Friday, February 18, 2011

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

This week we're featuring a guest blog by my mother-in-law, Mrs. Sara Shollar, a professional matchmaker for more than a quarter of a century, with over 100 matches to her credit!  Who better to speak about finding one's mate?

 In a well known Midrash a Roman matron asks Rabbi Yossi ben Halafta how G-d occupies Himself since completing the creation of the world.* The Rabbi replies, "He's been matchmaking."
G-d is on record as the world’s first match-maker, bringing together Adam and Chava (Eve). Centuries later, our patriarch Abraham, charged his faithful servant, Eliezer, with finding a match for Isaac, making Eliezer the next recorded shadchan in the Torah. And while every match is preordained from before birth, throughout the millennia successive matchmakers have been G-d's helpers in arranging marriages; taking the helm of this search to locate and re-unite two separated halves of a single soul. The results have been excellent. 

I've been occupying myself with this task, more or less actively for more than twenty-five years and have lost track of the number of shidduchim (matches) that I've suggested, facilitated, encouraged and rescued. But never was my role more clearly revealed than when I found myself introducing two people, neither of whom I had met.
My consistent policy is to get together with every person seeking my help. An initial meeting of an hour or two is almost always followed up with a Shabbos invitation. This provides an opportunity, in a more relaxed setting, to get better acquainted with the single and begin to get a sense of what he or she is looking for. Not only has this resulted in many marriages, but some of my closest friendships began via this route.
Several years ago, one of our children and her husband relocated to a Chassidic community north of New York City. They had only recently arrived when our son-in-law was approached one morning by an agitated young man, urgently requesting help. His sister, an extremely tall oral surgeon, still unmarried in her late 30's, needed a shidduch. As my son-in-law practices medicine, not matchmaking, he enthusiastically offered my services and phone number. I was told to expect this man’s call. I listened as the concerned brother detailed the woman’s needs.  My initial reaction was that this was beyond my scope. I certainly empathized and wanted to help, but couldn't imagine how.
Most shadchanim concentrate their efforts on a subset of Jews: a specific community, age group, or other criteria. This case was well beyond the framework in which I normally operated.  Apologizing for what I believed was my inability to contribute to a happy ending, I recommended that his sister try some of the many online web sites dedicated to matchmaking.  Before hanging up, I took his number, saying I'd see what I could do.
The only thing I could think of was to make a few calls. Starting with a friend whose daughter was looking, seemed to make sense. I asked if she'd heard of any good candidates who were not quite right for her daughter. Sure enough, there was a young attorney in his mid-40's who’d never been married and seemed quite eligible. But she had few specifics. Heshy Z. had mentioned his name. Must check with him.
And so, call number two was directed to Heshy, who, because he doesn't get involved in these matters, set up call number three with Mrs. Z., who does. Mrs. Z. was eager to get involved, sharing enough information about the young man to make me feel that I was on the right track. These phone calls were followed by more phone calls. Calls to the potential groom were followed by calls to the potential bride. Up and back we went until it was time to step aside and let the couple continue together.
I heard nothing more from the couple (or any of the involved parties) for several weeks, until one morning, the brother called with a mazel tov. The engagement party would be that evening, and he wanted to invite us to attend.
All this from a chance mention from a brother to my son-in-law!  Every match truly has its' own story.

*Chassidut teaches that in addition to making matches, G-d is continuously maintaining creation.

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