W e’re currently looking into a boy who on paper sounds like exactly what my daughter wants. He’s a solid learner and a huge masmid. Everyone talks about the endless hours he spends in the beis medrash and how davuk he is to Torah. My daughter is thrilled with this information.
But I’m a bit nervous. It’s great that this boy treats his Gemara well but how will he treat his wife? No one said anything bad about his middos but since he’s in the beis medrash such long hours his roommates barely know him. The friends whose numbers we got are all chavrusas he connects with through learning.
How can I find out if this boy is a mensch who will know when to close his Gemara for his family’s sake?
– Wants a Masmid and a Mensch
Dear Wants a Mensch
First I’d like to commend you on the question. It’s easy to get swept away with “information” and forget that we’re looking at a person and a potential relationship. It’s great when things look good on paper but when looking for our child’s spouse we need a 3-D view.
Before tackling the “how to” of getting this information let’s discuss the “should we.” You say your daughter is “thrilled with this information.” You don’t give any background about your family so I have no measure of whether she knows what she’s thrilled about. Does she have a good picture of what daily life looks like with a masmid?
Many girls come back from seminary in love with the idea of marrying a masmid having no realization of: a) what marriage is like and b) what being married to a masmid is like. The reality is that life presents an endless string of mundane demands that don’t disappear because a couple commits to a lifetime of learning and ruchniyus.
Marriage raises a whole slew of emotional issues as well. All this requires a partner. While no one can ever fully know what they’re getting into and all they can ask for is an aspiration to those values before you take the next step please talk honestly with your daughter and ascertain that she’s clear about what she’s signing up for.
Once you’ve determined that your daughter does want someone with this level of commitment to learning you can proceed with determining “how he’ll treat his wife.” First and foremost you’re looking for balance. Anything done in extremes is a warning sign. Because we place such great value on learning it’s easy to hide behind learning when trying to cover up social anxiety mental health issues fear of failure and a host of other issues. Therefore the most pressing question becomes: Is he turning to his seforim to draw closer (to Hashem to his learning)? Or to run away and avoid (relationships himself etc.)?
Your most potent source of information is the right rebbi/mashgiach/rosh yeshivah who knows this bochur well. (A strong connection with a rebbi is actually a huge indicator of a capacity to relate.) I’m not sure how many 21-year-old friends possess the intuition to understand much less answer the question; and unfortunately not every rebbi communicates on that level of psychological sophistication either. So you must keep asking until you find the person who has that knowledge of the boy’s penimiyus. And then… let the questions begin.
Does he learn because he loves to? Or because he feels compelled to (deveikus as opposed to OCD or guilt)? Does he know when to stop? Does his hasmadah compromise his health? Is he aware of the feelings of others around him? For example if his chavrusa comes in after a big date and seems down does he take a minute to check in and offer support? Does he participate in the simchahs of his friends?
When you speak to his friends try to get a feel of whether they feel emotionally connected to him. Does he make eye contact? Do they know more about him now than they did when they first started learning? Does he have a sense of humor? Do they have anything to say other than that he’s a great learner?
A ruchniyus connection is one of the strongest connections forged and if he’s truly engaged their warmth should come through when they describe him. You want to hear that he is a “chaver ” not just a chavrusa.
A true masmid whose entire metziyus is learning is a treasure beyond compare and lucky is the girl who merits such a husband. But in a true ben Torah learning always goes hand in hand with a love and achrayus for others.
Originally featured in Family First Issue 556 Sara Eisemann LMSW ACSW is a licensed social worker and a columnist for inshidduchim.com. She also lectures on topics related to relationships personal development and growth. She welcomes questions comments feedback and interaction at firstname.lastname@example.org.