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Navigating the Shidduch Maze

T. Rubinstein

One of the issues that is presently one of our biggest dating problems which shaddchanim are dealing with on a daily basis is that there are too many of our young adults who are floundering while dating because they are not connecting on an emotional level. It is obvious that one cannot build a relationship by discussing the weather and camp experiences.  I’d like to remark that the fact that these young adults are floundering while dating, is actually commendable, and their inexperience gives testimony to the fact that our children have minimal exposure to the outside world and were really raised apart from the opposite gender.  Even those who consider themselves more ‘open minded’, are still quite unexposed comparatively.  However, we must address the fact that most of our young adults are having issues with our current dating process and something must be done about it now!

Just like Sarah Schneirer a”h recognized that the way girls were being taught inEuropehad to be modified according to the times, we too have reached a point today, that we need modification and education for our young adults regarding Shidduchim.  Before our Bochurim embark on the Shidduch scene, they should have some type of orientation that includes Hashkafa, practical Halacha, top priorities, basic social and communication skills, and the importance of knowing when and to whom to go to for help.  Help should be sought after 3-4 dates from a date coach/mentor, a responsible married individual, or a Rebbe that has the time to invest, to see to it that the Shidduch reaches its destination and comes to a healthy and wise conclusion in either direction.  The Bochurim must be taught the absolute importance of being discreet, and that open Shidduch talk can cause damage beyond repair.  There should be zero tolerance to open Shidduch talk in the halls of the dormitory!  Such talk definitely goes in the Geder of transgressing the laws of Shmiras Halashon!

Likewise, it would be extremely beneficial to institute as part of the curriculum in all girls’ Seminaries a subject called Toras Habayis which will include more practical Halacha pertaining to the woman of the house, general Hashkafa for mothers and wives to be etc..  When the girls resume classes after the Pesach break,  the above subject should continue as Derech Hashidduch to be taught by professionals, introducing girls to the Hashkafa of realistic expectations, correct priorities, basic social and communication skills, which can also serve our girls well when they go on job interviews.  These teachers/mentors will make an extra effort to get to know the girls on a personal level so they can serve as guides and mentors for the future.  A seminary with these added skills will turn into a fine finishing school where our girls can gain the confidence and skills they need to face the challenges ahead.

Presently, our girls and boys are entering the shidduch Parsha without any preparation or the tools needed to cope with the challenges they are about to face.  As result of that, we are seeing more and more girls who have a “fear of commitment” or who are “unusually reserved” than ever before.  We are seeing boys who are on the endless highway of dating, missing the exit, and totally frustrated because they are unable to reach their destination, not knowing how to bring their Shidduch to a conclusion.  I usually get an SOS (Save Our Shidduch) call after seven to ten shlepping dates, when at that point there are lots of knots to untie to actually make the shidduch come to fruition.  It is always wise to seek out help earlier.  However, with Hashem’s help, it can be done and one should never think it’s to late to get help.  Those who are in the dating Parsha must be aware that after the first few initial getting-to-know-you dates, more meaningful conversation must take place so both boy and girl can acquire the clarity needed to come to a sound conclusion, which means making a decision either way.  By planning the goal of each date with a coach/mentor, married sibling or friend (that is discreet), excessive dates will not be necessary to gain clarity if this is a match.  Lots frustration and pressure would be avoided if only the young adults who are dating were more knowledgable about the process, or would have known to get help much earlier in the game.  Therefore, Shidduchim in general, became harder to close and easier to lose, resulting in less Shidduchim being successfully concluded.  Based on the amount of single girls and boys looking for their Bashert, there should be a lot more shidduchim happening.  A lack of dating skills and help with the process just might be the culprit.

On another note, I’d like to comment about the Chassidishe approach.  In short, the Chassidishe Derech is easier and definitely has better results for many different reasons.  The parents who possess the practical wisdom which comes with life experience, basically arrange their children’s Shidduchim, taking all angles of the Shidduch into consideration.  The young adults in the Chassidishe world implicitely trust their parents.  Therefore, no courtship or chemistry is required.  They see eachother several times indoors, without the Tircha of going out on dates,  just to OK who their parents pick.  If they aren’t pleased, they have the right to reject the Shidduch.  They are perfectly fine with this arrangement because that is how it went with their relatives,friends, and every one else in their social circle.

Many of the young adults in the Yeshivish circles are not capable of the courtship they are required to do in order to get engaged.  Lots of them get lost in the process and need coaching and mentoring to make the Shidduch happen.  A great amount of stress and frustration is gained and much time is wasted on superfluous dates.  By the Chassidim, it is the parents who shoulder the responsibility of the commitment and, therefore, the fear to commit is practically extinct where as in the Yeshivsh world it is rampant.

It  is about time for the Yeshivish/non-Chassidish world to recognize the difference between success and failure in the Shidduch process, and integrate some of these ideas into our system and reap the benefits.  I’ve always wondered what Halachic validation is there for a Yeshiva Bochur and a Bais Yaakov type girl who’ve never met before, to spend hours at night in a car, only to  reveal after this one date that the shidduch is definitely not meant to be.  This is contrary to everything they’ve been taught and learned all their lives.  It would be a tremendous relief of pressure and frustration for many of our boys if our leading Roshei Yeshiva would make a recommendation that there

 be a 1-2 hour sit-in meeting to see if the shidduch should proceed to a first date.  A sit-in meeting  means that the boy need not make any plans of where to go, and will not be obliged to pick up or drop off the girl.  The Shadchan will arrange with the parents a convenient meeting place where both boy and girl can individually arrive, meet for about ninety minutes, and depart each on their own.  If both girl and boy agree that they have further interest to explore the Shidduch, they will proceed to the first regular date.

When that occurs, we can validate Halachically a reason for an outdoor date to take place.  If our Gedolim and Roshei Yeshiva endorse this as accepted protocol for dating in the Yeshivish circles, I can only imagine that it will be embraced by their Talmidim as well and will eventually become the norm.  The girls too will appreciate a first date which is short and to the point, with less effort, and without any public exposure at such a preliminary stage.

We dare not rest on our laurels and pretend that the above problems do not exist.  We need a constant fresh awareness to notice these issues, and make every effort to find solutions that are sound and sensible according to Daas Torah for the benefit of Klal Yisroel!

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