I have three daughters, but I am most concerned with my eldest, who is now in shidduchim. She is looking for a long-term learner. Ever since she was a little girl, she always wanted to be a rebbetzin or a kollel wife. That is her wish in life. She is very low-maintenance, so she could be happy with such a lifestyle.
The problem is that I am divorced, and my ex is totally not involved in any part of my children’s lives. I am the sole supporter of my family. As a single mother, I worked very hard to provide for my children. Before every yom tov, I would get clothing from gemachs, so my children always dressed beautifully. People who didn’t know that my children have no father in their lives would never guess what was really going on.
Now with shidduchim, my daughter is suffering. Learning boys do not want her, because I cannot offer to pay for a wedding or support them while they learn. It does not help to assure them that, since my daughter has a good job, she will pay her way. Also, because my divorce was messy, people are saying mean and terrible things about me. Some of the things they are saying are lies. I am not sure who these people are, but I think some might even be friends.
What can I do? My daughter is getting older by the day. I want to see nachas from my children, especially because I’ve had such a miserable life. Please give me advice.
By Baila Sebrow
My heart goes out to you, as I am deeply saddened by your pain. As does each and every parent, you deserve nachas from your children. Having experienced personal misery, you are surely overdue to reap the benefits of simchas. Although it might seem that you are dealing with one issue, upon further examination it appears you have a few concerns on your plate.
Many people–whether divorced or not–experience anguish because of others who speak negatively about them, breeding the spread of rumors. That in itself can cause dents in all types of relationships. But when it comes to shidduchim, the damage generated from gossip is usually much greater, and the consequences can be catastrophic.
There are many reasons why even seemingly righteous people commit such an atrocity. In some, it might be jealousy or a problem they are having with someone, and so they talk badly to discredit the person. Their motive is to hurt, and it may arise from the false notion that they must defend themselves against getting hurt, so they hurt first to make themselves feel better.
In others, it can be a misguided belief that they are carrying out an act of chesed. Those “do-gooders” who deliberately mess up shidduchim might sincerely believe in their heart of hearts that they are saving someone from misfortune. I am not referring to people who reveal factual information when asked about a situation, but rather to those who label themselves experts in human nature and come up with an inaccurate analysis of a person or family. And oh, can they be convincing!
In my many years as a shadchan, rarely has a month passed by when a shidduch has not been destroyed by someone’s tongue. And sickeningly, these acts have been committed by friends, those in positions of authority, and yes, even family members.
You say that you are not sure who is speaking against you, and that is often the case. One usually knows how to identify one’s enemies, but not one’s fake friends. However, there is a way to possibly trace the source, or at least raise suspicion as to who these people are. It involves enlisting someone skillful and trustworthy to assist you. This must be someone who knows you well, truly cares about you and your children, and has experience in asking shidduch-related questions involving your daughter and your family.
Arrange for that person to call the references you have been using, or anyone whom parents of boys are frequently known to call upon for an opinion regarding the plausibility of a shidduch–and I don’t care how chashuv these people might be considered.
You and this person will then need to cleverly analyze everything that is being said that can possibly be interpreted as negative. Those who speak ill know how to be very sly in the way they convey information. You may never find the culprit, but if you do, you will at least have some sort of shield. How you choose to deal with the discovery will be your decision. At the very least, it should make you feel empowered.
With regard to your daughter who specifically wants to marry a long-term learning guy, there are two sides to this issue. The fact is that everyone needs an income to survive. How much is needed varies from person to person. As much as you assert that your daughter is low-maintenance and self-sufficient, life does bring about unforeseen challenges. What these boys and their parents are likely concerned about is the possibility of a circumstance occurring where your daughter may not be able to work. Any number of situations, ranging from pregnancy to loss of employment, can cause bills to pile up–and no money to pay them. That is a scary reality that couples in such arrangements frequently face.
In most kollel families, it is an accepted custom that the wife will be the sole financial provider. Oftentimes, there is a backup plan for when something unexpected comes up. In your case, unless your daughter marries a boy who has parents or someone else in the family who can afford to step up to the plate in case of need, realistically she and her husband can potentially be placed in dire straits.
The other issue relating to money is the cost of a wedding. Not just today, but even in earlier generations, the worry of wedding expenditures has raised the blood pressure of many. And I agree that there are families of boys who want the reassurance that not the entire cost will fall on them. Most communities today have, baruch Hashem, instituted gemachs, which you are already familiar with, and many are set up specifically to ease wedding expenses. When attending weddings these days, unless you are familiar with the family situation, it can be hard to tell the difference between the poor kallah and the wealthy kallah.
Regardless, there are guys out there who share similar values as your daughter and who are looking for a girl who possesses such strength of character as she. Even today there are plenty of young families who sacrifice much just to be in a position of rabbanus or a kollel lifestyle, if that is their wish in life. There is much to admire in such selfless commitment.
There are also families who are used to living frugally, so looking for a girl who comes from money is not even on their radar. Their objective is to find a wife for their son who will support his lifelong commitment to Torah, whether it means that the guy will sit and learn or become a rav. These people are looking for a specific type of girl who understands sacrifice and can make do with very little. From what you are describing, your daughter fits that bill.
It seems that you and your daughter are open-minded about trivial matters that others might make waves about. There are people in your situation who, because of what they endured, feel a sense of entitlement. I am impressed that not once did you make mention of a boy’s looks, affluence, popularity, etc. as a prerequisite for marriage. Your focal point is your daughter’s idealism and how she will not compromise on that, no matter what. That said, I believe that with perseverance and consistent reiterating of your daughter’s needs, her shidduch will come to her.
Your daughter sounds like a remarkable, mature, and sincere girl. As a single parent, you have much to be proud of. You alone raised her to desire and seek that which is fundamentally important in life. That is a tribute to you. There is no question that she will, with Hashem’s help, be the ultimate personification of what a rebbetzin and kollel wife ought to be. She will be the true and ideal ezer k’negdo to a very lucky young man.
Your daughter will no doubt be the future role model to the many who will look up to her. I know that the road getting there, at this point, feels rocky. But stay focused on the objective. Please believe that at the end of her shidduch journey, your daughter’s aspirations and dreams will be fulfilled.
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
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