Question: We have a son who has a history of anxiety that has at times led to depression. He has been medicated by a psychiatrist and has gone for CBT therapy. He is currently on low-dose medication. The psychiatrist feels that he will not necessarily have to be on medication for the rest of his life.
We have thought about hiring a shadchan to help us find an appropriate shidduch, similar to hiring a lawyer to represent our interests. Do you think this is a workable idea? How would we find such a shadchan? Do you have any other suggestions?
We want to keep this private from our neighbors, friends, and family. Thank you very much for your help.
The Panelists Respond
Hats off to you in salutation! The sincerity and earnestness in not concealing the truth of a medical condition with regard to shidduchim portrays your good faith and the image of a dignified family. The honest and candid manner in which you conduct yourself as a parent in the shidduch parashah is setting an example of epic proportions.
Many family tragedies have resulted from those who deliberately concealed a medical condition, be it physical or emotional. Being lied to is a major factor leading to the destruction of relationships, especially marriage. You grasp the significance of truth. However, you need guidance in achieving desirable results.
In theory, a shadchan and a lawyer are similar. They are both retained for the purposes of representing their client to the best of their professional abilities. However, unlike the lawyer who takes an oath, a shadchan does not have the same requirements. Unlike a lawyer, a shadchan can never be disbarred and has no legal obligation to abide by the attorney-client privilege.
The general profile of any qualified shadchan is that of a person who possesses perceptive abilities, in addition to the capabilities of good communications and interpersonal relationships. Yet, beneath all those admirable qualities, the shadchan is an ordinary person performing shadchanus as a means of parnassah, hobby, or chesed. Shadchanim are under no one’s jurisdiction, and therefore will use human instincts and emotions to guide them.
You should not discuss your son’s condition with any other person. When it comes to shidduchim of a family member, one needs to exercise strict caution. The only person that needs to have thorough knowledge of the situation is the girl whom your son will eventually marry.
There are definitely shadchanim who deal with health issues of various circumstances. The problem is that because most frum people do not reveal conditions of a psychiatric nature, the likelihood of finding a shadchan that will introduce your son to a compatible shidduch is narrow. What you will disappointingly find is that he will be suggested to a girl who may be dealing with a condition that your son will not be able to handle or tolerate.
Considering that your son is under the treatment of a psychiatrist who predicts a favorable prognosis, I do not recommend that you seek the services of a shadchan working with singles that suffer from psychiatric issues. By the same token, utilizing the services of a shadchan who deals with all singles across-the-board will create sloppy consequences. In addition to all that, you are taking the major risk of breached confidentiality.
You need to acquire one sophisticated and trustworthy friend whom you will then appoint to be the shadchan on behalf of your son. Armed with the facts and proficiency of his status, this new shadchan will represent your son fairly. That goal in mind—in conjunction with your open-minded attitude—will yield the results of finding a suitable and appropriate shidduch for your son.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
This situation certainly has some complex and sensitive dimensions. One part of the question, as it has been posed, is how to find a shadchan who will undertake to work on behalf of the boy in question. The question is very telling. It suggests that the needed shadchan might be hard to come by. Why might this be?
Evidently, there is a gut-level understanding that the average shadchan would likely not be willing to undertake the task. Again, why? On the face of it, this boy is fundamentally like any other boy, and is in need of a shidduch. Why should there be any resistance to helping him?
There would be two basic ways of going about it. One would be for the shadchan not to be up front about the situation and peddle the boy as he would any other, leaving the prospective family to operate under a misconception or, as is likely, to find out at a somewhat later stage through some other source. But this approach is flawed on its face. First and foremost, it is dishonest. It is abject misrepresentation. Why would anyone want to retain a shadchan who operated in such an unscrupulous fashion? No level-headed shadchan would work this way; once word of his tactics got out, no one would want to avail themselves of his services! So it goes against his own interest.
That brings us to the second method. The shadchan, appreciating the intricacy of the situation, goes about it in an open and forthright way. He or she exercises due diligence in pinpointing a prospect for whom the situation of the boy would, for one reason or another, not pose an insurmountable obstacle (it might even be a plus!). My only comment is that, in that case, hiring a shadchan as one retains a lawyer would be misplaced. Many a good shadchan who is properly socially connected is likely to be in as good a position as anyone to make the needed connection. It doesn’t take a private investigator! Maybe he or she deserves extra “bonus shadchanus” for handling the sensitive situation so expertly, but nothing more extravagant than that. As for keeping it private, that could be purpose-defeating. Just maybe, the house a few doors up the block is where the solution to the problem lives.
In this writer’s humble opinion, though, the parents of the boy would be well advised to consult a trusted rav to help sort matters out, halachically and practically.
Yehuda Koppler has written articles for various publications and is actively involved in shidduchim. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. v
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to email@example.com.