Ask the Shadchan
by Mashe Katz
A Shidduch Question:
I am fairly new to dating, and I’d like to ask you about some of the etiquette dilemmas I’ve encountered so far.
I went out with a boy I really liked, and I wanted my mother to call the shadchan right away to say that I wanted to go out again. My mother said that the boy’s side is supposed to call first, and that we should wait for the shachan to call us with his reaction. I was nervous and not my best self on the date, and I wanted the shadchan to be aware of that, in case the boy said he didn’t have a good time or that I was too quiet. That way, she would be better prepared to urge him to give it another chance. I also wanted to hurry things along, because the shadchan sometimes takes a long time to call back. Is there such a “rule” about who is supposed to call whom and when? What’s the point of it? (By the way, my mother did not call, but we did go out again, and it didn’t work out anyway.)
More recently, I had another etiquette predicament. This time, I had a terrible time on the date. I was sure I did not want to meet this boy again but unsure of what to say as he walked me to my door. I did not want to gush about what a good time I had. What is a polite, non-hurtful way to part?
The Shadchan Answers:
Your question concerns more than just the two dilemmas you ask about, and I thank you for the opportunity to talk about this topic. I have been saying all along that the “shidduch crisis” is self-made, and I believe that the “etiquette” phenomenon is – if not a cause – at least a manifestation of it. There are social norms we all live by, but some of this so-called etiquette is rooted in shtus, silliness, and has no basis in either halacha or hashkafa.
Where is it written that you have to hear from the boy’s side before you can answer the shadchan? In all my years of working in shidduchim, I have never heard of this “rule.” I fix up a couple, and if the girl calls first, I hear her out and tell her that I will wait to hear from the young man. If I don’t hear from him within a day, I will call him. I hate when shadchanim procrastinate and take their time getting back to people. This is not fair to the boy or the girl. (Of course, the dating partners should also respond promptly, as this is common courtesy.) I feel that your mother is wrong in this respect; she could have spoken to the shadchan and told her your concerns. After all, it’s not as though she would be speaking to the boy himself, so what’s the harm?
But why did you feel that your mother has to be the one to call the shadchan? You could have called the shadchan and told her your feelings and whatever else you wanted her to know. In the future, I hope you will take my advice and do so. It will make your life and dating experience much easier.
As far as your other question about a non-hurtful way to part, I would just say, “Good night; I had a nice time, and let’s be in touch with the shadchan.” He cannot read anything into such a parting, since you mention you want to go through the shadchan. And the shadchan will surely soften the blow.
Now I would like to expound a bit on this new “etiquette.” One new rule is that the shadchan be in touch with the couple well into six or seven dates. Where did this come from? If two people are old enough to get married, they should be able to continue the dating process on their own, without the help of a third party. I tell all my couples, “If you go further than three dates, you are on your own, and I do not want to hear from you unless you have a problem you cannot handle yourselves.” I don’t feel I should be holding their hands all the way to the chupa. This was unheard of in years gone by. Believe me, it works and ends up being a healthier situation.
I have also been disturbed by another new “rule.” In the past, once the parties agreed to meet, the young man would call the girl to set up the first date. Now, I hear, the shadchan is required to do it. The men I deal with, who represent all shapes and stripes of the frum community, make that first phone call, and, b”H, this only enhances their dating experience.
Another of the “rules” I’ve heard of regarding out-of-town dating is that the boy comes to the girl on the first date, and the girl goes to the boy on the second date. For the third date (if there is one), the boy returns. Again, where is this written? Who made up this rigid order? When you are dating out-of-town, you make arrangements based on convenience and flexibility, taking into account school and work schedules, etc. It also makes sense to make the most out of a trip. When a boy comes from a distance, it would only be right to see each other a few times, if time allows, so that he does not have to make a second trip to see if the shidduch is for him. There should be no set rule in this instance. It is a matter of good middos, consideration, and practicality.
I do believe that the boy should travel to the girl first. This actually has some basis. As it says in the Gemara, “It is the man who is supposed to search for the woman [to marry], not the other way around.” And of course, in the Chumash, we have the story of how Avraham sent Eliezer to seek a wife for Yitzchak. Rivka didn’t go looking for him.
In the past, this rule was easy to follow. Couples tended to live close by, and travel was rare and expensive. Today, many out-of-town girls remain in their parents’ homes and are often asked to come to New York or Lakewood to date. I know that respectable rabbanim and shadchanim hold that it’s okay, however, I will stick with my principles. I still feel that the boy needs to make the effort to come to the girl. Of course, there are special circumstances and many sides to this issue. What I object to is an un-menschlich my-way-or-the-highway attitude on the part of the boy. Girls should not worry that they will lose out. If a shidduch is bashert, it will be.
There are so many important concerns when one is evaluating a potential marriage partner. Why are we adding artificial rules that have no rhyme or reason? Each individual and each dating situation is unique. What fits one couple may not be appropriate for another. I am positive that many of those who insist on these “rules” did not follow them when they were dating! Yet they have wonderful marriages and beautiful Yiddishe nachas. As I emphasize, time after time, I hope we are talking about mature adults who will live their own lives.
My advice to you is to let your heart guide you. You are obviously a conscientious and farseeing young lady, and I hope I have given you some insight. My wish for you is that this should be the biggest dilemma you encounter in the shidduch process. May you have hatzlacha as you continue your search for the right zivug, and may you find your bashert very soon. You will then look back at the dating scene and see how unimportant these rules are.