Knowing that we had an aufruf this week, I decided to do some very important research. There is a brand-new show on Netflix, called, Jewish Matchmaking. It’s a reality show about dating and all the participants are Jewish. And so naturally, it was very important for my work at shul to watch the show, for research, of course.

In all honesty, I would never in a million years watch a show like this. However, the last time Netflix had a show depicting Orthodox Jews it was a shanda. This show, I was told, does a wonderful job. And they do. Most of the ‘daters’ on the show are not Orthodox but the shadchan, Aleeza Ben Shalom, is warm, friendly, very wise, and very Orthodox. The show constantly breaks from filming the individuals dating to Aleeza, who literally shares a d’var Torah, a thoughtful Torah-based message on dating. How beautiful is that?

That said, I felt like I lost a million brain cells watching one episode. Reality television is… inane.

However, I did learn an extremely valuable lesson from the show. You see, Aleeza, the shadchan, meets with a client, someone who is single looking to get married. She interviews them by asking them questions to get a sense of what they’re looking for in a spouse. After the interview she is left with a list of what they are looking for. Here is one example of a list she created after an interview with one woman. This is what this woman is looking for:  

Someone who… Celebrates High Holidays

  • Keeps Shabbos at the family home
  • Is family-oriented
  • Someone who treats her like a queen

And – has amazing eyebrows. That’s right, amazing eyebrows. This young woman takes her eyebrows very seriously, she calls herself the eyebrow queen, and she wants someone who can match her eyebrow awesomeness. And you know what happens next? Aliza, the shadchan, finds her a date, based on five criteria! One of them being eyebrows?! And yes, his eyebrows were magnificent.

It dawned upon me, after the shock wore off, that I have made very few matches, very few shidduchim in my life. I have set up an embarrassingly low number of people on dates. I know a decent amount of people so you would think that I’d be setting people up left and right, but I don’t. The main reason I don’t is because I’m concerned that whatever idea flits through my mind – it’s not a good match. Yes, they line up in this regard and that regard, but there’s another part of them that doesn’t exactly match up. If I am going to set someone up, I want to be confident that this is a perfect match. Perfect. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time and so unless it’s perfect, I bite my tongue.

Now the irony of this is that about 17 years ago, a good friend of mine suggested that I date someone. Why? “Well, your father and her father are both in the music industry.” I was like, ‘Wow, that is the dumbest reason to date someone.’ And I didn’t listen to him – initially. But had I listened to him I would have found my wife two years earlier.

Now I am not suggesting that we get inspired by Jewish Matchmaking and start setting up two people just because they’re human. That is unfair and completely disrespectful to the people you are supposed to be helping. Nor am I suggesting that you turn to your friend or child who is single and tell them to stop being picky. It’s their life and they’re going to hopefully live with this person for the rest of their lives. We need to have a little – actually, a lot, more respect for people who are looking for a soulmate. But what I did learn is that we cannot allow the perfect to get in the way of the good. I had refrained from setting people up because I couldn’t do it perfectly, and that’s a really bad approach. I may not be a perfect shadchan, but I am sure I can do a decent job. I can come up with ideas of people who have enough in common, you know, they both have nice eyebrows, and I can make a suggestion or two or three. This Netflix show taught me to not let the perfect prevent me from the good.

And so Friday morning, I took a break from everything I was doing, including writing this sermon, and wrote a list of people I know who are looking to get married. A list of men and a list of women and I looked at it. I didn’t come up with anything so I saved the file and placed it on my home-screen so I could revisit it from time to time.

The truth is, most people get set up with their life partner by friends, not by professional matchmakers. And all this time, I’ve been holding back because I didn’t want to do a less than perfect job. How silly. I have the ability, we all have the ability, every one of us, to help someone out in something so important, so life-altering. How long does it take to write a list of people you know who are single and looking to get married? Five minutes? Twenty minutes? How much energy does it take from us to look at this list for a few minutes every week and to make a phone call here and there? Don’t allow the perfect to get in the way of the good.

This idea is actually found in the opening lines of Parshas Bechukosai. G-d tells the Jewish People if they keep the Mitzvos, it will be good for them. But if you read the text carefully, you’ll notice, G-d doesn’t say, “If you observe my Mitzvos, I will reward you.” Instead, He says, “Im b’chukosai teileichu, if you go on the path of My laws.” What does that mean, “to go on the path of My laws?”

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explains that Mitzvos are not an all-or-nothing enterprise; you either keep all 613 or there’s no point in keeping any of them at all. That’s wrong. That’s frankly impossible. We’re human. We’re going to always be falling short in our Mitzvah observance. That’s not how G-d judges us. He judges us by which path we are on. “Im b’chukosai teileichu, if you go on the path of My laws.” Which path are we on? In which direction are we heading? Are we moving closer to Mitzvah observance? Are we moving closer to G-d or are we moving further away? G-d does not expect us to be perfect, He expects us to be good and to try and to stumble, and to keep moving forward.

There’s a woman in our shul who you may not have seen in a very long time, Estelle Levitas. If you bump into her, she will tell you why she’s not here at shul on Shabbos morning. (She also gave me permission to share this with the congregation.) She’ll tell you how she used to drive to shul, but then over Covid, she wasn’t driving to shul, she wasn’t driving anywhere. And I remember speaking to her at the time and she jokingly said, I’m sort of keeping Shabbos now. And I corrected her, “No, you are keeping Shabbos.” But I’m using the phone, she argued. “Still, you’re keeping some parts of Shabbos. Is it perfect? No, it’s not. But you’re on the right path.”  

And then she kept Shabbos for another week and another week and another week. And eventually she said, you know what, I am keeping Shabbos. She stopped using the phone on Shabbos and will not drive. And that’s why you don’t see her here on Shabbos mornings.

It is so inspiring to know someone who could make a major life decision in their 90’s. That’s not easy. But what’s even more inspiring to me is that she didn’t paint herself as keeping Shabbos or not keeping Shabbos. She was able to appreciate how she was on the path, even if things weren’t “perfect,” and to appreciate how meaningful being on that path really is.

How often do we box ourselves in? I am observant, I am not observant. I keep this Mitzvah, I don’t keep that Mitzvah. That’s not how G-d looks at us, that’s not the way we should look at ourselves. Perfect doesn’t exist. The only question is which path are we on? In which direction are we going.    

I’ll share with you one more story, another woman in our community, who I will not name. She grew up keeping Shabbos but at one point in her life, due to significant trauma, she found herself no longer able to do so. But she really really wanted to. About a month ago, she decided she was going to observe Shabbos on Friday nights, that’s what she could handle. We spoke the other day, and she proudly told me, she did it. For a month, on Friday nights, she didn’t use her phone, she didn’t get in a car, she had a Shabbosdik Friday night, she really kept Shabbos. Then she sheepishly asked me the following: “Would it be appropriate to make a little celebration for me and some close friends to celebrate this accomplishment?”

“Appropriate?!” I said. “That’s the most beautiful idea ever!” And then I did the most tactless thing ever, I invited myself to the party. I have been to celebrations of people finishing the Talmud, all of Shas, celebrations of people starting new charities and foundations. But none of those hold a flame, I told her, to what you accomplished. To not get stuck in whatever label you had for yourself, to pick yourself up, to turn yourself around, and to take those steps, difficult, impossible steps, down that path. There is nothing more impressive, more beautiful, more accomplishing.

Nothing in life is all or nothing. There is no perfect in this imperfect world. In looking out for our friends, in being there for a loved one, in having a relationship with G-d, our goal is to make sure that we are on the right path. Mazel Tov to the bride and groom and Mazel Tov to all of those who are taking steps, or even just looking longingly in the right direction.