Pictures…. To Send Or Not To Send?

By | September 9, 2015

Question:

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?

Horrified

Dear Horrified,

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!

Category: Advice and Chizuk

About sara

Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a therapist who lives in Oak Park, Michigan, with her husband and five children. She is on temporary leave from the field (about 10 years now) as she raises her family, but has maintained her love for working with people. Sara lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development and growth. She has a passion for humor, writing, and kiruv but mostly for promoting self-awareness and authenticity in our relationship with Hashem and with each other. She welcomes questions, comments, feedbacks and interaction.

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