By Rabbi Shmuley
Of late, I have become an even more passionate believer in the need for the resurrection of the traditional matchmaker. What I witness among singles today, is a veritable graveyard of hearts, scores of men and women who are lonely, cynical, and frankly, fed up with dating.
The solution to all this is a return to matchmaking. By this I do not mean that we need some four-foot five, elderly Jewish woman running around swearing that she has the perfect man for you who is so successful that he owns his own butcher shop. (Oy, and did I tell you he still has his hair. Alright, so what if his hair is all on his neck? Stop being so picky.)
Less so is it my intention to promote the modern dating doyennes who cater to the Yacht and private-Jet scene in advertisements in the International Herald Tribune and who charge $30,000 for five introductions (although if any of you have that kind of cash to part with, I am always available).
Rather, I’m talking about you, all of you. All of us are capable of being matchmakers. More so, we all want to be matchmakers. There is an inherent human need to bring together opposites, to be a creator, to serve as an arrow in Cupid’s bow. It’s amazing to me just how touched people are when they see love. I once took my nephews to a Miami Heat basketball game. One of the
highlights of the intermission is where they have roving cameras focus on couples, entreating them to kiss one another for the big television screens above. Every time the camera focused on a man and woman who complied, you could actually see all the audience members swoon. Conversely, the one or two men who refused were roundly booed by the romantic hordes. Yes, we all love to see love. But we love creating love even more.
One of the highest human virtues is being generous or charitable. But alleviating people’s loneliness is the highest form of charity. Loneliness is, after all, the very first thing the Bible lists as a bad thing.
The role of the match-maker is as old as creation itself, with G-d having played the role of the first matchmaker in introducing Eve to Adam. Later it was continued by Moses when he brought the Jewish nation to the foot of Mt. Sinai to be betrothed to G-d as his chosen people. Even my wife Debbie and I were introduced by a matchmaker, although, truth be told, Debbie’s parents have since sued him for malpractice and professional negligence.
In survey after survey, women have said that the most attractive quality of a man is his self-confidence. But just try and find a confident guy today, a man who doesn’t feel that within the first five minutes of meeting the girl he has to speak of the fortune he made on Wall Street and his convertible Ferrari. We all find confidence today through external achievement and accessories. Since real self-confidence is being able to identify the precious gift that you have to contribute to someone else’s life, and so few of us today have the self- knowledge that would allow us to identify what it is that makes us unique, we tend to find self-confidence only through what we have and what we do, rather
than who and what we are. On dates, we brag about famous people we know in order to make an impression. Even I succumbed to this, bragging to Debbie on our first date about my oversized yarmulke. I also dropped my own name several times, and she couldn’t believe that I knew me.
Because men especially lack so much confidence in the dating scene, simply walking over to a girl and saying to her, “Hi, my name is Orlando,” is now no longer enough. Now, they have to accessorize and come up with brilliant pick- up lines. Here are some gems I’ve collected (from experience, no doubt):
- Look at her shirt label. When she says, “What are you doing?” say, “Checking to see if you were made in heaven.”
- “Your body is like a Temple,” to which she replies, “Thank you, but there are no services today.”
- “Is it hot in here or is it just you?”
- “I work for the Yellow Pages. Can I have your phone number please?”
Amid the statistical evidence that those who are most natural on dates are the most successful in wooing the opposite sex, people on dates today end up being big phonies. Since they have no one to advertise for them before the date, they end up spending the date advertising themselves rather than just being themselves. The number one complaint of women against men is that they never stop talking about themselves on a date. Their typical conversation is, “Me, me, me… me me… me, me, me me. Oh, and one more thing, me.” But how can you make a real and natural impression when you are being so artificial and are under constant scrutiny?
The answer is to return to matchmaking. Let someone else do the advertising for you. Have a disinterested third party praise you before the date so that you can put your guard down and focus on your date.
Contrary to popular belief, Jews have never had arranged marriages, a practice outlawed by the Bible. When Eliezer, the trusted servant of Abraham, makes an offer on behalf of Isaac for Rebecca’s hand in marriage, her family responds, “We will call the girl, and ask her (Gen. 24:57).” Even in Biblical times, a woman had to consent to and choose the man she would marry. The Talmud reiterates the prohibition in the strongest terms. What Jews have practiced is not arranged marriages but arranged introductions, so that people don’t have to stand humiliatingly on a disco floor, hoping to be noticed out of a competitive crowd.
Traditionally, people dated and then married within their own community, and therefore the community participated in the matchmaking. While there is a lot of be said for personal autonomy and freedom to choose anyone your heart desires, do not discount the capacity of your friends and family to help you make the right choice, and save you a lot of rejection and heartache.
There are three very good reasons why the matchmaker should return to the dating mainstream.
1. The hyper-competition which so characterizes the modern era is an argument for, and not against, matchmaking. Because things are so competitive, and human worth today is largely dictated by what we do rather than what we are, people are shyer and more insecure than ever. The endless
models of perfection who enter our homes through television and media have undermined the self-confidence of most women.
All of this just reinforces the old saying that “men look for sex objects, and women look for success objects,” and its destroying people’s self-confidence. Hence, millions and millions of potential couples will never even meet because, fearing rejection, the guys are too shy to introduce themselves and the women have chosen to spend the night indoors with their cats, rather than spend another humiliating evening being overlooked, rather than looked over, by every guy in the bar. This is a point so important that it bears repeating: How many great couples never came to be simply because they could not surmount that all-important first introduction? The Talmud declares, “All beginnings are difficult,” and in no area is this more true than dating.
Every married couple should play matchmaker for their friends, without overdoing it. In the same way that a decent man or woman uses their financial resources to alleviate the hunger of the poor, so too must we encourage men and women to use their contacts to alleviate the loneliness of their single friends. Since companionship is a necessity just like food, clothing and shelter, introducing people to one another is the highest form of philanthropy.
2. Without matchmakers, only people with overt virtue, like beauty, wealth, or charisma, get noticed. Today’s dating scene caters only to those who, through external attraction, are instantly noticed. The girl who is beautiful will always be asked out on a date before the girl who is kind or has a great personality, because who would know that she has a great personality just by looking at her from across a crowded restaurant? The matchmaker would return a sense of
balance to the dating scene by allowing people with more subtle virtue to be noticed as well. Barbara Streisand is one of the most beautiful and interesting women in the world. But that is due to natural beauty being allied to one of the most engaging personalities. One without the other would be far less complete. The purpose of the matchmaker is to tell a girl who would unfortunately not normally go out with a guy who is a schoolteacher, what an amazing person he is in every respect, thereby showing off the special part of him that money could never buy.
3. Matchmaking lessens the pain of rejection. When a guy and a girl go out after having met at Starbucks, if either doesn’t want to continue it can be very awkward. It also breaks a guy or girl’s heart to hear that the person in whom they are interested does not share their affections.
But a matchmaker uses his tact to overcome these obstacles. So, Johnny takes out Michelle and thinks it went really well. When he gets home, instead of just calling Michelle and asking her out again only to hear that she would rather swim in toxic waste than ever smell his aftershave again, Johnny instead contacts the matchmaker. After hearing from Michelle she isn’t interested, the matchmaker returns to Johnny and tells him, “She also had a wonderful time. However, just last night she discovered her latent homosexual tendencies and ran off with a woman named Monica.” This way, Johnny doesn’t have to hear that he’s a loser and can carry on dating someone else with confidence and self-esteem. The Matchmaker is the buffer that can help cushion the blow.
So go and tell all of your friends that you want a relationship, and ask them if there is anyone to they can introduce you to. We’re all a bit shy. But while we
don’t have to have the kind of confidence which allows us to go up to any man or woman on the street and introduce ourselves, we do have to have at least enough confidence to tell our friends that we are looking. Don’t be afraid to lean on friends. Don’t fear that telling people you want a relationship will make you seem like a loser. Don’t even be too shy to tell your parents that you want to get married. They know tons more mature and connected people than you and can be of great assistance.
Oh, and don’t forget that every matchmaker expects a big tip (and what the mohel cuts off from a first-born son doesn’t count.)