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4 Marcheshvan, 5784 - October 19, 2023 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Fundamentals of the Torah Approach to Shidduchim

by Y. Ben David


Part II

How did R' Chaim of Volozhin arrange his daughter's match? More about suggested matches, hishtadlus and the matchmaker's fee.

For Part I of this series click here.

For Part III of this series click here.

R' Chaim Volozhiner's Daughter

In this chapter, which deals with suggestions for shidduchim, we wish to present the story about the match proposed for R' Hillel of Horodna, as it is also brought in She'al Ovicha Veyagedcha.

How did the match between R' Chaim's daughter and the noted R' Hillel of Horodna come about?

R' Hillel was considered one of the top, most eligible youths in R' Chaim's yeshiva. R' Hillel was orphaned from his father. One day, his mother came to visit the yeshiva and asked to pay her respects to the rebbetzin. When R' Chaim heard of this, he said to his wife, "This woman has a son in yeshiva who is suitable for our own daughter. Perhaps you can suggest the matter to her."

The rebbetzin did so, but the widow firmly turned down the offer.

The woman took her leave. She traveled by carriage, but as soon as it was out of Volozhin, it broke down. The passengers were forced to alight while the driver fixed the wheel. They continued on for a way, but another wheel broke. Again, all the passengers had to get out and wait while this break was repaired.

They traveled on when what should happen? The horse fell down dead! The widow understood that this was no chance occurrence. There was a message here for her, just like with Yonah, who had realized that the storm was all because of him. Without hesitating, she returned to Volozhin and went to R' Chaim. She entered the house and pounded her fist on the table, exclaiming angrily, "Do you intend to have my son by force?"

R' Chaim replied, "No, really not. Go in peace."

She left Volozhin, again, and this time, nothing impeded her safe return home.

Some time passed and the rebbetzin had to travel to the very city where the widow lived. Before she left, R' Chaim suggested that she visit R' Hillel's widowed mother and suggest the match once more. "This time, I know she will agree," he said. "I give you full authority to complete the shidduch on the spot."

The rebbetzin was surprised. "But didn't you see how opposed she was to the match when you first suggested it? Why do you think she will change her mind?"

Replied R' Chaim with conviction, "I am certain that she will be amenable this time."

"What makes you say this? On what are you basing your assumption?"

"I will tell you: it says in Pirkei Ovos:`Waive aside your will for His sake so that He will waive aside the will of others for your sake.' When she asked if we wanted the match so badly to the point of forcing her into it, I answered truthfully `No.'

Seeing that she was so strongly opposed, I took it as a sign from Heaven, for otherwise, she would not have been so violently against the match. In that case, I waived my personal will for Hashem's sake, so to speak. I would not force something that was against Heaven. If Hashem did not want this to go through, what had I to say in the matter? I would forego my own will.

Afterwards, I had second thoughts. Perhaps I was only foregoing my will as opposed to her will, which was not to accept the match. And if it was only my will against hers, perhaps with time, she might change her mind. Now, the second half of the mishna might be fulfilled, ` that He will waive the will of others for your sake.' And I really do want it, so I think there is a good chance that it will come to pass."

And so it was. The match was arranged and the distinguished young R' Hillel became the son-in-law of R' Chaim of Volozhin.


Exerting Effort

The Steipler was once consulted regarding a certain shidduch that had been suggested and rejected by the other side. The side who was interested asked if he should exert himself in getting others to influence the uninterested party.

"No, you should not," said the Steipler, and opened up his Sefer Chassidim, showing him that he was advised against it (see simon 514).

Upon another occasion, the Steipler repeated himself in different words: "If one sees that a suggested match is not progressing, one should not exert pressure to see it through, for this probably means that the other party is not the destined mate" (Orchos Rabbenu Baal Kehillos Yaakov p. 264).

Incidentally, Rabbenu used to say that one should never say an outright "no" to a match in which one is not interested, but should merely keep silent. The other side will draw the necessary conclusion.

Listening to Offers

The Steipler wrote:

"Concerning offers of shidduchim, if it will not entail undue bother and will not overly interfere with his Torah study, a young man should hear and inquire about each proposal, since this is a mitzva mide'Oraysa."

A month after a father concluded a match for his son, he was approached with a suggestion for the next son in line. The father was greatly pressured financially by obligations towards the first and was in a quandary. The Steipler advised him to hear what it was all about, since this offer might very well be that son's heavenly ordained mate. But he must preface his readiness to hear the offer with the remark that he was under heavy financial obligations and did not have any money at the moment.

After a Jew once turned down a certain offer for a daughter who had passed her prime, the Steipler wrote to him, expressing himself strongly, "I will clarify the problem of your daughter in brief. She is fully aware that if this offer does not go through, her chances will be very slim, and she may have to remain in her unmarried state `until her hair turns white,' G-d forbid, since she already has the stigma of being an `old maid.' This fault increases with every passing day and no ben Torah, even an older one, will be interested in such a one. They all want young girls. And if some person will agree to have her, it will clearly not be to your credit [that is, he will have his own faults]. In the end, she will remain as she is, embittered, lonely and despaired. Who knows what will become of her; a person's nerves are not made of iron...

"No person lives forever. The day will come when you will have to stand before the heavenly court. When you are asked why you spilled your daughter's blood, all the excuses in the world, to the effect that you did everything for her best interests, will be unacceptable in Heaven. For they are very discerning, there. They know exactly where personal pride comes in, as our Sages said, `A person's soul will testify against him.' How will you defend yourself on that Day of Judgment? Where will you run to hide from the middas hadin?

"Would it not be better for you to remove your opposition and not spill the blood of your daughter, who is the daughter of a talmid chochom? And, as our Sages promised, `Whoever overcomes his nature, will have his sins overlooked.'

"May I wish you much nachas from all of your children; may they enjoy a ripe long life."


A story is also told about a young man who was approached with an offer. He met the girl twice and everything seemed acceptable to both sides. The young man's parents, however, said that she was the first girl he had met. Since he was inexperienced in this field, he should first meet some other girls to be able to draw a comparison. Rabbenu said that if the young man had any doubts, this was advisable. But if he had no objections to raise and the only reason he was rejecting the girl was to gain experience elsewhere, he was hurting her unnecessarily. And, he stressed, when one causes another person pain, he is punished through much pain in his future life (Beis Rebbe).

Marrying Off the Younger Before the Older

A woman once refused to consider matches for her younger son before the older one married. When the Chazon Ish learned of this, he sent her a message to the effect that she should not do this, but should consider whatever was proposed to the younger son, regardless.

The Steipler Rov addressed a similar question. He explained that when the Sifsei Kohen said that one should not marry off a younger child before an older, he meant that the father's first obligation was to the elder child. A younger son was not forbidden, however, to get married before, if the older brother encountered difficulties and the next son was already of age.

He used to say that there was nothing wrong with marrying off a younger daughter before her older sister. In fact, he, himself, married off his daughter before her older brother, upon the advice of the Chazon Ish.

Shadchonus Fee

The Steipler used to say in the name of the Chazon Ish that a common form of `stealing' is withholding a marriage broker's fee. A matchmaker falls under the category of a worker, and should be paid according to the norm of that place.

His son, R' Chaim Kanievsky, added, "I heard from the Chazon Ish of a young man who came to him several years after his wedding for a blessing for children. The Chazon Ish asked if he had paid the shadchon his due. The man said that a relative had made the match and halachically, he was not obligated to pay. The Chazon Ish urged him to pay, which he did, and a year later he was blessed with a child!" (From Pninei Rabbenu HaKehillos Yaakov)

G-d Forbid that She Marry an `Am Ho'oretz'

In one of his letters, the Steipler stresses that a Bais Yaakov student must never marry an am ho'oretz, even if he is G-d-fearing.

"Our Sages said that a person should sell everything he owns in order to marry the daughter of a Torah scholar. The gemara in Pesochim adds, `Whoever marries his daughter off to an ignoramus is considered as if he had tied her up and threw her to the lions.' Elsewhere, it says that a man only merits techiyas hameisim through his Torah study. It then asks, `By what virtue do women merit this? By supporting their husband's study and educating their children to Torah.' If a girl marries an ignoramus who does not study, he will... raise his children according to his way. The woman will thus forfeit her chance for techiyas hameisim, too."

"The woman's very Yiddishkeit will be endangered, as well, G-d forbid, for her firm Bais Yaakov foundation of emunah and yiras shomayim will become eroded and she will become lax in everything.

"A Bais Yaakov student must never marry an ignoramus, even if he is G-d-fearing, all the more so if he is not!

"She must also know that whatever attracts her to a particular young man before marriage fades soon afterwards and nothing remains but the domination of a boor who will embitter her life. For whatever she does to upgrade her Yiddishkeit will be put to scorn and shame. This is a fact of life. The preservation of her Jewishness depends entirely upon her marrying a talmid chochom, for then they will share like goals and opinions. And they will be rewarded with fine children who carry on their traditions, for this is her purpose in life."

"May I consider marrying the daughter of a Kohen?" a young Torah scholar once asked the Steipler, referring to the gemara that says that a daughter of a Kohen must not marry an am ho'oretz. He was afraid that he did not qualify.

The Steipler reassured him and said, "If you can master a page of gemora with Tosafos, you need not worry on that account."

Perseverance, Common Sense and Good Character

The Steipler writes in a responsa: "If I was in your situation, I would not look at anything besides yiras Shomayim and whether she truly wants her husband to continue to study Torah for several years after marriage. I would overlook all other things in order to expedite the wedding as quickly as possible."

Upon another occasion, when was asked what one should look for in a young man, he replied, "He need not have many advantages, only three things: diligence, common sense and a good character."

"Is a diligent scholar not necessarily one with good character?" he was asked.

He said, "There are some young men who, were it not for Torah, would be like wild animals, criminals, but their perseverance in study keeps them in line. This does not mean that such a young man has already acquired good traits. He must work on his character through the study of mussar, by a constant evaluation of his spiritual progress and by toiling to break his bad habits, for only then will he acquire a good character."

In another shidduch suggestion, the girl's family had not inquired sufficiently as to the young man's yiras Shomayim. He told them, "Go and see how he prays!"

R' Chaim Kanievsky tells of two young people. On their last meeting before the wedding, the kalla asked the young man if he had already prayed mincha. He replied in the affirmative, but she sensed that he was not telling the truth. She was deeply troubled by this matter. But on the other hand, the wedding was close at hand and the invitations had already been sent out! When she approached the Chazon Ish through R' Chaim about what to do, he declared that she should break off the engagement!

The Steipler's First Shidduch-Encounter

R' Kalman Pinsky, son-in-law of R' Elya Lopian and disciple of the Steipler in Pinsk, reminisces:

"I recall when the match was suggested between him and his future wife, the daughter of the rabbi of Kosovo, who had already passed away. Her older brothers, Rabbi M. Karelitz and the Chazon Ish, were representing her side.

The first meeting was arranged in a hotel on the main road to Vilna. Rabbenu reached the place at the appointed time, but the girl was delayed.

Seeing that the hour was late and the girl and her chaperone brother had not yet arrived, and being tired from intensive study and travel, R' Yaakov Yisroel recited hamapil with the intention of going to sleep.

As soon as he had finished, someone walked into the room and informed him that a carriage had just arrived bearing the young girl and her distinguished brother.

Not wishing to have said the blessing in vain, Rabbenu looked up the matter in the Mishna Berurah and saw that he must lie down for a few minutes to let the blessing take effect. Only afterwards did he agree to go out and greet the guests.

He used to say: "One should not look for brilliant or highly promising young men..."

End of Part II


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