End The Madness by Rabbi Chananya Weissman
Reviewed by Rabbi Aaron Reichel
Solution to the Shidduch Crisis – Ending the Madness… and a New Beginning
Reviewed by Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq. (Review originally published March 14, 2014, in The Jewish Connection.)
A blueprint for solving the shidduch crisis was implemented to a limited extent during much of the first decade of this century and must be revived and reinvigorated. A new book, published by a new Jewish publisher, Kodesh Press, has just become available, and provides everything that the Jewish community needs to know on the subject. Clearly, the approaches to shidduchim now in vogue have produced what most analysts deem to be a tragic status quo for the Orthodox Jewish community in general, and for Orthodox Jewish young women who wish to be married, in particular. (Actually, as an aside, the author happens to take the position that Orthodox men have no less of a challenge to find Orthodox women willing to marry them as the reverse, and cites statistics to prove it.)
The author of End the Madness, Rabbi Chananya Weissman, points out how the present systems of shidduchim and group get-togethers in effect often prevent the most appropriate matches from being proposed, let alone for proposals to be made, for a variety of reasons. The current “checklists” and “profiles” often serve as a counterproductive profile for how to fail to identify many of the most promising matches, and many matchmakers often fail to light a fire and should be fired themselves if they continue to strike out much more often than they should for reasons that are all too powerful and compelling to be denied. Most importantly, Rabbi Weissman proposes solutions on a few tracks. In addition to more meaningful criteria and checklists, he proposes a system whereby matchmakers invest in their suggestions in such a way that they will be far more motivated than they are today to propose suitable shidduchim. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He points out “There are no checks and balances for shadchanim. Only checks.”
Although the author himself devotes his precious time on a voluntary basis in this area, and his event programmers, past and future, worked and will work on a voluntary basis, he proposes a system in whichshadchanim invest in their shidduch suggestions under terms almost guaranteeing them a profitable return, and guaranteeing a higher percentage of successful matches than are achieved under the systems that prevail now. He proposes a system where young men and women can meet in multi-faceted settings that allow them to benefit in many ways without feeling the pressure, the desperation, and the stigma, of “singles” events, as was done so effectively, I might add, on college campuses, as a byproduct, by the volunteer-led Yavneh organization I was once privileged to lead, that incidentally could also benefit many people if revived. (In that regard, incidentally, see The Greening of American Orthodox Judaism – Yavneh in the 1960s, by Benny Kraut.)
To bring End the Madness (the organization and web site) back to a flourishing life, everyone who believes there is room for improvement in the success rate when it comes to shidduchim would do well to buy the book by that name, encourage people to volunteer to get involved as a program organizer or participant or as a shadchan willing to adopt the Covenant that can be almost as important to the survival of the Jewish people as the original Covenant (okay, this might be a bit of an exaggeration), and then participate in the programs and the matches with integrity, dignity, and a greater focus on what is truly meaningful and most relevant.
Anticipate an excellent read, independent of its iconoclastic message. Rabbi Weissman is an equal-opportunity trouble-shooter. Discerning readers will realize that he employs entertaining and sometimes scintillating wit to subtly (?) point out some areas for improvement in the superficial aspects of approaches to matchmaking, attire, and related areas in chareidim and modern Orthodox alike, not to put them down, but to lift them up to a point where they will focus on the essentials and find common ground in groundbreaking ways to salvage various Orthodox Jewish ways of bringing people together.
The first 100 pages or so of the book show how counterproductive the current system often is, in order to galvanize readers to install a new system in its place. In addition, the book includes some brilliant presentations on when one should begin dating, when and under what conditions it may be advisable to date more than one person at a time, opportunities to meet, whether or not to wait for an older sibling and whether or not to rule out baalei teshuva (the “Dhimmis” among us), all with citations of traditional Torah sources, which sometimes contradict the vague assumptions attributed without documentation to “daas Torah” that are often misrepresentations of true daas Torah as articulated in authoritative sources by actual rabbis who disseminate true daas Torah.
In a brilliant piece on bitachon vs. hishtadlus, Rabbi Weissman points out that exaggerating on a shidduch profile (okay, let’s call it what it is, lying) is not only against true daas Torah but also a sign of a lack of bitachonthat the truth will be enough to make a fair and good impression! Worrying with inadequate action is also a sign of a lack of bitachon. The right amount of hishtadlus is necessary. This book spells it out.
The author also makes a very powerful point in noting that shidduch resumes as currently encouraged do not necessarily save time when you factor in the ensuing marriage counseling and divorce proceedings they often lead to. On the other hand, sometimes the author goes a bit too far, when he suggests that some monkeys can be just as effective as some shadchanim, and this reviewer can quibble with many other statements in the course of the book where the author might monkey around a bit too much with the English language and with people’s emotions in order to drive home a point, but virtually every point he makes deserves to be driven home, even if and when the tool he uses to do so is not necessarily always the best one.
The Jewish community cannot afford to waste another minute, or another Jewish life, or couple of lives. Everyone who believes there is room for improvement in the system should buy this book, contact Rabbi Weissman, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and help in one way or another to End the Madness.
Note: Even the enthusiastic reviewer concedes that the book has a lot to offer, whether or not the reader agrees with everything in it, and that it would be very hard – and unnecessary – to find any thinking person who will agree with every single observation and suggestion in the book.
The reviewer is a former National President of Yavneh and author of The Maverick Rabbi, but insists that a person doesn’t have to support the revival of Yavneh to convert this modern maverick rabbi – Chananya Weissman – into a leader of a movement that should become mainstream just as “The Maverick Rabbi” did in so many ways!