I’ve seen a lot of interesting articles about the “Shidduch Crisis” online, including this very website.
There are those who highlight the issues; those who beg for prayers and Tehillim; and those who simply cry out about the injustice of it all.
I’ve seen calls for Tehillim and Challah baking; discussions of the relevant segulos; and plenty of calls to ask the community to change their ways to reverse this concerning trend.
I have a simple suggestion that isn’t as excited as Challah or Tehillim; not as controversial as Tznius; but probably the most difficult of them all: Yet extraordinarily relevant to shidduchim.
I’m talking about Lashon Hara.
I’m talking about judgement.
I’m talking about criticism.
I’m talking about the very poisonous language which people use all the time, all around us, day in and day out. At Shabbos tables; on podiums at shuls and schools; with our friend at the grocery store on the corner; via text and Whatsapp; and of course, on Facebook groups and comment threads.
In the laws of Lashon Hara, we learn that there are three people affected by Lashon Hara: The one who says it, the one who hears it, and the one it’s about.
When we teach this to little children, they often wonder how it’s possible that it can hurt the one who hears it – after all, it wasn’t their choice! And the one it’s about – they don’t even know! How?
If you think about the amount of negative energy created by those negative words, the way they pollute our atmosphere, on a macro level it’s easy to see why it’s a real problem.
But when we look into individual situations, individual shidduchim, we can see precisely where Lashon Hara helps us go wrong.
Of course, it’s a known and often abused fact that Lashon Hara is actually permitted in the case of a shidduch; where a warning is warranted and imperative for the sake of a happy marriage.
But how many Shidduchim are destroyed by a simple piece of gossip, something that’s probably only hearsay, or a personal opinion of the referee?
How often does the research not even get carried out based on perception that happens from the general who’s and what’s of Facebook, hearsay, word on the street corner, a picture posted from a wedding years ago?
In fact, when we step back completely from the idea of speaking about people as far as shidduchim go, we also see how Lashon Hara affects the overall shidduch process in a simple way:
By desensitizing ourselves to the gravity of speaking about and judging others, it becomes part of our everyday speech. We feel comfortable speaking out at Shabbos tables about the behavior of others; we think it’s okay to openly judge or rebuke others for their behavior, without first looking at ourselves and noticing that maybe it’s the pot calling the kettle black.
We can talk about tightening the reins on Tznius, on the education system, on specific mitzvos in the community, but which mitzvah is the one that definitively and directly impacts the way people interact with each other, bein adam l’chavero – also known as the bedrock of Shidduch dating, functional communication and true Binyan Adei Ad in marriage?
That’s right. it’s those unfun mitzvos, the ones we don’t like to keep. The ones about Lashon Hara and Rechilus and Shemiras Halashon and everything else that shapes how sensitive we are to other people and the baggage they carry. How can we speak of them or judge them when we don’t know the whole story ourselves?
How can we expect someone to “give him another chance, go on a second date” if we’re so quick to judge the color of someone’s shirt when we speak of them without having met them? How can we expect somebody to look past a fleeting remark on a date when we base our judgement of the kindness of someone’s heart on an interaction that happened once, for two minutes at a wedding five years ago?
There’s a reason Shemiras Halashon isn’t the sparkliest mitzvah to keep. It’s most certainly the hardest. We’re humans, and we’re hardwired to judge.
Shidduchim gives us a carte blanche to do just that, and it’s sadly seeped into the rest of our lives.
It’s time to remember that just as we judge others, so others will judge us.
If you want yourself, your son or daughter, your niece or nephew to be judged favourably on the Shidduch market, it’s time to start from within.
At the Shabbos table, on the street corner, in the grocery store, on the Facebook thread.
And let’s watch this community turn around for the good.
With blessings for a month of true redemption.