A Good Heart

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Sukkot 5770 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: One of the important criteria in choosing a spouse, if not the most important, is a “good heart,” as many people say. Yet in practice it is no mean feat at all to examine in a date of several hours whether one’s date has a good heart. Moreover, sometimes one’s emotions can blind one to negative traits. So how can one check on this?
Answer: Indeed, it has already come down in the Shulchan Aruch that one should flee from a match with someone who does not have a good heart. “If someone is arrogant, misanthropic and unkind, we fear lest he is a Gibeonite [See Yehoshua 9] (Even Ha-Ezer 2: 2). Not only is he not a good match, but he may not really be a Jew. This we learned already from Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, who undertook the daunting task of finding a wife for Isaac, upon which rested the fate of the Jewish People. On his way to Charan, he decided that he would not look for a wealthy, wise, or beautiful girl, but a girl who when asked for water would give it to him wholeheartedly. “She will be the one whom you have designated” (Bereshit 24:14): “She is fit for him, since she will be charitable and will therefore be worthy of admission into the house of Avraham” (Rashi).
Yet how can we know how to examine a prospective mate? For example, if the boy does not buy you a drink, he doesn’t have a good heart. The same is true if he leaves you alone in the dark at the end of the date, criticizes your opinions, feelings or wishes or gives you instructions on which field to study or how to dress. In all these cases, pay attention to those flashing warning lights. Be cautious and check them out.
Yet that isn’t enough, because there are boys who are wonderful when everything is easy and pleasant, but when reality hits them in the face, a beast suddenly bursts forth. So, please, artificially create situations like that. I know I am asking something hard, but there is no choice. So one time, come extremely late to a date and see how he reacts. He may get very angry. We all do. We’re only human. Yet it all depends on how he gets angry. Suggest to him that you sit inside, and then outside, and then say, “Well, actually, let’s sit inside, but it’s really better outside.” In short, drive him crazy and see how he reacts. After the wedding, it’s certainly probable that you will drive him crazy without meaning to. Order juice, then say, “No, it doesn’t taste good, and anyway, I didn’t really order juice”… You get the idea.
Yet none of this is enough either. An important rule is not to go out with someone without finding out about him beforehand. Before you go out, you should ask questions of objective people who you can trust, and who know him or her. You can approach his teachers or his dormitory roommates, or fellow soldiers. All of these know him in real-life situations of tension and difficulty.
It’s true. Emotions blind us. We have to be very wary of them. They can’t be the deciding factor in such a fateful decision, but only a secondary factor. First, one has to check out if the suggested candidate is appropriate, if he can be included together in the roster of reasonable, potential candidates. Only when he fits into that roster can one follow one’s emotions.