" . . . Although I do have single friends my age that came
from typical backgrounds, mine is more complicated. My
parents got divorced after many difficult years with serious
sholom bayis problems . . . I would like to ask you
for advice . . . and encouragement."
I was very touched by your story. Although the details are
personal, unfortunately, many readers will in their own way
identify with the subject of being categorized. The lists of
stereotypes people try to avoid in shidduchim are
endless. For some, the mazel tov finally occurs when
they start narrowing down their expectations, settling then
with someone less then perfect! A Gadol sharply said
that people used to look for an aveida [the lost other
half], but nowadays they seek a metzia, a good find, a
Generally, if the shidduch of a child from a divorced
home is suggested to someone from a typical family, he might
ask: "What do I need to get into such a situation for?" Many
times, not having the ideal example when growing up could be
projected later on in marriage. But I've also seen the
opposite extreme, where children learned from their parents'
mistakes and really were determined to make their own
A child from a divorced home could also build a solid home as
fine as any other, provided that he is conscious of what a
Torah marriage is all about. Beyond good intentions and nice
thoughts, it's a must to live up to those ideals.
There are stereotypes associated with negative limitations.
Alas, we live in a world of falsehood that what appears to be
is not necessarily what it is. Do we really know what
someone's true capabilities are? That's something only Hashem
can know. But often, talking to the person and getting to
know what he thinks, how he acts, etc. can give you a better
assessment than mistakenly putting on a negative label.
All families have issues. Just like virtues have to be
matched, the same occurs with problems. Some would overlook
certain character traits, looks, finances, where to live,
family, etc. While we might look at it as compromise, it
might just be the trial that will push us to grow.
Eliyahu had a serious health condition and after treatments,
basically recovered well. He came out of the difficulty as a
much stronger person, emotionally as well. It led him to
think, ask questions and eventually he became observant.
Bracha, the girl he married, also had a health issue. I
didn't base the match on physical conditions. Whoever has
health problems doesn't necessarily need to marry a spouse
with a similar problem. But by living through something that
shook his life, he would have something in common with a
spouse who had also some sort of moving experience rather
than a more typical life.
It also happens that a sensitive person can understand
someone from a totally different background. Like, for
example, when one of the spouses is a baal tshuva and
the other isn't. In such cases, it takes an "extra sense" to
put oneself in the other's shoes to really respect and
appreciate where the other is coming from.
In your case, it doesn't mean that you will necessarily have
to marry into a family of divorced parents. But you
definitely do need a partner who would, at least in a certain
level, be able to relate to your experience. Not that he will
need to fully empathize with what you experienced, but at
least at a certain level, he should be able to sense what
made you who you are. It goes without saying that you should
feel safe to share and open up. Again, communication is the
key that overcomes differences. Mainly, all the above will be
true if your thoughts are validated and if he cares for
Ari had a hard time in shidduchim. As a reference, his
Rosh Yeshiva mentioned to the prospective girl's parents that
for a limited period, Ari had a hard time keeping up with the
yeshiva's learning schedule and waking up at a reasonable
time for davening. In short, the boy was for a while
easily distracted and lacked motivation. The girls' families
I discussed that with a Talmid Chochom and his answer was
unexpected and inspiring. I can't go into the details, but I
can share that he concluded that if the boy had problems with
the above but eventually got up and kept going, we see that
he works on himself and can overcome difficulties. But how do
you know that others, who never had challenges, will handle
pressures? (PS: Ari is today a respected avreich
married to an excellent girl!)
All families have problems. However, yours are not hidden
behind four walls. A Rabbi active in counseling said that
people wouldn't believe the gravity of the issues that he
hears from his chair — many of them coming from well-
known figures who on the outside seem to be well adjusted and
You could have sunk in despair like your sibling or chosen to
deny or cover up issues. It wasn't a choice whether to come
from a home with marital strife. The free-will exercise is
how to react . . .
The Chasam Sofer commented on the narration of Hashem telling
Moshe Rabeinu by the burning bush, "The place where you stand
is holy." He explained that we can learn from it that all
situations we are put in are holy. In other words, life's
circumstances come from His Divine Providence. His wisdom
sets up what we need to live through. Those scenarios place
obstacles in front of us. The test is to perceive beyond the
limitations that they are coming from the Almighty.
Consequently, focusing on this awareness will help us reach
our potential in this world.
You decided on the hardest, but most productive path: to face
the situation . . . From your maturity, I can sense that you
gave and give great thought to have a healthy attitude
towards marriage. I'm happy you get guidance from a respected
rabbinic authority, and at the same time, encouragement and
positive examples from other relatives. Certainly, it's
praiseworthy how the parent you live with has succeeded in
building as much as possible an optimistic home
I'm very impressed by how you use your talents professionally
to give to the Jewish People. The enthusiastic description of
how you really yearn for a husband who is also idealistic and
committed to spiritual growth is fitting.
In spite of everything, you are making mature daily choices.
You mentioned that when you can, you try to go to holy sites
to pray with concentration. Your view of shidduchim is
realistic as far as who you are and what you are looking for.
In other words, you turn to the Almighty, and when things are
hard, you persevere and keep growing.
True Servants of Hashem
Don't be stuck on what kind of judgment people pass on you
and your family. You know you are trying your hardest to be
the best Aviva you can be — that's all the Maker
expects from you. The same Almighty Who gave you the tests
will also bring you much blessing and answer your prayers!
Undoubtedly, our Father in Heaven holds you in the highest
esteem . . . Sadly, in this world, people might label you.
But the truth is that you have gone far and beyond others who
go through life as robots, who perform mitzvos without
a heart. Unfortunately, in our generation, the pain,
distractions, and secular enticements are great — so
how many of us can really say that we are true servants of
Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success
in helping people through shidduchim. Please note that
all names have been changed unless specified with the
exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim
and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be
sent to: email@example.com or at (02) 656-3111