Shidduch Photos: the conversation continues| February 24, 2021
"A person might actually miss out on their bashert and years of happiness because they said no based on a picture"
The conversation surrounding widespread digital distribution of shidduch photos has only gotten more passionate with the publication of Rochi Kichel’s shidduch-photo saga. Here is a sample of the letters we received
KEEP ASKING FOR PHOTOS: R.D., Miami
Thank you to Mishpacha for facilitating this important discussion regarding shidduch photos. I used to be opposed to the idea of boys asking to see photos, but after reading the letter from “Bochur in Shidduchim,” I have changed my mind.
“Bochur in Shidduchim” makes the point that when boys ask for pictures, it can save both the boy and the girl a lot of time, since if it’s not shayach, it can be nixed from the start.
As a mother of a daughter in shiddduchim, I cannot agree more that the practice of asking for pictures would save a lot of time and heartache.
Recently, when a shadchan asked for a picture of my daughter, saying that some boys, or mothers of boys, will not look into my daughter without first seeing her photo, I told her, “Excellent, then those boys are not for us. A boy who insists on a picture is a shidduch we want to stay far away from, so that actually saves me time from researching a shidduch that is obviously not shayach.”
My daughter in shidduchim is ehrlich, refined, bright, and beautiful — both inside and out — and I would never want her to end up with a guy who only agreed to date her because she passed his “pretty test,” or is in a family that espouses this value system.
And so I encourage those boys who feel the same as the letter writer to continue asking for pictures, as a quick and easy way to weed out those boys and those families who are not for us.
PITIFUL PRIORITIES: A Rebbi
The letter from “a bochur in shidduchim” requires a response from this rebbi. As someone who deals with beis medrash bochurim and is involved with their shidduchim, I felt compelled to write this letter.
I read the young writer’s equivalency between girls suffering without dates and his “pain.” This bochur seemed to miss a pretty pashut chiluk, a clear distinction: There’s no comparison between a pauper who has no money and a gvir who doesn’t know what to do with it.
Worse, this bochur doesn’t realize the tzniyus degradation he perpetrates by insisting on seeing girls’ pictures (even if you believe that he erases after looking). This automatically makes a girl’s appearance a top priority — which is also this bochur’s greatest flaw. Oozing out of this letter is his unabashed belief that to “be shayach” for him, a girl has to meet his superficial criteria of beauty. He is not measuring her middos and dei’os with that picture.
This reminds me of a story. A bochur was making his case to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky ztz”l why he needed to marry a very pretty girl. The gadol hador heard him out and agreed. Based on all of his “needs,” Rav Yaakov said, takeh he will have to pick a pretty girl even over a great tzadeikes. But it’s a rachmanus!
Likewise, this bochur needs a rebbi not just to hear him out, but also to be brave enough to tell him how much of a rachmanus case he has become, even with his long list of girls’ names.
May we merit the day soon that Hashem sends a yeshuah for all our problems in shidduchim, those of the girls and those of these boys.
CULTURE CLASH: Wondering
I don’t want to write to the bochur who finds it painful to be inundated with résumés and feels duped by girls who he thinks look better in pictures than in real life. I’m writing because I need answers from his parents and rebbeim, who created a reality where this boy has these opinions and has pictures of girls on his phone (don’t worry, he just glances down and then deletes them).
As the Kichels highlighted, I’ve been taught since preschool that bnos Yisrael are not hefker. I have struggled and won battles to dress more modestly, I have sacrificed inches of hair, learned hilchos tzniyus, given up clothes I love — for what? For the “privilege” of going out with a bochur who with one glance at his phone, has cheapened all of that? Is this my value?
Why are we teaching girls to be tzniyusdig, but not teaching the boys to value that tzniyus? Where are the rabbanim saying this is wrong, we don’t do this in our yeshivah? Why are we raising such amazing tzniyus girls, but not raising boys on the same caliber?
NO JUSTIFICATION: A mother of boys, Passaic, NJ
Mr. Bochur in Shidduchim, thank you for proving to us why our daughters should not be sending out pictures.
Requiring girls to vulgarize themselves by sending out pictures that get forwarded online multiple times is against all the principles with which we raise them, but somehow for a shidduch it is deemed okay to dismiss a value that is one of the most prized values of Jewish girls and women throughout the ages.
Shadchanim and mothers of boys have justified this practice with excuses of practical logistics. I personally believe this benefit does not outweigh the resultant degradation to our girls.
But there is simply no justification whatsoever for a boy himself to have pictures of girls on his phone to look at and determine which one might satisfy him more — even if it is just to “look at the picture for a few seconds and decide if there is potential and promptly erase it.”
So girls, if you are feeling pressure to cave in to this ignoble demand, know this: When I see families that refuse to cheapen their daughters by sending out pictures, I whip their résumés right up to the top of my list.
CONVENIENCE AT WHAT PRICE?: S.B.
As a girl in shidduchim who baruch Hashem dates a lot, my immediate reaction to the letter from a bochur in shidduchim regarding résumé pictures was sympathy. I strongly relate to the frustration, wasted time, and dashed dreams that accompany each failed shidduch experience. According to this boy’s reasoning, if there is a way to avoid the headache and heartache in advance, then there is no reason not to pursue that avenue and save everyone energy.
Then I thought about it a bit more deeply. You know, it would be really convenient for me if I could informally meet the boys I date in advance, at a party or a Shabbos meal or a singles event. In some circles, and certainly in the non-Jewish world, this is considered standard. That would definitely save me the pain and frustration of going on a three-hour date with someone who is a complete mismatch in terms of hashkafah, personality, or physical attraction. However, as Torah Jews, we have certain standards and boundaries that are not crossed just because it would make things more convenient and comfortable for us.
It is beyond my comprehension why sending around full-body photos of heavily made-up girls to single men is not one of these boundaries. The fact that it has become socially acceptable in even the frummest of circles does not change the fact that it objectifies women, is completely degrading, and is a total breach of tzniyus. And please don’t tell us that it’s only for the shadchan or the mother of the boy — this bochur disabuses everyone of this notion, and while he is so noble as to only “look at it for a few seconds” and then promptly delete it, he also readily admits that there are boys who have “different pictures of girls” saved on their phones.
Bochur in Shidduchim, I understand that it is incredibly difficult to go on nonstarter dates that could have been avoided in the first place. Take one for the team — for the kedushah of Klal Yisrael, maybe it’s worth some wasted time and gas money.
NOT MY LOOK: Been There Done That
Dear Bochur in Shidduchim,
Just a little chizuk to help you give up the pictures. Let me share a personal experience.
I was from out of town living in Boro Park in my late 20s, fielding the various résumés and visiting shadchanim. From the over 150 girls of my dating career, I’ll never forget Raizy.
The moment l saw her my thoughts were how soon can l end this date and bring her home. She was not the “look” l had in mind. Lo and behold, 20 minutes into the date l was literally head over heels. Her all-around manner, the way she spoke, what she said, how she said it, l was farkoift. I knew the feeling was mutual when she nodded off on the drive home — something that wouldn’t happen if she wouldn’t feel totally comfortable and safe. To quote you, “you cannot pick up personality from a photo.” Hers shot forth with intense brightness, overshadowing the drawbacks of my first impression.
After half-a-dozen dates, my father decided he’d better check out her family and got my New York aunt involved. To my dismay, she unearthed debilitating information about this girl’s family that spelled doom to my growing dreams of starting my own family.
The lesson l learned was “pictures do not do justice.”
Finally, your reasoning for perusing photos “just to see if it’s shayach” is just a ploy to outmaneuver Hashem. “Oh, I will save so many dates if only I see a picture” you say — when the emes is you will still have to date the same amount of girls anyway, picture or no picture.
Worse, you can end up the big loser by rejecting your bashert because of an unflattering pose.
THAT MAGICAL QUALITY: M’nucha Bialik
Like the author of the letter I’m responding to, I have never responded to any letters or articles written in a magazine. But as a shidduch coach and a former “older single” (before the term “shidduch crisis” was even coined), I feel that I must reply to the letter written by “A Bochur in Shidduchim,” who touched on the crux of the entire shidduch-résumé/photo dilemma.
The way I see it, there are several points that need to be addressed:
- Is sharing a girl’s photo to determine if a boy will be attracted to her demeaning, humiliating, and immodest?
- Is potentially saving a girl (and a boy) from a “one-and-done date” (including the time, expenses, and emotional energy incurred) worth doing something that most girls would describe as demeaning, humiliating, and immodest?
So the question that this bochur and others are really asking: If showing photos can get more people married (plus, hopefully, prevent bad dates), then wouldn’t the gain (marriage) outweigh the pain (girls sending their photos)?
Now, that would have to be a halachic question raised to a true gadol who understands the complexity of these issues. Are there halachic ramifications of a boy (especially a ben Torah or “yeshivah guy”) looking at girls’ pictures? Is it actually immodest to show one’s picture for the purpose of deciding if someone will be attracted to them or not? Are there different parameters for those who are serious bnei Torah or for those who aren’t? Is one permitted to do something that causes another person pain if it ultimately will be for their benefit or someone’s benefit in the end? Does the end justify the means?
These are tough questions that can only be answered by a gadol.
However, I think that we don’t even have to grapple with these difficult questions because they are actually based on a mistaken premise.
I believe that in our generation, we have lost the art of shidduch dating. There’s a lot of confusion out there about what is the Jewish way of dating. As an aside, I truly believe this young man (and many others like him) to be sincere, ehrlich, a ben Torah, and someone who desires a genuine relationship with his wife. I am sure that he and most people realize that a man and a woman must like each other, value each other, enjoy each other’s company, and share certain compatible hashkafos, values, and goals. And, in addition, he is right: Both men and women need to feel some sort of attraction to each other.
But here is where singles (and unfortunately, many married people as well) have gotten confused. As Torah Jews, the attraction we need and are looking for is not something that can be seen in a picture. Here is a Hebrew term for what we are looking for — and that is that the person is “motzei chein b’einai.”
We see this concept throughout the Torah. We are actually attracted to a person’s chein. People generally translate that as “charm,” which sounds a bit magical. In fact, this chein is not something physical — it’s something spiritual, which Hashem put into man and woman, so that their neshamah will actually recognize and be attracted to their zivug.
It is not something that a person can see in a picture; it’s not something that a mother can see for her son; it’s something that a person must experience.
I know that this bochur and his friends and the many girls I have met have not experienced this yet so they don’t know what I’m talking about. Not ever having experienced and felt what chein is, they may even mistakenly believe that the beginning stage of marriage actually starts with physical attraction. Furthermore, many of the mothers (and fathers) who have experienced chein didn’t consciously know what they felt because it’s something spiritual and metaphysical. And whether a person was conscious of it or not, they felt it. They might have called it physical attraction, but that’s not really what it was.
There is something that draws us to other people — it’s their personality, their smile, their energy, their entire self; the way they think, the way they feel, the way they laugh, who they are — that we are attracted to.
I, along with many shadchanim, have known many, many boys and girls who were dating and did not like the other person’s looks. Yet they were still drawn to the other person. They kept dating and dating and slowly but surely, they started to like the other person’s smile or eyes or cuteness or couldn’t even tell if the person was good-looking or not, because they just liked the other person. They felt their chein.
I have known people who didn’t date a person at first because of their picture, only to finally date the person and think them to be beautiful or good-looking. This, by the way, applies to both boys and girls. I have had both boys and girls tell me that they found the person they were dating unattractive, but they would go out again because they liked the person’s personality and hashkafos. I have encouraged people to keep dating under these circumstances. Either they will start to feel nauseous, bored, and completely uninterested if they keep dating — or they will start to notice that the boy has a nice smile, the girl has an adorable laugh, and they will start liking the other person more and more.
This “magic,” this chein, can NEVER, EVER be seen in a picture.
As somebody who has accompanied many singles on their journey to find their bashert and having been through it myself, I feel the pain of these young men and women. And I would do anything that would make it easier for them to find their zivug (assuming it was halachically permissible). But seeing each other’s pictures doesn’t help. It only hinders, as a person might actually miss out on their bashert and years of happiness because they said “no” based on a picture.
Like the bochur in shidduchim, I too will end this letter with the brachah: May all singles find and recognize their bashert b’karov!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 850)
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