Oped by Chiena Avtzon: I have seen a shift in how our community talks about shidduchim, how our reaction to lack of prospects and overall struggles and frustrations has turned into discouraging words. There are other forms of expression that allow us to feel more hopeful and empowered.
By Chiena Avtzon
Which Reality Do You Live In?
They are so powerful.
An old tale about Chassidim of the Baal Shem Tov tells us how two chassidim were having an argument and one chassid says to the other, I want to tear you up like a fish.
The Baal Shem Tov asked the chassidim to put their arms around each other and suddenly they all saw a vision of this man tearing up his fellow Chassid.
In a more scientific study, a Japanese professor performed an experiment where he took two identical bottles of water.
One he spoke to soothingly, and the other one he screamed at harshly.
Then he poured the two bottle out onto a tray and froze them. The one that he had spoken nicely to froze into a beautiful crystal, the other into harsh and jagged icicles.
Following this experiment, an Israeli scientist decided to further test this concept.
He took three groups of beans.
One he praised, the other he cursed, and the last one he did nothing with.
Then he planted them.
The control group grew to its regular height. The one that he had cursed never properly sprouted or grew, and the one he had praised grew taller than normal.
Our words definitely have an effect, albeit that we often don’t realize it at the moment.
But if we become aware of it, we can use them in such a powerful way.
Lately, I have noticed an increase in articles online that use sad and despairing language to depict people in shidduchim, specifically girls in shidduchim.
It uses language that, while may tug at the heartstrings, also paints a picture that is beyond sad and depressing. Depicting girls in shidduchim as “nebach”, as people who must be so miserable and in pain due to their marital status.
As people deserving of your pity.
I have to say something, I myself am in shidduchim. And into my 30s.
I don’t see myself that way
When I walk down the street I view myself as B”H successful, popular, blessed, and yes, sometimes frustrated that what seems to come easy to others doesn’t come as easy to me. This isn’t a case of toxic positivity or a case of living in denial.
It’s simply a case of using my thoughts and words to harp on a reality that is positive and hopeful.
As someone in my 30s, I have been witness to our communities shidduch scene for well over 10 years. I have seen a shift in how we look at and talk about shidduchim. Things are definitely different than they were 15 years ago. But I have watched as our reaction to failed shidduchim and lack of prospects and overall struggles and frustrations has turned into verbal expression that is very discouraging. And many of these thoughts, when put into words, enforce a reality and makes it even stronger. It takes the negative and gives it validity, therefore building that up rather than building up hope and positivity.
I choose not to repeat these thoughts that I have heard so as to not further validate them.
But I do choose to share some forms of expression that when used instead, just sound different, feel different, and allow us to feel more hopeful and empowered.
Our community B”H has many engagements.
B”H we have so many great girls and so many great boys.
We need even more shidduchim and we want to see them come easier and clearer.
And there are so many people who want to help and so much they can do to help.
It’s also okay to say at the same time when you just finished a shidduch.
“This is disappointing” or “I’m sad it didn’t work out.”
Because one of them is talking about our personal feelings and validating those, and reflecting on the past, which we can no longer affect.
The other is talking about the overall outlook and future, which we have the ability to change with the actions that we take right now and the attitude with which we approach it.
Some of you might be reading this and thinking “she’s off the wall” or living in the clouds.
But I invite you to try this:
If you are single, say 3 times to yourself “Bez”h I’m going to find my shidduch and it’s going to be easy.”
If you have a child in shidduchim, say 3 times to yourself “Bez”h my daughter/son will find the right one soon and it will be easy.”
If you have a friend in shidduchim, say 3 times to yourself “Bez”h my friend will get engaged soon and it will be easy and smooth.”
Notice how you feel after saying that 3 times.
Your mind may be thinking that it doesn’t add up, and that what you just said doesn’t make sense.
But how does your heart feel?
Lighter? More hopeful? Less rooted in all the reasons to despair?
It’s not a trick and it’s not fluff. It’s simply that you have begun to create a positive reality with your words. The more we all speak this way, the more we can build and “renovate” our reality into the reality that we want to see, even if at the beginning it sounds completely unrealistic.
Don’t worry if you don’t see the results right away. Those words start taking effect right away, and if you consistently make sure to build on these thoughts and block out the negative ones, with time the results will come.
At times we may want to sink into our thoughts and feelings of gloom and say it as it is, but just remember that the way we talk creates our reality. If we can start talking differently about shidduchim, we will start to see a different reality. The sooner we ignore the negative voices in the back of our heads and focus on the positive we will be able to see more positivity in our world.
There is much talk of what can be done to help, and that’s a whole article on its own, but one thing that can be done right now is to start being aware of how we discuss the topic of shidduchim and try to talk in a way that’s hopeful, uplifting, optimistic.
That doesn’t mean ignoring people’s feelings and being insensitive. If someone in shidduchim is in pain after a disappointment, validate their pain. Just don’t validate the doom and gloom that sometimes comes along with it. And don’t further scare them or discourage them by dramatizing and catastrophizing the situation based on “reality.”
Reality is what we choose to highlight.
I’ll end with one last story to illustrate this point.
Two chassidim from Odessa came to visit their rebbe.
The first one entered for yechidus and came out a short while later with a gold coin. His fellow landsman asked him how the yechidus went, and he responded that the rebbe had asked him about what was going on in Odessa and he had given glowing reports, to which the rebbe had responded by giving him a gold coin.
The second chassid was shocked. This man had blatantly lied to the rebbe, giving him such great reports about Odessa. He knew that in fact that the community in Odessa was crumbling, full of infighting and lack of involvement. He was determined to set the record straight.
Sure enough, when we entered, the rebbe asked him about the welfare of the Jews in Odessa. He told the rebbe how things there had really declined in recent years, with people stopping to support the local organizations and a general lack of enthusiasm for Torah and mitzvah.
The rebbe thanked him for the report and gave him a silver coin.
The chossid couldn’t hold back
“Rebbe, why when the other chossid gave you his report, you gave him a golden coin and me you are giving a silver one? I am telling you the truth and he is telling you lies!”
To which the rebbe responded “Do you think I am asking you because I don’t know what’s going on in Odessa? I already know whats going on in Odessa. I simply wanted to see which Odessa you live in.”
Let us live in a positive reality and may we merit to receive our gold coin, shidduchim easily and clearly, as a result.