Rabbi Zev M. ShandalovRabbi Zev M. Shandalov served as the rabbi of Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel (KJBS) in Chicago, Illinois, until his family's Aliyah in 2009.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water. And let it come to pass, that the girl to whom I shall say, "Let down your water jar, I beg you, that I may drink;" and she shall say, "Drink, and I will give your camels drink also;" let the same be she whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that you have shown kindness to my master. (Genesis 24:13-14)Again, I am surprised at the glaring omission and no comment from the parshanim. Not once does it mention if Eliezer asked the "important" questions. For example: When clearing the table, did Rivka stack the dishes or take them away one at a time? Did her brother wear tie shoes or loafers?
Now, if you have no idea what I am talking about, that would be a good thing! But let me explain.
Of course, it sounds ridiculous that Eliezer would ask such silly questions of Rivka, but let me tell you that it is precisely this insanity that we are faced with today. Allow me to list for you some questions I and others have been asked when someone calls to check on the suitability of person for a shidduch:
* Was the girl/boy nursed and for how long?
* Does the potential chatan wear tie shoes or loafers?
* Does the family stack plates or remove them one at a time?
* Do they use disposables or china on Shabbat?
* Does the potential kallah wear a seatbelt that crosses her chest?
* Does the potential chattan have hair on his legs (!)?
And the one that comes with a story:
One person was asked if the grandparents of the prospective girl were buried next to each other. Upon hearing an answer in the affirmative, the caller hesitated.
"Why, is it a problem that they were buried next to each other?"
After a momentary pause, the reply came that indeed, it may be a problem.
"Well," said the other gentleman, "yes, they are in fact buried next to each other - along with 2,000 other bodies in a mass grave in a Polish forest."
You get the point.
Notice what is missing? Middot. Not one question on the list above is about a person's characteristics. I can't tell you how many times I have been called and middot are the last item on the list. So many people are looking at ridiculous, stupid, childish measuring sticks that we have completely lost sight of what is and isn't important.
Whether you have kids or grandchildren of marriageable age or not, whether you are single or married, every one of us has some connection to weddings in one way or another. So, it may be helpful to hear the very calm, cool and collected advice of a Gadol in Israel about what is important when looking for, or trying to make, a match.
By the way, whether people are set up in the traditional shidduch or choose to "date" the old-fashioned way (as I did), one thing is for certain: one needs to know about the prospective chattan or kallah and their family. Yes, there have been numerous cases where not having enough information in advance has been most detrimental to a marriage, and yes, due diligence is in order, but what should be the criteria?
Rabbi Avrohom Pam, z.l., has a magnificent book, published by his students, that has divrei Torah on every parasha. On parashat Chayei Sara (in the book Atara L'Melech), Rabbi Pam says the following (translated from the original Hebrew):
The importance of good middos is the fundamental building block to a good match for numerous reasons. It is a salient feature of shalom bayis, because when there is an excessive amount of anger, or stringency in the home or any other inclination to negative middos, the relationship between the husband and wife can be severely damaged. Certainly the Shechina [Divine Presence] will not reside in such a home. The Shechina will reside in a home imbued with love and respect for one another.Notice: no dishes, no seatbelt, no shoes. Coincidentally, he tells us to look for the very same things that Eliezer looked for: middot tovot.
We cannot let that which is ikkar (main) become tafel (secondary) and the tafel become ikar. The priorities are so out of whack. Part of it is due to what I and others have referred to as "fake frumkeit". As long as you look a certain way, or as long as you daven a certain way, or send your kids to a certain yeshiva or school, it doesn't matter what kind of character traits you have.
It is that mentality that lends itself to asking the demoralizing and denigrating questions I noted before. Evidently it is not the middot many are interested in, it is the chitzoniut - the outward appearance of the person.
This madness needs to stop. "Ma'aseh avot siman l'banim." Our maaseh avot is the choosing of a mate based on the inside and not the outside. We see it from Eliezer, the servant of the first of our avot (Avraham), and we need to apply it to out own times.
Let us in our community make it known that we will not accept this anymore. Should anyone call you asking for information regarding a member of the community, someone you know, your own relative, and they ask you these or other ridiculous questions, make your feelings known. Tell them it is offensive.
We won't change the world, but we can make our feelings known. It is not the seatbelt or the shoes or the dishes that indicate whether or not one person is a good match for another. There are literally dozens of properly placed questions one could ask. It is extremely important to ask the right questions. It is equally important to not ask the ridiculous ones.