To the Shadchan:
I have been inquiring about a young man who was redt to my daughter. I happened to meet a friend of mine who is a teacher and taught him in 10th grade. This boy seems to have been a troublemaker at that age. My friend could not say anything nice about him. She told me he was chutzpadik and gave her a hard time.
This young man is 23 now. He is a professional, who is working after learning in yeshiva for a few years. More recent references have only good things to say about him. It seems he is a hard worker with good middos. He comes from a good family, and everything checks out okay.
My question is how much credence should I give to the teacher’s words. Maybe the attributes that made him behave badly when he was 15 are deeply ingrained character defects that are still relevant. Or maybe he is now using his chutzpa, etc. for good things. How can I find out which scenario is the correct one? Or should I chalk it all up to being a teenager?
If you think that information from the past is relevant, what would be the cut-off age, before which we should not take information seriously? Obviously, no one would pay attention to the way a person behaved when he was in kindergarten. Or would they? I would appreciate your advice and opinion.
The Shadchan Answers:
First of all, I am amazed that you would ask someone who taught the young man in 10th grade for information. I assume this boy went to a yeshiva high school, and we know that yeshivas don’t always give the secular department the proper attention it deserves. Many boys “act out” during their classes just to be “one of the boys.”
I am also surprised that the teacher was willing to malign a person she hasn’t seen in years. I always tell people that if you have nothing good to say about a person, don’t say anything, because you never know if you will be the one who broke it off even before it started. Could it be that the teacher still bears a grudge against this young man, and when you inquired about him, saw an opportunity to “get him”? I know it is shocking to suggest this, and it is harsh to suspect anyone of such meanness. However, the desire for vengeance is a part of human nature and must therefore be a consideration whenever we deal with people.
We also don’t know if he was “chutzpadik” only in her class or with his rebbe, parents, and other teachers, too. Sometimes teachers who are not skilled or not well liked invite chutzpa from the students. So, you see, there are many questions about this reference, and I would not put much stock in her opinion. If the teacher had said that this boy was on drugs or into alcohol and smoking, it is one thing. But “being fresh” is not a major concern. I would chalk it up to being a teenager. And teenagers grow up. With parents to emulate, and mussar and ethics learned from rebbeim and other teachers, this young man certainly changed and became the staunch individual you write about.
You ask what would be the cut-off age for taking the information seriously. I would say that for a boy it would be the 12th grade, or 17 to 18 years old, and for a girl in the 11th grade, 16 to 17 years old, since girls mature and marry earlier than boys. Then again, after they graduate and go on to yeshiva or seminary, teens grow and mature further, so an arbitrary cut-off age may not be relevant.
By the way, I once heard about parents who complained to a kindergarten teacher that their child was not finger painting properly. How would he get into Yale? Yes, there are people like this. A parent once said to me, if I keep my child back in kindergarten or send her for special ed, how will she ever find a shidduch? I don’t have to tell you that these parents care more for the impression they make on others than for the welfare of their own child.
Let’s get real. Recent references have told you that he comes from a good family, is successful, and if a hard worker with good middos. While you never really know anyone until you live with them, if there are any red flags, your daughter will see them after a date or two. Meanwhile, it is unwise to keep her from meeting him because of who he was at age 15. How was your daughter at age 15? If you asked any of her teachers, you might not get a raving report either.
To sum up, I don’t think you should look for the person who was perfect from birth. I would stop this foolishness and let your daughter go out and see for herself. If it is not bashert for her to marry him, then Hashem will guide her in the right way.
Hopefully, you will walk your daughter down to the chuppa very soon. Hatzlacha rabba.