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Ask Rabbi Greenwald: Issue 991

Why doesn't my daughter want to start shidduchim?

MY daughter came back from seminary quite a few a months ago, and she’s not really interested in starting dating. She has always been very close with her friends, and she has one friend in particular who also announced that she’s not dating “for a while.” The two of them have lots of grand plans to travel, chill, and basically push off real life for a little bit. My daughter has a part-time office job, as does her friend, and they’re spending their considerable free time just having fun.
I’m happy she’s happy, and I don’t want to pressure her. Dating is stressful, and if she’s not feeling the stress, I’m glad. However, at what point do I stop smiling and nodding and tell my (legally adult) daughter that she needs to settle down and prepare for the next stage in life?



our question has three aspects that need to be addressed: 1) your daughter, upon returning from seminary, is not interested in dating; 2) she has a friend whom you are not happy with, due to her values or lack thereof; and 3) your daughter seems interested only in having fun, but not in taking responsibility for her life.

In your story, all three seem intertwined. But it is important to treat these three issues as independent concerns.



need to ask a few questions regarding your first concern: Should every girl at age 18 should feel pressured to get married? Is every girl that age ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage? How many girls actually get married in the first year after seminary? Lastly, did someone who only got married four years later lose out?

There is a lot of talk about the “shidduch crisis.” This seems to be a major reason for the pressure to get married as early as possible. I am not convinced that the solution lies in earlier marriages. A few years ago, in the pages of this respectable publication, ideas were set forward to “solve” the problem. A popular opinion held that boys should also begin dating at an earlier age, to close the gap.

I wondered then, as I do now, how much consideration that notion gave to young couples, shalom bayis, and divorce. In Eretz Yisrael, the crisis is significantly smaller. Girls do not begin dating until after at least two years of seminary, effectively closing the age gap between boys and girls when they start dating. It is commonplace to find boys marrying girls who are older, with no problem. And it is almost as common to find kallahs who are taller than their young chassans.

The “rush” for the boys coming out of the freezer and the “fresh crop” just coming out of seminary is unhealthy and completely contradicts what we teach our children about Hashgachah pratis and zivugim coming from Hashem. While many girls feel confident and comfortable moving on to this stage in life, there are many who feel they have no choice, and even when they know they have things they need to deal with before marriage, they are afraid of missing the boat.

On the other hand, the unhealthy pressure causes many young women to run from fear of crisis and rejection. The fact is that more than 80% of seminary graduates do not get married in the first year. Perhaps we should be open to a girl who feels she needs time to process her seminary year, work on things she discovered about herself, and possibly even advance in her abilities to help her husband learn, if that is her goal. The women of our generation are heroes. Many take upon themselves the extraordinary obligations of being a wife, mother, and breadwinner. If another year will allow a girl to prepare for those commitments, it might even be wise to grant it to her.


he second concern, regarding her friend who you feel is a bad influence, is a fascinating study in the dynamics of friendships. I once came to my rebbi, Rav Wolbe z”l, with what looked like a cut-and-dried situation: A high-school-aged boy, recently frum, in my yeshivah dormitory, from a very troubled background. The other, a cheder boy from a very solid home. The mother of the latter complained bitterly that the former boy was contaminating her son with unclean ideas and very impure conversations.

I was sure the instructions would be to remove the “troubled” boy from the dormitory. My rebbi looked at me with his wise eyes and said, “With friends, you never know who is who in the picture. Look into this very carefully.”

After a short but painful discussion with the presumed culprit, it became very clear that the “choshuve” boy was milking his friend for every bit of information he could squeeze out of him, and that the other boy was literally tortured every night to “share.”

The friends your daughter chooses in seminary and beyond are the girls with whom she shares interests. You can encourage, suggest, and discuss your position, but the chances that you will change her mind about her friends is miniscule.

It is fascinating to observe how girls aged 16-19 are actually convinced their friends are their most important allies and soulmates. As parents, we have seen how our real friendships, with the friends who help us become better people, last the longest. However, so many BFFs (best friends forever) our daughters needed to spend so much time with will disappear as life goes on. It takes a mature and introspective young woman to recognize that her only genuine allies, who will be there for her their whole lives, are her parents.


astly, she seems to be interested in fun and uninteresting in taking responsibility. This is by far the most serious of our concerns. Western civilization has made “fun” combined with “comfort” the goal of life. Even though many have raised their children with more than a little of this approach, we as Yidden most certainly have a different outlook.

I have always found it fascinating that there is no word in Lashon Hakodesh for “fun” (keif is Arabic). Fun is enjoyment without responsibility. It is not relaxation, or a break, both of which are necessary for almost everyone. Living in a society that provides constant myriad ways to access distraction, recreation, and entertainment does not help us in this battle.

In spite of all this, perhaps we should be careful before we judge our daughters. Maturity means taking responsibility for oneself. Besides the fact that even in our world, many have cultivated this culture, there are some girls who are afraid of the next stage. The obligations, as we mentioned, will be many, and girls who are less mature are not yet ready to take such responsibilities.

This may be what is holding them back, and it is important to speak about this openly and without pressure: helping them to understand what is expected and what is not, how we can help them, and how they can prepare realistically for the next stage. Seminary hopefully provided a big step in that direction, but for some, the associations with the next stage are still daunting.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 991)

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