Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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29 Av 5766 - August 23, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Bas Ploni lePloni

by R' Refoel Berelsohn

Ideas and Guidance from our Masters regarding shidduchim.

Is it possible to lose one's Providential mate? What are the traits one should seek when one is looking for a spouse? How should one relate to a shidduch suggestion with several drawbacks? What about if someone has no means? What is someone is older?

. . . and more . . .


"Have you ever seen a mediocre bochur get engaged?" HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, zt'l, mashgiach of Kamenitz, used to ask. "Only the geniuses, the top boys, get engaged, because every chosson is called the `best boy in yeshiva.'

"And what happens to all of these iluyim afterwards?" he would add. "I have found one answer in the course of the years, having seen many of the excellent students who became engaged and nothing ever came of them. I checked it out for my own information, and concluded that it depended upon the family that he entered. If he took a bas talmid chochom, then his ascension in Torah continued and accelerated. If he did not marry the daughter of a ben Torah, there was no guarantee of his continued progress."

The Mashgiach would illustrate what he meant by `the daughter of a Torah scholar,' as delineated by the Chazon Ish. This is referring to a girl who is, herself, a talmid chochom, who appreciates Torah and values a Torah scholar, even though her own father is not one. Such a young girl is considered a bas talmid chochom in her own right! (Bayis uMenuchoh)

Maran the Steipler defined this in similar fashion: "The main thing one should look for in a wife is if she was raised with yiras Shomayim, and if she will be pleased and satisfied if her husband continues to learn diligently after their marriage" (Kreina de'Igarta).


"Regarding what you asked about the qualities to look for in a potential wife, know that the main thing you must seek is that the girl has good character traits, for this advantage encompasses everything. We see that Eliezer, servant of Avrohom, did not test Rivkoh in anything else — only in character, in her chessed performance. And even when he saw the water rising in her merit, he was not impressed nor did he regard this is a good omen or proof that she was the intended bride for Yitzchok. Only when she actually performed the kind deed of fetching water for him and his men did he become convinced that this was a proper wife for Yitzchok (Michtovim uMaamorim).

The centrality of fine character in one's search for a mate is almost an explicit gemora in Yevomos 63a). "Wait before you pick out your wife." Rashi explains: "Be patient until you have a chance to check her deeds [to ascertain] that she not be evil and nagging." Since finding one's zivug is as difficult as the splitting of the sea, perhaps this is why it is likewise difficult to size up a woman and gauge her character if it be truly good.

A yeshiva student gave a note to the Steipler describing the fine traits of a young girl suggested to him. He wrote, "She is extremely good-hearted and tends to her parents with great devotion, etc." As he read the note, the Steipler could be heard talking to himself, "Yes, yes. There are many people who are good to the world, and perform acts of chessed to one and all, while they are harsh and uncaring to their own husbands, so that this description does not really prove anything" (Leshichno Sidreshu, quoted from Zivug Mishomayim. It should be stressed that in this particular instance, it seems that the Steipler was favored with a spurt of Divine inspiration, for it turned out that the girl in question did have a difficult personality, as is related there.)

The Mashgiach, HaRav Meir Chodosh, zt'l, used to tell about two friends who both became engaged within a short space of time. The first one was engaged to a girl who was known as an exemplary baalas chessed, while the second's betrothed was exactly the opposite. After their marriage, it became apparent that the first woman continued in her do-good activities outside the home, very often at the expense of the home.

The second one, however, was very devoted to her home and family, since she extended her trait of egotism to her home and husband. And thus, just as she had been self-centered with regard to her own person, she now extended her concern to include her husband and her home (Habayis Hayehudi). We can learn from this example how much siyata deShmaya is required in making inquiries about a marriage candidate and interpreting them correctly.

How, then, can one really judge good character?

The following stories sharpen the question even more: Maran R' Yisroel Salanter, ztvk'l once passed by the stand of an apple vendor in the market. Several naughty children overturned the stand, scattering all of the apples every which way and grabbing as many as they could before running off. The woman began screaming and cursing them, while she ran after them. She grew livid with rage and helplessness, before finally turning to gather up the remaining apples that lay on the ground.

When she had finished arranging them on her stand once more, a man passed by and asked the price of the apples and their quality. All at once, her anger dissipated and she was suddenly all smiles and good will to serve her customer.

Maran HaRav Yisroel used this story to demonstrate how a person is capable of controlling his negative traits. The worst, most despicable trait can be checked in time of need, when there is good reason to do so. But as soon as that temporary inducement is gone, the tempest will be unleashed once again.

The will to appear amenable, pleasant and distinguished for the purpose of making a good impression on a shidduch is a powerful incentive, far stronger than the desire to win over a customer for some apples in the market. But the common denominator of both is that when the cause or need disappears, the natural tendencies surface once again.

This, then, is clear: that the most reliable evaluation of a person must be based on his daily performance and conduct, for only thus, in his natural state, can one judge how a person really is. Whoever wishes to size up a certain shidduch suggestion cannot do so himself but must resort to the opinions of those who know the person firsthand, in his natural circumstances and behavior (Shidduchim and Zivugim by R' Yehuda Levovitz, z'l).

So important is the inquiry regarding good character traits that on one occasion, the Steipler said to a ben yeshiva: "Money and beauty are fine, an added advantage, but if they are lacking, one must forgo these. But middos tovos is mandatory. They are a basic feature which one cannot overlook, since without good traits, a home can turn into a Gehennom, G-d forbid." He repeated this statement several times.

Incidentally, the following happened to HaRav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi. One erev Succos he went to a central place where they sold arba minim, in search of a superlative esrog. One of the people standing by was amazed at the intense scrutiny which he gave to each specimen, and said, "This isn't a shidduch; you don't have to be so particular!"

Instead of replying, R' Boruch Mordechai offered the following story, "HaRav Boruch Ber Levovitz once suggested a match to a certain student of his. When the young man asked him about the girl's outward appearance, R' Boruch Ber countered, `This isn't an esrog, which must conform to the laws of hodor [beauty and splendor].' "

The First Meeting

HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern used to stress the importance of first impressions. To illustrate it, he would quote the words of the Netziv in Ha'amek Dovor, (Bereishis 24:16) about Rivka falling from the camel's back. When she first beheld Yitzchok from afar, she saw him as a heavenly angel. This impression was so engraved in her mind that she saw him thus, forever after — as an angel. This is why she was hesitant in directly intervening in Yitzchok's relationship to Esov.

He would elaborate: "Every ben Torah must project his true essence from the beginning. He must be explicit about what he is looking for and what is his direction in life. Thank G-d, we are fortunate in that Jewish daughters with a Bais Yaakov upbringing are also imbued with the ideal of marrying a ben Torah. I recall times in the past when a true ben Torah had a very difficult time in finding a shidduch.

"Nonetheless, there are some girls who profess to want a Torah scholar, who subscribe to that ideal with their mouths, but embody different thoughts altogether, and only parrot it because that is the trend today, to marry a ben Torah. Therefore, it is very important to talk about this openly from the very beginning, to clearly delineate what a life of Torah entails, including the various difficulties inherent therein (Bayis uMenuchoh).


Maran HaRav Shach discussed the subject of meetings between the prospective candidates — their number and how they should be conducted. "From what I have seen and heard about the widespread customs regarding meetings in shidduchim, it is certainly recommended that the two young people meet several times, enough for them to get to know one another to an extent in order for them to size up their respective middos and hashkofos, their attitude about long-range Torah study commitment.

"But I have already written upon the subject that one should not exaggerate. One should definitely not extend each meeting for hours upon hours and visit places unsuited to a ben Torah. Aside from the fact that there is no added advantage to them, it is even forbidden al pi din. Nothing successful can emerge from such meetings.

"You should know, dear brothers, that the above practice is misguided and forbidden. Three or four meetings are certainly sufficient; more than that is superfluous. The time spent for each meeting should also not go beyond two or three hours (Hadrocho leVen Yeshiva).

In his letter, he warns: "Know that one must be very careful not to transgress the prohibition of yichud, especially in the evening hours. They must make sure that they are located where there are other people, passersby and so on (Michtovim uMaamorim).

Suggestions with Drawbacks

A young man was presented with two offers, each one with its own disadvantage. He vacillated between which one to approach, or if to disregard both of them altogether. When he presented his deliberations to the Steipler, he was told, "You should know that one must suffer to a certain degree from any wife; it is inevitable. Someone who thinks that his wife will be perfect is in for an unhappy life, when he wakes up to the truth that suffering is inevitable. No woman is without failings. Similarly, she will also have to suffer from his downside, for no man is perfect, either. So all in all, there is no room for question. Follow your natural preference and do what you feel is best . . . "

The Woman's Brother

"This was said with regards to hereditary traits and inclinations. But regarding hashkofoh, your asking about the wife's brother belonging to Mizrachi, that has nothing to do with what Chazal said about children taking after their mother's brother. One's outlook is the product of his free choice, which every person is given and utilizes" (Maran HaRav Shach: Hadrocho leVen Yeshiva).

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