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Toldot 5770

Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! How do you find the right person to marry? Traditionally, the Jewish people had an excellent system - Shidduchim (matchmaking). When the time came to look for a spouse, the young man or woman and his/her parents would visit a shadchan (matchmaker) who would get to know the young person - the personality, character, aspirations, goals. They would also find out about any problems with health, psychology, family, finances.

When the shadchan would find an appropriate match, he/she would inform the parents of the young man and the woman. The parents would then do their due diligence checking out the prospective match and the prospective family. The parents would talk to friends, neighbors, teachers sometimes going back to kindergarten. Should both families be agreeable, then the couple would meet.

While there is no limit to the number of times the couple would meet, it would be fairly obvious in one or two dates if the match is not a match -or if there is interest in getting to know the other person more. Only the couple decides whether or not they want to marry each other. The Talmud teaches that deciding who you will marry does not fall under the category of having to listen to your parents (assuming that the intended spouse is permissible according to Jewish law).

Sounds quaint? Seems a bit out of touch, old-fashioned? Know all about it because you saw "Fiddler on the Roof"? Well, Shidduchim are alive and well in the 21st century. They go on every day in the Torah observant communities, particularly where the children attend Torah high schools and then yeshivas (Talmudic colleges) and seminaries (higher level Torah colleges for women).

Because of "Fiddler on the Roof" and common misconceptions there are many who frown upon the concept of meeting though a matchmaker. How well do you really get to know the person? There's too much family pressure to make a decision. The choice is too limited. It's too restrictive.

These are valid questions. And if the answers to these questions were overwhelmingly negative, we'd expect a high divorce rate. What is the divorce rate in America amongst all marriages? 40% - or higher. What is the divorce rate amongst Torah observant Jews? Approximately 10%.

Why does the system work? Finding a spouse starts with finding someone of good character who has the same goals as you. Two people brought up in a Torah way of life have a similar outlook and goals. They both want to develop themselves spiritually, develop their character, be an integral part of the Torah community, be part of a Jewish people that is a light unto the nations - and to raise children with these same values. With this essential foundation, the choice of a spouse is based on compatibility, respect and attraction.

Marriage is seen as a holy bond between two people with a spiritual mission - a vehicle for happiness based on meaning and accomplishment in building a Torah home and raising children who will observe the Torah and be imbued with love of God and doing the right thing - fulfilling the mitzvot, the Almighty's commandments.

What about love? I share with you the following thoughts from Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky, MD from "Twersky on Chumash": "Western civilization is awash in love. The media bombards us with love via every possible modality: verbal, graphic and lyrical. Is it not strange that with all the emphasis on love, the divorce rate is an alarming 40 percent?

"What passes for 'love' in western civilization is either blind passion, or at best, self-love. Neither of these are a basis for an enduring relationship. Passion dissipates fairly soon and self-love may be rather easily frustrated.

"The dynamics of a couple 'falling in love' are something like this: The young man sees in this young woman a person who he feels can satisfy his emotional needs, and she sees in this young man someone who can satisfy her emotional needs. This would seem to be the ideal basis for a lasting relationship. But note: the young man is motivated primarily by his personal interest, and the young woman is motivate primarily by her personal interest.

"Although they profess love for each other, the reality is that they each love themselves, and the other is but someone whom they expect will please them. Should anything occur - the other partner is not pleasing them as expected, or if they meet someone who they think can better please them - the relationship is at risk of falling apart.

"It may be difficult for us to understand how marriages were once made, with the parents of the couple arranging the match. In absence of passion and self-love, what was the basis for such marriages? It was a sense of responsibility to establish a family to whom the couple could transmit the legacy of Sinai.

"Certainly, the relationship was to provide satisfaction for both partners. However, if the level of satisfaction was not what each might have wished, the basis of the relationship was not weakened, and accommodation could more easily be reached. There was a common goal and purpose to the marriage rather than self-seeking interests. This enabled the development of a mature love."

It is up to us to imbue these values in our children and to guide them to schools and organizations where they can meet high quality individuals with similar values. And hopefully, he or she will meet a person who s/he can cherish, respect, love and with whom s/he will build a meaningful, happy marriage.

For more on "Marriage" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Rivka (Rebecca) gives birth to Esav (Esau) and Yaakov (Jacob). Esav sells the birthright to Yaakov for a bowl of lentil soup. Yitzchak (Isaac) sojourns in Gerar with Avimelech (Avimelech), king of the Philistines. Esav marries two Hittite women, bringing great pain to his parents (because they weren't of the fold).

Yaakov impersonates Esav on the counsel of his mother in order to receive the blessing for the oldest son by his blind father, Yitzchak. Esav, angry because of his brother's deception which caused him to lose the firstborn blessings, plans to kill Yaakov, so Yaakov flees to his uncle Lavan (Laban) in Padan Aram - on the advice of his parents. They also advise him to marry Lavan's daughter.

Esav understands that his Canaanite wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

After Avraham died, Jacob cooked lentil soup as a sign of mourning. Esau came from the field, saw the soup and said:

"... please, pour for me from this red thing" (Genesis 25:30).

Later in the Torah portion (27:22) the commentator, Rashi, mentions that Jacob always spoke politely and used the word "please." Esau, however, always spoke in a rough manner to his father. What can we learn from the fact that he was polite in this conversation?

Even though Esau excelled in honoring his father by taking care of his physical needs, he still spoke to him in an insolent and arrogant manner. We see here that when Esau had a desire for food, he spoke in a respectful manner and used the term na, "please". This is the manner of people with faulty traits. Even though they constantly talk with chutzpah, when it comes to manipulating someone to fulfill their desire, they speak softly and humbly.

There are people who speak politely to their preferred customers in business, but fail to speak respectfully to their family and other people. Be aware of how politely and respectfully you speak to someone when you are trying to influence him to help you obtain things you want. Then try to make that manner of speaking habitual!


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Life is what man makes of it,
no matter of what it is made.
--  Leo Gartenberg


With Deep Appreciation to

Leo Sandau



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2009

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