Jul 14, 2010
Dealing With a Shadchan
Shidduchim SOS: Chicago Shadchan Rabbi Moishe Raitman has valuable tips for a successful shidduch experience: The do's and don'ts in dealing with a shadchan and what every parent can expect from them.
By Avigail Bakaleynik
Rabbi Moishe Raitman, a shadchan in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, recently spoke to a meeting of the Chicago Shidduch Group, sharing tips on choosing and working with a shadchan, and on clarifying one's shidduch objectives for the best results. Who is getting married – the parents or the child?
Rabbi Raitman began his presentation by pointing out that the Rebbe's approach to life’s challenges in general and in particluar shidduchim needs to be with a positive attitude. Chabad Chassidim are known for their warmth and joy, and our approach to shidduchim should be no different. He takes issue with the term "Shidduch Crisis", and while he acknowledges that the dating dynamic has definitely changed from previous years, the situation must be approached as a challenge, not a "problem". For example, it cannot be that yesterday’s success is today’s crisis. 40-50 years ago the Rebbe was heralded for being instrumental in the founding of the Baal Teshuva movement. Chabad worldwide flourished as a result. Today, many of those baalei teshuvah and their children need shidduchim and are being rejected because of their background. This of course is not what the Rebbe intended. By focusing on what is really in the best interests of the individual - the Ikar - and not what is secondary - the Tofel - , the challenge of finding shidduchim can be met averting the so-called stigma “crisis”.
Using stories and examples from Torah and from his shadchanus experiences, Raitman delineated the role and function of the ideal, effective, professional shadchan, as well as the ideal attitude and approach of the prospective single and his or her parents. While he did warn against idealizing the image of one's prospective spouse -- it seems the perfect, or almost perfect, shadchan is not too much to ask.
He acknowledged that there exists much frustration with many Shadchanim. However, one needs to understand under which pretext the shadchan is offering assistance. Many shadchanim view their roles in being partners with the parents in helping find one’s bashert.
There are 3 manners in which shidduch proposals are made. If parents are clearly made aware in which manner the shidduch is being presented, much aggravation and false expectations would be prevented.
 Shadchan has not researched the name however suggests looking into it to see if suitable.
 Shadchan has made some preliminary research and suggests worth looking into further.
 Shadchan has done considerable research and highly recommends.
The onus of due diligence still rests upon the shoulders of the parents who must investigate and research to assess if the proposed is a match for their child.
According to Rabbi Raitman, a professional shadchan should offer you five C's:
2. CHARACTER PROFILE REVIEW
3. CONTACT CHECKING
As the Rebbe suggested, one should choose a "special" shadchan who clearly cares about you and your search, and with whom you feel comfortable dealing. In the Rebbe's words, he should be a "ba'al meretz" - energetically undertaking to fulfill his shlichus. Just as Eliezer the servant of Avraham was made to swear a shvuah, the shadchan should be someone who will be ready to persevere on your behalf. The personal sense of responsibility will translate into a pleasant and hopefully fruitful experience for all involved.
The shadchan who cares will take the time to go over the single's profile or resume. Just as a job-seeker prepares an employment resume very carefully, often hiring a professional resume writer for assistance, the shidduch resume should be carefully constructed to present the person in a truthful but effective manner. A vague, unflattering, or unrealistic profile could be of more harm than help. It could also be a turn-off for the shadchan, since it will be obvious to the shadchan that the single or parents are not clear or reasonable about what they are seeking. It will be impossible to help such a single, if they themselves do not have a clear or realistic perspective.
A shadchan should ideally really go over the profile with the single or parent, clarifying and defining terms such as "chassidish", "mentch", "balanced" and other frequently used words and phrases. "Who doesn't want a mentch?" Raitman asks. "Does anyone specifically ask for a bochur without a sense of humor?" But sometimes using these catch phrases signifies that the single has not taken the time to really investigate what they are looking for. For example, a girl who said she wants a "chassidisher bochur" first explained that she wanted someone who wore a black hat and white shirt. "So are we marrying the shirt" asks Raitman. "She also wanted someone who attended minyan three times a day and had a daily shiur. After much self introspection, what was primary for the girl was an individual who was a truly caring and sensitive husband with Chassidishe standards. The shirt color was completely irrelevant. She also came to the realization, that if he was to be especially attentive to his wife and very involved with the kids whenever necessary, he might not always be able to attend a minyan three times daily. It turns out that the minyan-going was not as important to her as the sensitivity, patience, and versatility." Raitman points out that talking it over extensively with the shadchan helped her articulate her needs better than simply writing "chassidish" and "a mentch" in an email, and it helped the shadchan find the right guy for her.
On the other hand, focusing on irrelevant details and trivial priorities could hamper your search for one’s bashert. "Most people like long walks on the beach, bbqs or hanging out with friends," Raitman says, "but how much time realistically will one have to do these things after he/she are married? Are these interests shidduch-preventers from even going out? Personality essentials are much more relevant." Also, he notes, a profile description should indicate what positives the individual brings to the marriage and how he/she will contribute and compliment one’s future spouse.
A good shadchan will remind you to check your references and find out how they might represent you. Who are you putting as your references? What will they likely say? Before listing them, ask them how they would describe the single and what type of person they think would suit him or her. Even if you do not list the reference in the end, if they are likely to be called anyway, as in the case of a long-time employer or a school director, it is worthwhile to have this discussion with them.
Also, the shadchan should know who might be good additional references, as well as anyone who is not recommended as a contact. The shadchan should ideally be familiar with what the references will say, and he or she can get a better picture of the single by calling the references himself.
Singles and parents often complain that shadchanim do not return calls, flip off names from a list, or simply forward emails with little time or thought invested in personal communication. Even a caring, invested shadchan may at times act this way. If the shadchan gives you a name, find out if it is a suggestion (being passed on as a favor but without much research invested), or a recommendation (based on research and more careful matching). Each could be valuable, and if the single understands where it is coming from, there is no need for him or her to be upset. (See above).
It is also important to find out about the shadchan's general approach and if anything significant is going on in the shadchan's life, such as a simcha or a special situation, so you can understand how they are likely to be dealing with you. If you are not comfortable with their style, you can choose to work with a different shadchan.
The shadchanus relationship should be a two-way street. Parents demand return calls from the shadchanim yet in many cases they are slow to respond in a timely fashion to proposals presented to them.
The single and parents must be open to communicate with the shadchan, provide clear, honest, straightforward information and feedback. "If I am close to the mark, I want to know it," says Raitman, "That will help me do better next time. And only getting negative feedback makes my job very tough."
After a date, Raitman likes the couple to call in within an hour, if only to leave a brief message. Later he will "debrief" them on the details and how they felt about it. Many young people are not sure what they are feeling or what their feelings signify - whether to continue or stop. This may be true even of older singles. (In fact, due to parents either desiring to shelter their children, or parents rejecting shidduchim for their own reasons, even older singles may not have that much actual dating experience.) A good shadchan will provide some guidance.
Raitman urges parents to communicate with their children. "Parents need to know what the single wants, not what they the parents want. So often I hear, 'We are looking for...' 'We want this type of family...' and I ask 'What does your child want?' and the answer will be 'I don't know...' Who is getting married, the parents or the child?"
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER
We have heard these points before, but they bear repeating.
"Don't play HaShem," advises Raitman. "Don't reject names out of hand. Sometimes people are holding things up -- their bashert may be right in front of them but they are not seeing it." When people finally accept what they or their child feels and needs, things start working out. Actually, an effective shadchan can sense this problem and must help resolve it before setting up dates. The shadchan should be certain that the single and the parents are being clear and honest, with the shadchan and with themselves, about what the single needs and wants, not what he or she initially thinks she wants, or what the parents want. (For instance, one explanation for why the daughter of Eliezer servant of Avraham was not a good match for Yitzchak is because Eliezer was from Chesed, like Avraham, and Yitzchak from Gevurah. Avraham, the father, was able to see that Yitzchak needed Rivkah, who was the perfect balance for his Gevurahdik Avodah.)
Having a mashpiah is of extreme importance in identifying one’s true needs.
Focus on pnimius, not chitzonius. One reason we cover the kallah with a veil and the chosson is given a tallis before the marriage is to show that the external attributes of the person we are marrying may very well change over time. We are marrying the real person inside, not their chitzonius. That is why the single should put more energy and thought into finding the inner person. We have to be reminded over and over again that we are not seeking our ideal mate, the one we are imagining to ourselves that we would love to have, the one who is tall and dark and likes long walks on the beach. Like Adam and Chavah in Gan Eden, we are seeking to be re-united with our missing half, and we are seeking to RECOGNIZE that half, by looking at the pnimius of the person -- and not at their long nose or light hair or family background, or some other characteristic that we would never have imagined we would consider. This requires emunah and bitachon, and the spiritual clarity that Chassidus provides.
Finally, the shadchan should be ready to follow through as necessary. Raitman strives to fulfill the requirements of his ideal shadchan, and he admits that it limits the number of people he can take on. But a caring, committed, and communicative shadchan, working with caring, committed and communicative clients, b'ezras HaShem will be blessed with many successes.
Rabbi Moishe Raitman is a Shidduch Coach and Shadchan.
To schedule an appointment, he can be reached at email@example.com or 847-626-6445.
The Chicago Shidduch Group is a grass-roots support network founded on the basis of achdus and ahavas Yisroel, using ruchnius-based actions and active networking to meet today's shidduch challenges. The group has celebrated 80 shidduchim since its inception in 5755. The core actions of the group are:
read and review the Rebbe's letters and advice in the book Eternal Joy, [Kehot]
give 18 cents daily to a hachnosas kallah tzedakah,
actively assist others in their search and with their simchas,
daven for the singles in your group when bentching licht and saying tehillim,
attend shidduch group meetings and lectures, and
contribute positive chizuk and encouragement.
The Chicago Shidduch Group has 22 sister cities, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Crown Heights, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minnesota, Monsey, Morristown, New Haven, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Caracas, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Montreal, S. Paulo, Sydney and Toronto.
Questions about how to start your own group may be addressed to: firstname.lastname@example.org