widower) should not be rejected at the outset, but each case should be considered on its own merit.

d) There is another type of compromise, which involves taking a partner from a different sect or social circle or even, under pressing conditions, taking a young man who learns half a day and works half a day. (The Sdeh Chemed married off all of his daughters to young men who earned their livings through regular work.) As is known, one who works for his living and uses every spare moment for Torah study is likened in Shomayim to one who learns all day (see Chayei Olam part 11, chapter 12, in the name of Sefer Hachassidim.)

e) We find that gedolei horo'oh related to issues of agunos as if they were issues of pikuach nefesh, and if pikuach nefesh overrides Shabbos, how much more should it override the abovementioned conventions and assumptions, especially when in the end all sides will be pleased. If the young man in question has good character traits, then even if the two come from different sides of the world and have different outlooks or are from different sects or social circles, their good character traits will bind them together and love and unity will prevail among them in the best manner possible. In previous generations, many Yerushalmim would make shidduchim lechatchila with members of other circles, and the matches were very successful.

g) Following is a good suggestion: The young man's or girl's married friends are generally the best ones to offer proposals. Because they have older friends, and know both sides, they can make better offers than adults who don't know the prospects. Thus friends the same age should devote themselves to this mitzvah, and then miShomayim there will be an arousal to expedite the yeshua, because arousal on earth creates arousal Above.

h) Friends should also remember them in their prayers. Recently there was a case involving an older boy who had not found a shidduch. A few friends decided to mention his name in their prayers, and in a number of months he got engaged. After the yehi rotzon recited upon finishing Tehillim, one should add: "vetishlach zivug hogun lechol hanitzrochim mei'amcho beis Yisroel," and in the merit of the prayer of the many, Shomayim's mercies will certainly be aroused.

i) It is worthwhile to cite the letter the Steipler Rav wrote to the father of an older daughter. The father was offered a shidduch for the girl, and rejected it on the grounds that it didn't suit her. Maran (taken from Kreina D'Igarta Part One, letter 90) writes very sharply: "Your refusal is a matter of middos. When you reach the Heavenly Court, you will be asked why you spilled your daughter's blood, and all of your excuses that you meant only for her benefit will not be accepted there at all because there, middos are scrutinized, and what one does here out of the desire for honor, is clearly seen there, and what will you say on the Day of Judgment." He closed by telling the father -- a very prominent talmid chochom -- to retract his refusal, and not to spill the blood of his daughter.

In Part Two, letter 17, he writes: "One shouldn't think that in order for a shidduch to be the true one, a young man should feel 100% certain about it, because from experience we have seen that many matches which didn't seem suitable worked out very well, while others which did seem good weren't so great in the end. How then does one find his zivug? In general only after many hurdles and misgivings. Doubts and obstacles are absolutely no proof that the zivug isn't a good one, since from the beginning of Creation it was determined that making a match is as difficult as krias Yam Suf, as explained at the opening of Sota. The main thing is to look for a woman who was raised to be a yiras Shomayim, and who will be happy that her husband studies Torah after the marriage. (See also letter 22.)

In Summary

The Chofetz Chaim was 17 when his stepsister, who was 27 at the time, was proposed to him. His older brother wanted to prevent the match, but when the Chofetz Chaim heard that delaying it was liable to disturb the sholom bayis of his mother and stepfather, he hastened to finalize the match.

The Chofetz Chaim later said that all that he merited to achieve was only due to his righteous wife who devoted her life to his Torah. That is, he credited all of his work in shemiras haloshon and the Mishna Berurah to her. Just imagine how different the world might have been if the Chofetz Chaim had insisted on a "normal" shidduch.

From this we learn that the good shidduch isn't always the one which seems so on the surface. One should always consult gedolei haTorah regarding matches, because the merit of their Torah helps them reach the truth. One should also pray to the Borei Olom, to merit to hear good tidings and joy along with all beis Yisroel.

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