By Baila Sebrow
I am a 24-year-old bachur who is having the following issue. Ever since my roommates discovered that I forward every shidduch suggestion I receive from shadchanim to be reviewed by my parents to check references, they have been tormenting me nonstop, equating me to an “uncooperative get-refuser who holds the woman in his marriage hostage over a dead relationship with no tachlis.” They also insist that I’m “behaving like a toddler who needs his mommy to set up his playdates.” They told me I deserve to be disqualified from counting with a minyan.
Additionally, in exchange for agreeing to leave my parents out of the picture until the more serious stages of dating, my roommates are further pressuring me by offering to lower my rent by $100 per month. (I do intend to accept the monetary deal while secretly disregarding their request, just to make my own life easier.)
This is absolutely unfair!
Dating is uncomfortable. I personally feel that having my parents at my back every inch of the way and checking all references reduces discomfort. I refuse to date otherwise, even though my personal work/learn schedule makes me much faster than my parents at responding to messages from shadchanim and references. I admit that I am too lazy to date on my own and leave my parents out of the picture until the relationship becomes serious.
One of my rebbeim, a world-renowned charedi ba’al da’as Torah, criticized my dating preferences as “somewhat socially inappropriate but not un-halachic for a bachur over 21,” while he encouraged my roommates to “tone down a shtickel” with their harsh rhetoric.
Meanwhile, I have only gone out with a grand total of three girls over the last two years, which I strongly feel is a lot more than most singles. Despite the fact that my mother spent hours checking references, all three relationships collapsed after one date.
So why are my roommates continuing to put pressure on me? Why won’t they focus on themselves? Why won’t they let Hashem run the world and let Him decide when it will be the right time for me to miss a night seder to go under the chuppah?
What is so wrong with having my parents check references and letting them determine whether or not a girl is an appropriate fit for our family picture?
How can I possibly be compared to a get-refuser if I have never been married before?
For starters, your roommates are way too involved in your personal business, and you need to start setting healthy boundaries. However, I also understand that since you’re young and fairly new to dating, your relationship with them is such that you probably bounce ideas and thoughts off one another, and the camaraderie you share feels necessary at this juncture in your life. I imagine you will share your letter and my response with them, so my comments and advice are for their benefit as well as yours. I must also caution you not to deceive them with whatever they ask of you in exchange for cheaper rent. That will backfire on you.
It is highly inappropriate and shocking for your roommates to compare you to a get-refuser. A get-refuser is an evil person who halachically and emotionally imprisons his wife in a dead marriage, usually for revenge or blackmail, depriving her of the opportunity to rebuild her life. Let’s understand that a get-refuser is an abuser with no empathy, and an abuser remains an abuser for the rest of his life.
When anyone asks me what kind of shidduchim I do not work with, my response is that any person who withheld a get for a long period of time, necessitating strong rabbinic facilitation, is one I will not assist for a future shidduch. That said, I take a tough stand against your roommates, and I object that they dared to equate you with such an individual. Obviously, you should not be disqualified from a minyan, which is a sanction sometimes imposed on a get-refuser by a beis din. Your roommates need to get a grip on reality.
Let’s talk about checking references and your parents’ involvement. You are not “behaving like a toddler who needs his mommy to set up his playdates,” for having your parents participate in your shidduch process. As a 24-year-old bachur, there is no way you know enough people outside of the names on that piece of paper called a “shidduch résumé” to inquire about a particular young lady. Moreover, because of your youth and also being single, people may not be as forthcoming with you, and will therefore be less inclined to disclose important information that could have significance in a marriage.
Finding a shidduch is oftentimes compared to the search for a house. Every experienced realtor is familiar with the phrase, “location, location, location.” And every savvy shadchan is cognizant that “history, history, history” of any individual is part-and-parcel of who that person is. It is true that a person should not be judged on his past misdeeds and should be granted leniency if he does teshuvah; however, when it comes to a shidduch, one has no obligation to ignore the past of anyone he or she is contemplating to marry. You can choose to be open-minded, but after you have all the facts.
There is a correct way and a wrong way to go about conducting investigations. There are the right questions to ask, and the wrong questions will often give you the wrong answers, and a shidduch that could be compatible ends up getting shot down. For example, when a reference says that the young lady dresses well, the assumption can be made that she is “high-maintenance.” I know of cases where young ladies were accused of being high-maintenance, when they simply knew how to shop at discount stores. One should never question how the young lady dresses, as the answer can discourage the one asking the question. The same thing applies to asking if the young lady dresses as a tzanua. What one considers tzniusdik another may not.
Then there are the bizarre questions, such as what the mother of the young lady serves for meals and snacks and what type of tablecloth they put on their dining-room table. The list of wackiness has no end. If your parents are doing that in their shidduch investigations on your behalf, then you need to have a talk with them. Their focus should be on what appears to be the mental-health status of the young lady, anger-management issues, her middos, chesed proclivities, how she treats and talks about people who are not her friends, and her relationship with those who are near and dear to her. Regarding hashkafah, it is important to find out if she acts in ways that show she is connected to Hashem by means of yiras Shamayim. To get an idea of how she will conduct herself as a future wife and mother, it’s very telling if she is a selfless person and has a generous heart. What the young lady chooses for a hobby or does during her spare time, and if she is an introvert or extrovert, and whatever other frivolous questions people sometimes ask are just fluff and do more harm than good.
It sounds like you are on the right track in your search for a shidduch, and for your own sake, please ignore the naysayers. On a separate note, it would not hurt you to find different roommates!
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.