Friday, June 25, 2010

The Best Boy in Lakewood

Jonathan Rosenblum does it again. In a Cross Currents article he has spoken out against the disgusting practice in the Yeshiva world of ‘selling Bnei Torah’ to the fathers of potential brides. There is a dollar value these days on young men who want to continue learning Torah full time after marriage.

It is usually in the form of a monthly check from ones in-laws. Jonathan’s emphasis is on how some Shadchanim emphasize money as the first item on the list of qualities they seek in young women who want date Bnei Torah. But I would suggest that it is not entirely their fault. They are simply following a trend set up by the Yeshiva world itself.

As most people who read this blog regularly know by now, the practice of learning full time after marriage for as long as possible is an almost universally accepted norm in the Yeshiva world. Roshei Yeshiva indoctrinate their students toward that end. Most young women from these backgrounds are indoctrinated to seek these young men. They all want ‘the best Bachur in Lakewood’.

As a side point this helps to explain one of the most talked about problems in the world of Shiduchim in the Yeshiva world. The fact is that there are far more single young women then there are single young men. That’s because the only men these women want are the good boys who are budding Talmidei Chachamim. This makes it much harder for a woman to find a mate. It is a lot easier to want a Talmid Chacham than to be one.

As I said the best Bachur in Lakewood has a price tag. This is a price tag that most people cannot afford – especially if they have lots of daughters. Somehow the Yeshiva world has evolved into a mercenary one. These budding Talmidei Chacham are encouraged to seek rich fathers-in law so that they can continue their learning indefinitely.

The ideal of seeking to marry a Bas Talmid Chacham (the daughter of a Talmid Chacham) has become just about obsolete. It is now about the money. The ideal of sacrificing material comfort in order to learn Torah is no longer seriously valued. The thinking goes something like this: Why should the best Bachur in Lakewood suffer deprivation and hunger? Why can’t he live like his working peers? Does he not provide a spiritual benefit which is far superior to the material benefit with which he is rewarded? Besides hasn’t the idea of financially supporting those who learn been established as a value since almost biblical times by the Yissachar/ Zevulun relationship?

The problem with that of course is that mostly - only the rich Yeshivishe girls get the ‘best boys in Lakewood’. The rest get the second best – or worse. Who wants to settle for 2nd best?

This is the current state of Torah Judaism. What gets the most honor and attention in that world? Is it learning Torah? Doing Mitzvos? Midos? Chesed? Hasmadah? Sacrifice?

No - it is the good old fashioned American dollar. That is the most sought after commodity in the Yeshiva world today. Ask the best Bachur in Lakewood’s father in law. He’ll tell you. Those other values? Sure... they are extolled in theory. But in practice its all about the money. Just like it is in the secular world.

In the meantime what do the Klei Kodesh - those who stayed in learning or are in modest income Chinuch jobs do now? They have marriageable daughters. Where do they get the money for their ‘best boy?

Undaunted and remaining true believers - they do desperate things like sell their life insurance policies. Or they take out second mortgages on their homes. Or they work way past retirement until they drop! Or in some cases they come up with some really terrific illegal scams to amass the fortunes it takes to marry off the many daughters Yeshiva parents tend to have.

So next time you see a Jew with a beard and a black hat doing the perp walk you’ll know why he found the need to steal. We already know that he has rationalized away all the Issurim. Now it’s just a matter of succeeding without being caught.