“Every Man a Matchmaker”
This essay, like many others, reveals its link to the Parsha near the end. However, unlike most of the others, this essay is not the outcome of learning a section from the Parsha, nor is the link its main feature. Rather, the content of this essay emerges from a need I have to comment on Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s excellent JPost op-ed: “Every Man a Matchmaker.” Rabbi Boteach shows the concern of a thinker, the call to action of a leader, and the cry from the heart of a father.
“Curing the singles scene,” he writes, “is one of the foremost priorities especially of the world Jewish community whose greatest challenge today is not intermarriage but lack of marriage.” He then exposes the harm inherent in each of the current methods available to young people today to meet each other. His solution: “…deputize all the earth's inhabitants to become matchmakers. Every man and every woman must take it upon themselves to introduce the single people they know to each other.”
Matchmaking is a Divine art. It is true, as Rabbi Boteach says, that G-d played matchmaker to Adam and Eve, but He didn’t stop at that. Ever since the Creation, G-d spends His time miraculously connecting people: “the daughter of so-and-so to so-and-so; the wife of so-and-so to so-and-so; and the property of so-and-so to so-and-so.”
Matchmaking goes beyond shiduchim (marriage brokering). It is networking in the broader sense of the word and extends to every form of facilitating connectedness between people: romantically, socially and in business. The power of networking, now an entrenched way of doing business in America, has always been a part of Jewish life. Our own international networking system, usingBatei Kenesset (synagogues, or more literally: networking centers) as its core, has played a crucial part in the success of many Jewish entrepreneurs who have built global businesses. Orthodox travelers make the Shul or community center one of their first ports of calls in new cities that they visit. There, the Jewish art of matchmaking connects them quickly with Shabbat tables, friends and sometimes, potential business or even romantic connections.
The Divine art of matchmaking, however, is more than an introduction. G-d did not merely introduce Adam and Eve – it would have been hard for them not to meet under the circumstances, even without G-d playing the matchmaker! G-d didn’t introduce them; Hepresented Eve to Adam. There is a difference between introducing two people to each other and presenting one to another. I believe very many people are already heeding Rabbi Boteach’s advice; people do a lot of introducing. What we don’t do enough of is presenting people to one another. Let’s look at why the need for presentation and how to do it.
Why the need for presentation?
The Tiferret Tzion (on the above Midrash) gives a view on why matchmaking is a miracle in need of Divine intervention. He says that it is natural for people to exaggerate both their own virtues and the flaws of others. This tendency makes it impossible for a person to find someone worthy of him or her! Miraculously however, people fall in love and the tendency reverses: the individual, blinded to the flaws of their beloved, sees only their virtues.
We can play a part in facilitating that miracle. We can help people not only to meet one another, but also to notice one another and become attracted to them. We can do this by presenting people to one another instead of merely introducing them.
What is presentation?
Presentation is the art of helping people to overlook flaws and discover glory. We know how important the art of presentation is when we want to create desire. Chefs go to mighty efforts to present otherwise unappetizing bits of animal or vegetable, as culinary masterpieces. We present ourselves well when we want to make an impression, masking our defects and accentuating our strengths. Shopkeepers and marketers seduce consumers with enticing presentation. In romantic, social or business matchmaking, the same applies. If we truly want to create a connection between two people we need to do more than introduce them: we need to present them in ways that make them desirable: we need to market them. It is much easier and more tasteful for us to promote one another than it is to promote ourselves: This is the chessed (kindness) of presentation.
How to present
Here are a few simple guidelines.
- If necessary do some research. Get to know the person you are presenting. Question them to learn about the more subtle and unusual aspects of their life experience.
- Think like a salesman: you get your “commission” for closing the sale, not for a mere introduction! If you apply your mind, in an instant you can develop a marketing strategy. Figure out how best to present the individual. Create the right conditions and timing.
- Create the opportunity in conversation and interaction, to “showcase” the person at their best. Facilitate opportunities for the person to shine in their own rights.
- Demonstrate palpable enthusiasm for the qualities of the person you are presenting. Avoid lack of authenticity and exaggeration, but do not shy away from superlative description where appropriate.
Go beyond introducing people to one another. Present them to one another. It is here that you will make the difference. Even if a shiduchdoes not result, you will have elevated a person’s dignity instead of watching them lose it in the conventional dating scenes. Yes, it does take some thought and some effort. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be such a Mitzvah.
And the link to the Parsha? Think of those 600,000 half-shekalim: Each had to find its other half before it became whole! No one is complete. No one was permitted to express their contributiveness by means of a whole coin. No one can serve G-d alone. We all need to connect. Facilitating connection creates not only economic and social capital; it creates spiritual capital too.