As the blue Nissan coasted down the motorway, Ma consulted her map. “I think we get off at the next exit.” She said from the passenger seat. Pa glanced at his Waze. “It says there’s a hazard on that exit, better the one after and then double back.” Ma sighed, “Alright then. If you’re sure that Waze knows better, who am I with my outdated map to argue ?” “Hmm hmm.” Pa responded as he followed his chosen path. It was but moments later that the showy sign announcing “Shidduch Adventureland” appeared. Pa found a parking space in the overflowing lot, and turned to Ma, “Ready?” Ma took a deep breath, “I hope so.” She muttered. Entrance was free, so there were no lines as visitors streamed in. However, in order to really get into the park; one had to pass The Wall of Prayer . Some gave a shrug and just moved on, but most took a moment to petition their Creator for success. Some extra devout souls planted themselves close to the wall, and poured out their hearts in sincere supplication, beseeching the One above that their visit to Shidduch Adventureland be blessed. And when Pa and Ma exited the small plaza of The Wall of Prayer, they exclaimed in unison as the vast park unfolded before their eyes with its loud sounds, rich colors, wild rides and unexpected revelations. “Let’s start there.” Ma pointed to a cute little house with a sign running under the red slanted roof; The Momentous Matrimonial Model . As they entered the house, they saw three labeled doorways. The first read “What were your matrimonial models? What marriages did you copy, which did you reject?” Through the open door they saw couples and singles on cushioned armchairs, considering the marriages that had inspired and those that had left them disillusioned. How had those models impacted their own relationships? The second door was labeled, “How have you modeled relationships and marriage for your child? Hmm, how indeed? But the third door led to a room full of craft materials; potters-wheels, paints, easels, fabrics, costumes, props and a curtained stage. Here the participants sat at tables, or shined the spotlight on the stage, creating the marriage models that they believed would most benefit their child.
“My goodness,” exclaimed Ma, “I hadn’t considered how much our marriage may be empowering our child or challenging her as she seeks her own soulmate.” Pa smiled sweetly, “Not to worry, Ma, nothing like those creative juices to help us model a more magnificent relationship.” Ma wasn’t so sure, but she nodded despite herself. Next on the trail was The Hall of Marriage Readiness . This attraction was a high ceilinged vestibule with twelve-foot towering ‘Readiness–Meters’. Participants entered data about their child and watched the mercury rise. Sometimes the mercury hardly lifted off the floor and other times it skyrocketed up and hit the top with a resounding clang of the bell. Pa and Ma examined an available meter. They had to consider questions related to their child’s social integration, emotional regulation, grooming and self-care, ego-centeredness vs other centeredness, levels of honesty, loyalty, responsibility, dedication, and adherence to values. There was no hiding the relief in Ma’s eyes when the mercury of the Readiness-Meter rose to the top third before it plummeted downward, and then discharged a printed diploma announcing their daughter being ‘satisfactorily prepared for marriage’. “No surprise there.” Pa declared proudly. Ma breathed a sigh of relief. But if the devoted parents thought shidduchim would be a cinch, they were soon to discover that not all shidduch processes are predictably smooth – because next was the formidable Shadchan Hall of Communications. ” The dizzying experience began inside a large chamber where some corners were well lit, and some were shrouded in dim lights. There were stations with every possible communication approach; regular land-lines, texting stations, emailing and webinars, websites, lectures, dating coaches and live shadchanim to meet. Ma stood at a texting station trying to connect to a shadchan when all at once she gripped the nearest table. ‘Yikes!’ she shrieked ‘The floor under my feet is actually shifting! I just don’t know where I stand!” Pa nodded sympathetically. “I know what you mean, I already spoke to one shadchan and I’ve been waiting forever for an answer.” “Well did you clearly express what kind of boy we’re looking for?” Ma asked. “I don’t know” Pa wondered, “perhaps I need to explain what makes our daughter unique and where we’re most likely to find a boy who will suit her.” It took some time, but eventually Pa and Ma emerged from the Shadchan Hall of Communications with a suitable suggestion of a match for their daughter.
“What a great Idea,” Pa enthused. “A boy with similar values, a compatible personality, an appropriate family and cultural background who sounds like he is of fine character.’ “I sure hope you’re right,” Ma said wearily. “Cheer up, Honey, now comes the fun part. Let’s go stand in line for the Dating Roller-coaster .” Pa was as excited as a ten-year-old. Ma hesitated “Maybe I’ll sit this one out, Dear.” “Oh, come on, Ma, be a sport, nothing to fear.” Moments later strapped into a bright orange cart, white-knuckled Ma gripped the safety bar as the cart began to move. It lumbered slowly, picking up speed and altitude only incrementally. It didn’t rise very high, perhaps only one date or two, and then it slowly returned to the bottom. And once again the little cart slowly ascended and then softly descended to the baseline. But the third candidate was different. After the familiar slow ascent, the orange cart suddenly hurtled up to the peak. In a thrilling moment of excitement, just when the date looked promising, it reversed in the other direction, took a turn downward, and ended in a disappointing low. And as the car coasted along slowly on even ground, suddenly there was a new opportunity and the car once again began to spiral upward. Ma held her breath – would this one be the final ascent? But although this date held potential, the car suddenly turned upside down, while the passengers held on for dear life. The car trembled and lurched. It climbed a few more feet, but the next date was a flop, and it hit the floor again. This time Pa and Ma held on tight, feeling more prepared for what was to come. And soon enough, the little car accelerated more gradually, and little by little it steadily coasted. This ride was smoother, less turbulent, more understanding, it was easier to communicate during this ride, less fear of the possible high to be followed by a crushing low. And although it took some time, the car continued to ascend, until the ride ended up high on the top plateau at the Mazal Tov gate. “What a thrilling ride!” Pa effused. Ma smiled wanly, after all the ride did end on a positive note, and she continued bravely. “Ok,” Pa turned to Ma, “The Squeezer  is next on the map. Shall we?” When Pa and Ma entered the ride they found themselves in a cubicle with moving walls. What pressures did they identify in their personal shidduch process? What pressures belonged to them and in what way was their child feeling pressure? Are you or your child feeling that s/he is too old? And if the pressure-monitor sensed that Pa and Ma were feeling stressed about their child’s age the walls moved slightly inward.
And if Pa and Ma could let go of their worries, and access their belief that their child was not too old to find her soulmate, then the walls moved back out again. But that wasn’t all. The Squeezer tried to assess the degree of pressure that the parents felt about finances, about their child finishing her education, about siblings who were also ready for marriage, but were waiting for this older sister to settle down. Whatever was squeezing them could be adjusted just by accessing their higher faith. “Wow, it was worth coming here just for The Squeezer”, said Ma. “It was so helpful to identify which of my negative beliefs is creating a barrier for successful shidduchim.” Pa smiled at Ma appreciatively, glad that she was starting to relax. “Let’s try something a bit easier now. How about the Mentor-Arcade? ” “Ok, to the Mentor-Arcade”, Ma agreed. The ‘Mentor-Arcade’ looked like a simple game of ring-toss. Throw a ring to see if you can hook a dating coach, Rabbi or Mashgiach1, therapist, family member, friend, or other means of guidance. But this game was not as straightforward as it appeared. How old is your child? Was your child previously engaged or married? Does your child turn to you, the parents for processing? Are your child’s parents married to each other, or is s/he G-d for bid orphaned from one parent? Is your child socially integrated? Does s/he have a developed understanding of how relationships progress? Is your child emotionally aware? Does s/he know what marriage is really about? Has the child experienced any previous abuse or trauma? Pa and Ma answered the questionnaire. But when they hooked an inappropriate source of support, the red buzzer sounded and announced “Poor Choice”. If they tossed too many rings, the red buzzer flashed a sign ‘Too many mentors!’ And of course, if they tried to abandon the game prematurely, the sign for ‘Recommend other mentor!’ flashed. The game was successful when the green buzzer sounded – ‘Recommended mentors’ But before they completed the game, a printed paper emerged providing pointers for what makes their child’s mentor safe and appropriate. Not everyone who wears the title of ‘shidduch helper’ is really qualified. As Pa and Ma completed the Mentor-Arcade successfully, Ma turned to Pa, “Good thing we came to Shidduch Adventureland, Dear. It did give me some direction, How about you?’ Pa nodded wholeheartedly. “Absolutely! And wasn’t that ‘Dating Roller-Coaster a blast? “I’m glad, Pa. But shidduchim can be really exhausting. Shall we return to the car?” Pa nodded and the two strolled peacefully towards the exit.
1 In the Yeshivot of Talmudic study, the mashgiach is the staff member who takes a personal interest in the student’s wellbeing; emotional, social, physical and not only academic.
But before leaving the park, the path led through an enclosed area labeled The House of In-laws . The House of In-Laws was filled with mirrors. One mirror simply reflected Pa and Ma. ‘Are the in-laws a direct reflection of you?’ – The sign read. But beyond that one, most mirrors held some sort of change or distortion. Are the in-laws honest? Are the in laws supportive? Did the candidate’s family educate him with similar values? Is the family culture of the shidduch candidate similar to yours? Was the home atmosphere of the in-laws both physically and emotional healthy? Was the home peaceful or discordant? Is the shidduch candidate at peace with their family members? Wow – so many different ways to reflect the reality of the in-laws! And at the very least – can we determine whether a shidduch candidate is ‘safe’? Yes, ‘safe’, where we have every reason to expect from the candidate’s profile and background that s/he would not intentionally cause harm to another, and is inclined to be dedicated towards building a healthy relationship. “Well, honey, after completing our visit at the ‘House of In-Laws”, I think that there’s nothing more appropriate than to spend a few concerted moments back at the ‘Wall of Prayer’, Said Pa solemnly. “Of course, Dear. But remember, that just as the Master Matchmaker organized so many wonderful matches, He can do the same for our children!” And with a happy step, Ma accompanied  her husband to the Wall.
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