2008 Sinas Chinam and Shidduchim
Chananya Weissman
2008, Lifestyle Magazine

There is a great deal of punditry regarding what's "really" wrong in the shidduch world. As I wrote previously, there is no single convenient explanation for this situation, and those who reduce what is a complex problem to a neat sound bite do everyone a disservice. That said, there are certain factors that contribute very prominently to the overall situation, and addressing these factors is therefore key to making things better.

The number one underlying factor is a problem that we as a people have been unsuccessfully dealing with for thousands of years: sinas chinam. This assertion might take people by surprise, since sinas chinam is not normally associated with dating.

But consider: sinas chinam is harboring contempt toward a fellow Jew for superficial reasons that have nothing to do with the appropriateness of his conduct toward Hashem or others. Indeed, the shidduch world is so beset with sinas chinam that scorning fellow Jews for the most absurd of reasons is expected, even somewhat dignified.

Most shidduchim that are never given a fair chance — or any chance at all — are dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with factors that have any bearing on marital compatibility. All sorts of minutiae must line up just so for a first date to even be given consideration. Presumed external indicators of one's religious observance and philosophical leanings have been invented and given more weight than matters of actual substance. Fitting in and doing what is expected are paramount, while being human and genuine spell a social death sentence. I can fill this magazine cover to cover with examples, and so can you.

Those guilty of this most pernicious form of sinas chinam will rationalize that it is really not sinas chinam at all. Rather, they claim, they are simply trying to weed out people that they have little in common with. They will claim that those who wear shtreimels and those who wear knitted yarmulkes have so little of substance in common that marriage between their families would be a ludicrous idea.

This might actually be true a great deal of the time. After all, stereotypes generally have a basis in reality. However, when we use stereotypes as a basis for making assumptions about people we will be wrong much of the time as well. And when we use stereotypes as a basis for rejecting people outright, while rationalizing that we don't have time to give them fair consideration, we commit a great injustice against ourselves and our fellow Jews.

Furthermore, if we believe that there is one ideal or intended marriage candidate (a "bashert"), how can we excuse our rejecting someone based entirely on superficial considerations? What makes anyone so sure that Hashem placed their "bashert" in a family just like their own, with a background just like their own, and lined up everything to be perfectly simple and convenient? Is the rest of life like that? Is such a fanciful concept supported anywhere in Torah literature?

I regularly daven in a shul whose members wear a variety of head coverings. Many members of this shul take pride in that, believing that this proves they have created an atmosphere where Jews with great differences can feel comfortable davening together. While creating such an atmosphere is certainly a noble goal, I don't believe a diversity of head-coverings indicates it.

My perspective is that everyone who davens there has the following in common: they are attracted to a shul that strives to create a welcoming atmosphere and they appreciate the quality of the tefilla. Consequently, their appreciation for this shul tells us something of great substance about them. Their head-covering does not. Which is ultimately more important in determining true commonality?

I will elaborate on this critical concept in my next article and show how it applies to marital compatibility.

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness (www.endthemadness.org). His collection of original divrei Torah, "Sefer Keser Chananya," can be obtained by contacting him at admin@endthemadness.org.