Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The "Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You" Debate

Let’s just set the scene for a minute. You’re at your friend’s engagement party or wedding, and you wait on line patiently for a bracha. Finally your turn arrives and they give you a bracha, to which they add at the end, “Im Yirtzeh Hashem by you!” What is your reaction to such a statement? Does it upset you and make you feel like a nebach, or do you think, “Wow, that was a nice bracha”? Bad4 had a negative reaction, and it seems SiBW had to learn that the hard way. I am on both sides of this debate, so let me explain why I think singles should not be quite so offended by “Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You” (henceforth to be abbreviated as IYHBY), and why engaged/married people should hesitate before generously heaping on this well-meaning bracha.

I’m going to start with the negative side. Why do we hate IYHBY so much? Mostly, as Bad4 pointed out, it’s because it is said with a tone of great pity as though being single was the most sorry state of being, one that we should hope to escape from as soon as possible. Even if being single isn’t the greatest, no one wants to be treated like a nebach case. Additionally, often whey IYHBY is said, it comes across as though marriage is the most important thing in the entire world more important than anything else. Yes, I want to get married, and I think marriage is important. But it is definitely not the most important thing in the entire world, at least not to me personally. Happiness, for example, is far more important. If I had to pick between happiness and marriage, I would pick happiness. There are a few other things that are also more important than marriage. Saying IYHBY as though being single is the worst fate in the world, doesn't come across to well to singles.

Another personal aspect of IYHBY that bothers me is the literal translation- “If Hashem wants it to happen, then it should happen for you.” Well, I personally believe that Hashem wants all singles to get married! That’s why He commanded us Peru U’Revu. If someone doesn’t find the right person, then it is because there is something more important that Hashem wants from the person than marriage, that they need in order to fulfill their mission in this world. Maybe it is a test of Bitachon, we can never know why. But I still believe Hashem wants everyone to find their soulmate. It should probably be “B’Ezras Hashem,” with the help of Hashem, instead, (I never quite understood the difference between the two in practical usage) although that would not solve the issue that the phrase makes singles feel like pity cases. So why do engaged/married people use this phrase so much?

Baruch Hashem, after watching many friends get engaged and married, and studying them as they wish me a heartfelt IYHBY, I believe it is because they are so so so so so happy, and when you are that happy, you want to share your happiness with the world. At that moment, since you are a good friend, or even if you’re not a good friend, all they want for you is to be as happy as they are. Additionally, for a number of people, being engaged/married, especially if you are one of the first of your friends, comes with a tiny bit of guilt. Chana at The Curious Jew expressed it most beautifully in this unbelievable post, and I know I could see it when I looked into my friends’ eyes as they whispered their bracha to me, but part of them thinks, “Why am I engaged/married, while my friends are unable to find their basherts?” So IYHBY is the first thing that comes to mind.

So why does part of me love it when my friends wish me IYHBY? A few reasons. Firstly, despite the possible nebach implication, I in fact do want to get married, and I do hope IYHBY, so I’m glad to receive the bracha. Secondly, because I love to see my friends so happy that all they want is everyone to be as happy as them. And the fact that they want me to be as happy shows that they care about me. I find it touching that they want me to be happy.

So, engaged people, try to be sensitive to those who find IYHBY to be insulting or hurtful. Try instead, “I hope that one day very very very soon you will be just as happy as I am right now!” Try not to look down at us as nebachs. And singles, the next time we hear another IYHBY, in your heads, just do what I do, and translate it into, “I am happy, and I want to share that happiness, and it pains me that you, someone I care about so much, are not as happy as I am right now.” Even if it’s not what you want to hear, remember that it’s the thought that counts.


  1. Its all about attitude, as is most things in this world. As long as we can take it as a heartfelt bracha, then thats the way we will perceive it and then it wont be a problem. I really dont get why this is such an issue?

  2. I don't understand this idea that you would seek a bracha from an engaged individual. I can understand your wishing them "mazel tov," but why would you seek a bracha from them? Is there any sort of source for that? Plus, they got engaged through Hashem's intervention. They did not necessarily achieve, or overcome, or do something mind-blowing that made them worthy. It was supposed to happen at this time.

    Yes, I want to get married - but I'm not sobbing frantically on the floor. Like when well-meaning people say "Biyamenu B'KAROV!" when they look at me. Of course it's going to be in our days. Do you even know what you are saying?

    B'H, I have a great, comfortable life - how could I be greedy by asking for more? Hashem set up this world that we marry. If we want Him to take care of it, then I'm just going to have to trust His time frame. How does that change with someone's "IYH by you"?

    IF I would be seeking a bracha then, frankly, think I would rather have one from someone like my grandparents, or my parents-they care about me deeply, they know me, and they certainly do want me married - and they are married themselves, if that makes a difference.

  3. It wouldn't have even occurred to me that there's something demeaning about being wished "I'yh by you" by engaged or married people. I don't see it as pity at all. It's a sincere wish.

    At this point, I think I do feel just a bit of resentment when I hear it, and I think it's because I've been programmed to hear it with a negative twist. I've been trying to detoxify myself :-). There are plenty other truly hurtful comments for me to deal with, I don't need to add this innocent bracha to my list.

  4. SIR- i definitely agree..its not meant as demeaning and hurtful , take a bracha whoever and however it comes. It cant hurt!

  5. It really depends who's saying it. I've had people look distinctly gleeful as they purr it, while there are others who are very sweet and truly mean it well (even though my teeth are still set on edge). If there are those out there who are happy to hear it, good for you. But some of us don't like it, aren't heartened by it, and are even angered by it. So if enough people are aware that a majority isn't giddy to hear it, why do they push it?

  6. I think the reason for engaged/married people giving brachas is that they were clearly given a bracha from Hashem.

    Aminspiration- I'm with you- I'll take a bracha from anyone. Even when random people wish me "have a good day" in the grocery store or in the elevator or whatever, I think "amen! I hope it will be a good day."

    I agree that it is not meant to be demeaning, but there are times when it unfortunately doesn't come across that way.

    Data explained it nicely in the comment on SiBW's blog, to quote: "would you say to a childless couple "Imy by you" at a bris? I think we can all agree that that's tactless."

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