My daughter is 24 years old, bright, talented, kind, pretty, with a fantastic, warm personality.
Shidduchim are difficult if a girl doesn’t have the “right” degree, the “right” job, the “right”
hobbies, but we’re doing our best to network and have her meet shadchanim.
Recently, a shidduch came up, and the other side asked for a picturer. We were horrified. The
person who asked tried to defend the boy’s mother by saying that it’s very acceptable these days.
I’ve married off three daughters and three sons, B”H, and never before have I been asked for a
picture, nor did I ever ask.
For us, this is enough of a reason to say no to a bochur. It speaks volumes of a certain type of boy
and a certain type of mother, both of which are extremely distasteful to my daughter. (The
shadchan also said, “Well, he was very burnt recently, so…” I had to laugh. Burnt by what,
exactly? He dated a girl he thought wasn’t pretty enough? Nebach!)
Would you agree that asking for a picture is indicative of shallow, smallminded people? That my
daughter would spend the rest of her married life looking over her shoulder making sure she
looked pretty enough for dear old Mom? Or in a world where a yes from a boy is so hard to come
by, is this something we should be overlooking?
I’m so happy to hear that through shidduchim for six children this is the first time you’ve received
this request. Unfortunately, as your shadchan mentioned, it’s becoming more the norm. Which is
not saying it’s more “acceptable.” Popularity is no indication of acceptability. Many practices of
diminished tznius in our community have become more widespread. That doesn’t make them less
of a breach; it only makes us less sensitized to their damage.
The same is true here. What has become ok in the shidduch world is enough to make a decent
person blush. Twenty years ago we would have clucked at the crassness of the outside world that
diminishes the worth of a person to the image they convey on a photo. Now we’ve elevated that
same action to a lofty rationalization: “We don’t want to waste anyone’s time. You get so much
from a picture; it makes sense to see if there’s b’chlal any shaychus.” Throw in a few yeshivish
words and it’s practically a mitzvah. I’ve heard all the rationalizations; I even understand them.
On some level they make a lot of sense. But all that benefit belies the real issue at hand — the
cheapening of our daughters’ dignity.
Try this experiment: The next time a shadchan requests a picture of your daughter respond with,
“We’d be happy to send one just as soon as we receive a picture of the young man in question.”
How many of you jolted at the sheer brazenness of that request when you read it? Why?
Because it brings to light the real issue here.
Boys (or their mothers) ask for a picture because they can. If physical attraction and compatibility
were the real issue, it would be a perfectly legitimate request. Each prospective partner should
have the right to decide before going out whether the potential for attraction is there. The reason
it’s jarring is because we assume that in this “market” the boys have the currency. I’m embarrassed
to phrase it so crudely, but I don’t make the news, I just report it. The underlying message is,
“You’re a commodity. Before I trouble myself to even go to the market I want to make sure it’s
worth my while.”
How does this make our girls feel? How can our boys look at our girls respectfully when we, the
adults, perpetuate this attitude? And how do a newlywed bride and her new mother in law forge a
healthy relationship when the kallah feels scrutinized on such a superficial level?
This is not to say that both sides giving a picture is the way to go. That still would not address the
underlying breach of tznius. But at least it levels the playing field.
I’m also appalled at the lack of class inherent in such a request. You ask for a picture and then you
say no. Do you really think anyone believes the reasons you gave for saying no? By asking for a
picture you are essentially setting yourself up to hurt a girl if you say no. Is it nice to ask her
parents to provide the weapon with which to hurt their child? If it’s that important to you to see a
picture before you give a yes, find another way to get it.
At the height of my impassioned feelings on the topic, a good friend directed me to an article on
yeshiva world news in which the opinions of several gedolim were quoted about this question. Rav
Chaim Kanievsky shlita, Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita, Rav Moshe Heineman shlita, and Rav
Shmuel Fuerst shlita all came out unequivocally against the practice as a breach of tznius and as a
practical measure, stating that there’s a chein that comes across in person that cannot be conveyed
in a picture. Think about all the married people you know. How many would not have gone out
had they based the decision on a picture?
So that’s my opinion.
Having said all that, I have to add that I do not judge anyone who gives a picture. Every parent
reassesses at every stage of the dating process what they are and aren’t willing to give on. It’s
rough out there, and parents do what they feel they must. May Hashem reward our desire to
sanctify our children by helping both our sons and daughters find their zivug hagun b’karov!