By Yochanan Gordon
It seems that there are certain issues that just never go away. For the most part all the other ‘crises’ of late came and left in fairly quick order; Indian hair shaitels, bugs in water, strawberries etc… While there may be some that chose to distance themselves in any which way to stay on the spiritual safe side of the aforementioned issues, for the most part I think that most people with the support of their local orthodox rabbis resumed their regular mode of life in this regard. However it seems that the shidduch crisis is one that keeps its head above water at all times.
I am in no way trying to make light of this situation. It is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed and finally resolved after all these years, but while there are shidduchim of all ages happening on a daily basis this crisis just knows how to stick around. It is just one of those instances where the world suddenly seems rather large. While there are many opinions on the matter of where we went wrong and how to fix it each one is met with some level of opposition for one or more reasons. In the column called, “Heard in the Bagel Store” Summer Singles my father reminisces a time where this crisis was practically non-existent! All it takes to resume this pressure free and even fun way of life is to broaden our horizons specifically in this area giving the available singles more of a chance to meet on their own. Now, I am certainly not going to take sides in this forum but speak on behalf of both parties as a mediator of sorts as a way of introducing this different crisis that I want to address.
Some people feel uncomfortable approaching a girl unknown to them, in a public forum and initiate conversation. This is not in any way a detriment to them rather the way in which they were brought up. Another extreme, the manner in which chassidim meet in a setting known as beshow, where the two prospective parties meet in one of the houses at first probably with the parents and then for one or two times on their own, at which point either they are or not ready to get engaged. Now while you may write this off as absurd and illogical, for the most part the way I see it this system has proven itself somewhat successful over the years. Who is to say that our system of dating is more effective? Now, in regards to the issue of a boy meeting a girl on his own, as long as it is done in a responsible manner for the sake of marriage it is something that can be entertained as a viable option for those who feel comfortable doing so. I for one would have never entertained that possibility as I was not brought up that way. In fact it took some time for me to get accustomed to the whole concept of dating. If you would tell me that there is a guy who at the age of twenty or twenty-one is a comfortable dater I would think that as abnormal due to the fact that it is something that should be entertained for the first time when pursuing a marriage partner and not as a girl friend at the age of sixteen or eighteen.
The truth is that the whole concept of separation or the force withholding us from reaching our promised land is a consequence of golus. Things cannot be perfect as long as we are in golus. Perfection will be introduced when the redemption is born at which point there will be no more shidduch crisis. Talking about bashert, what can be more bashert than the Jews living peacefully in Israel and yet look what is transpiring there on a daily basis. If we really wanted things to change on a permanent basis we would shake the heavens begging for the coming of Moshiach.
I remember back in high school learning about the intercontinental drift, how if you take a close look at the map of the world you would find that all the country’s and states which are separated by the bodies of water in between, would fit together like a puzzle – as time progressed these states as it seems kept drifting away from each other. It seems that our very world in and of itself has been effected by separation which once again is a result of golus. Our rabbis have taught us that people are a microcosm and everything which was created in the world was created in man and just as there is separation in the world there is separation between people. Our goal is to reunite, bridge the gap permanently so we can put all crises behind us for good.
This brings us to a different sort of crisis one that is in some ways similar to the ‘shidduch crisis’ as we know it. It is only a few of years now since I learned how to do laundry. Comes to think of it, there are many important things that I have learned over the past three or so years since I married my wife – one of those important chores is knowing how to do laundry – without ruining the clothes in the machine, that is. While my wife is usually the one to do the laundry during the week, feeling an obligation to help out around the house I try to make it my business to at least sort the clothing once it is dried. One of the responsibilities that come along with doing that is matching up the socks which became strewn around in the machine. Being that the time for laundry is usually by night after we have eaten dinner and tired our two and a half year old, Nison and six month old, Yehuda enough to put them to sleep without facing any obstacles. At which point I find myself fighting sleep too much to actually begin the arduous journey of finding those socks and pairing them together so I usually hold it off until the morning. In the morning, however, I am usually rushing out of the house to get to shacharis in time at which point I am stuck in a crisis of finding a correct pair of socks to put on. Looking beyond having to find a pair of socks, it seems kind of simple once having found the right fit. However, the truth is, it is not too seldom that I find a pair, not only any pair, but the ones that I had in mind, only to realize after putting them on that there is a big hole by the big toe. We all know how annoying that is. So there is certainly more than having to pair up the socks and when you finally do make the pair it is not that rewarding at least in relation to making a match between boy and girl.
The truth is that while it seems that I may be acting insensitively over an important issue that effects the lives of hundreds and thousands of boys and girls, men and women who themselves want to move on in life and their families that just as badly want to see them take that next step, I am just pointing out in a humorous manner how our being in exile effects us in every way from the most seeming insignificant inconvenience to something as crucial as getting married. The question to ponder is, what does a shidduch represent? What is male and female and their unification mean to us on a deeper level? And why did God create this world?
I will answer these three questions from last to first. The truth is there are several approaches to answering why God created this world. The most common answer is in order to deal kindly with his creatures as it is written, God is good and it is in the nature of one who is completely good to want to bestow goodness. Going back to the beginning of creation Gods glory filled the entire world. Following the creation of Adam and Chava and their succumbing to sin caused Gods glory to retreat from the earth into the first heaven. The ensuing six generations continued for the most part in their footsteps expelling the Glory all the way until the seventh heaven. The following seven generations beginning with our Patriarch Abraham and ending with Moshe Rabbeinu brought the glory back down until the earth. From that point onward it seems that Gods glory has been through a seesaw ride of sorts leaving it up to each generation to bring it back down once and for all.
God expresses Himself through his attributes known as the ten sefiros. Each sefira embodies a different character trait for example, kindness, strict judgment, splendor, eternity etc… concluding with the attribute of sovereignty. The side of judgment generally represents the male aspect of God, whereas the side of kindness and royalty or kingship corresponds to the female side. The purpose is to effect a unification of the two aspects of Godliness. That is why when we utter the name of God which is spelled Y-H-V-H we are supposed to concentrate simultaneously on the name which is spelled A-D-N-Y. Furthermore, the whole concept of saying L’shem yichud before a mitzvah that through our physical fulfillment of this mitzvah we should cause a unification between the male aspect of God with its female counterpart referred to as Shechina which are correspondent to Kindness and Judgment.
I mentioned earlier how man and woman are microcosms – a world unto themselves. We have a mitzvah to emulate God. By emulating God in a physical manifestation we pave the way towards creating a worthy abode for Gods glory in this world. By taking each other’s hand in marriage a bride and groom are physically involved in making a home for God in this world. This being said, it is now it is understood why a husband and wife must be overly cautious even in regards to their idle conversations not to say things that can damage God’s presence amongst them and tamper in a negative way this sublime relationship that is in their hands. I hope the concepts that I have mentioned above are in line and I have not erred in my understanding of the matter. If by any chance it is in fact incoherent then God should grant me forgiveness and atonement in doing so.
After all is said and done we still have a crisis on our hands. Many eligible boys and girls, men and women who want to raise a family and really make a difference in life. In my humble opinion a great segulah to get married and to change the course of the ‘shidduch world’ would be to revisit why we want to get married and what the purpose of marriage is? Once we have realized what is expected of us we can turn to God in prayer. The best form of prayer is the way in which Moshe Rabbeinu beseeched God in Parshas, Vaeschanan el Hashem etc… Chinun is a request of God to bestow upon us a free gift making known at the outset that we do not deserve that which we are asking for. However, continue to detail how that which is being requested will be beneficial for God in this world and one step closer to the coming of moshiach and eternal happiness.
It is not only the shidduchim of our young ones that is at stake in this bitter exile. The answer to the worlds problems of peace, livelihood, sustenance and happiness are all dependant on our redemption. With the Month of Adar upon us and the month of Nissan not too far behind we have an opportunity to bring the spirit of redemption upon us as our sages have said, “In Nissan we were redeemed and in Nissan we will be redeemed”. While we do not want the redemption solely for ourselves, rather so God could express Himself in his full glory and splendor, still it would help our service of God o do so in a world of peace, harmony and most of all perfection. May that day arrive speedily in our days.