Rabbi Weisblum's Commentary on ParshaVa’etchanan Published in the Baltimore Jewish Times on July 30, 2004
This week we celebrate Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Av, which is called by many Chag Hashadchanim, or "Festival of the Matchmakers." On this date, in ancient times, the unmarried women of Israel used to go out and dance through the city of Jerusalem, wearing borrowed white dresses so that there would be no outward difference between the rich and poor among them. They would call out to the unmarried men, "Choose a bride according to the quality of the person, to compatibility, not only by appearances!"
It was good advice then, and it’s good advice now. But today, things are a bit more difficult for Jewish singles. The infamous "singles situation" in the Jewish world seems to be reaching crisis proportions. It has always been a challenge to bring singles together. In the Talmud, it is said that making shidduchim (matches) has been G-d’s full-time job ever since creation. The Almighty Himself is the ultimate matchmaker. More than ever, G-d needs our help to make successful matches--shidduchim that lead to happy, productive lives now and for future generations.
Contemporary singles have been raised in a culture that often emphasizes independence, self-determination, the pursuit of personal career and monetary goals. It is sad but true that among many of our youth, self-indulgence and self-gratification are prime motivations. Numerous individuals are willing and able to go it alone for a prolonged period of time. Some come from conflicted or divorce homes, carrying mixed feelings about dating and marriage itself—sincerely wanting to find their life partner but, at the same time, being hampered by self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
Love is a private matter, but in the Jewish world, it’s also a communal issue. Inevitably, we all are responsible for one another. Therefore, each of us should get actively involved in helping singles find their bashert (destined soul-mate).
We also might examine why some singles seem unable to make the commitment of marriage. We need to look at ourselves, in part, for the answer. What messages do we send to singles (including, perhaps, our own children)? Do we speak positively about our spouse and about married life? Do we give encouragement and reassurance that individuals can continue to develop themselves, their talents, and interests while being married? Are we setting the right example by working at our own marriage—strengthening it through the mitzvah of family purity, which is designed by G-d to bring couples close and deepen their emotional bonds to each other over the years?
There is a delicate balance when trying to be helpful to singles. On one hand, we need to respect their right to privacy, to make their own choices, and to feel validated as members of the community. On the other hand, we want to actively promote possible matches, offering advice and guidance, while presenting a positive picture of Jewish marriage.
The key is for each of us to take it upon ourselves to be a matchmaker. Put up your antennae and look around.Do you know someone who is looking to get married? What kind of person is he or she looking for? Do you know anyone they would like to meet? Do you know someone who knows someone?
Additionally, when you talk to singles about marriage, be upbeat. Emphasize the Mitzvot opportunities and accomplishments that marriage brings—from the wedding ceremony itself, to raising children, G-d willing. Jewish family life is joyful and rewarding. Keep your single friends and relatives in mind. Suggest matches that seem to hold real potential, so that the gateway to their future happiness may open for them.
This week’s parsha, Va’etchanan, enjoins each human being to love G-d "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might". This is also a model for the ideal relationship between husband and wife. By assisting even one person to find his or her soul-mate, you are not only expressing your love for G-d through actively caring for His children, but also helping another fellow to serve G-d more completely. How rewarding it is to receive a wedding invitation, inscribed with the names of a man and a woman who will soon be joined together as one—all because you cared enough about another person to suggest a good match. Shabbat Shalom.