Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The Shidduch Crisis"

It seems like there is always someone ranting about “The Shidduch Crisis.” To sum it up: There are many people who are not married and looking to get married, but cannot seem to find the right person. How can we solve this problem? There are a lot of suggestions as to what the problem is exactly and how we can solve it. Two that I’ve heard are that singles these days are “too picky” and that people are focused on insignificant details. Some say it’s because the entire shidduch system is messed up, and the reason it’s messed up is because people is because people focus on insignificant details.

The typical example that is used is when a person asks, “What color tablecloth does he/she use on shabbos?” I think most people can agree that is a ridiculous question, and I have never encountered someone who actually asked that question or cared what color table cloth a person a person used.

In terms of being “too picky,” what qualifies as “too picky”? For example, there are things that don’t matter- such as the tablecloth example mentioned above. Then there are things that you’re not going to give up on, that you need in a spouse. For example, a guy who believes that women are obligated to cover their hair after marriage, is not called “too picky” for refusing to date someone who does not plan to cover her hair after marriage. You have to stand up for what you believe in and not compromise on what’s really important to you. But what about examples where it is less clear?

Let’s say a guy keeps chalav yisrael and a girl is suggested to him who does not keep chalav yisrael? Is that enough to say no? Let’s say a girl grew up out of town and only wants to live in a small Jewish community outside of New York, and there is a guy who a shadchan says would be perfect for her, but only wants to live in the New York area. Should she compromise?

I was thinking about this because there is a couple I know who has been happily married for a long time, and at the time they met and got married they were less religious and began dating simply for fun. After a while they decided to get married, and discovered they had huge differences in how they felt about certain issues. Without going into details, the issues were so big that if I had been either one of them, I never would have compromised on those issues. But they were in love, so they worked it out and decided to get married anyway.

My point is: If they had gone through the shidduch system, no one would have ever set them up. Hashkafically they were on completely different planes, but they were so in love that they were willing to make huge sacrifices. They have been happily married for a while.

Those who give dating and marriage advice are always saying that marriage is about compromise. How big of a compromise though? What if he wants to learn and she’s looking for someone who plans to work? If they were meant to be, would they find a way to work it out? We’ll never know because they won’t get a chance to meet.

The problem is that there seems to be no good solution. Should everyone just date anyone at all as long as it seems like their personalities will click, because only then will they truly know what they’d be willing to compromise on for true love? That doesn’t make sense. There has to be some reason for people to go out with each other, they have to have at least some shared values. Should we keep the system the way it is? Well, many people seem to think that it is not working. Maybe each person just need to define which issues are important and which ones are not.

So: What’s considered “too picky” and what’s considered holding on to your beliefs?


  1. Great post, Sterngrad.

    About the couple you know: I think it's VERY important to note that they were already married when the changes kicked in, and who knows what would've happened if they were dating?
    They were in a position where they're already committed to each other and were faced with the opportunity to grow together. While that's very beautiful; it's definitely not ideal.
    Not most couples have such opportunities on a first date!

    The compromise thing is true. I had a seminary teacher who gave my class some pretty sound advice about "The Three C's of Marriage: communication, compromise, communication!"
    It's funny, but true.

    As far as determining what's "too picky" - I'd say the first step is for one to know himself/herself and what matters to them!
    For example, halacha matters to me. I'm a big believer in "naaseh veh nishma" Jews, we shouldn't just do things based on rationale, conveniency, proof, and reasoning. I think that's important, but not primary.

    I look for the same quality in my husband-to-be: does he keep halacha? Does he have emunah and yirat shamayim? how does he treat other people?

    I was once offered a guy who was started keeping Shabbat and kosher, and was slowly but surely getting into tefilla and shiurim. He wanted a frum girl to strengthen his observance.
    A shadchan called me and really, really tried to push the shidduch. She was neglecting a lot of my questions, and it was impossible to say no to her without sounding like a snob.
    Just a glimpse of our conversation:
    Me: does he learn?
    Shadchan: well...ermm...he doesn't go to yeshiva. But he loves Torah! And learning! He goes to shiurim...maybe every day. I don't know.
    Me: is he shomer negia?
    Shadchan: Erm...
    well..I don't really know. I didn't ask. But he won't touch you on the first date, that's for sure!

    I figured this guy was probably not for me, but I gave her my number anyway, so that I can ask him my questions directly...instead of asking her.
    The guy really sounded sincere and in love with mitzvot, but I could tell that he was still in his early phase BT phase. Being that I'm also a BT, I understood it wouldn't work out. I told him he needs someone like grow with him.

    Hope this all made sense. lol

  2. Midrash Rabah, Seder Tzav, Parshah 8, Paragraph 1:

    A Roman noblewoman once asked Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta:

    "Since your G_d has finished creating the universe, what has He been doing?"

    He answered, "Making matches."

    She said, "Is that all?
    I have many male and female slaves and I can pair them off in an hour."
    That night she paired off a thousand male and female slaves.

    The next morning one’s head was split and another’s eye was gouged.
    One’s arm was injured and another’s knee was broken.
    One complained "I don’t want her" and another demanded, "I don’t want him."
    To receive quick quotes from Jewish Torah books, go to:

  3. Sefardi Gal- I can totally relate to your experience. BT's are awesome (my parents are BTs) but it becomes tricky if it's unclear how far along they are in becoming frum. You can't marry someone expecting them to change, but on the other hand, they are sincerely dedicated to change and have proven that by the things they have already taken on.

    In terms of the married couple I metioned, let me clarify. They met, liked each other and started dating. Then they wanted to get married and started to discuss the big issues- the type of things that in the shidduch world are discussed before you even go out with a person. They found they strongly disagreed about these issues. They were not yet married and could have broken (and actually did for a short while over these issues.) In the end they discovered that they were so in love that they would make it work.

    Mr. Cohen- I've heard that story, and I agree, you can't just put any random guy and girl together. Shidduchim are complicated.

  4. To answer your question - I don't think you can generalize what is being 'too picky' as that is different for every person. Each girl/boy has (or should have) certain requirements or things that are very important to them in looking for their match.

    I keep chalav yisroel but I wouldn't say no to a guy who doesn't. For me, those things are extras or insignificant details. The guy's middos, personality, goals etc. matter more to me than if he wears only white shirts.

    And (I might contradict myself here) if two people love each other (as with the example of the married couple you mentioned), certain things that were important to each person beforehand, may become less important. Or they would be willing to compromise and agree on certain big things just because they love each other. Which can work out.....or not ;)

    I think a fault of the shidduch system is that people have to match 'on paper'. No person is JUST a paper - there's a lot more to a person than what is written on their shidduch resume.

  5. Stp- I don't think you contradict yourself at all. Interesting viewpoint about chalav yisrael, thanks for sharing and answering my question.

    I'm curious. When you say that "a fault of the shidduch system is that people have to match 'on paper'" do you mean that people should date people who they don't match on paper? Because then what would be a good criteria for declining a date with someone you've never met- there must be somethings that qualify as reasonable criteria.

  6. I want a guy who works for a living. My issue is that I won't be able to respect a guy who wants to learn full-time. People should be able to prioritize in terms of what is a deal breaker, and what is mere perks.

    But if a person has around ten deal breakers, that would be questionable. I think Rabbi Yisroel Reisman said one is allowed three criteria.

    What is the basis for the term "shidduch crisis"? That everyone isn't married at 21. If the community would say it's okay to marry at a slightly older age, there would no longer be a "shidduch crisis."

    I know of a couple who met on a singles weekend. The beauty of it was that no one would have redt it in real life, so it was perfect that they met there. I also know of another couple who met on a singles function. The girl was redt to him previously at least twice, but he turned her down because of where she lived.

    There are no rules.

  7. Bookworm- I agree that the community should be accepting of marrying at an age older than 21, but I think the problem is that there are a lot of singles who are much older than that who are still single (closer to 30). I could be wrong about that.

    In terms of deal breakers, that's what people are saying the problem is. People *should* be able to prioritize, but they don't and instead put things on their deal breaker list that are not truly important.

  8. From my experience in the dreaded "shidduch system", the shadchanim stop helping me after I tell them I'm not attracted to the girl they set me up with. They instantly believe that I am marrying based on looks when that is not the case at all. Let's face it-physical attraction is a very important factor in dating/marriage (but it does NOT outweigh the other factors such as emotional and intellectual connection, similar values and goals, etc.) and shadchanim tend to push THEIR beliefs onto us because THEY are married which makes them dating gurus.

    A girl rejected me because I learn, on average, 90 minutes a day and evidently, it wasn't enough for her. She didn't even care to know what type of person I am but only that my learning wasn't enough. Both sides (men and women) need to stop looking for "ready-made packages" and understand that people are dynamic and hopefully, look to grow spiritually and characteristically.

    "I think a fault of the shidduch system is that people have to match 'on paper'. No person is JUST a paper - there's a lot more to a person than what is written on their shidduch resume."-stp I couldn't agree more with this and so many things with the system make dating very unnatural.

    Shadchanim should have our best interest at heart and look for what we want in a spouse, not what they think we should be looking for. I once told a shadchan that I didn't mind if a girl was taller than me and she blasted that notion. She said that she knows a couple where the wife is taller and they look ridiculous. This is just a tip of the iceberg of what I'm sure we're all dealing with.
    May Hashem bless us all with finding our spouses NOW.

  9. If you work or are in school, Nate, than 90 minutes of learning is a big accomplishment. And it's great to hear that a guy doesn't mind a girl taller than him. But keep in mind - we are all individuals. All of girldom cannot be blamed for odd priorities, the same way I can't blame all guys for the occasional jackass. None of us need thousands of dates. We just need THE date.

  10. Absolutely, Bookworm. THE date is very elusive and unfortunately, people such as you, others on this board, and I have to suffer through the "occasional jackass". I'm not exactly sure why people would want to come off that way but whatever floats their boat.
    If anyone ran into another person on the street and was interested in getting to know them, I doubt any of them would bring up a personal religious issue (“You don’t plan on covering your hair?!” ::backs away slowly then runs like hell in the other direction: ).
    I always tell people who want to set me up that I’m only interested in very minimal information and I don’t need to hear what type of person this girl might be or what her interests are because I can discover all that info by going out! I don’t like references either…unless you’re an axe murderer or some type of criminal.
    How many times has this happened--Someone contacts you and exclaims “I have the perfect guy/girl for you!” Oh..really? Are they perfect because….I happen to be a guy/girl and surprise, surprise…they’re a guy/girl too?? WHAT A MATCH! (it IS a start though)

  11. Nate- Yes, unfortunately the shidduch system is difficult sometimes. You seem to contradict yourself in your last comment- you said that you only want minimal information, yet when someone says they have someone perfect for you simply because they are the opposite gender, that isn't enough for you. What information is "minimal" and what is "too much"?

    "May Hashem bless us all with finding our spouses NOW."

    -Amen! (Although I would have said "at the right time" since "NOW" might not be what's best for us...)

  12. Minimal info includes age, getting a degree, religious observance, and seeing what they look like. I like to get picky when people use phrases such as “I have a GREAT girl for you” (oook…can she fly?) or the aforementioned “perfect” girl. It’s not that the statement isn’t enough info for me. If this person is truly “perfect” for me and the unthinkable happens where it doesn’t work out, then the friend or matchmaker loses some credibility.
    We all know that others will pitch the person to us with nothing but praise (yes, I know it sounds a lot better than hearing they’re some type of demon spawn) so I feel that hearing about a girl’s qualities doesn’t serve any purpose as I know what to expect.
    If the "right time" ("finding our spouses NOW" was meant for starting a relationship with them) is when you're a senior citizen, would you be happy? Of course Hashem knows exactly when this "right time" is but it seems logical that the right time would at least include the following:
    -having a steady income
    -being mature and willing to accept the responsibilities of dating/marriage

  13. Nate, I find it hysterical, because I also used the term "as long as he's not an axe murderer."

  14. 2 reasons I would not go out with an axe murderer:
    1)There's been advancement in weaponry yet they still choose to wield an axe
    2)they're an axe murderer

    I guess if the girl was just an axe, I'd be OK...


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