As a single guy, I have often been asked (by matchmakers and others who try to ‘set me up’) the same initial question time and again: ‘So, what are you looking for?’
It’s a fair question, one that they ask every single/divorced/widowed person who is looking to meet their match. I have been asked that question so often that I have a standard answer prepared. I rattle off a long list of characteristics: Someone nice, with good middot (character traits), with a sense of humor (or who at least ‘gets’ my sense of humor) and nice looking too (Warning: You don’t want to say ‘nice looking’ first so they don’t think you’re shallow, but the matchmaker knows you’re really thinking about it, so you play the game and mention it like 3rd or 4th, even though it probably occupies your thoughts higher in the rankings). You may list a few more ‘standard’ traits, but I usually just go from there straight into the ‘Not Too’ lists. You know, someone who is ‘Not Too’: tall/short, thin/fat, religious/secular, intellectual/unintellectual, loud/quiet, aggressive/passive, and any other pair of ‘Not Too’ extremes I can come up with.
Then I sit back and smile, content that I have laid it all out there. That is until the person opposite me says, ‘Ok, that’s good, but what else?’
What else?! I just gave you a whole grocery list! Isn’t that enough? Now go out and search!
There is a good reason why they ask ‘what else?’ The problem is that the list I give is more or less the same list that everyone else gives. Think about it, does anyone ask to meet someone unkind, with bad traits, with no sense of humor, someone unattractive, etc. No. Your list was just like everyone else’s list, it was R,S,T,L,N and E.
Allow me to explain. I grew up in the 1980′s watching the popular game show ‘Wheel of Fortune’. The show, which aired immediately before ‘Jeopardy’ (and was much easier too) featured Pat Sajak as the host and the beautiful Vanna White as the letter turner. In turn, three contestants would spin a giant wheel with money amounts on it, pick letters (consonants) and purchase vowels (‘I’d like to by a ‘U’, Pat.’) in an attempt to solve the puzzle. We played along at home, trying to guess the word or phrase in the puzzle before the contestants did as Vanna elegantly flipped the letters the players guessed correctly.
The real challenge was in the Bonus Round where the winning constant stood alone trying to solve a puzzle, without the wheel. The contestant could pick five consonants and one vowel and then had 15 seconds to try to solve the puzzle to win the big prize (very often a new car). For many years, each contestant picked the same six letters in the Bonus Round: R,S,T,L,N and E. (Apparently these are known to be the most common letters used in the English language.)
But, after many years, the producers of Wheel of Fortune finally wised up and changed the rules. Under the new rules, in the Bonus Round they GAVE the contestants those letters already: R,S,T,L,N and E. So, now, after getting those standard six letters, the player had to provide three more consonants and one more vowel and then had only 10 seconds to solve the puzzle.
In essence, after rattling off my standard list of characteristics as my answer to ‘So, what are you looking for?’ I was told that my answers were R,S,T,L,N,E – more or less the same ones everyone else gives. So, they were insisting on more.
I honestly couldn’t come up with any more character traits on my own. But a look at this week’s Torah portion, ‘Pinchas’, did give me an idea.
In this week’s portion we read about the daughters of Tzlofchad. The daughters of Tzlofchad (Hebrew: בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד) were five sisters in the Bible who lived during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and who raised before Moses the case of a woman’s right and obligation to inherit property in the absence of a male heir in the family. Tzlofchad (possibly meaning “first born”), a man of the Tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters: Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah; but no sons, and thus no male heirs. The text tells little of Tzlofchad himself, save that he died during the 40 years when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness.
Tzlofchad’s daughters petitioned Moses, Elazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for their right to inherit his property rights in the Land of Israel. Tzlofchad’s daughters noted that their father Tzlofchad had not taken part in Korach’s rebellion, but only “died in his own sin.” Tzlofchad’s daughters argued that were they not to inherit, then Tzlofchad’s name would be lost to his clan. Moses took their case to God. God told Moses that the plea of Tzlofchad’s daughters was just, and that they should be granted their father’s hereditary holding.
Later, the family heads of the clan of Manasseh’s grandson Gilead appealed to Moses and the chieftains, arguing that if Tzlofchad’s daughters married men from another Israelite tribe, then their share would be lost to the tribe of Manasseh and be added to the portion of the tribe into which they married. So Moses, at God’s bidding, instructed the Israelites that the plea of the tribal leaders was just and that Tzlofchad’s daughters could marry anyone they wished, but only among the men of the tribe of Manasseh.
Tzlofchad’s daughters did as God had commanded Moses, and they each married sons of their uncles. When the Israelites entered the land, Tzlofchad’s daughters appeared before Elazer the priest, Joshua (who by then had assumed leadership from Moses), and the chieftains, reminding them that God had commanded Moses to grant them a portion among their kinsmen, and Tzlofchad’s daughters received a portion in the holdings of Manasseh on the west side of the Jordan River.
I once joked, on my Facebook status on the week when this story is read, that I was looking to meet a Bat (daughter of) Tzlofchad’, a single, Zionistic, Jewish woman with an inherited property in the land of Israel. My friends gave my status a number of ‘Likes’, but maybe seeking a ‘Bat Tzlofchad’ is no joke.
Let’s take a look at their characteristics. In the Talmud, Rabbi Joshua interpreted that they petitioned first the assembly, then the chieftains, then Elazar, and finally Moses, but Abba Chanan said in the name of Rabbi Eliezer that Tzlofchad’s daughters stood before all of them as they were sitting together. The Zohar said that Tzlofchad’s daughters drew near to Moses in the presence of Elazar and all the chieftains because they were afraid of Moses’ anger at Tzlofchad and thought that it might be contained in a public forum. According to the Zohar, Moses presented the case to God instead of deciding it himself out of modesty.
An opinion from the Baraita taught that Tzlofchad’s daughters were wise, Torah students, and righteous. Another Baraita opinion taught that Tzlofchad’s daughters were equal in merit, and that is why the order of their names varies in the text. According to the Gemara, they demonstrated their wisdom by raising their case in a timely fashion, just as Moses was expounding the law of levirate marriage, or yibbum, and they argued for their inheritance by analogy to that law. The daughters also demonstrated their righteousness by marrying men who were fitting for them. Perhaps their most outstanding quality was that they were not afraid to go against the tide. The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni say that when the going got tough the men of that generation said, “Let us return to Egypt!”, while the women said, “Give us an inheritance in the land!”. The men looked back while the women looked forward to the future.
So, what do we have here? The Daughters of Tzlofchad were women who were: smart, patient, wise, logical, tactful, ideological, knew the Torah laws, modest, respectful, righteous, family oriented (respected their late father and got along with their siblings), looked forward with an eye to the future, and of course, loved the land of Israel.
So, maybe that’s what I am really looking for. After we’ve gone through all the R,S,T,L,N and E, what I am truly searching for is a modern-day ‘Bat Tzlofchad’.
And yes, I know there were five sisters in the story, hence I ‘stole/borrowed’ my title from the Marines (whose slogan is that they are ‘looking for a few good men’) and changed it to ‘a few good women’ (which the daughters of Tzlofchad certainly were).
But as any good matchmaker will tell you: ‘It only takes one!’