Now that I married off my youngest, I have more time on my hands. I’ve therefore been devoting hours each week to researching and redting shidduchim to the many singles I know. Over time, I’ve noticed a worrisome phenomenon. Many of the girls I speak with are looking for the next gadol hador. And most of the boys I know, even the good, solid ones, are simply not gadol hador material. There seems to be a serious mismatch between what our seminary girls aspire to and what our yeshivos are capable of producing.
On a philosophical level, this worries me. On a practical level, it stymies me. Should I try to convince the girls to be more realistic? Should I just focus on the girls who are more in touch with reality? Should I throw up my hands in despair? I’d love your perspective.
A Frustrated Shadchan
First of all, you should be gebentshed. As in all areas of life, Hashem rewards us according to our efforts and not according to our results. Thank you for caring and doing your part. As to whether this is the most efficient use of your time — that’s between you, Hashem, and your husband.
In terms of your concern, I’d like to validate your observation with a big resounding YES! The mismatch between what’s being promoted versus what’s being produced is troublesome on many levels. I’m going to reframe your observation: It’s not so much “what yeshivos are capable of producing,” as much as what’s reasonable to expect from a human being. Particularly a 22-year-old male human being. (Now before all you masculinists — is that the opposite of feminists? — come after me, hear me out.)
We want our boys to be shtark, to learn all day every day, preferably even during breaks. We want them to be real men and know how to do stuff. Like change tires and fill out tax forms and know where to take a girl out on a date and certainly how to get there, but, of course, without a smartphone. We also want them to have some feminine qualities such as empathy and the ability to notice that the garbage needs to be taken out. (But only after they’ve learned a whole day and night and done homework with the kids and picked up some groceries from the store.)
What we don’t acknowledge is that you can’t have everything all the time. No doubt there are yechidim out there who are made of the stuff required to create the family of a gadol. And I even understand why our chinuch system infuses girls with such intense idealism. They know time will blur the clarity, and they want the fire to stay strong. But where is the balance? Where is the voice of reality and authenticity? How many of our girls can come home after giving birth and send their husband back to the beis medrash a few hours later?
What concerns me most is the fallout from advocating perfection. This extends far beyond shidduchim. What happened to “normal”? To “okay”? To “good”? We forget that 95 percent of the data — and the people — exists inside the bell of the bell curve. This is not a chaval or a bedieved. This is how Hashem designed the world. To negate the power and chashivus of a “good guy” or a “decent job” because it isn’t the best is a heresy of sorts; it denies the reality that “best” is reserved for a select few and that most of us will find our path to growth elsewhere. And it leads to so much marital dissatisfaction, judgment of self and others, and many other ills.
If you believe you’re part of the 2.5 percent out there that possess the exceptional strength and middos to marry a gadol, go for it. Insist on nothing less. But if you admit you might fall more within normal, even “high normal,” why not allow the boy you’re dating to have some human qualities as well?
While I wish the girls’ chinuch was more realistic, I have to wonder about the parents here. They’ve been through at least a little bit of life. Probably enough to know that there are many qualities needed to build a Torah home. Where is their guidance?
Unfortunately, sometimes it is the parents themselves who promote this misguided view, and you may need to work with them first to refocus. If, however, you’re dealing with reasonable parents, enlist their help in redirecting their daughter to a more balanced definition of a “good” boy. It’s far more demanding to be a “good” boy than to be a “good” girl. So many of the indicators of greatness in a girl don’t even get tested until she has a family. It’s easy to be patient when you’re babysitting your neighbors; it’s a whole ’nother thing when it’s 7 p.m., two children are fighting fiercely, and the baby is wailing.
Between you and the parents, try some gentle confrontation. Pick any page in the biography of Rebbetzin Kanievsky a”h and ask the girl if this is something she’d be capable of. Remind her that no one is born a gadol; she can’t expect a finished product at age 22. And make sure she’s not confusing gadlus with extremism.
We need to recalibrate and stop confusing “enough” with “mediocrity.” You can’t fix this problem alone, but you can certainly do your part. Remember: “No one can do everything. But everyone can do something.”
Originally featured in Family First, Issue 591. 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.