Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Being Marriage Worthy in the Torah World

Rabbi Harvey Belovski, a guest poster on cross-currents has written a post about the frustrations he has with the Shiddach situation in Klal Yisroel. This is one of the most exasperating problems that exist in Orthodoxy. This subject is so huge, however, that he only really scratches the very surface of it. I know some very fine young women, who are in their late twenties and early thirties and they suffer greatly at the inability to find a mate.

Rabbi Belovsky points out that “there seem to be a lot more eligible women around than men”. I would like to suggest a possible explanation for this, at least as it applies to the world of Torah. For purposes of this essay, I will define Torah world to mean Charedim and many RW Modern Orthodox.

The problem is in how the Torah world defines a “good Shidach”. It is entirely different for young men than it is for young women. Though members of both sexes are taught the same values, fulfilling their destinies through those values require entirely different types of effort. In the Torah world, for a man to be considered, a great Shidach prospect he has to be a Talmid Chacham and a Masmid. He has to put in the hours, days, and years in the Beis HaMedrash to develop his mind, his learning skills, and his Torah knowledge. This is not an easy task. And not everyone is capable of doing so, whether it is because of aptitude or interest.

There are many fine , bright young men who are true Bnei Torah with great Midos and who are Koveah Itim (have regularly scheduled times for learning Torah). But many fine young Bnos Yisroel of very high caliber refuse to even look at them. They have been indoctrinated to only look for someone who “learns”, meaning someone who is currently learning in a Yeshiva and will continue learning in a Kollel after marriage.

Young Bnei Torah know this. If they have the courage to actually educate themselves towards a decent Pranasah and get a job, they have a much more difficult time finding a young women who will even give them the time of day. And as a side point since the Bnei Torah know this, it puts even more pressure to stay in learning even if they aren’t Shteiging and secretly want out! The real quality Bnei Torah that are Shteiging are few and far between. And for those young women who marry one of those who forced themselves to stay in learning and not reaizing this, find they did not get the Masmid they thought they were getting. And of course the other side of the coin is that many of these young women thought they wanted a guy with indefinite Kollel plans only to find out after a couple of years that they can’t handle the lack of finances.

But I digress.

When it comes to a Ben Torah who truly lives up to the standard set up for him, he does not look for a woman who is a Masmid or who knows how to learn. He is looking for a woman who values what he does. All that is required in a woman is that she want a Ben Torah and... bingo, she is fit. No great preparation, no years of learning, developing the mind or accumulation of knowledge, No Hasmada. The finest of Shiduchim do not require any of this. No time needed to develop skills etc. She just has to want to marry a guy who has so developed. I’m not saying God forbid, that a learned woman is a bad thing. On the contrary. Of course women should be encouraged to improved their minds and increase their knowledge. And indeed there are many fine learned women. They are the best of the best.

But the reality is that it isn’t an essential component for a Ben Torah. And since “wanting” to marry a young Ben Torah does not take years of development and really requires no activity at all, there are many girls who fit that bill. Far more than there are young men who fit their bill.

Of course there are many other factors that are equally if not more important in finding a Shiduch which can... and some of which should make or break it: Midos, similar Hashkafos, similar backgrounds, physical attraction… all these and more are very important. But they are not immediate “deal breakers”. One could easily argue that at least some of these factors ought to be and if glossed over can easily be traceable as the cause for divorce. Bad Midos for example should be a “deal breaker” no mater how learned one is. But priority number one is not any of those. The deal breaker for a young Bas Yisreol is that if he is not learned enough and interested in learning full time, he is rejected . And of course this severely limits her pool of prospects even more than it already is.

So there’s the problem. In a nutshell, it is easier to want someone who learns than it is to actually learn. And this is a major obstacle and the fault of a system that indoctrinates young women to only want someone who learns full time. If someone is not cut out for that and is instead cut out for for something else, say medicine or accounting, and cannot spend great amounts of time learning, but is otherwise exemplary… no good! This is unacceptable. Rarely does a young Bas Yisroel in the Torah world “settle” for even the best of Bachurim,” with the finest of Midos, if he isn’t learning full time, at least to start. Sad for her. Sad for him.