Daf Yomi Yevamos 44
Back in college, I was schmoozing one day with some friends about dating and marriage. I told them that I planned to go the shidduch route – I would meet with a professional matchmaker to find the right girl.
“Are you crazy?!” exclaimed Avi. “How could you leave such a major life decision to a stranger?”
“Why, how do you plan to meet your wife?” I asked.
Avi replied, “I’m not planning anything. I’ll just meet her however I meet her.”
Concerning a man who is faced with the duty to perform the levirate marriage with his brother’s widow who is of disparate age to him, the Torah states, “The elders of the city shall call to him and say . . .”
The Gemara teaches: This means that he is given suitable advice. If, for instance, he was young and she old, or if he was old and she was young, he is told, ‘What would you do with a young woman?’ or ‘What would you do with an old woman? Go to one who is the same as yourself and create no strife in your house!’
What are the chances of meeting a fitting marriage partner by chance? Most of the people you meet in life have very different values to you. And let’s face it, the first thing about attraction has nothing to do with values. It has a lot more to do with external attributes. That’s not to say that physical attraction is not important. But why risk becoming attracted to the exterior of someone who is an internally poor match?
When you meet with a shadchan (matchmaker), they only set you up on dates with likeminded, suitable individuals who share your values. Before you’ve even met the person, you’ve already done all your homework to establish that this date is the kind of person you might like to share your life with. You can then go out and see if there’s any chemistry, knowing that most of the big values questions are already taken care of. That’s the meaning of the Talmud’s advice: If you want to avoid strife in your marriage, find someone who is compatible!
You’d be amazed at the basic questions that come up with couples I counsel prior to and during marriage: whether or not to have kids; whether or not to keep a kosher home; whether or not they need to be home on Friday night for Shabbat dinner; whether or not to give their children a Jewish education. I think to myself, ‘These are huge questions! Didn’t you discuss such important matters when you were dating?’ But sadly, in many cases, the answer is no. Dating was about having fun and avoiding the big questions of values.
If you’re single, make sure you’re looking for the right things in a marriage partner. Make sure you’re asking the right questions. And don’t leave things to chance. Even if you’re not up for meeting with a shadchan, ask your friends to set you up on dates with individuals who share your values. And if you are married, it’s not too late to start having serious, deep conversations with your spouse. You may not agree on everything, but if you’re committed to discussing the big questions, you will discover a whole new level in your relationship!