Weekly Letter: Essential Qualities

The topic of a shidduch plays a central role in our parsha this week, where Eliezer, servant of Avraham, goes on a mission to find a wife for Yitzchak, son of Avraham. The first Jewish match is made.

We present a letter of the Rebbe in which he gives important advice to a young lady regarding a shidduch. Especially in uncertain and confusing times, says the Rebbe, we need to look for essential qualities rather than non-essential, external qualities, that will help to establish a secure and stable home. The Rebbe defines “modern” and “un-modern”. This letter is from volume 5 of The Letterand The Spirit, from the section on family.

By the Grace of G-d
25th of Adar, 5720
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Montreal, Que.

I received your letter in which you write about your attitudes and conflicts, concluding with the idea of coming to New York after Pesach and working here.

By way of preface, let me assure you that when I express my views on problems brought to me they are not binding on the inquirer. Similarly, I have no intention of depriving you of your own free decision and you need not fear as you write that if you do not follow my advice it would involve a disobedience that might be harmful, etc., G-d forbid. On the other hand, it should be plain that I try my best to give the best possible advice as it seems to me, one that would be best both in the material and spiritual interests of the inquirer, for which reason I would naturally like to see the advice accepted. However, it is by no means obligatory and you may continue to write to me in the future also without obligation and without apprehension of prejudicing your future.

The idea of your coming to New York to work, etc., does not appear to me to be advisable. All the more so in view of what you write about having become more settled and mature recently, which gives me reason to believe that you too will agree that the most important thing for you at this time is to settle down, with a good shidduch , one that is truly good, not in terms of external glow that often covers up internal deficiencies. Hence, you would be in a better position to make a sound choice of partner in life if you did not have on your mind problems of adjustment to a new environment, a new crowd, etc. At the same time, since New York has a larger Jewish community and offers a large selection of eligibles, you should do as perhaps 90% of other girls do, namely, ascertain through friends and relatives, all preliminaries about the likely shidduch prospect, having first given these friends or relatives an idea of the type you are interested in. When such a candidate appears and the information about him generally corresponds with the type you have in mind, the arrangement of a meeting does not present a problem. The same applies to other cities where one has friends and relatives. This saves time and avoids disappointments and commitments, more so at any rate than by trying personally to find the suitable party. Since your brothers surely have friends not only in Montreal but in New York, too, you should ask them to do what they can along the lines suggested above. After you have met someone recommended to you by them, you can decide whether you feel interested in pursuing the acquaintance further.
Having answered your first question, I wish t make some observations regarding certain points which you seem to mention as if by the way, yet deserve greater consideration.

Thus, you seem to be inclined towards a modern and religious type of person. But in our confused times, the term “modern” may mean different things and it is indeed used to describe viewpoints and attitudes which are often quite contrary and extreme. For example there is a “modern” trend among some young men and women which does not recognize any kind of orderliness or conventions or the usual commitments of society (the so-called “beatnicks”). At the other end of the extreme, there is the growing trend among Jewish young men and women, not only in New York but also in provincial towns, who insist on staring their married life, for several years at least, on the basis of the husband’s dedication to leaning Torah, except for several hours teaching, with the main economic support coming from a scholarship or Kolel and/or largely from the wife’s earnings.

I see from your letter that both extremes do not apply to you, but these are the most “modern” trends in the USA.

The real point I want to make is this. We live in very transient and changeable times; some may speak proudly of our “Atomic Age,” but the present age has not increased the sense of security and stability, especially for the younger generation; rather on the contrary. Young people are now more than ever groping for real meaning in life, instead of constant frustration. When one is about to enter married life and build a home, one surely wants it to be a Binyan adei-ad (everlasting edifice), as the text reads; it involves a total commitment of two young people to each other for the rest of their lives, their lives being still ahead of them. It is therefore necessary to find a partner for life that is secure, stable and steadfast in his outlooks, whose integrity and reliability as far as the most essential things in life are concerned will not waver or be affected by the changes in outlook outside the home. In other words, a most “un-modern” type of person. But in the final analysis what is important is not to be modern but to be happy and to enjoy a happy and harmonious life together with one’s chosen partner in life. Experience has shown that the more religious a young man is, the more stable he is and the greater therefore the chance of lasting happiness with him. It is necessary to weigh really essential things and values against non-essential, external aspects, and if one has to make concessions, common sense should clearly indicate where the concessions should be made.
One final remark. You write that your parents are worried about your desire for independence. This should be understandable enough, in the light of what has been said earlier, inasmuch as your parents realize what is happening outside. When the Almighty will bless you with your own home and your own children, you will appreciate the parental feeling and desire to spare one’s children the trials and tribulations and problems which they had experienced and overcome.

May the almighty, Whose benevolent Providence extends to every one in particular, guide you in the path that is best for you in every respect.
With blessing,

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