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How Much Hishtadlus?

One of the greatest challenges I faced in my years of dating was the question of, 'how much hishtadlus?'

My name is Elisheva, originally from London, currently age 30 and Boruch Hashem very happily married after years of dating and finally meeting my wonderful husband at age 27. I met Merissa during my dating years and although she wasn't our Shadchan she was involved in our Shidduch. She, together with her equally talented and influential husband - who is my husband's Rebbe and mentor, continue to play an important role in our lives. In this article I hope to share some of my thoughts and attitudes based on my experiences which I hope can be helpful to others.

One of the greatest challenges I faced in my years of dating was the question of, 'how much hishtadlus?' This is something we continuously ask ourselves at all stages of life but particularly in my dating years I found myself asking questions like, 'Shall I move to America? Shall I move to Israel? Shall I meet another Shadchan? What does Hashem expect of me?’

I lived in London with my loving, supportive and wonderful parents and family. I thrived in my busy and exciting job as a Primary School teacher and, with additional private teaching and my involvement in several communal projects as well as attending regular shiurim and a weekly Chaburah, I didn't have a spare evening! In summary, I was busy, fulfilled and happy. I really wanted to get married and build a home, but I was so grateful to have so many opportunities to develop as a person and was determined to remain a happy, fulfilled person which would surely make a more exciting person to date!

It was so important to me to be fulfilled and accomplished that the thought of moving countries for the sake of more suitable dating opportunities filled me with dread. I simply didn’t know if it was Hashem’s plan and my hishtadlus requirement to relocate and ‘start from scratch,’ to be, ‘just another single seeking a shidduch’ and ‘unknown in the community’. I knew myself well enough to know it wasn’t something I could handle, but did make the effort to travel to America and Israel in my school vacations and meet Shadchanim. Once I even went to a singles Shavuos retreat in New York! It was a question I continuously asked myself and found very challenging. Sometimes we are blessed to see how Hashem orchestrates events and I merited to meet my English husband in London!

One of the attitudes I always had and felt was a big impact on my positivity amidst difficult times was that I never felt sorry for myself! This came from a mixture of my fulfilling lifestyle and my own outlook guided by Torah hashkafa. Although other people certainly felt sorry for me (and some expressed that in unhelpful ways!), I never viewed myself as an ‘older single’ who was desperate for a shidduch! I strongly stress the importance of maintaining a healthy and positive self-image in order to keep strong and continuously move forward when faced with the inevitable setbacks.

Although I was in shidduchim for many years, I didn't date tons of people (I think less than 30). Just because I was an 'older single', it didn't mean I would just date anyone. It had to be suitable on paper and my parents or I always did enquiries. Even as one gets older, I would recommend that making enquiries and hence making informed decisions before meeting someone is maintained since there is no benefit to wasting your time and emotional energy just to 'have a date' when it isn't suitable on paper. After all, the Shidduch system is one that ensures we are dating as wisely as possible! One of the biggest demands of the dating stage of life is the necessity to know oneself. Each suggestion and each date demanded me to think, analyse and express my values and priorities. This can be agonising, stressful and tough, but at the same time such a gift!

Interestingly, I was always open to date and marry a Ba'al Teshuva even in my younger years. I appreciated the balance and sincerity found amongst serious Ba'alei Teshuva which was harder to find in the FFB world. There were of course factors that I would not negotiate on like it was important to me that a boy had to have a good standard of Talmud Torah etc. but each person decides what is good for them.

Our final Shadchan was really helpful; her advice and knowledge of what we needed at each stage was definitely influential in helping us move forward and deepen our relationship at the right times. In my dating experience I always used a Shadchan and would recommend this practice since the involvement of an objective person with relevant experience can be really helpful. The shadchanim who I related to well, who I felt really understood me and who had significant life experience, were certainly the more helpful ones! In some relationships the guy and myself would communicate directly to plan arrangements but only after receiving feedback from the Shadchan about the previous date. I did sign up to an online dating site, SawYouAtSinai, which necessitates the role of a ‘matchmaker’. It didn’t work for me but one of the shadchanim I once met asked me to create a profile and it seemed reasonable hishtadlus.

Although we never ask for challenges or to be tested in any way, this personal challenge certainly made my davening come alive and I could always cry to Hashem with any of my feelings. 

Boruch Hashem I merited to see the incredible hashgacha of some difficult times that brought me to my fabulous husband with whom I have grown and achieved so much more than I could have dreamt possible in just 2.5 years of marriage! Obviously now I am in a good place to reflect that all those years were so worthwhile (not to mention some amazing holidays I went on and the money I saved up and invested which is a huge help to us now!) as all my experiences really developed my thinking and hopefully my ability to help others.

I wish you all tremendous wisdom and success in getting closer to the 'right one.' I'm happy to be contacted via Merissa.

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