It's Time To Say, "Enough!"

M’nucha Bialik, International Shidduch Coach

The story of Chanukah sounds so simple.  It’s Good against Bad, the Righteous against the Evil, the Pure against the Impure.

But, really, it was not simple at all.  The Greeks were sophisticated.  They believed in the laws of nature, in the sciences, in philosophy.  Hellenism and the adoption of Greek culture and the decrees on the Jews evolved over time.  It wasn’t so clear to some of the Jews if they should just adopt the Greeks ways externally, while internally knowing that they’re different.  For other Jews, it wasn’t so clear that although they didn’t like what was going on, maybe the Jews should  just continue their life, but just hide their spiritual deeds. Real life is usually not clear. Real life is confusing.

In today’s world, good and evil gets mixed up.  It’s not always so clear to us anymore what is right and  what is wrong, what is good  and what is evil, and what is pure and what is impure. 

It’s also hard to stand up like the Maccabis and fight against the norms.  It’s not so easy to stand up and fight what everyone else considers to be good and normal.

But, it’s Chanukah today.  So, hopefully,  Hashem will give both me and you the courage to be brave and really pay attention to what’s going on in the  world and think about what is right and what is not right, what is good and what is not.  

What am I talking about? 

I’m talking about what we are doing in the name of shidduchim.  I’m talking about photos.  But not just photos.  I’m talking about much more than that.  I’m talking about the impurity that is going on in the name  of shidduchim, in the  name of “what else can we do?”, in the name of “shidduchim doesn’t work and we have to think out-of-the-box,”  in the name of “older singles are different than twenty year old singles.”  In the name of – “life isn’t simple and our children have to get married.”

First of all, I want you to understand something – I want our sons and our daughters, our sisters and our brothers to get married, I want singles of all ages to get married – just like you.  I talk on the phone with singles all hours of the day – I really, really want all singles of all ages to get married.  And I have been single myself for many years, but the challenges I faced were admittedly different than the challenges faced by singles today. Everyone has their own challenges – no two situations are ever  the same.

But, I just weirdly enough believe that singles can and should get married  while maintaining their dignity, while maintaining their purity, and while maintaining their sense of self. 

Many single women feel in their bones that sending a picture of themselves is degrading, humiliating, and goes against everything they have learned or understood about yiddeshkeit.  They feel that when looking for a shidduch, all that matters to the boy or his mother is if she’s pretty enough or skinny enough – and, it’s not right!  I don’t have  words to explain how sick that is – how a girl, how a woman should have to feel that she has to first pass some  sort of beauty contest before being deemed pretty enough to go out with.  It makes a woman feel like she is a piece of meat that a man could and should dissect over to decide if she’s worth his time or not.

And I know that there are women who can care less about this.  Maybe it bothered them a few years ago, maybe it never bothered them because they’re younger and grew up in the days of social media and Instagram and they’re used to sharing their picture with the world.  That’s even sadder. 

The first group realize what they’re being subjected to and are not okay with it. 

The second  group believes either that there is nothing wrong with sending their pictures or that it’s not ideal, but  it’s what you gotto do.  Some people actually think that it’s good – it’s  enlightening – it’s the way of the future.

It’s not uncommon for women  who fight the picture-sending trend to feel  that they are being pushed to do something, to reveal themselves in a way that feels grossly inappropriate to them.  When they are told to touch up their picture a drop, or to have a professional take their picture to bring out their true  beauty, they feel nauseous.  And, often, when they try to express their feelings or refuse to send their pictures, they are told to stop being so silly, sending a picture of themselves is nothing.  They’re told  to stop  making such a big deal about  all of this.

I’m not just anti-pictures.  I do believe they’re horrible.  But, what I’m going to say next is even more radical – and that is that mixed Shabbos meals, mixed events, speed dating events are also not okay (for those who didn’t grow up like that and don’t allow it all the time).    It’s hard for me to write this publicly, even though I strongly oppose these events, because I know that many fine, erhrlich people and rabbanim have either endorsed or, at least, permitted them. 

But I am working with the singles.  I know that although people claim that it causes so many shidduchim to be made, there is tremendous damage that these events cause, as well.   On the simplest level, they cause good, frum singles to forget what marriage is all about.  They cause the focus to be put on flirtation and good  looks rather than finding someone they like talking to, enjoy spending time with, who they value and respect, and with whom they share compatible hashkafos, values, and goals, and with whom they are attracted to the person’s essence. 

It’s time for us to realize that deciding whom to go out with based on a picture or a beauty contest is disgusting and NOT the Torah way.

There are so many midrashim about Chanukah and what was really going on in those days.  One midrash which I heard, and heard referenced to by legit sources, but I don’t know how to verify, gives one of the impetuses for Mattisyahu and his sons to start fighting and not just continue to hide their beliefs and deeds from the Greeks.  Here’s the story:

During the times of the Greeks, there was an evil man named Bagris who worked for Antiochus.  This cruel man decreed that before any woman marries, she first needs to live with him before living with her husband.  According to this midrash, the daughter of Mattisyahu was engaged and realized that her family was planning on giving her over to Bagris.  So at her wedding, in front of all the guests, she ripped off her clothing.  She cried out, “You’re upset that I’m doing this in front of Bnei Torah, in front of tzaddikim, but you are planning on sending me to a rasha so he can sin with me!  Why are you not acting towards me like Shimon and Levi acted for Dena?  Why are you letting this happen to me and you’re not killing Bagris?!?!?  And may Hashem help you be successful!” 

This spurred her five brothers and convinced them to finally go out and do something about it!  These brothers were the Maccabees, the five children of Mattisyahu.  They decided that it was time to go out and fight!   They then successfully killed many of the Greeks and drove them out of Eretz Yisroel! 

Now, I don’t know the source of this midrash, and our boys are not reshaim, our girls  are not actually being asked to sin, but the girls are being forced to do something that doesn’t feel right to them spiritually and morally. 

Our girls are being told that in order to get married, they have  to get a beautiful picture  of themselves for the purpose of the boy judging them if they are pretty enough.  They should go to mixed events so a guy  will see them and want to go out with them based on their looks and ability to flirt.

Good  Bnei Yeshivos  are told that it’s okay to look at pictures if it will help them find their shidduch instead  of telling them that they can find a woman who is beautiful in their eyes without looking at a picture, without giving in to their taavos.

Wonderful Beis Yaakov girls are being told that they should do things that feel morally wrong to them if it will get them a date.
I’m a shidduch coach – I talk to men and women day and night.  I know the nisyonons that these men and women face.  When we tell our boys and our girls that it’s okay to give into your taavos, the nisyonos get even more challenging.  Supervised events lead to unsupervised events (they’re adults just like the supervisors, they’re sometimes the same age or even older than their “supervisors”)  Mixed gatherings leads to mixed hiking trips.  We’re  on a very dangerous slope that affects all unmarried men and  women.  Once we start by saying  that one can and should  do things for the sake of marriage that one can’t do otherwise, once our lines of kedushah and tznius get blurred, they continue to get blurred until I am asked crazy questions, that I can’t even print in a public newsletter.

We are messing up!!!!!  We, who have all these programs to teach  men the  importance of  guarding their eyes and paying  attention  to what they should not be looking at, we are playing with fire and playing into the yetzer hara’s  hands by telling men who are not yet married – that for shidduchim, they can look wherever they want to look.  In Parshas Vayeshev, last week’s parsha, Yosef refused  the advances of the wife of Potiphar.    She had pure motives, but her actions were wrong.  So too, even though we have pure motives, we have to ensure that our actions are pure, as well.  Does it really make sense that for shidduchim, we tell our girls to send boys pictures of themselves – to let these boys gaze at their beauty or screen who to go out with based on their looks?

Are we crazy?  Have we gone mad?  Are we mixing up good and bad?  Are we saying that only the Chashmonaim fought the yetzer hara and the madness of the Greek culture, but today that’s out of fashion.  That’s outdated.

Today, we have progressed! We believe in nature, we believe in statistics (that actually have no real logical and actual basis).  We believe in “love at first sight.”   We understand today’s boys and we just have to give in to their taavos.  (Oh, yes, it starts first that just mothers see pictures, but soon, very soon, the mothers  stop being the judge of the beauty  contest,  and they  start allowing their sons to get a look, and soon after that, the boys get the pictures directly from  shadchanim and their friends).  Bitachon is for the tzaddikim!  Tefillah is nice but doesn’t work with such important things as shidduchim.  Hishtadlus is where it’s all at – and you just gotto do, what you gotto do.  That’s life.

I know a guy, who with a friend, are creating a whole pamphlet which they want to show to gedolim (they tried to get in at the Agudah convention, but it was too late to introduce these “radical” ideas just a day or two before the convention), but they are trying to go to gedolim and rabbanim now. They documented how damaging it is for the guys to see pictures, and even more, how damaging it is for the girls.  They have included beautiful letters from bnos yisroel crying out against this monstrosity and the havoc it has created in their lives.  If you want a copy of it, e-mail me and I’ll ask the guy if I can forward what he wrote on to others.

It’s time for all of us – all of us – single and married women, men, mothers, fathers, shadchanim, everyone – all frum  jews to not just pay lip service to our values, but to stand up and say “Mi L’Hashem Eli!” Hashem is true and His Torah is true!
Bitachon is real!  Tznius is real!  Kedusha is real!  Our values that we are teaching our boys and our girls are real and we believe in them.  We don’t just believe in them when they are easy.  We  teach our children that even when it’s  difficult, even when we think they won’t get married otherwise, even when it’s so,  so, so hard and they want to just give up – even then –  the values that we teach our children should continue to apply. Even when, and especially when, they are entering the most kadosh part of their lives – the holiest decision they can ever make, we maintain our values!

It’s time for all of us to stand up and say, “Enough!  We will fight evil!  We will fight that confusing mixture of good and evil, and we will say, ‘enough!’  We will not allow our daughters to be degraded, objectified and treated like a piece of meat!”

It’s time to fight back.  If our children find it difficult to date shidduch-wise because of anxiety, we will help them.  If they get depressed about ones and dones, we will help them and support them while they are down.  We will trust them and teach them to listen to their voice!  We will believe in them!  We will encourage them!  And we will believe in Hashem!  We will tell them the truth – that Hashem runs this world.  Hashem created them and loves them.   And they will find their zivug exactly when and exactly how Hashem deems is right for them. 

Our job is not to control the world.  Our job is not to win the war.  The chashmonaim fought many battles until they actually won and experienced the neis  Chanukah.  We can’t give up, even if we have fought and lost.  We must keep fighting and not give up!  And it’s time for us to realize that we are all on the same  side – let’s  join forces  and fight despair, desperation, and the yetzer hara together!  Let’s keep our holiness, even when it comes to shidduchim!

Mi L’Hashem Eli!  Let’s  follow Yehudah Hamacabi and, once again, fight the good fight!  Let the purity within us fight the impurity!  And may Hashem help us win!  And may, once again, we  see miracles beyond miracles showing us once again that Hashem is with us all the time.  All He wants is for us to be with Him.
Happy Chanukah!

It’s hard to end with a war cry while ignoring the physical war that is going on in Israel (I still hear planes flying over my head and noises that can only be described as the rumblings of war.  Our soldiers are still fighting and our people are still captured and being tortured.) – may Hashem help us in all of our battles against evil – both the real, physical battles against our external enemies, and the real, spiritual battles against our internal enemies, the yetzer hara, that just wants us to give up!

My book is still on sale at Feldheim :-):  It’s called:  Don’t Panic!  How to Navigate the Shidduch Maze – read  it if you want to learn how to not panic, how to not despair, how to find  your bashert  and navigate the shidduch  maze.  If that’s not what you are looking for, buy it for a friend.  🙂

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I love feedback – so please, feel free to share your ideas, your thoughts, your comments, what you agree with, and  even what you strong disagree with!  I’d love to hear from you!