Q & A: Kol Ish

20 Apr

So this is how a Q & A segment works on In Search of the Real Deal. I ask a question, rant about it a shtikl bit and then you give me your answers in the comment box below. Hope you enjoy!

There is a prohibition against kol isha for a reason. I get it. I don’t protest it or wonder if it applies in today’s modern age. The Torah has certain gedarim in order to protect us. Fine. Us lucky women do not have to worry about who or what we listen to. Our ears are free to listen to anyone and everyone who showcases his or her voice. Supposedly, it is because we are not “affected” by the melodious magic of an exquisite set of vocal chords.

But I have a kasha with this. It’s called The Maccabeats. Never in my life have I seen girls go so puerilely bonkers over a singing group. It’s not baseless, either. They’re good. They’re exceptionally good. Maybe I am too young to remember the way Blue Fringe inspired spontaneous palpitations in eager-to-marry college girls, but I’m telling you, I have never seen girls act so…girly.

It’s not The Maccabeats fault. The desire to have a husband who sings well is deeply rooted in our extra X-chromosome. Even before Macca-mania, girls longed for the vocally gifted young bachurim. I have met many a girl who put “a good singing voice” up there on their lists alongside “learns well” and “has good middot.” Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a soft, melodic voice. I really, really do, but it’s not up there with “willing to change diapers.” It would be a bit of  a bummer if I married a tone-deaf man. C’mon, I’m just like any other girl. I want his rendition of Eishes Chayil to put a goofy, love-struck smile on my face. I’m not going to pretend I’m a tzadekes here; I want a guy with a good voice. But I know that if I do end up marrying a vocally challenged gentleman, I’ll find his “special” versions of Shabbos zmirot to be uniquely endearing.

So, girls, do you agree with me? Is there not something enrapturing about a guy with a good voice? What is it about a good voice that makes us turn to complete and utter mush, and in reality, how important is it to you that he sings well?

And to the guys, what is your opinion on girls placing such importance on singing ability?


27 Responses to “Q & A: Kol Ish”

  1. Bored Jewish Guy April 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    I think it’s stupid to care about how he sings. That may be b/c I’m an awful singer 😉 Seriously though, I think it’s one of the more ridiculous things girls ask for, if you like singing why don’t you listen to a cd? As for zemiros, you can get guests with good voices. I don’t get it. I remember my older sister saying that she wouldn’t marry a guy who didn’t have a good voice, her husband is completely tone deaf and is oblivious to that fact, but he’s a good guy so she’s lucky.

  2. harryer than them all April 21, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    See my post here http://ayeshivishharry.blogspot.com/2010/01/priorities.html

    My Rebbi once got a call about a guy and one of the questions he was asked was “Does he sing well? Cause my daughter really enjoys zemiros, so she wants someone with a good voice” To which my rebbi said (to us) “I felt like asking if she played piano, this way they could make a group!”

    Its about misplaced priorities. People assume that the other person is a kind person, are gomlei chasadim, and focus on things which make no difference to the actual marriage.

  3. Shades of Grey April 21, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    As the third guy commenter (and one with an average voice at best) it is certainly misplaced priorities. I am friends with members of the Maccabeats (closer to some than others), and I’ve heard some of them remark how repulsed they are by the idea that girls like them just for their voice and how they’d NEVER go out with someone who has that as a priority. They know they’re good, and getting better all the time, but it certainly sounds like a few of them (at least) have their heads on straight with regard to this area.

    I happen to love Jewish music and singing zemiros – I can’t keep up with the Maccabeats worth a darn, but I can hold my own in general Shabbos-table-fare or being chazan on occasion at the Carlebach Minyan at YU (when I am priviledged to be asked). I would certainly like having a wife who appreciates the spiritual aspects of what singing means and how to incorporate it into our religious practice on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but I certainly wouldn’t hold her accountable if she can’t sing along with me.

    To some degree, unless the guy has an absolutely horrid, glass shattering voice, he can be trained to sound decent – and girls may have to make due with that and face reality…

  4. SIS April 21, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Nope, don’t agree with you. I guess we have very different X chromosomes.

  5. Princess Lea April 21, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    My father and brother are both baalei tefillah. So I know the business.

    NEVER CROSSED MY MIND to ask about a singing voice.

    Firstly, I know from family yore how that is strictly in the ear of the listener. Just cause they say the dude can sing means nothing. While I haven’t heard Maccabeats, I have heard other so-called “singers” who made my ears bleed.

    Secondly, I have so many other stupidities lined up for “not necessary but it would be nice,” like being a kohen (for mama), uber tall (for papa), heimish (for me), that a singing voice doesn’t come in.

    A question for the dudes in the peanut gallery: Does anyone here ask about a girl’s looks before a date? Ask for a photo, mayhap? Say no to date because of something else we females would consider piddling?

    Juuuuuuust curious.

  6. Happy Medium April 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    First of all, Coralcap – who are you??? (You don’t have to answer that) I felt like I was reading my own thoughts just now!

    I think it is dangerous for a single guy with a good voice with other additional great qualities to be in the eye of the public. It doesn’t end up well. It’s not his fault – it’s just a reality. (This does NOT mean that I want the Maccabeats to stop doing their thing – ad’raba!) It’s just an undeniable fact that a good singing voice can mean a heck of a lot to girls (some more than others).

    To the male commenters – I think it is unfair of you to say “You girls are being ridiculous and superficial by asking about a singing voice!” What is superficial is making “good voice” way up there on The List. But enjoying Shabbos zemiros? Thinking that a good voice is a ma’aleh? Finding a guy attractive because he has a good singing voice (along with other, more important qualities)? I think that is fairly reasonable. (So don’t go hatin’!)

    And if you don’t have a Maccabeat voice, don’t worry! For the girl who has her head screwed on straight, a good voice is a bonus, not a necessity. And that’s the kind of girl you want (I think).

  7. coralcap April 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Princess Lea: I was waiting for a girl to make the comparison between a girl asking for a good voice and a guy asking for good looks. I’d really like to know what the difference is. Some guys can be very particular about a girl’s looks and won’t compromise on that, so to, why can’t a girl want a guy to sing well? Are girls not allowed to put an emphasis on what they are attracted to?

    I would never ask if the guy sings well, but it’s something I have definitely wondered about. You seem to be quite in exception; most girls who have men in their family who sing well generally want the same from a husband. I wouldn’t necessarily call it superficial, it’s something they grew up with like being nisht gebrukts. But hey, if you don’t put an emphasis on voice, all the power to ya.

    To the guys: I totally agree with the emphasis on voice being a little crazy. I don’t think most girls are seriously headstrong about marrying a guy with a Maccabeats-esque voice (as BJG’s sister proved). The few girls who do inquire about quality of voice have misplaced priorities, as you all mentioned.

    From my experience at hundreds of shabbos tables and minyanim, I would say that most guys have voices that range from decent to great. Knowing a Maccabeat or two myself, I have been asked by girls (who barely know me, by the way) if I could set them up. Lol, it doesn’t really matter which one, that’s the sense I’ve been getting, so really, it’s just a meat market. I would be repulsed if I were a Maccabeat or any boy swooned over for his voice, for that matter. Which brings me to…

    Happy Medium: Welcome to my blog! So nice to see you here! For starters, I am someone who is trying to write an anonymous blog, although I don’t know successful I will be in the endeavor. So far, no one has approached me and asked me if I am coralcap, which is good, I guess. But the time will come when I probably mention my favorite book and movies, and that is when I might be uncovered. Anyway, I agree with you 100% about the danger of being in the public eye when having a gift. It’s a blessing b/c they get to use their talent to entertain and touch others, while also making some parnasa. However, the curses exist as well. Any of these successful performers probably has a shidduch list that could span from the east coast to the west. But how many of these girls are genuinely interested in the guy as an individual with opinions, profound beliefs, and quirky quirks that make them who the are. I think the main reason girls like guys with good voices is because we see musicality and spirituality as correlating attributes. Someone who can express themselves deftly in the form of music, must have a deeper connection with their neshama and G-d, right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I could give a whole drasha on this topic but in short, a person can be David HaMelech and use his strengths for G-d, or he can be like Doeg HaAdomi an use them haughtily (the details are in the gemara of Sanhedrin). Having the gift of musical expression is a holy thing. If you look in Tehillim, the words for “thought” and “harp” are basically the same (hegyon and higayon). Being able to express one’s self in music is the ability to take those thoughts which cannot be sufficiently communicated through speak and giving them a voice. It’s a beautiful gift to have… but as you and I know Happy Medium, it’s not a reason to marry someone. To care about a guy’s appreciation and commitment to the emes and spirituality is a quality worth looking into, but not singing stahm.

    Then again, Harry, if a girl is looking to have the next Brady Bunch, it could be very important 😉

    And SIS, you are definitely in the minority. Though most of the girls I know wouldn’t think to ask about a guy’s ability to sing (or lack thereof), they all have gleefully mentioned that they secretly hope he has a good voice. Still, I think you have restored some hope in our male bloggers/readers. Not all girls go nuts over singers and musicians. Baruch Hashem. What would accountants do if not for girls like you? 😉

  8. Shades of Grey April 22, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    I don’t think looks and voice are comparable AT ALL – totally apples and oranges.

    Here’s why – looks are very significant from the perspective of either gender (and only within a healthy range of consideration) because you need to have physical attraction to your spouse to drive that component of the relationship. Not having a good voice, though it may be a slight downer, would not, I tend to think, make a guy who is handsome in the extreme any less attractive on the physical scale (and this assumes that everything else is wonderful about him as well).

    Case in point: if you were told the guy you were set up with had a great voice, but it turns out he’s everything you want except he can’t carry a tune worth a darn – I doubt any girl would dump him. If, however, the shadchan showed you a picture that clearly did not portray his current looks and you find him absolutely wonderful in every respect, except for the fact that you can’t look at him without gagging – then you WOULD dump him.

    You NEED physical attraction to make a marriage, but you don’t NEED a good voice to make a marriage. Hence looks (to each his/her own) is a necessity, while a singing voice is icing on the cake, and ranks far below truly important things such as middos.

  9. Bored Jewish Guy April 22, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    The similarity between a girl wanting a guy with a good voice and a guy wanting a girl who’s pretty is that both are ok things to want, but when it’s your primary focus (or even close) you’re not being smart. I do agree with SoG though, asking about looks makes more sense b/c on some level it really is important.

    Princess Lea: I don’t usually ask about the girls looks before agreeing to a date, but I am always told that she’s pretty. I also don’t ask for a picture but I do try to find one on facebook or onlysimchas and yes, I have said no to a date b/c of a picture that I saw but as SoG points out, that is different b/c attraction is important. You should be very wary of any guy that doesn’t think looks are important.

  10. Princess Lea April 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Permit me to clarify:

    I believe every male to, of course, prefer females with the looks. My issue is when a date doesn’t happen based on looks. If a girl said, “Well, his singing voice is not up to par to no way to a date,” many would assume she was insane. If a guy said no to coffee because of looks not being exactly what he would like (say pretty but “not his type”), then, well, I question his mental acuity.

    Many times, one becomes prettier when her personality is on the table. Same way for a guy. If a girl went out with a guy who can’t sing, but she liked him for other reasons, maybe suddenly his belted out version of “Eishes Chayil” sounds sweeter.

  11. SIS April 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Coralcap: I’m not so sure I’m in the minority. I have heard the desire expressed once, and that was from a very musical girl from a very musical family. In that case, I understand it. Music is a huge part of her life and maybe even identity.

    As far as the voice/looks comparison goes, Shades of Grey says it best. There is no comparison. You hear him singing maybe once a week? You see what he looks like every day. If he doesn’t sing well, then he won’t sing as much, if he doesn’t look well, he can’t hide his face in a paper bag. However, caring about his speaking voice is a different matter, because you’re confronted with that every time he opens his mouth. That is something that I do care about.

    Princess Lea: While I know many girls (and even some guys) will agree with you, I don’t buy it. Some people will always be ugly, no matter how dazzling their personality is.

  12. Bored Jewish Guy April 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Princess Lea: If I see a picture and the girl is not what I would call pretty, or not my type, I probably wouldn’t say no, b/c it’s true some people look better in person and have something about them that makes them attractive that can only be seen in person. That said, if a guy says a girl is not his type, he usually means he thinks she is ugly but he’s trying to be nice. Also most guys know what they’re attracted to and when they say no based on looks it’s b/c they saw something that convinces them there is no way they could be attracted to that girl.

  13. Princess Lea April 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    All I know is, that there are quite a few, erm, rather BAD looking females married to lovely, pleasant looking fellows who do not seem to feel as though they’ve had to compromise at all (bouncing with joy many years later, to be precise).

    Just saying fellas, you never know . . .

  14. coralcap April 22, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    Alright, alright SoG has a point. The whole falling-for-his-voice thing is just infatuation. Looks are a crucial factor in making a relationship work. Sometimes people do get better looking as you get to know them better, sometimes not.

    Princess Lea: As puzzling as it may seem at times, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It should give hope to us all, eh?

  15. Shades of Grey April 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    I agree with latest coralcap’s response to Princess Lea, and want to add a bit to Bored Jewish Guy.

    Pictures do not tell everything about appearance. This is 100% true. But they do give you a ball-park estimate if you might find someone attractive. Certainly, everyone should be dan lekaf zechus that the picture is not a 100% accurate representation of the person, hence more than once picture, (as BJG suggested checking out onlysimchas) can be of greater assistance in determining more accurately what they look like.

    It’s one thing to say – clearly that awkward smile and those half-closed eyelids means the picture was just a bad picture. If, however, I can tell that the person has a nose like a toucan or ears like Dumbo, or in general has a rather strange looking face – pictures don’t lie about that (unless there is some clever light arrangement/angle or photoshopping going on).

    I only use pictures as a general reference – if the girl reaches my standard threshold for what I would describe as attractive (maybe even “pretty,” but this is far from being categorized as super-model-esque or drop dead gorgeous) – then I always give it a shot. I have found that girls whose pictures didn’t fit the image of being jaw-dropping DO become more beautiful with time. But, I HAVE turned down suggestions where I am either repelled by the person’s looks, or she simply doesn’t meet that threshold of what I personally find attractive. I wrote a post about looks that killed the “chemistry” in a shidduch: http://walkingthegreyline.blogspot.com/2009/10/brrrrrr-chatter-chatter-and-some-dating.html (I admit that this earlier post is not 100% clear, but that’s what it’s talking about)

    As coralcap basically said (and I mentioned in my last comment) looks really fall into the category of to each his/her own preference. As the gemara in Kesubos 16B says with regard to a machlokes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, “Keitzad Merkadim Lefnei Hakalah?” to which Beis Hillel answers “Kallah Na’eh Vachasuda” – say the bride is pretty! and Beis Shammai argues, “Kallah Kemos Shehei” – tell it like it is, even if she isn’t pretty. Beis Hillel’s perspective is that the guy who is marrying her CLEARLY finds her attractive, why else would he marry her (leaving aside ulterior motives of money, etc) – he has to find his wife attractive!

    In fact, it is better that I SHOULDN’T think my friend’s wife is attractive, because what business do I have looking at her or thinking about her appearance at anyrate? As long as he thinks she’s beautiful, mah tov u’mah na’im. So there is no proof from the existence of couples where one is deemed “attrative” in a particular person’s eyes and the other as “unattractive.”

    • Bored Jewish Guy April 23, 2010 at 3:15 am #

      I once saw 10 pictures of a girl on facebook, after I had agreed to go out with her and I thought that she was really tall with a long face and I wasn’t looking forward to going out with her (although overall, I still thought she was far from ugly). Neither of those things turned out to be true when I met her in person, I think the problem with the pictures was her hairstyle and the angle the pictures were taken from. Also, after getting to know her, when I looked at the same pictures, they looked much better to me. That said there are times when one picture can tell you all that you need to know, that there is no way you can find the other person attractive.

  16. halfshared April 23, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    I don’t know. I’ve never heard of any girl actually looking for a guy with a good voice. None of my friends did. My whole family sings wells and music and singing has always been the background noise in my house, and still, it never occurred to me to even ask about a guy’s singing voice. I have a friend that comes from a family of professional singers and her husband is tone-deaf. I never heard her complaining.

    Singing well is a talent, a bonus, but I can’t imagine ever making it a requirement, or even an item on a list of requirements/wants.

  17. Ishkol April 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    I came here via the G-chat status of one of the Maccabeats, so think not that your words go unread.

    My opinion on girls placing such emphasis on singing ability: I agree with Princess Lea’s comparison of good looks and good voices. In my opinion, both are examples of relatively superficial aspects of a person that people can be attracted to.

    I agree with Mr. Grey’s point as well: repellent looks are more detrimental than a repellent singing voice, for the reason that SIS mentioned: you don’t often have to hear him sing, but you see what he looks like every day.

    However, I don’t think that this point is applicable to the original question, which was about outstandingly good voices, analogous to outstandingly good looks. In this case, SIS’s point is less relevant, since if he has a good singing voice he has no reason to refrain from using it.

    My impression (from phrases like “healthy range of consideration” and such) is that most of the commenters here would agree that uncommonly good looks (as opposed to tolerable ones) fall into the same category as an uncommonly good voice, which Shades of Grey summed up as “icing on the cake”.

    As far as the question of whether either of those are “misplaced priorities”, personally, I don’t believe that it makes sense to call any one’s priorities in this area “misplaced”. If a girl judged any and all potential husbands by their Kermit the Frog impressions, I wouldn’t call that misplaced. Assuming that she is what economists like to call a “rational actor”–that is, she has thought everything through, and this is what she wants–then on what objective basis can you criticize her preference?

    On the other hand, Harryer Than Them All made an interesting point when he said, “People assume that the other person is a kind person, are gomlei chasadim,” and focus on other things. If you think that for that reason or another, she herself would change her mind, if she only had more information, then, I grant, you can call her priorities misplaced. Otherwise, I think, judging her taste in husbands would be no different than judging her taste in jelly beans: yes, you might raise an eyebrow or two if she picked a black one, but surely you wouldn’t judge her for it. (Er. That didn’t come out well. I’m only racist when it comes to jelly beans!)

    In fact, whilst I don’t think that there is much danger of “a good voice” being overrated–everyone who has commented here seems to agree that it is not priority #1–I think (controversial statement incoming!) that the danger is for things like “good midos” to be overrated. To be clear, I don’t argue that midos are more important than voices in judging how “good” a person is, but who is to say that how “good” a person is should have any more bearing on the decision to marry him or not than more “superficial factors do”? In my opinion, the only real basis to evaluate a match is “how well will these two people like each other?”, or maybe better put: “how much will they want to be with each other”.

    I don’t want to sound pompous by citing Talmudic references, but heck–enough people have told me that I sound pompous when I write for me to despair of really correcting that anyway, so I’ll mention that the well-known gemara in the beginning of Sotah that talks about “matches made in heaven” (“40 days before the child is formed…”) appears to support my point.

    I was going to write more, but I’ve been called away from the computer (no doubt better for all concerned).

  18. coralcap April 25, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    halfshared: Though most girls see a good voice as a plus, I have met a tiny minority of girls who really insist on him having a good voice. If you ask me my opinion, I think they haven’t come down to earth yet about what, but hey, nobody can stop a person from asking for what they want.You might not be able to imagine it as being a requirement/want but some people do want it, just like some people want someone funny or tall or any other superficial trait that isn’t necessary to make a marriage work.I appreciate the connection one can make with Hashem, 5770 of Jewish history and one’s self through music and singing, and it would be nice if I found a guy who could appreciate that too. However, it’s not a necessity, it’d be an added bonus. I’m going to do another post on why I think girls like guys who can sing b/c through this post and the feedback I’ve received, I think I have a better idea of why some girls really care about it.

    Ishkol: I’m not sure how much I like the idea of my post being someone’s G-chat status. I guess that’s what I get for mentioning the Maccabeats.

    I like your comparison of exceptionally good looks and an exceptionally good voice. Many guys have great voices, but they don’t have a CD or get shipped all over the east coast to do gigs so they don’t have the same status as some who does have such opportunities might. After hearing many conversations about the Maccabeats and even seeing the treatment of a Maccabeat in public, I have come to the conclusion that people are enamored with their status as the cool new kids on the block. They have fun with it, sometimes at these guys’ expense. Someone who is exceptionally good looking generally is treated similarly (everyone wants to be his/her friend for what they look like not who they are necessarily).

    You seem to be a very open minded person, probably more so than myself. As nice as it is to have someone with a god voice, I don’t think it will ever be a necessity to make a marriage work. If a person’s singing voice plays such an integral part in one’s attraction to another, I think that’s a problem. Though High School Musical and Glee might have us fooled, life is not structured to be a musical. Ahsira Hasem b’chayey, mean I sing to Gd with my life. The way I live my life is hopefully as pleasing to Gd as song. There are many times to enjoy music and song, especially as religious Jews, however,it is not the key to communication between man and his fellow. It’s an added bonus, and I would hope people wouldn’t get caught up in the romanticized notion of music’s roll in our lives. I wouldn’t judge the person b/c I doubt I would know she chose her husband for his voice, but if by chance I did know, yes I would be surprised. Call that being judgmental if you want.

    I think middot are very important, and I’m not sure who you can separate them from liking a person. From my experience, I like the people in my life based on how they relate me and others. Yes, people are imperfect and say/do mean things, but some people do it less than others. Some people make a concerted effort to watch their speech/actions and have the humility to address their mistakes when made. Having chemistry and “liking” someone is great, but once you get married, you need to have good communication, patience and a willingness to work together. It sure isn’t as romantic as just “getting” each other but it sure as heck makes for a happier, stronger marriage. The warm, fuzziness of liking each other needs a backbone, and to be able to form that backbone you have to know you are with someone who is honest, trustworthy and committed. Those are middot, and I wouldn’t call any of those traits overrated.

    I’ve heard of that gemara many times and though I don’t question it, it is not a source I try to understand. What does it mean Hashem calls out 40 days before conception? What about the babies who unfortunately end in miscarriage? Their “basherts” don’t end up getting married, cv”s? My job as a girl looking to get married is to find someone I can live, laugh and grow through the twists and turns in life. My humble opinion is that people put too much focus on everything being bashert instead of accepting that people are imperfect, but that’s my two cents.

    Thanks for the insightful commentary. I would most definitely be interested in hearing more of your ideas. Have you ever thought of starting a blog?

    • Ishkol April 26, 2010 at 10:55 am #

      Don’t worry, his status has moved on.

      You make a good point about middos being traits that make for a stronger marriage and on the whole I think I would agree. That would fit into the category of things that, if she would know them, she would change her own priorities.

      What I had in mind was some sort of reasoning along the lines of “He is kind to everyone he meets, therefore he is a good person, therefore he is a ‘catch'”. In other words, assuming for argument’s sake that the middos or lack thereof wouldn’t directly affect the marriage, I’m not sure that there’s any reason that it’s better to marry a “good” person.

      The reason I said that middos run the danger of being overrated is that–take your hypothetical friend who marries someone for his voice: she certainly is not doing that out of societal pressure. On the contrary, if anything, people will look down on her for such a ‘shallow’ choice, so if she makes it, it is clearly her own. Middos, on the other hand, are highly valued in our culture, so there is that danger of someone overrating middos in comparison to how much they really matter to her, because she is expected to rate them highly, the same way that “a guy who learns” is rated particularly highly in some circles.

      Don’t worry about being judgmental, anyway: I don’t judge you for that either. Maybe I’m the one who should be more judgmental about things.

      Regarding that gemara, I understand why you aren’t fully comfortable with it and I have my own reservations with the concept of “bashert”, at least in its most extreme form, although the particular question you raise would not be hard to address (if someone is not destined to marry, presumably the bas kol would not ‘assign’ him someone). Certainly it’s not something I worry about: if it’s literally true that you will marry one person no matter what, then there is no need to think about it, and if it isn’t, then there is no reason to.

      Still, even if we aren’t sure exactly how to interpret that aspect of the gemara, that doesn’t mean we can’t take anything else out of it. The part I was thinking of (didn’t elaborate because I ran short of time) comes a little bit later:

      The gemara uses the statement about the bas kol to question a different statement, that people are paired according to their actions–how “good” they are; this is as difficult to do as the splitting of the sea. The gemara asks: since “yir’as shamayim” is a matter of free will, how can something dependent on that be determined before birth? It answers, “one statement is talking about a first marriage; one is talking about a second marriage”. Rashi there explains: “One’s first, predestined marriage is based on ‘mazal’, compatibility. Second marriages are based on the righteousness of each person. That is why they it is so difficult to pair them–because they are not naturally compatible.” This seems to show that “compatibility” is the most important consideration in finding a spouse, not how “good” they are.

      In practical terms, we’ve been talking about a fairly extreme hypothetical case: most people would probably agree with you that ‘superficial’ traits like a good singing voice should not be priority #1. Here’s what I think is the real importance of these superficial things:

      As you said above, “the whole falling-for-his-voice thing is just infatuation”. I agree with that, and although you went on to distinguish between that and good looks, I think that falling for good looks is also an example of infatuation, but there is a place for infatuation and a reason it exists.

      In my opinion, “infatuation”, though necessarily impermanent, serves the invaluable role of the ‘icebreaker’. There are always barriers between two people who have just met–they simply don’t know each other. With all the best intentions in the world, it is hard for them to get to know each other if neither of them feels much of a compulsion to break through the barrier. Infatuation–even with something superficial–supplies that initial compulsion to get to know someone.

      Speaking from my own experience, many of my best and closest friends have been people who, for one reason or another, really impressed me on first or second meeting. Sure, with time, you get to know someone better, and you realize that not all of them is quite as perfect as that first thing that impressed you, but by that time it doesn’t matter as much anymore. You know the person. A good singing voice, good looks, intelligence, an unexpected kind word–none of these things are the whole person, but all of them can be reasons impelling you past your own shells to get to know the whole person. That’s why “falling for someone ” *is* important, and in that respect, a good voice is no worse than a good mind or a good heart. (Personally, I have little use for “shidduch resumes”, but when I see them, *I* fall for the girls with good punctuation. That might be just me, though.)

      I’m very flattered that you’re interested in my ideas; thank you. The thought of starting a blog has occasionally fluttered idly through my head, but I’ve never taken it seriously. For one thing, who would read it? For another thing, I don’t like doing things by halves, so if I did start one, I would probably put either too little or too much time into it, and at the moment I should probably be putting that time into other things. Still, thank you for the flattering suggestion. If I ever do start a blog, I’ll be sure to drop you a line.

  19. Shades of Grey April 29, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    That bas kol gemara is Sotah 2a (though it could be elsewhere as well), and isn’t very clear, to put it mildly. I’ve heard several different rabbeim explain, and the concept of zivug rishon and zivug sheini (translated below as marriage), as well as the possibility that you might never even marry that bas kol individual is a little troublesome to contemplate, to put it mildly.

    From the Soncino English:
    Aramaic Here: http://www.e-daf.com/index.asp?id=2356

    R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: When Resh Lakish began to expound [the subject of] Sotah, he spoke
    thus: They only pair a woman with a man according to his deeds;17 as it is said: For the sceptre of
    wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous.18 Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: It is as difficult to pair them as was the division of the Red Sea; as it is said: God setteth thesolitary in families: He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity!19 But it is not so; for Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: Forty days before the creation of a child, a Bath Kol20 issues forth and proclaims, The daughter of A is for B;21 the house of C is for D; the field of E is for F! — There is no contradiction, the latter dictum referring to a first marriage and the former to a second marriage.

  20. SternGrad April 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    To answer your question:
    “So, girls, do you agree with me? Is there not something enrapturing about a guy with a good voice? What is it about a good voice that makes us turn to complete and utter mush”

    Yes!! Great post, I feel the same way. We can’t help it if we turn to mush when we hear a good voice. I would not equate a good voice with good looks (even though when a guy who I find to be not so attractive starts singing and a beautiful voice comes out, he automatically becomes more attractive).

    For me “Good voice” is on the list of things that the perfect guy would have, but I think it would be ridiculous to put it on the “make it or break it” list. Looks are important because you need to be attracted to the person who you marry. Having a good voice is amazing, but when it comes down to it, it’s not important at all.

  21. coralcap April 30, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Ishkol: Wow, wow, wow you made so many good points and covered so many topics that I would love to expound upon, yet I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start with that gemara. Isn’t the ideal that a person marries one person? Was it the norm in the times of the gemara for one to get married twice? Also, what does the gemara mean by “compatibility?” In my experience, two people can be extremely compatible in every way, and still, the relationship doesn’t work out. What happens if you meet that one special person and the relationship never leads to marriage? Are you bound to have a so-so marriage with whomever s/he does end up marrying? Maybe I just don’t like the idea of having that one special person b/c I don’t want to believe that I only have one shot at “true love.”

    I like your perspective on infatuation. It is our intrigue with others that drives us to get to know them better. In some cases it holds true, but I have also found that I misjudged some of my closest friends when first meeting them. “Falling” for someone is good if the person is ready to make a relationship his/her priority. Falling for someone who isn’t there yet can be quite aggravating. May it be G-d’s will that we only “fall” for the one person who will be there to catch us.

    I never knew good punctuation could be an attractive attribute. I should review my old MLA books. I am intrigued by guys who embrace their quirky, dorky side.

    Blogs do take up a lot of time, but if you ever have a topic you’ve written about and want to share, my blog is your blog. I look forward to hearing more of your ideas in the future.

    Shades of Grey: I do find it all very troublesome. I’m sure there is a bas kol involved, but at the end of the day, G-d lets us make he decision. He will never force us to say “yes” to an individual, even our zivug. From my understanding, that is why making a shidduch is as hard as splitting the sea; G-d can perform every miracle in the book, but if one half of the whole decides s/he isn’t interested, that’s it. He has to play around with our free will, but He will only do so to a certain extent. I hate to pick and choose answers but in this case, the answer that sits best with me and allows me to date without being a neurotic worrywart is an explanation a rabbi of mine from seminary gave:
    Our souls are most likely pieces of the original souls who stood at Matan Torah. We all come from those original souls and since we have multiplied over the centuries, those souls had to be broken into pieces in order for us to receive our neshamot. Our “soul mates” come from the same original souls, which means, there is probably more than one person we can connect well with…but even this approach I have issues with.

    My overall approach to zivugim and “bashert” is that they are both nice ideas, but my zivug/bashert is the person I choose to make a lifetime commitment with. Though my general mantra is, “look beyond the surface,” this topic is one of my exceptions, otherwise, I’d go crazy.

    SternGrad: I like the way you put it– having a good voice is on the “perfect guy” list but it is in no way a priority. A good voice can make a not-so-attractive guy more attractive, and I find this also applies to guys with good humor. Guys are so lucky that we fall for that stuff so easily. One minute the guy is “eh,” but the next minute, after he’s told a charmingly funny story, he is the bees knees.

  22. Ishkol May 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    All right, let’s start with that gemara and your questions on it. I imagine that in the times of the gemara it was the norm to marry one person (certainly that seems to make the most sense mathematically) although I can’t offhand think of a compelling proof one way or the other. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that it was, and that the ideal is to marry one person. Both seem like reasonable positions.

    The way I think most people take that gemara–certainly the way I had always read it–is that it refers to a “second marriage” after the first has terminated by death or divorce. From your words, it sounds like you took this to refer to a “second marriage” in addition to the first. Now that I come to consider that possibility, it seems to fit reasonably well into the gemara’s wording. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one or the other: since the gemara’s words can apply equally in either case, it may well have meant “second marriage” to include both possibilities: any marriage that is not one’s first, in other words. Thanks for making me think of the second possibility; it had never even occurred to me!

    (As an aside, the Kli Yakar at the beginning of Parshas Yisro interprets the gemara differently; in his reading, a “second marriage” refers to a second marriage to the same person!)

    In any case, I am not sure that the contention that marrying once and only once is the usual and/or ideal case necessarily raises problems with understanding that gemara. Which is the point that bothers you about that?

    Coming to the issue of “compatibility”: first of all, I should make it clear that the gemara itself doesn’t actually use words like that. The gemara just refers to the concept of the “bashert”, the one who is announced in heaven. “Compatibility” was my rendering of Rashi’s explanation. (Rashi uses the phrase “bas zugo”.)

    Secondly: I understand the things that trouble you about the concept of “the one”, but it seems to me that you are interpreting the concept in the most troubling way. On the one hand, you assume that a match being announced in heaven doesn’t mean that you are destined to marry that person no matter what; on the other hand, you assume that it does mean that you can only find “true love” with that person. Neither of those assumptions *has* to be true.

    For what it’s worth, here’s what I like to think about the concept of “bashert”, as per Rashi’s interpretation of “compatibility”: I think that no two people in the world have exactly the same mindset–as Chazal say, “just as people’s faces differ, so too do their mindsets”. Some people are closer in mindset than others–some people “get” you when others don’t. Perhaps there is one person in the world whose mindset is closer to you than any other, one person who will understand you from the beginning, better than any other. That’s what I like to think a “bashert” is.

    But the key words there are “from the beginning”. You can learn to understand someone and get to know them, even if you start at different places. I think it’s significant that the gemara says “it is hard to pair them”–not “it is impossible to pair them”. After all, both the marriages that the gemara is talking about and Krias Yam Suf itself are things that do and did happen. Hard just means hard. It means it takes work, but you can get to the same place. Again, this is just how I like to think of it; I can’t point to a source for my viewpoint. It seems like it might fit with your Rabbi’s approach, though.

    It’s true that infatuation isn’t the only way to get to know someone. I guess the other way that usually happens is when people are thrown together for extended periods of time just by circumstances: roommates and classmates, for example. But “falling for someone” does provide a reason to get to know them when circumstances wouldn’t otherwise impel you to do so.

    I like your turn of phrase about “falling for someone who will be there to catch you.” Nicely put.

    You had your exposition about all the deeper attributes you associate with a good voice. Good punctuation? I associate it with thoughtfulness, attention to detail, care in expression. All things I like. To be fair, even I agree that punctuation is a very trivial thing to base a judgment on, but what else is there to look at in a “shidduch resume”? At least in the ones that I’ve seen, the standard questionnaire that people fill out is terribly boring.

    I deeply appreciate your offer to share your blog. It does seem to have a rather specific focus, and shidduchim, to be honest, are a topic with which I have minimal experience, so I can’t say for sure whether I’ll ever take you up on the offer, but thank you most sincerely, nonetheless.


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