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26 Iyar 5766 - May 24, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

What to Look for in a Girl

by Rebbitzin Nomi Travis

Question: I'm a teacher in a Bais Yaakov Seminary. I get many phone calls about girls. If I would tell you, dear Shadchante, the kind of questions I'm asked, you wouldn't believe me. Beyond the usual general inquiries, some of the mothers drive me crazy asking unimportant details. I'll give you an example; the other day they wanted to know the exact shade of blond/brown of her hair!

Another woman asked me what size the girl wears and if her parents have a nice bank account! I can have an idea if someone is thin or if the family would be able to help. But once they get caught in such specific points . . . I know that it's not just my concern. I think part of the problem is that there are more good girls than boys, so they get lots of offers and don't know where to start . . . This issue has been raised many times in frum publications, but since I admire your column and think a broader audience would read your answer, I ask you to please illuminate the boys' families about what should be the priorities to look for in a girl.

Bais Yaakov Mechaneches Answer: Dear Bais Yaakov Mechaneches, I couldn't have written better! Yes, it is quite a challenge in our generation. It is so accepted as the norm, that people are not surprised anymore. The specifications and norms of boy's families sometimes even border on arrogance, if not fully under the category! There is no need to develop on that trait that is so despicable and against the spirit of the Torah.

Lessons From the Ovos: Yitzchok and Rivka's Shidduch Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, in his brilliant commentary to the Torah, writes about the Torah verse that says, "Take a wife for my son, for Yitzchok." The Torah uses a double terminology: "my son" and "Yitzchok." "My son" refers to the aspect of Yitzchok who is to follow in Avrohom's Torah ways and ideology. "Yitzchok" refers to the unique individual. The Chumash is showing that, for a spouse to be suitable, (s)he must not only be religiously compatible and of fine character ("for my son"). The match must also be suitable and fitting for each one's individual personality ("for Yitzchok"). By specifying that the girl should be from Avrohom's hometown, he could be indicating that there would be more likelihood of closeness, in that the girl and Yitzchok have a somewhat similar background and family ties. Besides the background and personality lessons, the narrative of Rivka's acts of kindheartedness are eternal lessons recorded for all generations. When Rivka came out to the well, the Midrash teaches (Sefer Agados Yisroel), there were more events that took place than the written Torah records. All events center on Rivka's practices of enormous active loving kindness together with mercy and compassion. This was just before she was matched to her soul mate. Eventually Eliezer also observed by the well her giving and hospitality not only to him, a stranger, but also benevolence to his animals. For only a highly sensitive and caring soul could have such a concern even for details, insight and wisdom.

Feminine Qualities

A woman is the heart of the home — her ability to appreciate, encourage, accept, and nurture is what keeps the house going. Our children are educated and nurtured by Yiddishe mammas to be leaders and upright servants of Hashem. "Women's wisdom builds her home." Despite her good intentions, a woman needs to have the common sense and sensibility that her holy task as a mother and wife require. Men are attracted to this soft gentle mode that they so much need by their side, to complement their outward mission to carry out and conquer as a public figure. This female aspect is actually something all men mention to me in one way or another. For universally, all males yearn for that affection. Even if the woman works; her base, her priority should be the home. We live in a generation where women have became more independent and knowledgeable about the ways of the world. The need to help with financial support have drawn out our girls to learn professions and be part of the well-trained wider society. There are conscientious efforts that this shouldn't interfere with their outlooks. But sadly enough, it does happen countless times. Many professional women are so pressured and high-strung that they harden their gentle soft, feminine nature.

Finding Good

In Mishlei (18:22) it is written: "Motzo isha, motzo tov", finding a woman [wife] is encountering good. The Meiri explains that finding a woman means one who is virtuous and with common sense, for that is good. If she is capable, he can rest assured that she will be by his side to help him achieve his goals. And if she is worthy, it will bring Divine assistance to his home.

Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch married an older woman because he needed someone mature to help him accomplish his lifelong tireless battle for Torah authentic Judaism.

The Gemorah Sotah teaches: Rabbi Shmuel the son of Rabbi Yitzchok said that one's intended mate is determined according to his deeds. Rashi elucidates that to a tzaddik, a modest woman is befitting and the opposite is fitting to a wicked man.

Therefore a Ben Torah who knows his priorities will only concentrate on what is appropriate for a serious Yeshiva student. The basis for choosing a marriage partner and mission is innate worth — not hollow nor fleeting values. He will only want a `second half' who shares his Torah-oriented goals. Anyone who doesn't fit that description, even if she is beautiful and very wealthy, won't even enter his mind as a suitable partner.

In fact, in response to questions regarding "attraction", the Steipler Rav zt"l would say: "A beast is acquired by meshicha (pulling — a play on the abstract meaning, which denotes attraction) while a person is acquired by good character traits." 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).

A levelheaded boy will look for a girl with whom he can build together. The Steipler stressed that a young man should seek a wife who was educated with fear of Hashem and will appreciate and respect his learning. Likewise, Maran Rav Shach zt"l wrote in a letter that the main qualities to look for are good middos, for that includes everything! He added that she must have been educated with a Torah hashkofoh so that she will educate her children accordingly. There should also be an assurance that she and her family will do what they can to help him in Kollel. He continued that fortune is a revolving wheel and no one knows what will be in the future, but at least there should be willingness to do what one reasonably can to help. A young student mentioned to the Steipler Z"l that he was meeting a girl that wanted him to learn; she said, though, that it would be hard for her if followed a certain Shabbos stringency. The Rav answered strongly: "She doesn't want a Ben Torah! She will want you to work! To be married to a Ben Torah her whole life is much harder than that Shabbos practice!"

Certainly, a life of Torah is not glamorous or enchanting as defined by the search for fun which the secular world encourages. The daily challenges of living for the correct ideals and doing what is right even when it's not easy are the greatest possible pleasures but require motivation and maturity.

The Abarbanel notes how mistaken is the notion that Bnei Torah are rewarded in the next world and the secular person in this world. No, we get to enjoy both worlds. For the only way to true simchah and fulfillment in the here and now is by thriving on Torah and mitzvos. That is what Eliezer checked in Rivka. Even though there was a miraculous sign that the waters rose for her, he still checked if she was a baalas chesed. As we know, Rivka watered all ten camels without even being asked. But did Eliezer have to stay and watch her water all ten? This was a strenuous task. Surely he could have stopped after two; after all, she did say that she was going to do it. One reason is that Eliezer wanted to see if she was healthy, after ascertaining that she was beautiful and kind. Another reason is that he wanted to see if Rivka would do as she said, rather than leaving the job unfinished. Abraham himself was a master of consistency, despite "saying little and doing much" — and these qualities were reflected in Rivka.

Acting and Not Just Knowing

A group of students from a very intellectual seminary once went to Rav Shach and asked him a difficult question. He answered them but at the same time, asked if they could bake a cake like the one the Rebbitzen had just served them. The point is that girls should certainly have a base on what they need to know, like halochoh, hashkofoh, chumash, etc. but should not forget their duties as a wife and mother. It's inspiring and enlightening for ladies to pick up a sefer and learn for a long time. But what's going to be if Yankel can't find his socks, Raizel is crying hysterically without having anyone to comfort her, Chavi needs help with homework, and Shea needs his medication? Consequently, Berish can't get to Kollel or work, because the house is in a constant state of pandemonium . . . It is important for a young lady to have her priorities straight and know that her duties involve repetitive tasks, often mundane, but no less lofty then others. A young girl who is used to doing acts of kindness, and does them with her heart and soul, will also likely continue doing so when she get married.

The list of positive traits is endless. We all know the importance of derech eretz , self-control, humility, etc. Beyond the looks of a modest `uniform' of long skirt and blouse, we have to know what is inside. We all have shortcomings. But an ugly situation is when those faults are the dominant, the rule . . . A superficial, immature person focuses on taking. Such a person waits for what he can get, for s/he is the center. This impenetrable barrier between the self and others create an egoistic world, in which even the Creator is unwelcome! At the same time, when there is no self- control, temper outbursts and arrogance are unavoidable, and inner turmoil spills all over the place.

Please Parents and Educators

A friend shared with me that after both sides inquired and the couple was about to meet, particularly high demands were placed on the girl's side, but the shadchan assured them that it was not from his family. My friend wondered who was it from and asked her assertive son-in-law to speak directly to the other side to get the story straight. The boy's mother admitted that it wasn't that they wanted to be difficult but since her son was `so special,' why shouldn't he find a girl that lived up his standard . . . In other words, yes, it was their expectations! It was clear to my friend that the families were not compatible. But I wonder if the boy ever found a girl with specifications so hard to meet.

Please, parents and educators, remember that we are obligated to search out those individuals and families who reflect our values and beliefs. Granted that we do not possess the strength of the Forefathers and Mothers; however, we are all ovos and imahos in our own right. The way we live and the focus of our decisions establish a template for our children's future. With such a responsibility at stake, we have to be focused on the essentials. The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Segal zt"l, once said that after all is said and done, a parent has the obligation to find a shidduch that will make his child happy. It is therefore important to include your son or daughter in the process. Find out who their fantasy spouse is and challenge them to be more realistic and honest. It is a parent's responsibility to lower or raise a child's expectations.

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656-3111


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