This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Baruch Dopelt, Yossi Bilius, Aron Tendler, Doniel Neustadt, Eliyahu ben Chaim and Dr. Abba Goldman, Miedel Weissman, Erez Okchon
It’s not easy getting married: it’s not easy staying married. For that matter, it’s exceptionally not easy being single. What shall one do? Interestingly, human nature is such that most gravitate towards finding a mate to wed. Subconsciously to find a mate and to do it legally, not just to live with someone is what people strive and feel the need. Having weak knees and having the feelings of being forced and dragged down in shackles to the altar is for the most part not true. That’s our western society sense of humor…HA- HA- HA. There is a built-in mechanism in all of us to get married. Our religion encourages matrimony and indicates that one elevates their status in the world. There is an element of maturity, responsibility that one takes upon themselves that G-d likes. In fact it is written in the holy books that G-d forgives one’s sins when they get married. How is that for an incentive!! They start a new, fresh clean slate.
Interestingly, most people are more at peace with themselves when they tie the knot. Does one ever wonder why we say “Shiduch” referring to finding a mate? The word “shiduch” is Aramaic for “peaceful” or “tranquil” (see Targum Shoftim 3:11), referring to the peacefulness which a woman senses when she finds her match and establishes her home (Ran, Shabbat 12a). A man has a better concentration on spiritual matters when married. For this reason the Sages recommend that on one of the holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashana, the Chazzan should be married.
Others maintain that the word “shiduch” means “to bind or tie” together (Aruch). One is only a half until he meets and binds with his shiduch.
It is a mitzvah to arrange a shiduch between a man and a woman for the object of matrimony even to arrange it on Shabbat, and if necessary, it is even permitted to discuss financial arrangements on Shabbat. This is unprecedented considering how stringent it is to keep the Shabbat.
Considering the importance a shiduch might mean to one’s life, its human nature that one would do anything to get a mate that they think is most suitable. Competition is fierce. Some might resort to enhance themselves in a very exaggerate way. One can argue “what’s a little white lie?” It’s for constructive purposes…..Well, is it allowed?
This week’s Parsha is the only place in the Torah where a shiduch investigation is initiated and conducted.
Avraham summoned his servant and charged him with the mission of finding a suitable wife for his son Yitzhak. Avraham had his servant swear that he would not take a wife for Isaac from the local Canaanite women. Instead, he asked him to travel to Aram, his native land, and find a wife for Yitzhak.
The servant set out for his master’s homeland and evening time found him beside the city well. He prayed for success in his mission, and asked for a heavenly sign to confirm his choice of a girl for Isaac. He would ask a maiden for a drink of water, and the one who would answer: “Certainly, and I’ll also give your camels to drink as well,” would be the proper choice for Isaac. Immediately a young lady approached and in response to the servant’s request for a drink, she offered to give his camels to drink too. Upon questioning her, he discovered that she was Avraham’s great-niece, Rivka.
Interestingly, the servant is the one who is burdened to find a mate for his master’s son. It seems like there is no effort on Yitzchak’s part to hunt for a wife. Perhaps, this is as close as one gets to a mail order bride. It was different in our generations: we were subjugated to the long grueling and humiliating single events to find our Eshet Chayil.
As one examines the scriptures, one realizes that Eliezer alters the account of the story – as he tells over to Rivka’s father and brother of how he met their daughter. He changes the sequence of events telling the father and brother, Betuel and Lavan, that he gave the girl the jewelry – only after she disclosed her name. However, that was not so. He gave her the jewelry first – before he asked her name.
Our Sages were puzzled as to why the Torah devoted so much space to this single episode. “The conversation of the servants of Patriarchs is more pleasing before the Omnipresent than the Torah of the sons. For the section of Eliezer is repeated in the Torah, whereas many important principles of the Law were given only by hinting.” (Rashi 24:42).
In the Torah, words count for much. Something that is especially important is often repeated, such as the mitzvot of Shabbat and circumcision. Here, too, it is for us to discover what is so significant in this story.
Eliezer didn’t think Betuel and Lavan would appreciate if told about the miracle through prayer. As soon as he finished his prayers, it materialized. For the girl that he described to G-d actually appeared and performed the kindness in his presence. He knew without a doubt: G-d was sending what he asked. Therefore, he altered the truth. Evil people like Betuel and Lavan would dismiss his explanation. Eliezer rationalized they wouldn’t believe him, that he made up the whole thing, that he was some kind of “nut” and therefore spoil the shiduch if told the truth.
We learned two very important lessons from this incident. Firstly, one almost always needs a miracle in the area of shiduchim. Much of shiduchim is illogical; much of shiduchim leaves people scratching their heads. G-d is the ultimate signer of every shiduch and HE puts it together, no matter what and where, as HE sees fit, in the craziest circumstances, it will happen!!!
Secondly, even more astonishing, the Torah gives leeway for altering the truth, ever so slightly, nevertheless, point be taken, for the sake of finishing the deal, for making the shiduch take place. For putting two people together the little white lie has to take place.
Once a Rabbi overhears his wife, who is on the phone in the kitchen, persuading a young man to go out again even though he didn’t think she was for him. A little while later she tells the girl, the date, “yes, I received a call from him and he’s crazy about you and can’t wait to see you again”. The shadchan-matchmaker was afraid that if she knew he’s “pareve” about her, she will be discouraged and lose interest. Incredibly, this couple got married and has six kids.
The million dollar question is to what extent one can lie? Is there a gauge of how truthful one can be? What often happens when one is asked to give his opinion, of course in confidentiality, about a particular young man or young woman, is that people tend to speak when they should be quiet and hold back when they ought to speak up.
Interestingly, from the beginning of matchmaking, till this very day, it’s understood, that the parties are not telling the truth to a certain degree. The truth, for the most part has been slightly altered. Should one always expect that a few years have been latched on or off the age disclosed for both a girl and a boy?
It is prohibited for either party in a prospective match to give false information or to withhold pertinent information about them. In certain cases, withholding or falsifying information could result in the invalidation of a marriage (22). Even a couple who has been married many years may be considered to be living in sin if pertinent information was withheld at the time of their marriage.
The Sages give some examples of information that may not be withheld in a prospective match [and which–if withheld–may invalidate a marriage]: A serious physical or mental illness (23), infertility (24), and financial status (25), lack of religious observance (26), previous marital status (27), previous illicit relationships (28), conversion (29), and adoption (30).
One is not required to divulge a deficiency which most people do not consider to be an impediment, such as a minor illness (31), a physical weakness or a minor blemish in one’s lineage (32). Similarly, it is not required to divulge a transgression in the distant past for which the sinner has repented (33).
Since it is often difficult to gauge and judge minor drawback versus major deficiencies, a Rabbi must always be consulted.
An individual who is asked for [or is aware of (34)] information about a shiduch must divulge what he knows regarding a “major deficiency”, as detailed above. One who deliberately withholds such information: transgresses the prohibition of “lifnei eiver lo sitein michshol” (35) -“placing an object to stumble before the blind man”.
However, when does this rule apply? When should the person being asked disclose the information? When should the couple mention the information?
Second date, fifth date, ninth date, when is it the right time to disclose before transgressing the prohibition of “lifnei eiver lo sitein michshol” (35).
There was a young man who was slightly handicapped; few of his fingers were paralyzed due to polio he contracted when he was a child. After, a number of dates, his deficiency not being noticed by the girl he was seeing, the young man consulted Rabbi Kanievsky as to when to tell the young lady.
The reply was before the engagement. The Rabbi ruled the illness that the young man contracted as a child will not affect the future. Therefore, in this particular case, he had to tell the young lady before the engagement.
However, Dr. Goldman indicates that perhaps that’s a unique case. Many Rabbis are under the opinion that information should be told in the early part of dating before the couple is emotionally involved. It should be disclosed way before the engagement. It’s a tremendous responsibility.
Interestingly, a number of professional shadchanim interviewed for this article expressed how careful they are about stretching the truth (age, height, weight), more so than friends and family who volunteer to set up their loved ones out of the goodness of their heart. The professional Shadchanim are more careful of their reputation to be more accurate, for if they disappoint their client with false information they will not be called again and not be recommended to others.
Detrimental information about a shiduch may only be conveyed with the proper intention–for the benefit of one of the parties, not as revenge or in spite of any individual. Even then, the information may only be relayed when (36):
*The condition is serious;
*The condition has not been exaggerated;
*There is a reasonable chance that the information will be accepted and acted upon. If it is likely to be ignored, it is prohibited to be relayed.
One who is unsure if a particular point of information is a major deficiency or if the above conditions have been met should consult a Rav before divulging or withholding any information?
What should parents be looking for in their investigation? Before beginning the search, it is important to decide which values are important to your family and what criteria should be used in evaluating a potential shiduch.
After deciding what you are looking for in the categories of character, family, finances, and looks, evaluate your list in relation to your child. Are you being realistic in your search? Does your child deserve the potential prince or princess that you imagine? Are you underselling your child and limiting his or her choices? Will the son or daughter-in-law you imagine make your child happy? Do you really know better than your children do: who and what they need in a spouse? The Rav of Manchester, Harav Segall Zt’l, once mentioned that after all is said and done, a parent has the obligation to find a shiduch 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.
Midel Weismann a professional shadchan and a good friend relates an incident when he attended a sheva brachot of a friend’s son.
During the meal of the sheva brachot: the father of the Kalah rises up to speak and discloses the reason why he picked this young man to be his son in-law. With pride he begins “my daughter had a lot of suiters; however, Moshe struck me to be one with exceptional fine character. I was in B’nai B’rak waiting for a hitch to Tveria, when someone, Moshe, pulls over and after disclosing where I desired to go, he mentioned he’s going in that direction. During the ride I asked what Yeshiva he is learning at and how he likes his Rebbeyim and teachers. I must tell you throughout the two hour journey, which entailed many traffic jams and sudden stops, Moshe did not beep the horn once. It was a pleasure to see such a relaxed individual. I have to compliment his parents and Rebbeyim for instilling in him the trait of tolerance. He was very calm; he never showed any annoyance at the often tumultuous ride. Even when we were about to enter Tveria where there was a Bedouin on a camel who planted himself on the road in front of us, ones immediate reaction is to honk the horn and wave your hands to move off the road. Moshe never even made the motion to hit the steering wheel”.
“When I left the car I made sure to get as much information so I can inquire and have the shiduch take place with my daughter. Moshe I am proud that you are my son-in-law”
T here was a moment of silence where then Moshe burst laughing. Now he rises and tells the guests and his new father-in-law “the horn of the car was dead. The reason I was in B’nai B’rak that day was to have it fixed. However, the Mechanic was not available and that’s when I met you”.
Whether it be a horn, a car, a camel, a lie here and a lie there, this one a few years older, a few pound heavier if it is meant to be and G-d wants it done it will happen. We, though, have to make a refined sensitive effort to help create a potential family.
One should keep in mind when confronted with a question of a young man, woman, and their families, think through your response carefully. Make sure the information you give is accurate. Don’t exaggerate; one should transmit the information with the express purpose of aiding a shiduch. One should ensure that the information is transmitted in the least harmful way possible. One should weigh the amount of harm your information is liable to cause against its benefit.
A Life and Death Lesson about dating