Question

We are a heimish family with chassidishminhagim. When our daughter was in high school, we sent her to a modern school, for a specific reason that we can’t disclose. She is now 18 years old. My husband and I realize that this girl can’t marry a heimish boy, but we don’t want someone modern for her, either.

A shadchan just redt a shidduch for her. The boy is a little yeshivish, which is OK with us. The problem is that his mother does not cover her hair. It would embarrass our whole family. Also, we found out that their simchas all have mixed seating. None of our other children got married that way.

My daughter knows who the boy is and is really interested in him. My older daughter told me she knows that her sister has actually been secretly talking with this boy for a long time, and that he is related to the shadchan.

We are very skeptical about this shidduch. We spoke to different people and got different opinions. What is your advice? Should we let our daughter marry such a boy?

Response

By Baila Sebrow

This shidduch sounds like a done deal to me. I believe your daughter and this boy already made their decision to date in a formal fashion before you were ever apprised of his existence. Not only that, but my sixth sense tells me that your daughter is likely planning to marry this boy.

I believe she is merely going through the formalities of bringing a shadchan into the picture for the sake of saving face, out of sensitivity to your feelings. For you and your husband to stand in the way of this shidduch is asking for big trouble.

I understand how difficult all this is for you. The type of home that you raised your children in and the hashkafah that you instilled in them is very different from the shidduch that your daughter is about to embark upon.

When life runs according to plan, everyone is happy. But when a monkey wrench gets thrown in, people oftentimes feel perplexed. Your daughter, unlike perhaps any of your other children, experienced some difficulty during her adolescence. Whatever the problem may have been, you did right by your child in sending her to a school that would best accommodate her needs. That modern high school you mention clearly did much for her in a positive sense with regard to self-esteem. The downside, from the perspective of your family traditions, is that it also modernized her.

What has been kept from you and your husband was very obvious to your older daughter who shared with you the relationship her sister has with this boy. I must say that your daughter and this boy have been very clever in the way they schemed to make this appear as a shidduch being presented by a shadchan. With the plans being arranged as they are, it is really you and your husband who need to come to terms with this relationship.

It appears that you are bothered by two aspects, one of which is that his mother does not cover her hair. In most cases, the concern is that if her mother doesn’t cover her hair, the kallah will not cover her hair either. In this circumstance, you indicate that the boy is “a little yeshivish.” You do not elaborate further about his hashkafah, but if there is any sort of yeshivish in him, I would venture to say that he would expect the girl he marries to cover her hair.

As a shadchan, I know of many shidduchim that almost happened but then fell through because one of the mothers does not cover her hair. There are also cases where the shidduch is made contingent on an ultimatum that the mother will cover her hair. Depending on her personality type, she may give in to such a demand.

I am not a halachic authority and will therefore not go into any discourse regarding the topic of hair-covering. My focus is on your daughter and her happiness. It sounds like she has been through a rough patch in her life. How lucky she is to have found a boy without having to endure the often disheartening dating or beshow stage.

For someone of her hashkafic background, your daughter’s high-school career was atypical. Do you have any idea how much your daughter could therefore suffer from the interrogations of shadchanim with respect to her past? Is your pride about being meshadech with a machetenista similar to you in dress-style more important than your daughter’s emotional well-being?

This leads me to the other issue you have with this shidduch, and that is the mixed-seating debate. This can actually become a big problem from the viewpoints of both families. Those–especially men–who are opposed to sitting at the same table as the opposite gender will not attend such a simcha. Oftentimes, their wives might put in an appearance, or they may just attend the chuppah.

From the perspective of the modern guests, they do not understand why they cannot sit with their spouses. Furthermore, they feel offended by the separation being imposed.

Yet I believe that aside from the potential guests that both sets of parents have in mind, you have forgotten the list of guests from the two most important people: the prospective chassan and kallah.

While the parents are busy fighting it out, they lose sight of the most important component–the people who are getting married. Few families stop to think about what will make the couple happy.

This is not about you or your husband. And this has nothing to do with what you think might embarrass your family. This is about your daughter and her future happiness. If this boy is right for her, who cares what his mother does or does not do? Unless you would tell me that this woman is known to impose her style on any future daughter-in-law, there should be no concern.

Whether or not the boy’s mother covers her hair will not be the topic of discussion for too long. And welcoming this woman will, in due course, bring honor to your family. Society will look up to you as someone who chose to do right by her child and didn’t just follow what everyone else in the community does.

The one thing that I am apprehensive about is whether your daughter is rushing into marriage. Because it is common in your hashkafic circles to get married at eighteen, you do not seem alarmed that she is still quite young. However, you need to bear in mind that your daughter, in her mindset, is no longer part of that same circle. She mentally stepped outside that fold a bit.

For a child to attend a school outside his or her hashkafah is emotionally taxing. It means that the child wasn’t successful in his prior school. That in itself is devastating. Fitting in somewhere new during the impressionable years of one’s life takes great effort. I am concerned not just about how she came to meet this boy, but whether she is completely ready to get married. I am not saying this is the case, but many who experience difficulties during their high-school years rush into marriage in an attempt to quickly fix issues that may not have been addressed.

At this point, you and her husband must exert your energies into making sure that your daughter is not bearing any pain from her past. I strongly recommend that you take her to a licensed therapist who specializes in working with adolescents.

Sometimes in such situations, it happens that during therapy the person realizes that what would make them most happy is starting over again. Meaning, if your daughter began her relationship with this boy during upheaval in her life, she might discover that she needs to take a break for herself.

At the same time, she might also learn that this boy she had been secretly seeing is indeed someone she wants to date and eventually marry. If that is the case, the answer to whether you should allow your daughter to marry him is yes. As far as the mixed seating at the wedding, that too can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, perhaps with different sections within the wedding. Do not allow customs to stand in the way of the biggest nachas that you will experience–by walking your child to the chuppah and watching her flourish as, with Hashem’s help, she will bring forth future generations.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. v

Questions and comments can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com.

 

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