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Shidduch

From Academic Kids

Shidduch (or shiduch) (Hebrew: שידוך, pl. shid[d]uchim שידוכים) means a "[a] match" between a man and a woman within Judaism. It is a system of introducing eligible and marriagable singles to each other. It is a name and also a system that refers to the traditional dating system within Orthodox Judaism.

Contents

The phenomenon

In many groups belonging to Orthodox Judaism, dating between the sexes is limited to the search of a partner for marriage, and only follows a period during which both sides (usually the parents, close relatives or friends of the persons involved) make inquiries on the prospective partner, e.g. on his/her character and level of religious observance.

A Shidduch is often begun by a suggestion from close family members, friends or by people (men and women) who have made this process their hobby or even their vocation (a shadchan). A professional shadchan often gets a fee for his/her services. There are variations between communities concerning the agreements between the families of the prospective partners on the couple's future.

After the match has been proposed, the prospective partners see each other a number of times to discover whether they get on. It depends on the community practice how many times a couple meets before a decision has to be made whether to get engaged or not.

Positive aspects are that the practice complies with Judaism's outlook on "proper" behaviour between men and women and is intended to prevent promiscuity. It also benefits members of smaller communities who would otherwise have more difficulty to get in touch with potential marriage candidates.

Negative aspects are the disadvantages to young people with a medical history or active disease, people from broken homes, orphans and people who have been out of touch with Judaism for a period of their lives. Often the disadvantaged end up being matched with people with other disadvantages.

Backgrounds

The Talmud (tractate Kiddushim 41a) speaks out strongly against arranged marriages, and insists that prospective candidates see each other to discover whether they will get along. This is based on the Torah statement: "Love your neighbour (re'acha) like yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), where the word "neighbour" can equally mean "spouse". Hence, a marriage that is doomed to be without love should be avoided.

The etymology of the words "shidduch" and "shadchan" is dubious. The Medieval Rabbi Nissim of Gerona (commonly called Ran) traces it back to the Aramaic word for "calm" (cf. Targum to Judges 5:31), and elaborates that the main purpose of the shidduch process is for young people to "settle down" into marriage (Commentary of the Ran to Talmud, Shabbat 10a).

The shidduch in art

In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye's The Milkman's daughters have trouble finding a suitable match. The depiction of their matchmaking is possibly somewhat on the satirical side.

Shidduchim in history

The first recorded shidduch was the match that Abraham's servant Eliezer made for his master's son Isaac (Genesis ch. 24). Although his master had given him instructions, he was at the liberty to choose Rebekah. Yet, Isaac gained his own impression of her before agreeing to marry her (Rashi, commentary to Genesis 24:67).

A number of famous rabbis in history have involved themselves in the matchmaking process. One of the most prominent ones was Rabbi Yaakov Molin (Germany, 1355-1427).

Shidduchim and hereditary disease

Considering the prevalence of a number of genetic diseases in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, several organisations (most notably Dor Yeshorim) routinely screen large groups of young people anonymously, only handing them a telephone number and a PIN. When a shidduch is suggested, the candidates can phone the organisation, enter both their PINs, and find out whether their union would result in critically disabled children. Although occasionally receiving criticism, the construction has led to a sharp decline in children suffering (and dying) from Tay-Sachs disease.

Criticism

The process of shidduchim is under a fair bit of criticism, mainly for being "unromantic" and too closely resembling the practice of arranged marriages. It has also proven quite traumatic for people with disadvantages (as mentioned above). Yet, within the legal limitations, it appears to be the only viable solution within the Orthodox community.

See also

Books

  • Shani Stein. "The Survival Guide to Shidduchim". New York, NY: Feldheim publishers, 1997. ISBN 1568711328.

External links

  • End The Madness (http://www.endthemadness.org/), support for singles who have suffered stigma in the shidduch process.
  • The Shidduch Site (http://www.shidduchim.info/), provides extensive shiddduch-related information and resources for shidduch-dating singles

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