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19 Cheshvan 5765 - November 3, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Eliezer sought for Yitzchok a wife with good middos. What should a girl look for in a prospective mate?
Ask the Shadchan

by Rebbetzin Nomi Travis

QUESTION: What should girls look for in a shidduch?

We live in a society that doesn't lack Torah institutions. A high value is placed on Torah learning. There is no question that Torah learning is a must for a bayis ne'eman. So when I ask what the girls are looking for, I'm not surprised that they answer: hasmodo -- diligence and yiras Shomayim.

The fathers very carefully check the candidate's dedication to study, through inquiries made from roshei yeshiva and mashgichim. Has he attended good yeshivos? Is he a masmid? Is he regular and punctual in keeping to the study times? Is he focused on the learning? Is he bright? Sometimes the prospective father-in-law will even test the candidate or engage him in learning.

What about good character traits? Some people who come to me for shidduchim don't even mention it. Perhaps they imagine that diligence goes together with good character. Is this true? What do gedolim say about this?

A Torah scholar once went to talk-in-learning with the Steipler. Incidentally, he mentioned that his granddaughter was beginning shidduchim. What, he asked, should he look for in a chosson? The Steipler answered that three qualities are essential: diligence in study, clear straightforward thinking and good character traits.

"But if he is so dedicated to learning, doesn't that imply that he has a good character?"

The Steipler replied, "What's the definition of an industrious student? He's been in yeshiva for years. Is sitting by the stender and the gemora any indication of a capacity for sholom bayis? They don't require anything from him. Never did the stender ask for help with the dishes, or to throw out the garbage, buy groceries or run errands...

"The stender never looked at him with a sour face or was in a bad mood. It never requested (or needed) to be spoken to in a sweet, understanding and comforting way, expressing consideration. It was never sick, never needed any care. And all of a sudden, this student has to begin sharing an apartment with a woman with whom all of the above could happen. That certainly requires good middos, for the great dedication to learning won't prepare him for the situations above!"

But the visiting rabbi had a logical question: "Doesn't Torah learning refine a person's character?"

Again, with the characteristic wisdom of a godol, the answer was to the point. "Learning Torah doesn't make the person good if he doesn't work on himself, check himself and make a reckoning of his spiritual level. He must toil at changing and breaking his very nature, desires and impulses in order to become a man of good character."

In fact, the Chazon Ish said that to have bad traits is quite easy. In Emuna u'Vitochon, Chapter 4, he asks, "What would a person who wishes to excel in bad traits do? Absolutely nothing! Nature takes its course. We all have an evil inclination and if we don't work on ourselves, it will dominate us."

I heard from an outstanding Rov that a talmid chochom is not necessarily one who has covered a great many pages of gemora nor one who produces quality novellae. That title is only befitting those who understand and internalize the information learned and integrate it into one's own nature. In other words, Torah is not a theoretical, intellectual exercise but a way of life.

We all know that although roshei yeshiva and gedolim devote more time to their study, they will also make time for their wives and children and they are concerned and involved with their families. Moreover, they also find time to teach and help whoever seeks them.

A wise rebbetzin with many years of experience in counseling maintains that not every masmid is a baal midos. But if the wife really builds up and respects the value of her husband's learning, she might be successful in helping a baal midos become a masmid.

I personally know a baal tshuva couple who met when the husband's level of learning was very basic, but with her help and encouragement, he became a very respected scholar and educator.

Someone told me that she was looking for someone who would become a rosh yeshiva. No one is a finished product but if he has potential and the wife helps him to keep growing, he will be successful.

When teaching avreichim, R' Ganz often brings suggestions on how husbands can be menschen. For example, when teaching about lighting candles, he suggests that the husband prepare a refreshing (hot/cold) drink before he leaves the house since that can help the wife relax after a long day of preparations for Shabbos. A mensch can be defined as someone who is thoughtful, considerate, caring, etc.

In conclusion, while it is important that girls strive to find a mate who is a Torah scholar, emphasis should also be placed on his midos. Only through fine character traits can a young man succeed in being a good husband and father.

Rebbetzin Travis is married to a Rosh Kollel who has authored many seforim. She has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Any questions, comments, etc. can be sent to: travisdn@barak- or at 02-656-3111.


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