Q&A : Love and marriage – April 2009 – “Jewish Life” magazine
Are more people struggling to find mates?
I don’t know about that. What I do know is if you look in the Chumash, you will see that finding one’s mate is an everlasting issue. Yitzchak had a long wait before finding the right shidduch. Yaakov went through many trials before marrying. It is part of the human condition.
Does that mean that every pot does have its lid though?
It means that finding your match takes immense effort. Somehow, people are prepared to pursue growth in other areas of their lives, but when it comes to shidduchim – well, that just has to fall out of the sky and into their lap.
What is the concept of soul-mates then?
Like everything in life, we believe that Hashem guides the world. Judaism has a tradition that husband and wife are meant for each other. But we still have to make the effort to find the right person and then to build a successful.
The onus is on us then…
Hashem expects us to go out there and actively look, and that means making it an important life goal. Some are fortunate – they bump into their future life partner on the street. Likewise parnassah – some inherit fortunes, win the lottery. But you cannot rely on chance.
Why is it useful to consider an organised matchmaking or ‘shidduch’? What difference does it make how you get there, as long as you get there? But some people are put off at the very thought…
All that ‘shidduch’means is an ‘introduction’. People are introduced to each other all the time through informal matchmaking. Either way, one doesn’t make a match – that is up to the couple themselves. All we can do is introduce them, and there’s a great mitzvah to help people with this. I really believe that everyone should get involved in making shidduchim.
How would one infiltrate the shidduch scene?
There is an amazing organisation that is currently being set-up called ‘ShidduchSA’, an internet mentorship based programme which is doing important work.
And as a matchmaker?
There is definitely a skill in shidduch making; it is not something that just anyone can do. But introducing people to each other is an art, not a science. As long as there are certain basic building blocks of compatibility and it is done with thoughtfulness, out of love and concern – why not try?
Surely it should involve more thought that that – singles often criticise random pairings…
If you are just a concerned friend who arranges an introduction out of love and concern, and careful, diligent, thought (even one that doesn’t prove to be right) you are not taking responsibility for anything that may or may not happen – but we all have a responsibility to look out for each other.
What is that responsibility?
We can’t be oblivious to other people’s pain and struggles. Everyone is struggling with something, and we need to be sensitive to other people’s trials, all the time. That means trying to help practically.
Other than facilitating introductions – how else can we help?
Davening is a very practical way that we can make a difference as individuals. Ask Hashem to help those who are struggling in any area – mention them by name! Davening then becomes one of the most powerful ways we can help another person.
Should we daven for Mr Right?
Yes. Our search doesn’t end with finding Mr Right, or even with marriage, and this is the difference between the Torah and secular approach. Marriage is not the final destination. It is the beginning of the journey – two people changing and developing, growing closer together and building a life and family together. But the fundamental mistake that people make is to believe the job is done once you are married. Marriage is dynamic.
What should we look for?
You need to find the right person that you can work with and grow closer to throughout the rest of your life. That means someone that has basic good character and good Jewish values.
So is compatibility about ‘me’?
It is less introspective than that. The very word compatibility implies that there is a fit, and not a fit. Life is much more complicated than that. Even in a situation that is a perfect fit, there is a lot to work on and to grow towards, together.
What are the elements of a successful marriage?
In a successful marriage, a person will look back on the wedding and think that they didn’t know their partner then. Getting to know your partner, deepening the love and connection is what marriage is about. Judaism teaches that good character such as being slow to anger, not being arrogant, and being compassionate, are central to being a great person and therefore also to building a great marriage.
And in difficult times?
Tension always comes with growth. Remember though – shalom bayis, a peaceful home atmosphere, is one of the most important Halachic values.
So marriage is a work in progress…
Like life itself. People think that life is some ideal state of being, where everything is static and beautiful, bliss. This can only be found in olam habah. Marriage is like life – an exciting journey of growth, which begins at the chuppah – it doesn’t end there.