A great shidduch was suggested for my daughter. We’ve had an eye on this boy for a while, but whenever we asked a shadchan to redt the shidduch, this boy was busy dating someone else, and eventually he got engaged. Now, however, the engagement is off, and this boy sent a shadchan to us to say that he’s interested in our daughter. We looked into the reason for the broken engagement, and we found out that it was his idea to call it off, and the girl to whom he was engaged is heartbroken.
My husband asked the shadchan if the girl was mochel. The shadchan said no, adding said she will surely never be mochel this boy. We are deeply concerned, and spoke with the rav of our shul about it. He said that if there were no tena’im we don’t have to worry as much, but that it would be better if the boy could get mechilah from this girl. My husband and I want to know if you ever dealt with such cases; how did people proceed?
I should also mention that I don’t want you to assume there are other fish in the sea and that we should just look for another boy. We originally wanted this boy for our daughter because we know him from a young age and we know his family well. He is also exactly what my daughter is looking for, and you know how hard it is to find a good shidduch these days. We don’t want her to sit around unmarried till she’s 25.
Yes, of course I have dealt with situations where the aggrieved party of a broken engagement refused to give mechilah. In each case, I insisted that everything be done to obtain mechilah, because I have seen way too many negative consequences otherwise. The stories when no mechilah was given are bone-chilling.
Your rav is correct that the situation would be worse had there been tena’im. A shtar tena’im is a contract, signed before witnesses, in which the man and woman commit to marrying each other, at such and such date. There are rabbanim who advise that it is better to write a get than break tenai’m. For this reason, many communities no longer sign tena’im before the wedding.
However, even without a shtar tena’im, a broken engagement is still a big deal. In some circles, there are men who will offer marriage proposals way too early in a relationship, though the engagement has not been formally announced. The couple acts as though they are engaged—shopping for a ring and chassan watch, deciding where to live, etc. Sadly, it happens that one of the partners decides to break it off, and then pretends that he or she broke off a casual dating relationship. Tena’im or no tena’im, this type of behavior is despicable. Anyone with that sort of proven record deserves to be treated as an outcast for future shidduchim.
If a formal engagement was announced, it is a major deal. Verbal commitments are to be taken seriously, especially a commitment of marriage. It is vital to find out what happened to cause the broken engagement. “Cold feet” is a red flag, no questions asked, because there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again. If the answer you get is that she is a nice person, but he realized she is not for him, or that he rushed into the engagement too quickly, be wary of that too.
I am not faulting the young man for breaking his engagement. I haven’t heard his side of the story, so I am in no position to do that. Since you were the one who wrote to me out of concern for your daughter’s future happiness should she consider dating this guy, I am advising you for her benefit only.
When an engagement is broken, it is customary in many hashkafic circles to sign documents of mutual mechilah, known as a shtar mechilah. Many poskim hold that just asking for mechilah and receiving it is not enough. The aggrieved party may still bear a heavy heart against the person who broke the engagement. There are people who feel tremendous shame when their engagement is broken. I know of cases where those feelings are so intense that in addition to signing the shtar mechilah, each party must say “machul lach” three times. I wish that no one would get engaged until he or she is one-hundred percent sure about marrying that person. And if the thought process turns to breaking an engagement, every effort should be made to save the engagement, and only if the couple really should not be married, breaking the engagement can be done with the proper moral and halachic approach.
From what I gather, there was no shtar mechilah, and not only did this young man’s former kallah not forgive him, but you were told that she never will. Whatever repercussions this man may experience because of this saga will automatically affect the person who marries him as well. Under the circumstances, I cannot in good conscience advise your daughter to consider the shidduch with this young man. If at any time he receives authentic mechilah, you can feel comfortable revisiting the shidduch at that point.
I need to address your statement that you do not want your daughter to stay unmarried until she is 25. Please forgive me, but this attitude of haste is often the cause of broken engagements and divorces. I cannot recall, nor have I heard of, any other time in history when this was equally prevalent. Of course, it is nice when young singles get married for the right reasons, not just because they feel rushed. But every person is unique and there are so many variables within a person’s personality, character traits, appearances, intellect, hashkafic leanings, etc., that make it impossible for every young lady to be married before she turns 25.
I am appalled by parents who insist their daughter pick any guy who wants to marry her, just so that she is not left behind as a single young lady while her classmates managed to get married in their early twenties. Getting married is not a race, where the one who gets to the finish line first receives an award. Just take an example from the young man under discussion. Something went wrong there, and I assume he and his former kallah are young. They are not the only ones with a broken engagement either.
Before embarking on finding a shidduch, people must first take a long hard look at themselves and what they can bring into a marriage. Using that as their framework, only at that juncture should they should consider an appropriate match. It should never be about wanting to marry someone like their friends married. What works for one person may not work for another. Not only that, but not everything is as it appears. Not everything is revealed to outsiders. One might think that her friend married a particular type of person, but it turns out that it was just a facade. In some circles there is that “keeping up with the Joneses” approach to finding a shidduch. It goes so far that people will copy the résumés of their friends, word for word, because they talked it into themselves that they need the exact type of shidduch.
Therefore, I strongly stress that a shidduch must fit each person’s unique specifications and needs. I urge you to not place undue stress on your daughter to get married—not verbally, or even through facial expressions. Encourage her to work toward whatever goal she aspires to achieve. Help her build up her self-esteem, because a confident person is a more desirable candidate for marriage. n
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.