It is told that a Jew from Yerushalayim once traveled to Bnei Brak to ask the rosh yeshivah of Ponevezh, Rav Shmuel Rozovsky zt”l, about a boy in the yeshivah for his daughter who had reached marriageable age. He arrived at the yeshivah and entered the rosh yeshivah’s home during the break between learning sessions.
The man had many questions. First, he wanted to know how many hours a day the bachur learned. Was he punctual in arriving to seder and did he spend his time diligently? Did he come to davening on time and did he actively participate in theshiur? Did he ask relevant questions and understand the answers?R’ Shmuel greeted him cordially and asked why he had come. He explained to the rosh yeshivah that he was inquiring about a particular boy. R’ Shmuel told him to ask him what was on his mind.
R’ Shmuel knew the boy well and was able to answer every question satisfactorily. After receiving a favorable report in regard to his questions, the man thanked R’ Shmuel for his time and got up to leave. At this point, R’ Shmuel, in his gentle and noble way, turned to the father and said, “You’ve asked me a number of questions. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions, too?” Of course, the man agreed.
R’ Shmuel looked at the man and said, “It seems to me that you are inquiring about the boy for your daughter and you seem happy with the report I gave you. You obviously think that all your daughter needs to know is whether he comes on time and if he is a lamdan.” The man nodded his head in agreement.
“But did it ever occur to you,” asked R’ Shmuel, “that your daughter might want to know if this boy is a mentsch? If he is a ba’al chessed?”
R’ Shmuel continued, “It would seem fitting that you should ask me: How often does he brush his teeth? How does he behave in the company of others? Does he arrive first in the dining room and take the biggest portion, or does he linger after Minchah for a few minutes to learn more and then eat whatever portion is left when he gets to the dining room?”
The man started to interject, but R’ Shmuel continued speaking. “I’m sure your daughter would be curious to know what he does when the pitcher on the table is empty. Does he wait for someone else to fill it up or does he run to fill it himself? Does he ever go into the kitchen to thank the staff for preparing the food? Does he eat the food even if he doesn’t care for it, or does he just go to the nearby kiosk to buy something he likes?
“You came to the conclusion that he is a masmid; did you ask what he does when he finishes learning late at night and his roommates are sleeping? Does he take off his shoes and tiptoe in so as not to wake them, or does he walk in noisily? Does he make his bed and keep his things neat? Does he think about others and want to do chessed for them, or does he just think about himself?” R’ Shmuel concluded, “I think that you need to check these things out. If he arrives home in the afternoon and does not like the food your daughter worked hard to prepare, will his face reflect obvious dissatisfaction? Will your daughter then be happy that her father checked this boy out with the rosh yeshivah who told him that he knows every Ketzosand Rabi Akiva Eiger? Will she say, ‘It’s true that he has no manners and no social skills, but I respect him anyway because he knows the sugya of the bees and the mustard in Bava Basra’?”
The man hung his head in shame, realizing his oversight. He understood R’ Shmuel’s message and now knew the proper approach to finding a shidduch for a bas Yisrael. It is important for a bachur to be diligent, but one must also remember that nothing in this world, and certainly no marriage, can exist without chessed.
Chazal tell us that Noach used a “secret weapon” with which he was able to rebuild the world after the destruction of the Flood: Olam chessed yibaneh—“the world will be built upon kindness” (Tehillim 89:3).
Rav Mordechai Gifter zt”l explains that Noach was locked inside a floating ark for 120 days with nothing to do butchessed for his family and for the animals. This was all for the sole purpose of entrenching the ideal of chessed into his very being so that when it would be time to come out and start the world over again, he would do so with the attribute of kindness. This was, and continues to be, the only way the world can exist.
(Excerpted from Torah Tavlin vol. 3, with permission via www.theyeshivaworld)