Since our revitalization this past summer, The Shidduch Center of Baltimore has been diligently working on fulfilling its mission statement: “to create and facilitate dating opportunities for Baltimore singles.” Our goal and hope is that our renewed efforts on behalf of Baltimore’s singles will provide guidance to our community and maximum exposure for its singles. To that end, I would like to share some crucial shidduch-related points that were addressed at our two most recent educational events, allowing these gems to reach a much wider audience.
First, though, I feel it is of the utmost importance that our community fully understand that the topics and issues covered in this article are not specific to our community. We are in no worse a position than any other Jewish community. There isn’t a single community, even in the greater New York/New Jersey area, that does not face almost the same challenges in shidduchim that we do. May Hashem see to it that we are all successful in our endeavors, and that The Shidduch Center of Baltimore accomplish the full spectrum of its goals.
The collection of quotes and excerpts below have been summarized or paraphrased for print. I hope that the collective daas Torah and words of wisdom will prove informative, instructive, and thought-provoking for all who read them.
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At an evening gathering for parents of young men and women in the shidduch parsha, avi mori Rabbi Menachem Goldberger and Dr. Aviva Weisbord discussed the intricacies of how parents and their dating children can best interact in a positive and constructive way.
Rabbi Goldberger stressed the importance of helping our children understand themselves, their hopes, and their dreams, and giving them the tools to be able to articulate them. “If you do not know yourself, it is hard to know what you are looking for,” he said. He further stressed that parents should not take at face value certain terminologies used by their children but rather explore what their child means. As an example, terms such as middos tovos, yeshivish, learning guy, working guy, Torah home, etc., often mean different things to different people.
Addressing the question relating to at what point a single should start seriously considering engagement, Rabbi Goldberger explained how important it is for singles to take the (appropriate) amount of time they need when dating and not to be pressured by others. He also stated the importance of a single having someone besides his or her parents to provide direction, as a parent is not always objective. Additionally, parents should make it abundantly clear to their children that they have the green light to talk to a such person, provided that he or she has both saichel (wisdom) and experience, and that the parent will harbor no resentment that their child is seeking outside counsel.
Dr. Weisbord shared that when she was about to enter shidduchim, her father, the Rosh Hayeshiva Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, gave her this advice: “I will tell you what you are looking for: middos! Middos is all that matters. Don’t think that because your father is a Rosh Hayeshiva and your Zaidy is a Rosh Hayeshiva you have to marry a Rosh Hayeshiva, if that is not what you want. Don’t marry anyone for someone else’s sake.” Dr. Weisbord continued by saying that being parents of a child who is dating is a full-time job and a full-time growth opportunity. It is essential to realize that Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-d) is in charge, and in truth, everything we receive comes from him.
Both Rabbi Goldberger and Dr. Weisbord highlighted that parents need to focus on whether or not a shidduch is right for their child, not if the shidduch is right for them as parents.
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At another event, a panel discussion for young women soon to enter, or recently entered shidduchim, panelists Rebbetzin Leah Feldman, Rebbetzin Aviva Silber, and Mrs. Devora Meira Ringo, along with moderator Mrs. Elise Wolf, expertly answered numerous questions related to shidduchim. Before the discussion began, Rabbi Emanuel Goldfeiz delivered beautiful divrei chizuk (words of encouragement). He told the story of a couple who came to him with shalom bayis issues. The husband and wife came to realize that they needed to make changes, but each one wanted the other to start. Rabbi Goldfeiz enlightened the couple about the concept of a soul-mate, a bashert, and explained that it doesn’t matter who starts, “since the husband and wife are soul-mates, whatever one half does affects the other half.” So, too, he explained to the young women at the event, in looking for your soul-mate, “You need to be the one you want to meet!”
Below are a number of the questions that followed:
What is the appropriate amount of involvement for my parents while we are receiving and researching potential shidduch ideas and regarding my dating life in general? How much is too much, and how much is too little? What should they be doing, and what should I be doing?
Rebbetzin Feldman: The most important thing is that you know who you are and what you are looking for. If you have clarity about who you really are and who is going to be compatible with you, it makes it easier for your parents to get involved and try to help you. Parents should get as much information as needed about the person that is being suggested to you, but it is very important that your parents not push any of their own priorities if these are not things that you feel you need. They should obtain the information and then let you make the decision based on what is being presented to you. The question you should be asking is, is this what you feel you need in order to complete you as a human being.
How nicely should I dress on a date? Do I need to do my hair, put on makeup, and wear clothing that I would wear for Shabbos? For a friend’s wedding? Does it make me less “frum” if I do this?
Rebbetzin Silber: Let’s take a step back. Even when you are not on a date, always look good. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, and I have Rebbetzin Feldman’s blessing on this. It doesn’t matter even if it’s the week before Pesach and you are doing errands for your mother. You never know who you are going to see. Always look good, always put yourself together. (Once you’re married, you still should be putting yourself together.) Apparently, there is a lot of competition out there, how girls dress on dates, etc. Don’t view it as a competition, do it for yourself. Not in a way that is inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable, but in your own way, make yourself look good.
How should I be dressing and presenting myself when meeting a shadchan? Is it really necessary to dress up and put on makeup when meeting a shadchan, and if so, why?
Rebbetzin Silber: Again, it is important to always look your best. This is important for two reasons: First, every girl must remember that she is a bas melech (princess). This awareness requires that a girl cultivate her internal and external beauty in a modest and holy fashion. Dressing nicely, putting on make-up, and doing your hair are important expressions of self-importance and awareness. Taking pride in how you look helps cultivate self-esteem while at the same time giving honor to the tzelem Elokim in which Hashem created us. Furthermore, dressing nicely and taking the time for personal grooming shows the shadchan that you take yourself and dating seriously. Showing up to an interview with a shadchan (or on a date) in a way that indicates a lack of interest is almost sure to undermine any future possibility of a relationship.
What exactly should I be telling the shadchanim when I meet them?
Mrs. Ringo: Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Otherwise, the shadchan will set you up with someone who is not at all what you are looking for. Present the best version of yourself, but make sure it is of yourself. Be who you are, so the shadchan will set you up with people who are right for you, not the person you pretended to be when you met the shadchan.
Should I travel for a first date?
Rebbetzin Feldman: In my day, a girl going to meet a boy would never happen. But things have changed since then very, very much. Every community has loads of boys and girls, and boys often feel, “Why do I have to go through all this trouble of traveling? There are plenty of girls in my own community whom I can date.” Therefore, if you want to get married, you need to travel. I know your parents feel terrible about it, and I know it is often hard for the girls who are in school or working or both. But this is the situation today, and we have to live today, not what was 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I recommend that if something good is suggested, and you want to get married, swallow your pride and leave issues of etiquette aside.
Rebbetzin Silber: I am very old-fashioned at heart, so I have a hard time with this, because I believe the boy should travel to the girl, but in today’s day and age, you have to travel; that’s just the reality. If it is something good and shayach (appropriate), don’t stand on ceremony.
Mrs. Ringo: It also makes a huge difference how the request is stated. If the young man is standing on his high horse looking down at you and demanding that you travel no matter what, that is one thing. However, if he is a mentch and understanding about it but simply has other shidduchim being redt to him locally, and therefore asks that you please travel or he will explore other, local options in the meantime, then just hop in the car and go on the date! Don’t lose the opportunity if it’s a good one.
Mrs. Wolf: In regards to judging the mentchlichkeit of a young man requesting that the young woman travel for the date; sometimes it’s not the boy. It’s the shadchan who says you will travel without even asking you. The shadchanim put words in the boy’s mouth, because they feel this is the way to move your name to the front of the line. You have to be dan lekaf zechus (give benefit of the doubt), because sometimes the boy has no clue about this, and the boy’s mother doesn’t either.
I have met shadchanim and my parents have told everyone they know that they have a single daughter. Is there anything else to do besides daven and wait?
Rebbetzin Feldman: Davening is good, and when you meet shachanim, you should keep in touch with them. But the success is not in the shadchanim or your hishtadlus (efforts). You have to do, but you don’t have to overdo.
How much significance should I place on outside factors, like family dynamics, living location, money, minhagim, etc., once I feel that the young man I am dating is someone I could happily live my life with, build a family with.
Mrs. Ringo: You have to figure out first and foremost who you are, and you have to be honest with yourself and spend real time thinking about that, because that’s the only way to answer these questions. You really have to consider what is important to you, what you can handle and what you can’t. For example, he eats gebruchs. You’ll get over it! All those kinds of things, just leave them alone. You’re looking for the guy, the right guy. The package doesn’t really matter. Everyone comes in a package, but you have to be honest with yourself to know if one of the pieces of the package does really matter to you, and the only way you can do this is if you really know yourself. If one does matter, that may be the time to be in touch with a rav or mentor or to have an in-depth discussion with your parents about it.
Being in the shidduch parsha, it can be hard to retain my sense of self. Especially as I reconsider certain things that I was originally looking for to make sure I am not being picky or stubborn. It is easy to end up giving up some of myself and who I really am and what I really need and want. But it’s so hard to know where that line is and to retain it. Can you give me any advice for this?
Rebbetzin Silber: There is no perfect person out there, and it is important to realize that you are looking for someone to complement you (and I point out that is complement with an “e”), because that will make you into a complete being together. So you can have your list of top 10 things you can’t give in about, but you have to whittle it down to one or two things that are really the most important things to you to make you a great couple and a great being together.
How do I figure out if I should defer to the shadchan when she wants me to go on a second date and I am not really “feeling it” after the first date, even though there is no glaring reason not to try again? I just think, based on the first date, that he is not for me. How many dates should I continue to go on like this before making an informed decision on whether to continue dating or not?
Rebbetzin Silber: Don’t say no after the first date unless there’s something that is so obvious that it is a real deal breaker. Even if you are “not feeling it,” go out again; give it another try. Saying no after the first date is really not being fair to yourself. As far as how many dates, that is very individualized. You have to use your saichel (common sense). Everyone has a different pace.
Rebbetzin Feldman: Definitely give it a second date. If the second date is the same, give it a third. But if there is no improvement, at that point you can say good-bye. But if it is getting better, then continue and don’t worry about leading him on. Those are the rules of the game. That’s how it works. We have no magic way to decide if this is right or wrong, except by going out again and again and proving to yourself which way is right.
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The Shidduch Center of Baltimore is planning to hold future events for young men and young women of various ages in the upcoming months, and throughout the year. Each new event will be thoughtfully geared for different audiences, as what is appropriate for one audience is not always appropriate for another. The goal is to ensure that the content and structure of each event is most befitting and is a comfortable environment for all who attend. Announcements of future events will be shared with the community as soon as all the details are set in place. We look forward to being of service to the singles here in the Baltimore community, as well as to being a resource to their parents and others involved in shidduchim.
Singles may submit their name, birth year and email address (if they have not already done so) to firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we may add you to our database and keep you informed of relevant future events, initiatives and opportunities. If you would like to hear a full audio recording of our events, please send an email to email@example.com with your request, and it will be provided to you. To read a previous Where What When article about The Shidduch Center, go to http://www.wherewhatwhen.com/article/shidduchim-it-s-everyone-s-thing-practical-ways-to-help-create-dating-opportunities.
Shlomo Goldberger is the Director of The Shidduch Center of Baltimore. Please contact him at 443-955-9887 or firstname.lastname@example.org.