The gatekeepers of shidduchim

Who or what acts as ultimate gatekeeper for a shidduch? The shadchanim who will only broker a deal they feel is right or profitable? The bochurim who believe that only a certain type will do for them? Or the mothers who try to weed out girls they believe do not carry enough status for their son? Or can it be the shidduch system itself with its complicated rules, background checks, and references that allow for character assassination to take place in the name of a good cause?

So what do you think? I know that some people will say that this is the system, and we have to stick with it, despite its flaws. But there is something to be said for less mediation (which is not synonymous with pritzus). If the young people are mature enough to marry, they should be mature enough to make the decision of whom to marry with an understanding of the reasons behind their choice.
There are a number of accounts of the shidduchim made on Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur in the vineyard. (See the links in The Talmud's account in Taanis 31a is as follows:
The daughter of Israel go out and dance in the vineyards. Anyone who lacked a wife went there. . . . Our rabbis learned: The beautiful ones among them would say: "Raise your eyes to beauty, for a wife is only for beauty." The girls who had yichus [well established, reputable families] would say, "Raise your eyes to family, for a wife is only for children." The ugly ones among them would say, "Take what you take for the sake of Heaven, and adorn us in gold jewelry."

Each type here offers a reason for marrying her. Not all would marry for beauty. Some would marry for yichus. But then there are the ones enjoined to marry truly leshem Shamayim. After all, getting married is a mitzvah. The girls who have the least to offer -- the ones termed outright ugly in the description -- declare that they too have a right to marry. They even go a step further by declaring that they can also be beautiful if only their husband buy them the right jewelery and clothes (as Rashi, I believe, says) would work wonders on their looks.


Chaim B. said…
Why not put up a survey?

>>>The girls who have the least to offer -- the ones termed outright ugly in the description -- declare that they too have a right to marry.

The problem is there is a narrow field to choose from if you are looking for people doing things l'shem shamayim. Shidduchim is a siman, not a sibah. The sibah is our obsession with materialism and superficial qualities.
Ariella said…
Not so many responded to the last survey I posted. Perhaps I could try to figure out how to post it on Facebook.

People usually rationalize that what they are doing is leshem shamayim. For example mothers of bochurim can claim that they are seeking out a rich and pretty girl because they want their son to be able to learn, and, after all, a talmmid chacham deserves a beautiful wife, and yichus would also be nice. But these audacious girls challenge that notion by saying those with truly pure motives do not look at these external qualities.
Orthonomics said…
My vote is all of the above.
Ariella said…
I posted the same topic on the FrumNetwork LinkedIn group and got this response from Nadine Bonner:

We were lucky. My oldest daughter met her husband at the shabbat table of the famous Machlis family in Jerusalem while she was at seminary. It threw me for a loop at first, but they are very happy together.

My second daughter started the shidduch process, and it was revolting. We have different values than many people in our circle - we were not prepared to support anyone and insisted on a boy with a job. My daughter had her own list, which included a desire to make aliyah - so most of the shadchenim would not even deal with her. She went to the extent of booking a one-way ticket to Israel and planned to stay with her sister and look for someone already there.

In the end, the shadchen who succeeded for us was an amateur - a neighbor who did it on the side. She fixed her up with the son of my neighbor across the yard (the kids had never met because he was away at Yeshiva from the time we moved to town). She did not tell my daughter who the prospective boy was, said he wasn't strong on aliyah, but would she go out with him? After the first date, I saw on her face that he was the one.

She has reconciled to living here in Philadelphia, and she has a wonderful life with her parents and in-laws within walking distance. In five years of marriage she has never had to make a shabbat meal or pay a babysitter. We never have to discuss who to spend the holidays with, because we all spend them with both families together. I guess the moral is, whatever list we make, when the right person comes along, the heart knows it.

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