To the Shadchan:
I have a close friend who will soon be entering the shidduch parsha. This guy has a great head for learning, wonderful aspirations for a future in Torah and chinuch (education), and is handsome too. There’s only one problem: He has emotional issues that will very likely hamper him when it comes to this parsha. During different stages of my relationship with this bachur, I’ve seen him beat himself up verbally on one end of the spectrum, and be manipulative towards others (including me) on the other end of the spectrum.
I care too much about this friend not to say anything, but I don’t know what to say or how to say it! It’s quite possible that he might even need the help of a professional, but again, how could I broach this subject. Any advice would be appreciated!
The Shadchan Answers:
Your question is vague as you do not say whether you are also a bachur, a married friend, or an older adult. In any case, you note that your friend is a great masmid and has future aspirations in chinuch. All his good qualities are to be highly commended, but I do not know what any of them have to do with being a good husband. I am not a professional and cannot diagnose him or say exactly what his problems are. But reading between the lines or even just looking at your words, I see some major issues:
First, I see someone who beats himself up verbally. What does that say about his behavior as a future husband? A wife is ishto kegufo (like a part of him). Will he also beat her verbally as he does himself – if not worse? Or will this behavior be confined to him?
Another red flag that emerges glaringly in your question is that he demands to get his way. He is perfectly willing to manipulate everyone and anyone to reach his goal, and as you say, this is the other end of the spectrum. I am positive that you did not like it when you were being manipulated. Why should an innocent, frum, Jewish girl be subjected to this type of behavior?
Third, you seem to admire his wonderful ambitions in the field of chinuch. I, too, applaud anyone who is willing to give and is diligent enough to devote his life to spreading the word of Hashem and influencing students to become ovdei Hashem (servants of Hashem). However, I must tell you that my husband and I have been in chinuch for over 50 years, and I was surrounded by mechanchim from a very young age. And I have seen that, while it is good to have a rebbe who is a talmid chacham and who can truly teach Torah, that is not the total picture of what makes for success in chinuch. A teacher influences the student’s ultimate lifestyle and the way he or she views Torah and the world. It is more important that the rebbe has a certain demeanor and style that does not change according to the situation. If there are mood swings and inconsistent behavior, the students do not know who is teaching them at any given moment. This person cannot be a teacher.
What the rebbe does to produce a frum Jew who is secure in his Yiddishkeit is more important than the lamdus (erudition) that he exhibits. So, even though your friend may be a talmid chacham of very high caliber, I question whether he is a person, with the problems you describe, whom I would want to see in a classroom.
Although we have discussed some of the problems, I am unable to give you a straight answer. No matter how much I reread your question, I cannot know how deep the problem really is. For this, one must have a professional evaluation.
However, I would suggest two courses of action going forward. First, I suggest you speak to an experienced, trusted rav to guide you in your dilemma, especially to advise you what to say in the event that someone calls you as a reference for this friend. Second, after you have been given direction by your rav and confirmed how to proceed, I would suggest that you discuss this with your friend’s rebbe and ask him to initiate the possibility of this young man’s seeking professional help, something that he must do before he even attempts to venture into the shidduch scene.
I hope I have given you some insight on how to handle your dilemma. Something must definitely be done, but proceed with caution. I wish you hatzlacha (success) in achieving a good outcome. Above all, remember that you are dealing not with one life alone but with many lives in the future.