Dear Yeshiva World Readers:
Allow me to introduce myself. I am a 23 year old black-hat orthodox Jew. I am part of a reputable, loving, wealthy family in New York. I attended one of the most well-regarded Yeshivas in America for a number of years, where I learned at a very high level. I recently started a graduate degree program at a very prestigious institution, and I have daily Chavrusas and keep up with my Rebbeim regularly, with whom I have a very close kesher.
You might think I would be the last person to write and complain about the Shidduch situation we have here in the United States. Wouldn’t it seem likely that I would have tons of dates, and be in a perfect situation to be enjoy the seeming disparity between girls and boys out there? Why should I complain?
The truth is, I have lots of dates. In fact, I unfortunately have to say no to most girls simply because I don’t have the ability to date them all. Almost all the girls that are suggested to me, and certainly the ones I date, are outstanding young women from great families. They are intelligent, beautiful, thoughtful, and special – women who would make a great wife.
So I’m not writing this plea to complain about that aspect of the shidduch system. Rather, I’m writing this letter because I have personally seen how the shidduch process we are struggling through de-humanizes us and makes us do things which are beneath our normally ethical selves as frum jews. I have seen how even upstanding people are taking desperate measures- lying, conniving, and generally abusing the trust of others because the shidduch system rewards them for it. I don’t have any advice for how to make it better, since that is beyond my realm, but I want to register this sincere plea for everyone to act as civilly as possible when engaging in shidduchim. We are dealing with people’s innermost emotions, their hopes and dreams, and too many get terribly hurt by incidents in the process.
The question I have to ask is: What has happened to us? Why must we subscribe to the repulsive maxim of “All’s fair in love and war?” Where has our integrity gone? This letter was prompted by something that recently happened to me, although it isn’t my only shidduch tale, and I have heard other stories from friends that show varying degrees of unethical tactics. Here’s mine:
I was recently suggested a young lady who seemed absolutely fantastic. I knew the family personally, and I knew them to be kind, down to earth, and of the highest caliber. They knew me as well, and I was very excited by this prospect. However, there was something a bit strange. This girl wasn’t even in the States. She was in Seminary in Israel, and besides for this Shadchan, nobody even knew she was planning on dating in the near future. I was told by the shadchan that she would be returning from seminary for a family Simcha, and she would be available to date then. It was presented to me in a way to make me believe that although she wasn’t officially dating yet, her family really wanted her to date me, perhaps because they were afraid I would be off the market by the time she came back.
So I thought about this long and hard. On the one hand, I didn’t want to say no, because the girl and family seemed so fantastic and right for me. On the other hand, I know how amazing the Israel experience can be, and I didn’t want her growth to be cut short because of her parent’s insistence on dating me. I told the shadchan ‘yes’, but that I wouldn’t date her until Pesach.
After making this commitment, my family and I had serious concerns about whether it was ethical for me to date anyone at all until she returned in a few months. Some might say that to stop dating would be unreasonable, but I said yes- that I would date her- and I value my word and my commitment. In the end, with the guidance of several of my Rebbeim, it was decided that I would date extremely sparingly (I was very busy as it was with school), and that I could not get engaged without giving this girl a date first.
About two weeks after this family Simcha, still in the States, this girl got engaged. I found out what was going on the whole time. She apparently was involved with her fiancé for a while, even before she went to Israel. She wanted to move forward in her relationship, but her parents either a) wanted to give her at least one other boy to date so she could have more clarity in her decision; or b) didn’t like the guy as much as me and wanted me to come in a derail their relationship. I, of course, had no idea about all of this. Because I didn’t think she was dating at all and didn’t want to take away her year in Israel, I had said no, so the parent’s plan B was over- and she got engaged to this guy.
Aside for being hurt because I was looking forward to dating her, I felt completely used and foolish for being trustful. I was essentially a pawn in a scheme. The parents and the shadchan didn’t indicate whatsoever the root of this whole situation, and it was left to me to pick myself off of the floor and figure out what happened. While I had been so concerned about being honest and ethical that I was going to suspend my dating entirely for her, all they wanted of me was to think I would be going into a normal dating situation so I could act as a yardstick. I got taken advantage of.
You can read into this story what you may, but it is an example and indication that we have lost our bearings and moral compass when the time comes to be married off. I thought this family was ethical, and they probably are, but our crazy system encourages these types of behavior. This is not isolated or unique. I can’t even tell you how many times guys in Yeshiva would boast of dating two girls at the same time, among other awful dating activities.
So I beg of you; before you are about to do something that is questionable in the area of shidduchim, ask yourself if you think you are contributing to the crisis or improving the system for the benefit of everyone. Look to the essential character of the Torah and the Jewish people and gain the strength to do the right thing. Please don’t abuse the trust of others, even if it gets you ahead. We can do so much better than this.
In the meantime, I will still be the guy who doesn’t listen to suggestions of other girls while he’s going out with someone, who doesn’t talk to his friends about the girls he’s dated in the past, and who puts conscious effort to be considerate to every girl and to have integrity.
Nice guys might finish last, but I won’t let the free for all that we have created for ourselves subsume the most important part of me- my Jewish character. I know that we can all create a better shidduch world if we don’t lose focus on why we are getting married in the first place; to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel.
Thank you for your time.
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The views expressed in this column reflect the opinions of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yeshiva World News LLC. These individual opinions are also in no way meant as a P’sak Halacha or Hashkafa. As with all matters, be sure to consult with a Rov with all questions.