The following article appears in this weeks 5 Towns Jewish Times:
You may have noticed that people seem to be obsessed with a so-called shidduch crisis, a problem of sorts which has rapidly hijacked the attention of our tight-knit community.
Several months ago (Five Towns Jewish Times, June 29, 2007), I wrote an article entitled “Shidduch Crisis? More Like an Identity Crisis,” which portrayed my personal thoughts and feelings about this situation, deemed an epidemic by many frantic community members. Drawing upon my own personal experience and the accumulated emotions of many peers, I tried to tap into the true root of the crisis rather than hocking, ranting, or theorizing about superficial symptoms. I wrote from the heart, as I speak from the perspective of what some may consider a “victim” of this “crisis.”
The purpose of this essay is to highlight the consequences of this inappropriate obsession—as they are quite grave—and to offer words of chizuk to those who have truly related to my devarim ha’yotzim min ha’leiv, words stemming from the heart.
Clearly, there are many concerned parents, therapists, and community activists who have noble intentions in their pursuit to solve the problem. Yet, unfortunately, my personal experience, confirmed by many peers who responded to my article, sees a misguided response.
Labeling the situation a crisis is in itself an inappropriate approach to the whole scenario—one which, if anything, only strengthens the hysterical sense of anxiety and panic. The unspoken implication of the term crisis creates a “victim mentality” toward and among those perceived as hostages of the crisis—usually taking the form of rationalized gossip, such as: “Oy, she’s still single?! What a nebach! This crisis is just getting out of control!” The “nebach” knows that he or she is being analyzed, and this judgment is severely disturbing to one’s sense of self.
Last I checked, being a nebach was not the most honorable title, yet it has become the degrading fate of many a single girl or boy in our community. If one wants to view the situation as a crisis, it may be more accurate to rephrase the term “shidduch crisis” to “unmarried nebach syndrome”—because, in all honesty, that’s the message being portrayed. If you have any doubt about this, ask the individuals themselves to confirm this for you. Granted, I can’t speak for everyone; some people may find a warped sense of pleasure in the victim role.
Frantic mothers may not have the objectivity to see it in this light, and these are usually the voices that fuel the public panic. But I urge you to ask the so-called victims how they feel. If their voices were acknowledged, I presume much of this frenzy would meet a response of “thanks, but no thanks.”
By no means do I seek to undermine the pure intentions of heartbroken mothers. I simply want to amplify the voices of those for whom their heart breaks.
The consequences of this inappropriate panic are manifold, some more tragic than others. The “Oy vey! Nebach! Crisis!” mentality that has been the demeaning undertone of this prevalent obsession triggers a hysterical sense of impulsivity to marry off every single “victim,” as though this solution will shower our lives with joy and serenity, living happily ever after upon rescue from the treacherous chains of shidduchim. My married friends have been honest enough to confirm the emptiness of this deceptive myth. The happily-ever-after fallacy that we so despise in Hollywood films has somehow reaffirmed itself in our frum circles. A girl who walks down the aisle is saved, as her single friends share bittersweet emotions, still waiting ever so desperately to cross that finish line, to make it at last. Is this an exaggerated illustration, or does it resemble an all-too-common scenario?
The so-called crisis seems to be a self-fulfilling prophesy, fueled and perpetuated by those who fear a slight period of singlehood as though it were the plague. In truth, this mentality is a recipe for disaster. Needing to get married with such frenzied impulsivity has initiated the surfacing of a new phenomenon: a post-shidduch crisis, entailing young divorcés and divorcées, cases of abuse, and an entire whirlwind of marital disarray. This is all rapidly unfolding before our eyes, and only Heaven knows how much pain has been concealed behind closed doors.
Many wonder in shock how such a couple could have ever seen a happy future together. In all probability, the future was hardly considered—and how could it have been? With such a shortsighted sense of pressure being imposed on young singles, could we expect any trace of clear-minded objectivity?
The deeper dynamics unfolding here are sharply captured in the words of Chazal (Avos 5:19): “Kol ahavah she’hi t’luyah b’davar, bateil davar b’teilah ahavah”—Any love that is dependent upon something (in this case, relief from the shidduch panic), [if] the “something” is nullified, the love is nullified.
So what’s the answer?
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: bitachon. If we are frum enough to use words like “shidduch” and “black hat,” we’ve probably heard of “Hashem.” In that case, we could benefit from regaining a Torah perspective and remembering the true root of it all.
Aside from the fact that having bitachon looks great on your shidduch resumé (cynical joke, I apologize), it also happens to open your eyes to the fact that, in truth, no crisis exists. And, if this occurs, our situation is far from a crisis—it is a priceless gift. In light of the sacred words of the Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar Habitachon, the entire “crisis” and all of its havoc evaporates into kiddie talk. This is not to remove the obligation of hishtadlus; it is, rather, to remove the compulsive sense of hysteria presently being posed as hishtadlus.
The shidduch process has forced me to learn this lesson (albeit, one that comes and goes, and requires continuous restrengthening), and for that I couldn’t be more appreciative to Hashem. Has it been a smooth ride? Hardly. Has it been challenging? Most certainly. Is it a beautiful experience? Beauty and wisdom appear in the form of the present moment. Single or married, this awareness (or lack thereof) is the only factor that can determine how beautiful life will be.
So, rather than anticipate future recipes for happiness by desperately running away from a mind-made crisis, let’s embrace the only place happiness ever dwells: here, now. If all that ever exists is the present moment, and this precious moment—when looked at with clarity—presents no crisis, where exactly does the crisis exist? Contemplate this question, for within it evaporates the crisis illusion.