Sunday, October 08, 2017

Boy For Sale

Yeshiva students - How much will you pay them to marry your daughter?
The title of this post is taken from a song in the 1969 movie Oliver. But never has a song title been more appropriate than it is for Shiduchim in Charedi Yeshiva world. Especially in Israel.

The way young people in this world get married is so warped that it defies common decency. Personal character is secondary. Physical attributes too. What matters most is money. Lots of it. If a young woman or her parents do not have enough of it to offer for a ‘good’  Shidduch, they are out of luck. ‘Show me the money’ is the first thing on the table in these circles. If you can’t do that, don’t bother trying. What kind of money are we talking about for the cream of the crop? Often in the high six figures.  

Not that money isn’t the prime concern in the American Yeshiva Shidduch scene. It is. For example - it is rather well known that Lakewood (BMG)  has a ‘freezer’ policy with respect to their students dating. As I understand it they will not allow them to begin dating for at least 6 months after enrollment. (They are put in the ‘dating freezer’.)

Lakewood does that so that young men won’t come there for the ulterior motive of getting the ‘Lakewood resume’.  Because learning in Lakewood means you’re prime Shidduch material. Of the kind that can demand big bucks from future in laws. So that you don’t have to go to work and can stay in Kollel indefinitely. If, however, a new Lakewood enrollee is willing to date the pauper class (daughters of the Avrecihim that learn there) he gets to date right away. If that doesn’t spell money, nothing does.

But the’big bucks’ in Lakewood is chicken feed compared to what’s happening in Israel.

If you want to know what really counts in the Yeshiva dating scene ‘follow the money’.

Roshei Yeshiva are demanding top dollar for their top students from fathers seeking a Shidduch for their daughters. They want a guarantee of it before their daughters are even mentioned to these boys as a Shidduch prospect. 

And yet many Shiduchim are made. Most parents  do not have the kind of big bucks demanded by these Roshei Yeshiva.  Their daughters get married somehow. Where do they get the money?! And if they are able to find it for their first daughter – where do they find if for the second? Or third? Or fourth… ?

I know one Charedi family of modest means that had to sell their apartment (Dirah) in order to come up with the money for their first daughter (an apartment that was no doubt purchased for them by their parents when they got married.). They now rent. Where they are going to get money for the rest of their daughters is a mystery to me (and probably to them). What about the rest of their children and grandchildren? 

Their parents will no doubt help them to whatever extent they can. Working well past retirement, perhaps as long as they are physically able to. Where is the justice in that? Why should an 80 year old father work until he drops so that his grandchildren can live in this kind of financial environment? Where is the justice in that – EVEN if the 80 year old father wants to do it? Why are the children even accepting it?! Doesn’t the father deserve a bit of time for himself in his golden years?

This is just one consequence of the Charedi financial situation. They are asked to sacrifice financially so they can say in Kollel for as long as possible. When they finally feel the proverbial knife at their throat and leave Kollel and go to work, many do not have the training or time to pursue the additional education that will give them a more substantial income. 

Even though there are many programs that have been developed specifically for Avreichim that train them to compete for better jobs, not everyone is capable of catching up to their secular counterparts. A lot of these Avrecihim simply miss out - and settle for lower paying jobs. Or just continue to stay in Kollel dependant on their stipends and their working wives. Their combined income remains well below meeting the financial needs of their normally big family. 

And this doesn’t even take into account the above mentioned monetary demands of the Shidduch process.  

I don’t know how long this situation will last. It should have imploded long ago. The situation did not develop yesterday. This has been the case for quite a while now and is only getting worse. And yet it somehow continues to survive.

For me the system of encouraging young men to learn full time; have big families; low incomes;  and then asking them for big bucks to marry off their daughters is grossly unjust. This is not the way things always were. 

Not that long ago back in my day, if someone was determined to stay in ‘learning’ it meant he was an unusually gifted Talmud Chacham. Who had a character to match. Money was never a priority consideration. Living comfortably was not a condition for studying Torah. Such people studied Torah L’Shma and never thought too much about how they would live. They knew they would have to tighten their belts and struggle financially. They were willing to sacrifice. And they NEVER thought  of extorting money from a future father in law.  

When choosing a mate a couple looked for things other than money. Like compatibility;  temperament; character;  the kind of parent would they make; whether they  had  common goals, values and interests; and even whether there was any physical attraction.

Those days are gone, it seems. I know of one recent case where a Shidduch was suggested between a young man and woman by a friend of the young woman's father.. He saw a great deal of compatibility between the couple and suggested it to him. But the young man’s Rosh Yeshiva stepped in and said he’s not letting this boy go for less that a high six figure amount. The date never took place. Shortly thereafter, that boy got engaged to a girl from a wealthy family.

I would personally not put any value on a young man like that. Because all he is doing is marrying money. Those are not the values I want my grandchildren to be raised with. If I had daughters that were not married and someone came up to me with a Shidduch conditioned on a big payout, I’d tell him what I thought about this boy’s values and then say, ‘No thank you.’ ‘Your boy has no character and  I’m not interested in buying a husband for my daughter.’