Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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2 Tammuz 5766 - June 28, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

Selective Mother

by Rebbetzin Nomi Travis


Dear Shadchanit,

Don't think that I am a vain mom, but I want the best for my kids in shidduchim and I sometimes find myself becoming so picky that only the best will do... I know a lot of good things about my kids but I would never claim that they were perfection.

Yet when it comes to checking names out, I see that I become so picky, trying to analyze what I am hearing, to ferret out info. Trying to envision the person I am hearing about is difficult, but compromising is even more so...

Maybe parents as a group need "reality therapy"? Maybe someone can approach gedolim to get more chizuk for parents and more guidance?

To look for the good and the wholesome and not necessarily the best all around ...We also would prefer not to hurt people's feelings when we reject them for not being perfect...

Thanking you in advance for your time and attention,

Far From Perfect

but still wants the best for each child


There is a feeling of tranquility and accomplishment when the parents feel their children married well; building their lives with a wonderful person and into a fine warm family.

But the bumps along the way in the dating process are nerve racking, to put it mildly . . . After we get the call (if you have a boy) or finally after much nudging get the matchmaker to come up with a suggestion (if you have a girl), comes the homework stage.


Only a compatible couple should meet. It is not advisable for the pair to date to try it out, unless there are reasons why it could be a successful match. You can only know if it is a possibility, if, once you hear the suggestion and it sounds like a realistic option, you then verify the information.

I heard in the name of Harav Shach ztzvk'l that one should be careful and thorough in the inquiries. We want to avoid unnecessary meetings, disappointments, and emotional pain.

But we get so involved in questionnaires that we forget that what we might hear won't necessarily be 100% good, because no one is perfect, as you admitted. But what are you really ready to compromise on? Or is it worth waiting for a future suggestion that might be more on target?

Processing the Answers

Sometimes we try to analyze and read into what the other person answered. For example, there is an illustrious Rosh Yeshiva who, when he says "good", really means great. But he won't say excellent unless the boy is very close to him. Boys that he considers good are really first-rate but have developed more of a relationship with other rabbonim. What he is really saying is that although he knows that Moshe is high quality, he doesn't know him intimately.

There is nothing wrong with that. But some might be suspicious that he said "good" without great enthusiasm. Or if he might say that he doesn't know him so well, maybe it means that he is really not such a good boy . . . But none of those are true. You have to try to understand what is the style of the person you're talking to, rather than read into his words things he never really said.

In a different instance, the person asking was from a different culture then the one answering. Although both spoke the same language fluently, I was shocked at how the questioner came to warped conclusions and interpretations . . .

I try if possible to get information from people from a culture I understand and can relate to. When I can't count on someone else to help me with that, I try to take what I hear with questions marks, aware that there might be misunderstandings.

I know someone that is so afraid to say loshon hora that in general he claims not to know anyone well. He will try as much a possible to be vague and recommend calling others instead.

I have learned to avoid using him as a reference, for he really feels uncomfortable and would rather not be called. But between you and me: who wants to be called, really? Even if according to halochoh one has to leak out negative information, it is done out of obligation. Unless there are only positive things to say; we feel good to give praise. And then when we like someone, we will really want to cause an impression . . . Someone told me that Rav Avigdor Miller zt'l said to discount a great percentage of compliments, for what is said is usually exaggerated . . .

Anyway, the question is how to process what you hear. It depends on many factors. You might try to be thorough, but a lot also relies on the willingness of the other person to be helpful and accurate.

Questions that are pointed to information that might not be public knowledge will be difficult to get to. General queries might give you leads but not much more than that. Is he a good boy? Obviously there are usually good things to relate about someone, even if in certain areas he might have serious shortcomings.

Rabbi Akiva and Kalba Savua

Let's say the question is if he learns well. Someone could say "yes", even if he is not the top boy in the yeshiva. An average boy might not have the most gifted brain, but if he makes a real effort, he may be successful. Or a creative, novel thinker, might not fully understand a shiur . . .

Somehow, most girls want a "Rabbi Akiva," a bochur who is growth oriented, has high spiritual aspirations and will potentially have many students. While after they get married, eventually with financial struggles, they want a "Kalba Savua" — a rich father-in-law . . .

Of course to marry a future godol is fine. But who says every girl can handle it? It takes a lot of responsibility to be married to someone with great potential, being by his side to help him fulfill it.

I recently suggested a boy that has a sterling reputation, fine traits, and is a diligent learner. The girl's family rejected him because his learning is good, but not outstanding, since she is looking for a tzaddik . . . The father retorted: "That's what they taught her in seminary . . . Let's see if she can get it . . . "

Or if Peretz really looks for a beauty and in every other area she has to be outstanding as well, he will have difficulty. Every detail a person demands might be at the expense of something else, unless the priorities are clear and with the knowledge that a person can't possibly get everything. However, universal values in terms of traits, family, health, etc. are pretty much accepted.

But if Shulamit wants a good learner, who has the best character traits, is idealistic and realistic, fun and serious, intellectual and feeling, inspired and practical, confident and modest, handsome, etc. to a degree of excellence that is beyond a living being, where is she going to find him?

How can side factors take precedence over yiras Shomayim, fine character traits, pleasant personality, etc? If there are so many fine points that a person requires, he might have to end up compromising on something that is fundamental and basic. For it is unfeasible to find someone that could possibly fulfill all prerequisites if there are millions of them.

What often happens is that people might not hear about faults. Either they won't be revealed or the person might not figure out the hints. Hashem might conceal them and by the time they meet and like each other, they will focus on the positive. Only later, much later, reality hits that it was not exactly what they expected, but they are happy with the relationship and the shortcomings are minor. Had they known that ———, they would never have proceeded. (Although the poor matchmaker didn't know it either, she gets blamed for lying!) Yes, but it was intended in Heaven and it was just what both needed!

My mother says that you can only really get to know someone by living with the person, by being married for a while. Hopefully, then they will still admire each other, even when the "dirty laundry" becomes exposed . . .

Considering that the candidate has the basic requirements your child needs, their happiness is the main thing. I have seen parents break off a relationship while the children were ready to get engaged, because they felt the girl wasn't pretty enough. But he was happy with her . . .

Often, grown up children refuse to take guidance and reject every suggestion, looking for excuses, while the parents keep unsuccessfully trying to put common sense into their minds. In the past, parental authority was much more respected. In a case where the child can't receive it from parents, they should at least find a responsible Rebbe, teacher, etc. to fill in that important role.

HaRav Chaim from Volozhin, zt'l

Someone once asked my niece, "Why, preferably, should the boy come from this Yeshiva, she from that seminary, her father should be x and mother y?" There is definitely a preferred layout for the "choshuve mishpochoh," the well-born, distinguished family. Let's say for whatever justifiable reason she couldn't get into the best seminary, she is still a great girl. Or let's say her parents are wonderful but don't have a position of status, etc. Does Hashem then really think less of them? She said: "You're right, but we are not in Heaven!"

To be realistic is not easy. We are always analyzing, wondering if our decisions are biased or not. We have to try to be sincere and really prioritize what this child really needs, rather than get stuck on flawlessness.

Even with all the efforts to find the best possible candidate, we have to know what our limitations are. Within reason, we try to do what we can. We make contacts and check out the suggestions. Mainly we pray. But at the same time, we have to learn to let go. We can't expect everything to go our way. We can't control exactly who will marry whom. But with life experience and wisdom, we can prioritize the main requirements. There is no perfection in this world and there will definitely be compromises.

HaRav Chaim Volozhiner wrote that the gedolim said that it's forbidden to have pride when it comes to shidduchim. He criticizes a man who refuses to marry a woman because she doesn't have all the virtues, lineage, and money. Because of that, time passes and he pushes away good suggestions with the excuse that they are not fitting for his honor and importance. (Obviously, a person has wants. The question is when no one is good enough . . . )

According to Rav Chaim Volozhin it seems that one good counsel is avoiding arrogance . . .

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: or at (02) 656- 3111


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