Monday, November 29, 2021

Why Moving to the Right has Hurt Shidduchim

Image from the Forward
Rabbi Yair Hoffman has reported on VIN about a panel discussion on the so-called Shidduch crisis’ at the Agudah convention. I think we can all agree with what Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva in South Fallsburg declared in a most emphatic way:

 ...the current system of Shidduchim must be restructured… “this could be the biggest tragedy facing Klal Yisroel today.”  He explained that the girls undergoing these struggles are facing, “Gehenom.”

 I have been saying that for years. But I do not agree with his solution: 

The Yeshiva Bochurim must begin dating at a younger age.

There are a couple of problems with this solution. First it assumes that only Yeshiva Bachurim should be considered marriage material. But the greater problem is the level of maturity that younger Yeshiva students might have. There are now more divorces in the Yeshiva world than ever.  In some cases this happens after there are children! I can’t think of too many more contributing factors for going OTD (or worse) than living in the dysfunction of two bickering parents that end up in divorce. 

The younger they are when they get married, the greater chance there will be a divorce. Is this really the best solution? Lowering the age where there is less maturity will surely not help solve THAT problem! 

That said, I know of very successful marriages of couples that got married as young as 20 years of age. But I know of a lot more that got divorced because they lacked the maturity required of a successful marriage. 

I do not see this as a solution. Which leaves the Shidduch crisis unsolved.  

Here are some of the problems - off the top of my head. There is little to no discussion about dating in the Yeshiva world. When the time comes for a young man to start dating, a young Yeshiva man might get a talk about how to behave on a date - how many dates there should be before breaking up or proposing - and that’s about it.

Then there is this. Contrary to popular belief, Yeshiva students have a libido. The younger they are the stronger the libido. They are not all about Ruchnius. Spirituality isn’t the first thing they look for in a girl. Nor is it Midos (good character).Or the level of Torah knowledge a girl might have. That may actually work against her - if she appears to be more knowlegable than him.  He is not looking to marry a Chavrusa. 

What they are looking for is a size 2 dress. ( put it in more modest terms.) Yeshiva Bachurim are as interest in ‘looks’ as are non Yeshiva bachurim. The libido does not descriminate. All that other stuff comes a distant second. The younger they are the more true that is. 

And if he is a Mitzuyan – someone who is seen by their Rebbeim and Roshei Yeshiva as an outstanding future star of the Torah world, money becomes the number one issue. They actually place a price tag on some of these students. 

So, again... Yes! …the current system of Shidduchim must be restructured. The system as it now exists is indeed tragic. But the solution is not getting married at a younger age. It is in broadening the base of ‘acceptable’ young men. It is in changing the glorification of full time Torah study as the only legitimate goal a a young man. And glorifying a woman’s role in supporting that. Anything less than that is not considered ‘first class’. And who wants to be living in a second class state?!

Another thing that has to be changed  in order to have any impact at all is the way young people meet. Which is almost exclusively through  a matchmaker (Shadchan). Which gives them an incredible degree of power - allowing them to become judgmental about who is ‘fit’ to marry in ‘first class’ style and who isn’t. For both young men and young women.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. The separation of the sexes in the world of the right has gone way too far. The opportunity for young people to meet has been reduced to just about ‘nil’. 

Families that have a member of the opposite sex will refuse to invite each other over for a Shabbos meal.  Sitting at a mixed table at a wedding is verboten these days. Especially for singles. 

The Kiddush after Shul on a Shabbos is increasingly becoming separated by a Mechitza!  

And young men and women participating in Kiruv organizations like NCSY is extremely frowned upon – if not outright forbidden. And yet I know of tons of young couples that met this way; built successful marriages; and have wonderful families.

Unless and until young women are disabused of the notion that only young men that are studying Torah full time are worthy of dating… and unless the ways in which young people can meet is increased, the crisis will continue. Lowering the age will only make matters worse.