The Shidduch Crisis
By Michael J. Salamon, PhD
Urim Publications, 2008, 143 pages
Although there is nothing in the Bible, Talmud, and Jewish law codes that suggest that Jewish marriages should be arranged by a shadchan, a matchmaker, and in fact these documents encourage men and women to become thoroughly acquainted before marriages, many Orthodox Jewish families have recently begun to rely on shadchanim (plural of shadchan) to initiate their marriages.
Dr. Michael J. Salamon, a noted Jewish psychologist details in this important book how the shadchan practice is not based on the compatibility of the couple but on naïve, superficial, and frequently bizarre criteria that have no relevance to what truly makes a marriage successful. He proves his point by citing fascinating and informative psychological, sociological, and neurological data as well as dozens of case histories that show that a continuance of this practice is a crisis that is destroying husbands and wives and their children. He shows that many of these arranged marriages end up in unsatisfied lives, divorce, and domestic violence. He discusses the adverse affects that the process has on pre-teen youngsters who begin to prepare for the shidduch as early as ages ten and eleven, including their use of medications for weight loss and for anxiety and depression. He tells how the process has resulted in many Orthodox people leaving the fold. He cites distinguished Jewish sources that oppose the shadchan process.
Misguided and over-zealous piety prompted by a small group of people has led shadchanim to require potential brides and grooms to conform to practices that have nothing to do with determining personality, temperament, or emotional levels if they want a shidduch (a match by a shadchan). Among many others, these include: Use a white table cloth at home for the Sabbath meal. Do not stack plates on the Sabbath. Serve chicken at the Sabbath meal. Make sure that your mother wears a dress on the Sabbath. Women should not wear sweaters, tee-shirts, or seat belts in cars because they emphasize the female breasts and incite males. Women shouldn’t wear lingerie to bed or a robe to take out garbage. Your father mustn’t address your mother with words such as “honey” or “sweetheart.” Men should go to bed reading a Hebrew religious text. Applicants shouldn’t have a TV or go to the movies or swim with people of the opposite sex. Women must assure the shadchan that they will not wear pants and men that they will continue to study Torah after their marriage. Among other ridiculous questions, the shadchanim ask: Do you wear boxers or briefs? Are your grandfather and grandmother buried next to each other?
Significantly, shadchanim don’t investigate whether the applicant will make a good spouse, and there are instances where shadchanim hide allegations of a potential partner’s history of abusive behavior.
This bizarre practice is happening because people prefer to be led, to follow instructions rather than think for themselves. They also find it easier to avoid something and consider the something improper rather than think and realize that they can, indeed should, do what others forbid.
In essence, Dr. Salamon sees absolutely no value in the shidduch system only harm, and the proofs that he advances prove his case.