In my early twenties, finding myself frustrated by my single status, I thought it might have been a good idea if, at birth, each child was given a sealed envelope from God, containing a single name on an index card: the name of his or her eventual bashert (and perhaps a city, especially in case of Davids, Rachels and other common names). That envelope could be held in trust for a to-be-determined period of time, after which it could be redeemed by the lovelorn adult. I subsequently determined that this would strip the process of searching of any romance or satisfaction, and (because God’s agent never returned my calls) I jettisoned the clearly unimplementable idea.

An Anonymous poster on JDaters Anonymous wrote (spellings corrected for purposes of editorial sanity):Anatevka Wedding

I like the idea of the arranged marriage. It would save alot of time and hurt feelings. If the matches could be done analytically with people who care about the matchees. Something like this could be great. I’ve given up on dating and guys. I just can’t handle all the misery, backstabbing, stress they cause me.

I do my fair share of complaining about the state of my romantic life. But I haven’t personally experienced the kind of treachery that this commenter seems to have had in affairs of the heart, and for that I am most grateful, even as I empathize with her.

In today’s global society, freedom of choice reigns over almost everything else. But (please indulge me my “Carrie Bradshaw moment” here) does having too many choices result in making no choice at all? Could today’s single Jews benefit from a little shtetlicious regression into a world of arranged marriages, wherein two marriageable people could meet once or twice, determine attraction and compatibility and then move ahead with their lives? Is freedom of choice perpetuating (if not causing) the so-called shidduch crisis?

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Esther Kustanowitz

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  • Esther, you know this idea of going out for like a month and then getting engaged is in vogue amongst the traditional Orthodox still, right? But then, you have to consider two things: 1. after only two or three dates you can marry about 50% of the people you date (the other 50% you KNOW are definite no’s) and it’s really once you go out with someone more that you see WHY they’re not for you and you’re not for them, so it’s not really so good, and 2. relationships are about giving…so…two very giving people (not giving to the point where it takes from you but the way my mom always said, “relationships are about giving and receiving”) can probably have a successful relationship even if they’re not TRULY, MADLY in love when they get engaged. Idealistic? I think.

    (a lot and matches)

  • There’s also the theory (let’s call it the Fiddler on the Roof Marital Paradigm so it sounds appropriately psychobabbly) that after you’ve been going through the same stuff with one person and raising children and all of that for twenty years, you’re bound to love them even if when you got married she didn’t make your brain fall into your stomach and splash your innards and made you babble like a cretin until she left (to paraphrase Calvin and Hobbes).

    Although I could also see that sort of situation evolving into the marital equivalent of Israel and Egypt’s cold peace.

    But, come to think of it, a lot of marriages where the people are madly in love with each other at the beginning end up like that.

    I don’t know. Call me a romantic, but I think I’d rather have the babble-like-a-cretin head over heels love than the arranged marriage, but I’ll admit, shidduching often makes an awful lot of sense.

  • I once had a conversation with a Rabbi bout this, he put it to me like this ” there are two types of people who get married, 1. thoese who know they don’t know the other person 2. Those who think they know that they know the other person.

  • Its sort of like going to a restaurant with a 12 page menu and 600 items, it is incredibly difficult to make a decision and what you invariably order is not quite really what you wanted. Its never fully satisfactory and you always think that the other choice would have been better.

    And for those who feel they can handle a 600 item menu with no remorse or regrets – good luck to them. But for the rest of us who follow the laws of human nature and have a tough time deciding, it is best to have a limited choice.

    If you keep shabbat then you never really have a problem with what to do with your saturdays. If you don’t then its just another day for you to fill up or futz around in. Etc etc . Not to say those who don’t keep it have a difficult time making use of it, but there is really no difference then between Saturday, sunday or any other day one may have off during the week.

    Essentially limited choices or choices with direction are always better. (Regardless of how many people choose to continually fight this basic fact of nature.)

    Father Joey has given his moral lesson for the day.

  • Arranged marriage has been successful when a couple of necessary and important elements are in place:

    1. The people doing the arranging are the parents, and the children (now young adults, or close to it) have a close, peaceful and mutually respectful relationship with them. They have shared values and life goals (usually religious ones) that they are all in agreement about; and

    2. The children have a strong belief that their parents know them better than anyone else (even themselves), and would only suggest a match who would be as close to perfect for them as possible.

    Given that this type of relationship is hard to fathom in the secular world, and even the modern orthodox world, the idea of an arranged marriage seems like turning the keys over to someone to drive your car for you for the rest of your life. In other words, a stripping of one’s indepdence and power of choice over one’s own life.

    IMHO, singles today, especially those who are dating for the purpose of marriage, could actually learn something from the practice of arranged marriage. And that is having the requisite self-knowledge before venturing out to pick a partner. If singles aren’t relying on their parents to know them and know what’s best for them, then they have to be very clear about who they are and what they have to contribute to a relationship. This gives them a better chance of knowing what to look for, and how to pick the best candidates. Unfortunately, since singles have taken on this job for themselves, they have met with more frustration and less success.

    And even though there is divorce in the arranged marriage world, it is still less than in the non-arranged marriage world.

  • Janice brings up some good points but they should also be seen from another point of view. Growing up in the late 20th century, most of us think that we control our lives, but for most it’s a lie. In every society, there is a routine you do because that’s what everyone does. You still think you have freedom, but for instance, how many people do you know did something other than the standard – finish high school, go to college, get a job. Some threw in a year of Israel and/or yeshiva, but most do not.

    My point? Well, if your ‘society’s’ mores outright include that prearranged marriage, or otherwise getting married really young without a prolonged courting or living together, then you accept it as the norm not unlike the ‘secular’ or less traditional accept the ‘preset’ routine of their lives.

    Yeah, so marriage is abit more intimate , but if those values also teach you that you have a partner, deal with it instead of worrying about your selfish ‘needs’ then screw the romance that 20th centruy marketing has taught us is important to keep the marriage going because it’s BS. If you go into the marriage knowing that something is more important than ‘romance’ than that will keep you gong until 120. On the other hand, I admit that there are many assholes out there in both sexes. But most people are okay if you get past their outer shell.

    In a related note, I learnt recently that in Yemen, the kids reaching bar/bat mitzvah were married ‘prearranged’ so that they wouldn’t be ‘taken’ by the Muslim neighbours and forcibly assimilated (though it still happened).

  • DiGiTaL wrote:
    I once had a conversation with a Rabbi bout this, he put it to me like this ” there are two types of people who get married:
    1. thoese who know they don’t know the other person
    2. Those who think they know that they know the other person.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    This Rabbi is extremely wise.

    Look around you: there are countless cases of people who “were an item” for years, shacked up, and THEN found out they were incompatible. People do NOT reveal themselves unless there is a baseline of trust and intimacy – instead they continue to maintain carefully edited facades. And today’s revolving-door dating environment ensures neither trust nor intimacy, even if you are having sex together.

    Successful “shidduch” dating – or any dating-for-marriage accomplishes a small, limited set of goals:

    1) To identify people who repulse you, or who are obviously unsuitable in person even if they seemed to match “on paper”.

    2) To determine that IN GENERAL you and a prospective mate are:
    – physically attracted
    – emotionally compatible
    – share the same basic life goals

    THAT IS ALL. No more can be divined during the dating process. The rest is taking a chance with this person.

    For those seeking *Romance* – the flush feelings of sexual energy and emotional rapport in shidduch dates are perhaps the purest expression of romance in our time – there is nothing like it in the modern Meat Market of the Dulled Senses. I know many FFBs especially find this hard to believe, but it’s true.

    But romance’s true lifespan is not more than a year or so. It is very useful for helping you identify your mate and in helping you over the, uh, hump of the first accomodation to married life. But you can’t live on cotton candy forever.

    (again, the Sex In the City life dulls this romantic Bashert Alarm – by desensitizing one’s antennae and coarsening the dating process with a drive-thru-window, catalog-shopping mindset.)

    It is NOT POSSIBLE to cover every contingency. You WILL have to take a chance, based on an educated hunch. The shidduch process vets people based on externals, and it doesn’t take more than a few months to learn all that is public about the internals. Beyond that, neither of you is going go give out much more information or extend oneself. You have to decide based on incomplete knowledge.

    Rabbi David Aaron writes that “when you marry Rachel, you also get Leah”. That is – you marry the revealed part of your spouse, but you are also marrying other aspects that will not be revealed until there is trust and intimacy – or until there is trauma and changed circumstance.

    There is NO way to avoid this risk, no way to know all before the fact. The loosening of sexual mores has done NOTHING to ease or change the course of this natural trajectory of intimacy – all it has done is leave people parked at an adolescent midpoint, without the security, support, and emotional reward of a committed adult relationship.

    Three questions a very astute Rabbi asked me often when I was dating:
    1) What can you give to this person – how can you help them achieve their purpose in life?
    2) What don’t you like about this person – and can you live with it?
    3) Do you believe in this person – in their basic goodness?

    Notice that these questions point away from romantic infatuation, and towards real loving life with an imperfect other (of course YOU are perfect – but there are so few like us around… )

    Which leads us to the next big stumbling block for successful marriage-making:

    We have been raised in a selfish age, surrounded by adults who are basically still adolescents. And a lot of people who swear they want to get married have not really built themselves into givers. They want to get married for their own self-fulfillment. But happy marriage requires a real desire to give to the other.

    In this sense, emphasizing romance is selfish – because romance is is all about MY feelings. It is not about seeing someone clearly, with all their faults, and saying “I still love this person and believe in them, am still willing to lay down my paycheck to support this person and further their goals.”


  • Oh, this answer is easy! Too many Jews to choose? Just move to a town with much fewer Jews! (Worked for me.) 😉

  • 1) What can you give to this person – how can you help them achieve their purpose in life?
    2) What don’t you like about this person – and can you live with it?
    3) Do you believe in this person – in their basic goodness?

    Excellent questions, but like self-help books, the very people that need to answer ’em are the very people that can’t, and hence, turn to self-books for guidance, which in turn, ask these very questions.

    Another thing…
    Question #2. Isn’t it true that the very things you find endearing about your partner, for the first year or so, become the very things that start to grate on you as things progress.

    Also, isn’t it also true that we choose partners to complete us in some way that we’re unable, or unwilling, to do ourselves. And that very thing that we found so attractive, so alluring, becomes a point of contention a 5-6 years down the road (Or as a well known marital therapist in Vancouver states: “I ask all my clients what was the silent vow you made to your spouse under the chupah?”

    Anyway, the good news is most of us do this, and if we’re willing, to work on these issues forces us to grow up.

  • I am not exactly sure what people mean when they talk about “arranged marriages”.

    My son started dating when he decided he wanted a wife. Since, as we have discussed on this blog, Orthodoxy frowns on premarital sexual relations, Orthodox people start dating for the specific purpose of finding a spouse. In this process, people make heavy use of professional matchmakers, people in the community who do this on an amateur basis, or just friends who will “set them up”. I don’t know personally any people who seem to be victims of the type of arranged marriages supposedly prevalent in “primitive” societies, where some woman’s father marries her off to her cousin she has never in exchange for a couple of goats.

    Regardless of how long it may take to find your beshert, I think most normal people will know after a date or two that a certain person is not for them. One of my sons met a charming and attractive young woman who made a very good first impression. After a few dates, even though she was still charming and attractive, my son knew that she was not the kind of person he wanted to marry; she felt the same way about him. So instead of sleeping together and getting involved i a potentially messy affair, they stopped seeing each other just like that, no fuss, no muss.

    My other son eventually wound up marrying a woman whom he knew from school before they started dating. The marriage was “arranged”, not in the sense that their parents agreed that they should marrya and they went along with it unwillingly, but in the sense that they felt out the situaton through mutual friends and knew before they started dating that both of them were in the market for a spouse. There is much less confusion and heartache this way, I think.

    Anyway, it worked for them. They have been married for a couple of years and appear to be quite happy.

  • I am not sure to what extent people really check out practical goals. For example, some people want to be in a 2 income household. Some women, may say that they will work, but once they have children they decide to take off a few years to raise their children. This is a human condition to change your mind, but it could cause the man to feel cheated.
    As well, women need to check out a man better in terms of his anger. For example, some men may be under control at work, since there is a hierarchy there, and the man is not going to punch out his boss, even tho he may want to. Yet at home, this man is the so called boss, in that he is in a position of power in the family, and he might take liberties w/ his power, that he wouldn’t do on the outside.
    IMO, these type of topics are more important than most.
    The problem in many frum arranged marriages is that the people are very young, they may only see $ signs, or
    visions of sexual fulfillment, when the sex drive may be opposites.

  • “I think most normal people will know after a date or two that a certain person is not for them.”

    Really? I don’t agree. Not at all. Some VERY VERY lucky people KNOW after a date or two. In general, these are the same people that KNOW what career they’d like to do when they’re 14. I envy them, I truly do.

    I believe most people aren’t sure. And what tradition tells us (and this seems to be backed by family/marital systems theory) is that the choice you’ve made is PROBABLY a very good choice, both good and bad. Now make it work.

  • I have known what I wanted to do since I was 8. And I know what kinds of guys would be good for me. The trouble has been convincing them…


  • “I have known what I wanted to do since I was 8. ”


    Like yourself, my girlfriend knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was 8. And she’s a doctor. But you’re two very fortunate individuals. Check out a book by Po Bronson entitled “What Should I Do With My Life?” to get a feel for how the other 90% of us live.

    “The trouble has been convincing them…”
    I hear Rohypnol does wonders.

  • Being married is not the same as being romatically attracted to a person. As I said, Orthodox people date in order to find a spouse. You might fid a woman who is beautiful, witty, cultured, etc., everything you could possibly want. But if you want to have a family and she doesn’t, what is the point of continuing on? Keep dating in the hope that you can change her mind? Marry her and needle her for years until she either gives in or divorces you? Etc.

    My son was in a relationshp with a breathtakingly beautiful, well-traveled, open-minded, intelligent, funny woman. (Did I mention that she was astonishngly good-looking? Not just cute or pretty, but moth-to-flame beautiful, the kind of woman who makes you stop and stare, open-mouthed and drooling like an idiot, convnced that you have finally found the proof of Hasem’s existence.). I was certain that they were going to be married.

    But, she simply didn’t have the frum gene, and it was clear that she wasn’t interested in having a family. So, he ended it.

    In retrospect, it was a good thing. I don’t think I could have dealt with having a dughter-in-law so beautiful that I wanted to date her.

    She got married to a rich banker 6 months after they broke up.

  • “In retrospect, it was a good thing. I don’t think I could have dealt with having a dughter-in-law so beautiful that I wanted to date her.”

    Honest, but yuch to the power of two.

  • “But if you want to have a family and she doesn’t, what is the point of continuing on?”

    Most of my male friends were reluctant about:

    a) marriage
    b) kids

    These same friends are married and with kids.

  • Wrong post TM. Or are you being sly and cryptic for a reason?

  • Well Shtreimel, what do you think all of those prohibitons in Leviticus are for? It is pretty obvious that some guys had the misfortune of having Jewlicious daughters-in-law and so Hashem had to tell them to behave themselves.

    My point in relating that story is not to point up my personal failings. My point is that she was a beautiful, desirable woman whom most men would have given their eye teeth to marry. In spite of that, my son realized that while she was wonderful romantc fling materal, she wasn’t the wife he wanted.

    My point about dating is simple: if you both go into it knowing what you want, the other person’s compatibility as a long-term mate will be quite apparent after a few dates. It might not sound particularly romantic, but it is a practical way of finding out if a person is a suitable mate.

  • Ephraim,

    We agree. And your son sounds wise beyond his years.

  • Shtreimel, I was just thinking that since we already use other names, like HaShem, to remove ourselves from saying (close your eyes!!!) yhwh, why not start using Hasem?

  • “…why not start using Hasem?”
    Huh? For whom, for what? Why am I not getting this? Buller? Buller?

  • It was tough on him. He really loved her. But Torah was more important to him, believe it or not.

    And if you had met her, you would understand what I’m talking about. Instead of saying “yuch to the power of two”, you would have said “DUUUUUuuude…….”.

  • Now I’m curious… got a photo of this girl? ;P

    Anyway I just wanted to add Ben-David’s post was great, definitely food for thought. I just started going out with a great guy and I”ll have to think about the questions posed on this thread… (even if it wasn’t anything near arranged by our parents – our friends set us up, heh heh)

  • I was hoping to discuss why there are so many singles in the frum community in their 30’s,40
    ‘s and beyond. There was a recent blog that highlighted this problem.

    Is it a matter of attitude then? In the frum circles, it is common to reject someone for a reason that you don’t find the other person attractive. I have had this happen when I helped set someone up on such a date. He did not find her attractive, yet I thought that she was totally Jewlicious.

    How do you break this mindset?

  • Oy, Ricker Aish. You mean you totally missed the seven thousand comments or so about the Shomer Negiah blog? Do yourself a favor and read some of our “back-issues”.

    You need to be attracted to your spouse, period. But attraction’s more than external–it’s about who you are inside in combination with what you look like. (Ucch. I sound like such a girl.)

  • I cannot imagine who my parents would set me up with. I do not want to imagine. Of course, the shadchanim and friends seem to be on a “super-boring men” roll, so maybe my parents could beat their track record.

    Hmmm…am starting to think of throwing in the towel and buying a cat.

  • Make Me a Match…
    Today, in business, in life, and in romance, it’s all about making matches. A few weeks ago, before I left for California, I did a singles workshop at the JCC of Manhattan called