Willingness to Concede to Better Mitzvah Performance

In reply to your letters in which you ask my advice regarding a shidduch in which there was an implication [from the other party] with regard to cutting your beard:

It is both self-understood and eminently plain that a shidduch should be founded on the good determination and firm resolve to assist each other in all matters, and surely so [to assist each other] with regard to Jewish matters, the Torah and its commandments, as they are the foundation for the happiness of a Jewish man and woman in this world and in the next.

It is also self-evident that there are continuous ascending levels and degrees in matters of goodness and holiness. In the language of our Sages, of blessed memory, this is classified as Mitzvah, Hiddur Mitzvah, and Mehadrin min HaMehadrin [a) the basic observance of the commandment; b) “adorning” and enhancing the commandment by being scrupulous in its observance; c) being the “most scrupulous of the scrupulous”].

Even those whose level of observance — for whatever reason — is only that of “Mitzvah,” are also aware that the meaning of “Hiddur Mitzvah” simply means — as the term implies — additional adornment and enhancement of the mitzvah’s performance, though they themselves do not perform the mitzvah in this manner.

It is both plain and obvious that one’s daily proper conduct according to the Torah and its mitzvos serves as the vehicle and vessel for receiving G‑d’s blessings in all that a Jew needs. It follows that when one needs and requires a special blessing, the manner of obtaining this blessing is by strengthening and enhancing one’s conduct of Torah and mitzvos.

From all the above it is understood that even according to those who maintain1 that not cutting the beard is a Hiddur Mitzvah, G‑d forbid that this be done when one is in need of a special blessing from the Giver of the Torah and the Commander of the Mitzvos. This is particularly so when one is laying the foundation to the eternal edifice of marriage.

It is patently obvious that he who has conducted his life for many years according to the codifiers who maintain that not cutting one’s beard is a Torah commandment, G‑d forbid and Heaven forfend to change this manner of conduct even in an ordinary situation ([and] how much more so in a time such as this [i.e., prior to marriage]).2

As mentioned above, even when one party has been educated according to the opinion that not cutting the beard is merely a hiddur, the first and foremost obligation is always to strengthen the second party’s superior observance of Judaism — even if it is a Hiddur Mitzvah.

Surely this is so when the other party has conducted his life in this manner, and how much more so when the other party maintains that this is a dictate and a commandment and not merely a Hiddur Mitzvah.

It is self-understood that all the above regarding cutting the beard similarly applies to many mitzvos of the Torah, including aspects of conduct in one’s daily life. Therefore, before you finalize the shidduch it is imperative that both of you are absolutely clear and certain of the above, that one party be able to forego their own opinion and stance when the other party considers [the issue] a matter of import, as this is [in his view] a Hiddur Mitzvah.

With regard to a shared life [of husband and wife], this concession must not be because there seems to be no other choice and thus one is compelled to concede — a concession made with a feeling of embitterment and antagonism, and so on and so forth. Rather, one makes this concession gladly and willingly.

As stated above, this applies not only to cutting the beard, but to all mitzvos of the Torah and their performance in a manner of Hiddur Mitzvah, as problems such as this one can potentially occur quite often. The resolution of this matter must be made in a spirit of goodwill and with joy and gladness of heart — something that is crucial with regard to all the above.

From the preceding you can well understand my view with regard to your question:

The two of you must assess and evaluate your own selves in as frank and candid a manner as possible: Are you ready to make concessions whose direction, as stated above, is always going to be one-sided: in the direction of giving more consideration to enhanced and adorned performance of the mitzvos?

Your decision [regarding the shidduch] should be based in conformance with the above assessment and evaluation.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIII, pp. 381-382)

When There Is a Marked Difference In Age and Background

In reply to a request from the Rebbe for a blessing for a shidduch where there was a marked difference in age and in background, the Rebbe answered the following:

Every shidduch involves a new manner of life, where two different people from two different families, and so on, have to forge a life together. Thus, there is always room for doubt as to how they will adapt and acclimatize to each other. This is particularly so with regard to the time after the first bloom of marriage wears off.

[In your case] there are the additional factors, as you write, of the [marked] differences in age — the dissimilarity of which and its results increasing and exacerbating after but a number of years.

[Additionally,] there is a vital difference in your education, your level of knowledge, etc. So, too, there is the difference of your backgrounds — Sefardic and Ashkenazic — and the differences go on and on.

The only [positive] reason that you provide [as a basis for this shidduch to take place] is that you have had close feelings for each other for two years.

In light of all the above, it would be best for each of you to find a more appropriate shidduch.

.. It is self-understood that you have my permission to make the above known to the other party — for all the above applies equally to the both of you.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)3

When a Shidduch Involves Transforming the Other Partner

I received your letter in which you write concerning that which was transmitted to you in my name. You responded that there are certain matters that she agrees to and there are other matters that she does not desire to do, and her doing so would be only out of coercion, and so on and so forth.

This whole approach is entirely inappropriate when it comes to beginning a new life together. Surely, each of the parties desires that it be a happy life, and happiness in life — both quantitatively as well as qualitatively — depends specifically on the King of kings, the blessed Holy One. Thus, the question is not what the person desires or does not desire, rather the approach must be in what and upon whom are the person’s happiness dependent, and under which conditions may one hope that this happiness will become a reality.

I told ... when he was here that a person’s wife can act as an aid (“eizer”) or a hindrance (“kinegdo”).4 It is of course difficult to deduce and know with absolute and one hundred percent certainty beforehand how the relationship and rapport will be during the course of many decades. However, the relationship of the young people and the manner in which they treat the opinions and beliefs of each other prior to their marriage has a large and important say in this matter.

As much as you possibly can, it is important to ascertain this [prior to your marriage]. (This also holds true with regard to each and every individual who is planning to get married.)

With regard to yourself, this means that you should not conceal from her anything at all regarding your present views and outlook on life, and you should ask her to convey to you unequivocally how she relates to your position and attitudes on life.

If she will conduct herself as she has written in her letter, that she will order her life according to her own desires, without any regard to the opinions of the A-lmighty and the dictates that He gave to each and every Jewish man and woman, then you would do well to most seriously consider and ponder the question of your [potential] marriage and shidduch.

Since ... desired to know my opinion and receive my concurrence — and as he expressed himself, my blessing as well [with regard to the shidduch]:

I, on my part, can sincerely concur [to a shidduch] with a “full heart” only when I perceive the maximum possibility for the expectation that their lives [together] will be a happy one.

This depends entirely upon their ordering their lives on the foundations of Torah and mitzvos as they are detailed in the Shulchan Aruch, and not subject to the interpretation of each individual, viz., that he agrees with this detail [of Torah and mitzvos] and with other details he does not agree.

For G‑d states that following the [entire] path that He has indicated is that which assures life, blessing and success. This is not so when one follows other paths. I therefore cannot undertake the responsibility of having a part [in the finalization of a shidduch] wherein one of the parties approaches every matter with the attitude that they do not desire..., that they do not promise..., and that they are being forced to act contrary to their own opinion, and so on.

If someone says that she cannot give in and will not cover her hair with a kerchief or wig, and it matters not to her that she is thereby placing in jeopardy her happiness and the happiness of the other party in their shared lives for many decades, then that person has no feeling of responsibility at all nor a proper estimation and knowledge as to what a shared life means, and how much it is worth giving in even on more important matters, so long as this will enable a harmonious and happy life. And as stated above — it is impossible for a Jewish man or woman to have a happy life except through [following the dictates of] Torah and mitzvos.

May G‑d grant her the merit that she come to recognize her [true] path in life and to decide to act in a manner that is truly good for her, acting in a manner of true goodness — that which is good both materially and spiritually. For true goodness and happiness cannot verily be achieved one without the other.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IX, p. 111)

The Long-Term Price of Concessions

.. I duly received your letter, and, as requested, I am acknowledging it ahead of its turn.

Several prefatory remarks are in order, though they are self-evident. But because of their importance I will, at any rate, outline them briefly.

It is clear that a shidduch and the marriage that may ensue involve decisions that will affect the rest of one’s life. One must therefore consider not only the initial phase of such a union, where it is still in its early stages, etc., but must take a broader view, pondering the many, many years that will follow.

Here again, one must bear in mind not only the special and festive days, but also daily life as it becomes routine day in, day out. For the relationship between two people must be consistently good and stable, harmonious and sincere, which directly affects the general atmosphere in the home.

Secondly, it is also clear that in order to attain such a relationship, the fullest cooperation is required on the part of both partners, and each should be willing to give it freely; that is to say, each should give it because there is a desire to give it, rather than doing so only out of a sense of compulsion.

Insofar as the Jewish religion is concerned, it should be remembered that our religion and way of life radically differ from other religions.

In the latter, religious experience is generally confined to certain events in one’s life, or to certain days and happenings. But the Jewish religion embraces the life of the Jew in its totality, and requires that every aspect of daily life be permeated with Torah and mitzvos, in the spirit of “Know Him in all your ways,”5 as the wisest of all men expresses it.

After the above all-too-brief introduction, which I hope will nevertheless suffice, it should be evident that to enter into a shidduch and commit oneself to a lifetime partnership in which one partner has to transform the other in the realm of Jewish religious observance and experience — is surely unwise and it is very doubtful if it can succeed.

Moreover, even when the other party is prepared to make concessions, he will surely have the feeling that he is making a sacrifice.

Consequently, however readily he may accept the sacrifice at the beginning, human nature is such that, having to do this frequently, and having to do things to which he has not been accustomed, must create a feeling of resentment, and perhaps lead to even stronger feelings, as resentment accumulates and grows.

If such sacrifice goes so far as to entail a severing of one’s connections and relationship with persons who have been very close, especially parents, brothers and sisters, it is very likely to make one wonder if the whole thing was worthwhile.

At the same time, it is bound to create feelings of guilt in the other party, who will not be able to help wondering if she had a right to place her partner in such a predicament.

It should also be borne in mind that when a person has to limit himself in various aspects of his way of life only out of consideration for another, it is natural to expect that resentment will build up and accumulate to the extent that he will want to reassert his independence, and do so demonstratively.

It might even call forth a sense of challenge, not only in asserting one’s independence, but also in an attempt to reverse the process and transform the other partner. The inevitability of the resulting clash, or at any rate, conflicts and resentments, is self-evident.

At best, the only solution, under the circumstances, might be an agreement that each partner goes his or her own way, leading his or her personal life as he or she sees fit, in order to preserve a home life in which some level of mutuality remains.

I must state at once that I do not know of a single instance where such a shidduch succeeded, and even assuming that someone knows of such a case, it is surely not very wise to take such a chance.

Even when one is prepared to take a chance, is it wise and ethical to involve another person in this sort of predicament? Obviously, if one of the two life partners is not happy, the other cannot be happy either.

From all that has been said above, you can clearly surmise what my opinion must be in answer to your question.

I believe that you are influenced to some extent, or to a considerable extent, by seeing a personal challenge in the situation. If you are not conscious of it, then it may be subconscious. But even if this is not the case, I do not think that this can work.

Hence, if your feelings towards each other are truly proper and sincere, this is all the more reason not to wish to drag the other party into an unwholesome situation.

To add another point — which may not be very pertinent and which cannot easily be substantiated by a logical proof, and this is why I mention it last — one must ponder very seriously whether it is right and worthwhile to begin a new life when it will involve a breach in the family, namely in the relationship between a child and parents.

Insofar as I am concerned, I have no objections if you want to show this letter to the young man concerned. Especially so, since from you description of him and his character and integrity, he will most likely accept the thoughts expressed in this letter in the spirit in which they have been set down, and he may also be helped to make a more objective judgment.

May G‑d, whose benevolent providence extends to each and every one, lead you in the way that is good for you — truly good and lastingly good.

With blessing,

(From a letter of the Rebbe written in the year 5732)

The First Prerequisite of a Shidduch

.. I just received your letter in which you write about your acquaintance with a young man, and that you attempted to convince him of a basic matter in Yiddishkeit, etc.

It is not clear from your letter whether this is intended merely to be informative, or whether you would also like to know my opinion and/or advice.

At any rate, even if this is in doubt, I nevertheless consider it my duty to express my opinion in this matter, considering the seriousness of it.

Knowing your background, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you at any length that in contemplating a shidduch, the first prerequisite is that the future partner in life be fully committed to the way of the Torah and mitzvos on a daily basis, with emphasis on the actual fulfillment of the mitzvos.

Of course, the Torah, as the embodiment of infinite Divine wisdom, provides a wide field for intellectual study and is a source of profound concepts, wherein you will find sources of, and references to, the various mitzvos. Much can also be found in our sacred literature in the way of explanation of their deeper significance.

However, the proper — as well as logical — Jewish approach is that one must not wait to perform a mitzvah until one fully understands its significance, and certainly one must never make such understanding a condition of its performance, especially considering the limitations of the human mind. For every day that passes without the fulfillment of the mitzvah represents an irretrievable loss.

It is also understandable that when a person promises to commit himself fully to Torah and mitzvos in his daily life at some future date, this promise can be valid only if he knows from experience what such a promise entails.

Since such a commitment would entail a radical change in his way of life, coming after years of living according to a fixed pattern, he cannot — however well-meaning he may be — have a realistic idea as to whether or not he would be able to carry it out.

Only after he actually puts himself to the test for a substantial period of time will he be qualified to decide whether or not he can accept upon himself such a commitment for the rest of his life.

Clearly, when it comes to marriage, this should not be tied in with any expectation to educate, or re-educate, the would-be partner — especially where such education would be required at almost every step.

Human nature is such that when a person is pressured into making concessions for the sake of another person — every day and many times a day — without as yet seeing any reason for doing it except to please the other partner, this is not a healthy situation, and it is bound to generate resentment and disharmony, etc.

With blessing,

(From a letter of the Rebbe written in the year 5737)

When the Person Promises to Mend His or Her Ways

In responding to an individual who desired to marry a young lady who was not religious, but took it upon herself to become religious, the Rebbe replied as follows:

Everyshidduch carries with it a tremendous responsibility, inasmuch as its goal is a life of mutual harmony throughout each and every day for all the years to come. This requires the acclimatization of two adults, each of whom grew up in his own family etc.

When the Jewish religious background of the two is entirely dissimilar (i.e., something that affects all of a person’s actions — eating and drinking, etc.), this magnifies and greatly increases the concern that there may be constant friction, feelings of unpleasantness, pressure, and the like.

It is literally impossible for the young lady to make an unequivocally clear resolution to become religious from here on and onwards, since it is impossible to truly in actuality feel the difficulties and trials that this involves. This can only be felt after one has actually lived such a lifestyle for a goodly number of years. (This is particularly so with regard to Taharas HaMishpachah).

Even when one fulfills one’s resolution [to act in a religious manner], this does not wipe out the feeling of embitterment that [comes when] the other party forces him on a daily basis to live a lifestyle that he himself does not desire at all, and moreover, denies them many pleasures, and so on and so forth.

This is particularly true after the first stage of marriage, when everything is viewed through the rose-colored glasses of emotions and feelings, when everything seems fresh and new, etc. For then [i.e., after this initial stage] begins the drearier and overcast days, and so on.

This is true even when in the past there were no events whose effects linger and whose memories cast a pall, etc.

It is self-understood that you may show this response to the other party as well, for in order for one party to be happy and content, it is essential that the other party be so as well.

Surely, each of you will thoroughly ponder all the above.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)6

“The Whole Truth And Nothing But the Truth”

.. I trust it is unnecessary to explain to you at length that for a Jew — every Jew, without distinction or exception — the only true and meaningful life is one based on the Torah, called Toras Chayim and Toras Emes [“Torah of Life” and “Torah of Truth”].

.. As mentioned above, the Torah is Toras Emes a “Torah of Truth,” and where Truth is concerned, anything that is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth is not truth at all.

Any individual, or congregation, who declare their acceptance of only part of the Torah, while rejecting other portions of it, simply violate the truth; no artificial label to “justify” this can change the reality, for it would only be a delusion and deception for the self and others.

In light of the above, the answer to your question about the marriage proposal is clear: If the man concerned underwent a proper conversion in full compliance with the halachah (Torah law) — for in the absence of this, it is no real conversion at all; and if you are both resolved to establish your home and family life on the foundations of the Torah and mitzvos in your daily life; and — which is also important — the differences in age and background, as well as the fact that he has a teenage son, present no problem; and you can also get the advice of friends to help you come to an objective judgment, (which is always difficult for a person directly involved) — then, and only then, would it be advisable to pursue the matter.

Needless to say, G‑d’s blessing is always needed, especially when one faces a serious decision in such an important matter requiring divine guidance. Now, the way to receive G‑d’s blessing is, obviously, through the daily life and conduct lived in accordance with His will.

With prayerful wishes and with blessing,

(From a letter of the Rebbe written in the year 5737)

The Inappropriateness of Compromise

The following is the Rebbe’s response to a young lady who desired to marry an individual who was not yet observing Torah and mitzvos:

It is entirely inappropriate to compromise with regard to vital matters — matters of principle; especially so, with regard to the beginning of an independent and self-determining aspect of life.

Particularly when this [compromise] serves as the basis and foundation for the “eternal edifice” of marriage, when a compromise is [in actuality, not only something fictional, but actual] falsehood [and consequently, short-lived].. This falsehood is both with regard to oneself as well as with regard to the other person. How can happiness possibly result from this?

When one conducts oneself in matters of Yiras Shomayim beyond one’s understanding, this does not constitute compromising one’s principles — [at the very most] it entails [doing something that one feels to be] unpleasant or an additional burden and the like.

However, when one acts in matters of Yiras Shomayim to a lesser extent than one’s understanding, this constitutes a compromise in principles and in faith. It is forbidden to force someone to act in such a manner.

Doing so, [i.e., forcing the other party to compromise,] can eventually result in a situation where the person who was so forced will have bitter feelings toward the individual for whose sake he compromised, [as this constituted] falsehood and lack of honor on the part of the forcer to the person who was forced (seeing that he is ready to forego on matters of principle).

Each and every one of us prays at the beginning of the day that daily “we not be brought to a test.”

It appears from your own letter, that you completely lack the firmness to change his viewpoint with the passage of time, and that already now you are conducting yourself (as you, yourself write) with many compromises — one compromise leading to yet another, and so on, to the extent that the importance of conducting oneself according to one’s principles will be entirely lost with the passage of time — even more than the other party demands.

In general, it is out of place to coerce the other party to change his point of view, even if you possess the ability to do so. This is particularly so in this instance, when coercing the other party, who is a student of psychology, will only lead to resentment.

Rather, it is absolutely necessary that he act in this manner entirely of his own free will and desire — on your part, you may only explain to him [why it is beneficial to act in this manner,] etc. And this [as well] is to be done a goodly amount of time before a final decision is made with regard to the shidduch.

It would seem that all the above is a result of conduct that is not in keeping with the Shulchan Aruch (although — much to our chagrin (ba’avonoseinu harabim) — such conduct is quite common in the United States) in that the young man and woman meet each other much too often, and so on and on, although they are aware that the time has not yet arrived for marriage. This improper closeness leads to the very opposite — friction and distance from each other, etc.

Possibly it would be worthwhile that at least for now you should cease meeting each other, etc., for a specified amount of time. You will thereby both be able to make a true assessment of yourselves and your true feelings for each other without the intrusion of raw emotions. Thereafter, the two of you should make a final decision with regard to all the above.

I shall mention you at the tziyun.

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)

Wearing a Beard

It is not necessary to belabor the point that all Jews without exception, men and women — “Believers, the children of believers”7 — believe and know that G‑d directs the world as a whole and the individual world of each person with individual Divine Providence.

In order for us to know how we are to conduct ourselves in our lives, G‑d gave us the holy Torah, which informs us of that which we may do and that which we may not do throughout our entire lives. Among all these mitzvos there is also the mitzvah of wearing a beard.

(There are those who maintain that it is permitted to cut the beard; however, there are those who maintain that cutting the beard is prohibited — among them the Tzemach Tzedek,8 a grandson of the Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, who states as a matter of law that according to the Torah one may not cut his beard.)

In any event, it is clear that wearing a beard and not cutting it is a mitzvah, and it shows that this is a matter of fearing G‑d (Yiras Shomayim).

Since everything depends on G‑d, especially matters relating to a shidduch —the aspect of G‑d’s influence with regard to a shidduch being more evident than regarding other things — and He commanded that wearing a beard and not cutting it is a mitzvah, we thus understand full well that it is literally impossible that a beard serve as an impediment to a shidduch with the person who is truly hismatch.

If he is under the impression that the beard is an impediment to the shidduch,[as the other person will not marry him if he wears a beard], then it is a sign that he would indeed be fortunate that such a shidduch not come to pass and that his true match will be advanced by G‑d in the appropriate time, and they will lead a fortunate and joyful life in the path of Torah and mitzvos.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 36)

When Satisfied With Everything but the Beard

In reply to your letter of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, in which you write about a shidduch for your son ... and the issue of the beard:

In my opinion, if the young lady is satisfied with your son’s qualities in Torah and mitzvos and Yiras Shomayim etc., and she will nevertheless not agree to the shidduch because he has a beard, this proves that matters of Torah and mitzvos are not important to her, as her fears of what her friends will say, etc., outweigh [in her eyes] his [spiritual] qualities.

If this is indeed her status in Yiras Shomayim and her attitude to our “Torah of Life” and to the performance of its commandments, concerning which the verse states,9 “you shall live by them,” then it is exceedingly doubtful whether this is an appropriate shidduch for your son.

May it be G‑d’s will, He who oversees each and every individual with individual Divine Providence, that very speedily your son will find a truly appropriate shidduch. May you derive from him much true nachas, i.e., Jewish-Chassidic nachas — all this, in addition to the nachas that you already receive from his present conduct and comportment.

With blessings of good tidings with regard to all the above.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXIV, p. 16)

Proper Hair Covering

Concerning that which you write that the parents of the intended (and it seems that the intended as well) do not agree to the observance of Kisui HaRosh [a married woman’s proper covering of her hair]:

If this is the case, then if, G‑d forbid, they do not change their minds, it definitely is not worth pursuing this match at all. For in addition to this [proper hair covering] being part of the “laws of Moshe regarding the manner of tznius whereby Jewish women conduct themselves” (Das Moshe veYehudis) as mentioned in the Gemara and the Codes,10 it also serves as the strongest indication that their desire [i.e., the parents of the young lady as well as the young lady herself,] is to establish and begin the match in a manner that is contrary to G‑d’s will. (See also Zohar III, beginning of p. 126a.)

There is no need to belabor so fundamental a matter. However, if they change their minds and the young lady will conduct herself as a kosher Jewish daughter, then may it be G‑d’s will that the match take place in a good and auspicious hour.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XI, p. 115)

In Cases of Doubt About Future Conduct

In response to your letter in which you write that a suggestion was made regarding a shidduch for your niece, but the person suggested refuses to give a clear answer about how he plans to conduct himself regarding matters of Yiddishkeit — and you ask my opinion concerning the above:

My opinion is — and as I already related to your niece when she was here — that this is not of crucial import if the reason he does not want to provide a clear and unambiguous answer is in order that this not be interpreted as listening to others because he is incapable of making a decision for himself.

If, however, he truly refuses to promise at all [that he will live a life of Torah and mitzvos,] notwithstanding the fact that he was asked many times about this, it is very doubtful whether to rely on the hope that in the future he will change for the good, as the likelihood of this change coming about is extremely dubious.

One of the ways of ascertaining his future intentions is for your niece to speak to him privately, with no other people around. He will then not be embarrassed that those who hear his words will interpret it as his heeding the decision of others, since no one else will be there at that time.

This is especially so, if she explains to him that she does not desire that he necessarily follow her wishes [with regard to observing Torah and mitzvos], merely that [on her part] the relationship cannot continue any other way, inasmuch as it is incumbent that they live a life based on the “Torah of Life.”

If he refuses to commit himself [to a life of Torah and mitzvos] even after this, then there is a compelling argument to be made that after the wedding he will surely not desire to change at all, since at that time they will already have been married and the choice is now entirely his own.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 179)

In Cases of Doubt About Past Conduct

In reply to your question as to whether the young lady had to be one hundred percent religious in the past, or does it suffice that she promises to behave in this [completely religious] manner in the future:

This depends on the nature of the person who gives this promise and whether one is confident that she keeps her promises. Most importantly, it depends on whether she is aware and knowledgeable concerning the matter that she is undertaking, i.e., that she has a true understanding of what it means to live a truly Jewish life, etc.

May G‑d grant you success that you be able to convey glad tidings with regard to the above, as well as regarding that which you write at the conclusion of your letter concerning your undertaking additional measures of Torah study and performance of mitzvos.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIII, p. 68)

When Doubt Is Cast About Past Conduct

In response to your letter of Tuesday, in which you write that a shidduch was suggested to ... and they are about to become engaged, but in the interim someone came and cast doubt about the conduct of the young lady in the past — although with regard to the present she explicitly said that she desires to specifically marry only someone who is an observer of Torah and mitzvos and desires to conduct her life in accordance with the “laws of Moshe and Israel”:

Since her present status is satisfactory, and with regard to the past it is still in doubt [whether her behavior was irreligious], it is thus understandable that according to Jewish law there is very grave doubt as to whether the above testimony is at all to be believed. This is particularly so, since teshuvah helps [to rectify the past].11

Thus, according to my opinion, there is nothing to worry about. May G‑d bless their efforts [in seeing that the shidduch come to pass], that it be for the good, and that it [i.e., the shidduch] take place in a good and auspicious hour....

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XII, p. 385)

A “Plethora of Difficulties”

A shidduch with an individual who has an improper point of view regarding Torah and mitzvos is understandably bound up with a plethora of difficulties — many of which cannot even be recognized beforehand.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 285.

“Not So Religious”

In response to your letter in which you write that a shidduch was suggested to you with a young lady who, as you state “is not so religious....”

Since this phrase is subject to a multitude of interpretations, you should set forth the situation in appropriate detail before your friends in your locale. This manner of conduct is customary among Jews, and in the language of the verse:12 “Salvation lies in much counsel.”

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXII, p. 155)

“Saving a Jewish Soul”

In response to your letter of Erev Chanukah in which you write about the suggestion that was made to you regarding a shidduch:

You state that you are satisfied with the suggestion, inasmuch as [pursuing this potential shidduch] enables you to perform a twofold mitzvah: a) saving a Jewish soul [i.e., the soul of the person suggested to you,] by helping him return to his source and origin (the path of life according to Torah and mitzvos); b) the mitzvah of marriage.

Generally speaking, with regard to [combining] such [disparate] mitzvos, our Sages have said13 that “One does not ‘bundle’ mitzvos together.”

Customarily, marriage is not entered into so that one partner can educate the other, and surely not for the purpose of changing the most crucial of matters in the life of the other individual.

This is especially so, as it seems from your letter that this would involve a change in the lifestyle that he has led for many years, and suddenly demands will be made of him that he accept upon himself the yoke of Torah and mitzvos on an ongoing and daily basis; that is to say, he will be expected to change his habitual behavior many times a day.

Moreover, even when a person says that he is ready to undertake these changes, he does not always realize beforehand the difficulties that this entails, as for a long time he conducted himself in an opposite manner.

You do not mention in your letter what his response was to the condition that you made [i.e., that he observe Torah and mitzvos] and more importantly, the manner of his response — by which I mean whether it was out of compulsion (that since he has no other choice [but to observe Torah and mitzvos if he wants to marry you] he agrees to do so), or whether he agreed to do so out of a sincere desire and with joy and gladness of heart.

In any event, even if the answer elicited was in the most positive manner possible, since you and he have not yet set a time for the wedding, it would be proper that he immediately begin living the lifestyle that you have demanded of him. The weeks that will follow will then serve as a sort of trial period both for him and you.

May G‑d, who oversees each and every individual with individual Divine Providence, lead you in the path that is best for you in revealed and palpable goodness.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, p. 179)

Gaining Firsthand Experience of Religious Life

.. Regarding that which you write about the young man ... sheyichyeh, and his question about a shidduch [with a young lady who is not yet religious]:

I have already responded in situations such as these with the phrase of our Sages, “One does not commingle one mitzvah with another.”14

So, too, one should not combine and mingle the quest for a shidduch with the religious education and training of a potential mate, endeavoring to draw him or her closer to Torah and mitzvos; especially, as you write that neither she nor her family are aware of religious matters.

In such an instance, the person is incapable of assessing to what extent Torah and mitzvos are part and parcel of every step in a Jews’ life — not as the commonly made error that it only impacts on the morning during times of prayer, and on Shabbos at the time of Kiddush, and the like.

If they are already at the stage — to use your expression — “that it is far along” [i.e., they earnestly desire to get married] and thus it is necessary to champion the marriage as much as possible, then at least the following is to be done:

The young man is to speak to her as soon as possible regarding those matters most crucial [to living a Jewish life] as best as they are known to him. Foremost, understandably, among them, those matters that depend on the wife, viz., Taharas HaMishpachah, tznius, kashrus of the food, etc.

It is of equal import, no less than the above, that as soon as possible the young lady move in and reside with a religious family so that she witness on a daily basis what it means to be a Bas Yisrael, [a practicing Jewess]. If it is literally impossible for her to do this, then she should at least arrange to be in such an environment as much as possible.

She should also study, or someone should study with her, at least an abbreviated form of the laws that are necessary for her to know. Only after she conducts herself in this manner for a number of weeks should they meet again, and they should discuss whether she fully intends on taking upon herself all that she has learned regarding living a religious life.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXI, p. 431)

If the Parents Seemingly Did Not Observe
the Laws of Family Purity

.. According to all opinions. the immersion of a niddah does not at all require intent [that she is immersing for the sake of purification].15

It is specifically in the United States that it is extremely common to bathe in rivers and seas — not only during the summer months, but quite often during the winter months as well. This is in addition to bathing in assemblages of water that contain much more than [the measure of] forty se’ah. Especially so, since even canals and tributaries quite often are mixed in with — or composed of — well water.

Clearly the above should not be publicized before ignoramuses or even those who are a level above them [so that this should not be understood, G‑d forbid, as an excuse not to immerse in a mikveh].

Nevertheless, concurrently, one should not thrust aside many, many daughters of Israel from engaging in a shidduch with religious and G‑d-fearing families, even if there was clear and public knowledge that their mothers did not observe purification in a mikveh. Surely this applies when this [clear knowledge of their past behavior is lacking, but] is merely an educated guess.16

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 452)