Inbox: Issue 947| January 31, 2023
“There is one way to bring the Times to think about change. That is huge public rallies in front of their building. No company likes bad PR”
Time for a Mass Protest [Guestlines / Issue 946]
Avi Schick penned a critically important article, “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times,” in which he exposes the bigoted bias of the New York Times against the entire range of Orthodoxy from the chassidic to the YU world. It indeed should be of concern to all Jews.
The Agudah has arranged for major billboards in Midtown Manhattan pointing to the bias. Kol hakavod to the Agudah for doing that.
However, articles and billboards are sadly not enough. Noise must be made in order to have any effect. Every social change, from civil rights to some of the radical leftist upheavals we are experiencing today, is due to the noise made by the protagonists.
There is one way to bring the Times to think about change. That is huge public rallies in front of their building. No company likes bad PR.
Now that all Orthodox branches are under attack it should be little problem for the Agudah, the OU, Young Israel, and even the chassidic communities to join in an organized effort to get out their crowds for this cause.
Please do not say it can’t be done. It already has been done. A few years ago, the Agudah joined with Satmar in a mass rally Downtown against the draft by the IDF of yeshivah students. The OU held a joint rally with the Agudah to daven for Israel.
The Muslims have no established organizations and manage to bring their people out for their cause. Why can’t our established and well-funded organizations do the same for our own?
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Baltimore, MD
Not Separate Enough [Guestlines / Issue 946]
Avi Schick has been at the forefront of protecting religious education and for that he deserves our utmost respect. However, his comments last week seem to show a misunderstanding of the recent spate of anti-Semitism.
The gedolim have always told us that anti-Semitism is a gift to the Jewish people that discourages our mixing in their society. The more we keep separate, the less anti-Semitism there will be. Consequently, the recent anti-Semitism is a sign we are too comfortable among the goyim.
There can be no greater emphasis of this point when it comes to the education of our children. We must educate them in the pure, unadulterated path that has been our mesorah for generations. When an institution tampers with our mesorah and deliberately attempts to fit in with all the goyim, the results will be the direct anti-Semitic attacks at these attempts to fit in.
It is the responsibility of each institution to do its part to stay true to our mesorah, for Hashem does not want us to fit in, but to stay apart. Those who insist to be part of them will unfortunately face their wrath. It is up to us.
A. S., Brooklyn, NY
Even the Mailman [A Tragic Double Loss / Issue 946]
As former members of the special Cleveland community, we were very saddened by this unimaginable tragedy.
As has been recommended by so many of our rabbanim, in the aftermath of this and other tragedies, we can emulate the ways of the niftarim — as a zechus for them.
If we are trying to identify an appropriate habit to take on, we need look no further than the fact that — for both of the niftarim — their mail carriers had kind and consoling words to share. Now that’s a kiddush Hashem.
Moshe and Sara Brejt
No Need to Wait [Ballot Box – Memory Lane / Issue 945]
Thank you for the trip down memory lane. However, there is no need to wait for archaeologists to find piles of palm pilots in the rebbi’s desk. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has an exhibit on computing devices that has all the equipment we used to use on display. The fun part is watching teenagers trying to figure out why cell phones used to look like large bricks or what a Blackberry was.
Don’t Share Where [True Wealth / Money Talks – Issue 946]
Thank you for your valuable publication, which I have been enjoying for over a decade.
This week’s “True Wealth” feature, coupled with the Kichels’ analysis of midwinter vacation, highlighted an issue that has been on my mind for years.
As R’ Naftali Horowitz stated, “In the frum community... you have a kid whose father makes millions sitting next to the kid wearing hand-me-downs... which creates problems. There’s a pressure that doesn’t exist elsewhere. People try to impress and fit in when things at home are far from good.”
To be clear, there will always be the haves and have-nots. Comparisons of homes and income are part and parcel of living in a community. Someone’s “toned down” simchah might be more lavish than his neighbor could ever afford and that’s something people would do best to accept sooner rather than later.
But there is one area in which we can minimize the comparisons, thereby reducing the pressure: vacations. Unlike an expensive coat or a luxury vehicle, no one really has to know where you choose to vacation.
If you thoroughly enjoy the slopes in Switzerland and the paths in Panama and you can — really can — afford the luxury, by all means go. But if the enjoyment comes from disclosing destinations and posting pictures, it might be time to rethink your values.
Wouldn’t it be great if people would adopt a “Don’t Share Where” mantra? Adults and children alike would enjoy their vacations purely as family time to rejuvenate and share meaningful experiences with each other. I’ve responded (or chosen not to respond) to phone calls and texts in random national and international locations while on vacation... and the recipients had no idea from where I was communicating. My own neighbors don’t know where and when we travel.
On that note, maybe it’s time for schools to finally abandon the “What-I-Did-Every-Day-of-Vacation” scrapbooks that are due when the kids come back to school. (I once pleaded with an administrator to abolish the practice, but I was told that it makes no difference if you put a ticket stub from Disney World or a receipt from a Slurpee at Seasons Express. Um, maybe it makes no difference to that administrator, but it sure makes a difference to the third graders comparing booklets at recess!)
Children will take their cues from their parents. Let’s try to emulate “hatzneiah leches” in perhaps a literal way. Definitely vacation, just please don’t share where.
Elisheva Perlstein, Far Rockway
Rising Rents, Changing Standards [Growth Curve Serial]
When the Growth Curve serial came to an end this week, I knew I had to write in. I’ve been patiently reserving judgment as I’ve watched the author weave an uncannily relatable tale (well, all except for the drug dealers twist), and I’ve read the resulting Inbox letters about the place I called home for 11 years. The stereotypes were funny as well as irritating, and certainly brought to light important discussions. You definitely had me reeling with suspense week to week — guessing what might develop both with the characters, and the readers.
But all along I waited for someone — anyone — to shrei about what I felt was the most glaring and pressing issue being raised here, to no avail. So since I haven’t yet seen someone else complain (forgive me if you did and I missed your letter, but here it goes again for emphasis): the rent prices in Ramat Eshkol are ruining the neighborhood.
What has slowly become a home to serious bnei Torah who want to begin their married life in the holiness of Eretz Yisrael and in a community centered around limud haTorah and simplicity — is now being destroyed by the Tama 38 construction projects and greedy landlords who will milk Americans for every penny.
But to be honest, the landlords and the contractors are not the worst part. It’s that some of the people moving in for one or two years are willing to pay the astronomical prices, and taking away apartments from families who have built their entire lives in this neighborhood. The families who have outgrown their tiny 1.5 bedroom, who are looking to move up to two or three — and are being asked to pay upward of $4,000 a month! (That’s for an unrenovated, fifth- floor apartment with no porch. As soon as you improve the specs, the price goes higher and higher.)
These families can’t pay it. But you know who can? The honeymooners who have a credit card and no budget, and are leaving in 12 to 16 months. Up and up the prices go. Families move out. The bnei Torah community becomes a high-class neighborhood, where you’re embarrassed if you don’t have a Bugaboo. Is this what everyone came to Eretz Yisrael to experience?
The avreichim who want to live close to their kollelim need to instead make a long commute by public transportation or change learning locations. The mothers need to find extra jobs, cut corners, and skip much-needed breaks. And all the while the people who are “just here for a year” pretend that their actions reside in a bubble.
The choices you make, the prices you pay, affect your community. I have no prediction for where this will go, but I think the first step to any kind of solution is awareness. Rabbanim have sent out kol koreis in my neighborhood, but it’s not touching the root of the problem. If you’re sitting on your couch in America as you read this, just take it in. Tell your friends. Don’t pay these amounts for your kids just because it’s the price tag. Bargain, haggle, refuse.
Many years ago, there was a short-lived rent vaad in Sanhedria Murchevet, which helped stop a surge in prices by telling residents that in order to be a part of the Anglo-chareidi community, they could only agree to take apartments whose prices had been vaad-approved. Free market may be great for the wider business public, but this community had overriding priorities — ensuring that bnei Torah could find affordable housing in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. And you know what? It worked! The Sanhedria Murchevet rent prices, while rising, are significantly lower and somewhat more affordable than in Ramat Eshkol, and the culture has remained more simplistic as well.
Don’t let people think Americans will pay any price. Because along with what we are paying in gashmiyus, we are sacrificing in ruchniyus as well.
M. K., Jerusalem
Not So Innocent Branding [The Kichels / Issue 946]
When I read this week’s Kichels (always the first thing that’s read) my heart dropped. The Kichels comic represents, if nothing else, the broad authority of “normal” in our little world. We all know the authors eavesdrop from our closets and hastily scribble our darkest secrets to be shared with the world at large.
When I saw the casual brand name-dropping in this week’s peer pressure edition, it was not okay. This means that certain things have crept into our lifestyle, accepted and approved, that truly shouldn’t be here.
As frum Yidden, we are the shining light of morality in a world gone dark. There are some brands that should never cross the threshold of our homes, let alone be worn by our tribe. We are so innocent, but that is not an excuse.
Please take a moment to research the brands you are buying — whom and what they are — before you don them. Millions have been invested into the logos and mindset of each brand. They are carefully selected to convey subtle and not-so-subtle messages through the unassuming advertisers (us) who wear them. It is not a mistake when there are similarities, references, or subtle associations. They are there on purpose. And some of them are not what Yidden should be flamboyantly and flagrantly wearing.
If these brands have crept into our world, just because our neighbor, friend, or family member wears it doesn’t mean it’s okay. In fact, we as Yidden have always prided ourselves in standing strong when things are wrong.
I am not here to condone nor endorse the brand-name behavior.
I am here, with a real letter, to say: please choose responsibly.
A Kichel admirer
A Story of Nurturing [The Eleventh Hour / Issue 943]
Yochonon Donn’s recent article on Rabbi Dovid Keleti and his remarkable work with the Jewish community in Budapest mentioned the Hannah restaurant. I believe that Mishpacha’s readers would appreciate hearing details regarding this well-known landmark.
The Hannah, as it was referred to, was initially created in 1921 as a social welfare institution to care for 200 to 300 children who came from the poorest Orthodox Jewish families who simply could not care for their own young. It was created and run by Dora Heiden, who began this venture at the tender age of 17. The Hannah provided daily meals, schooling, clothing, and medical treatment to those in need.
Dora Heiden traveled throughout Europe to raise funds to benefit these children. She organized a summer retreat in the countryside. Dora married Alexander Shlomo Rosenberg in 1927 and moved with her new husband to New York.
The Hannah continued to carry on as a soup kitchen, feeding thousands of Jewish refugees. It later evolved into the well-known, popular kosher restaurant of today.
Even in America, Dora continued to play a public role, this time as the deputy head of the women’s branch of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.
Dora’s husband served as the head of religious affairs of the Joint Distribution Committee and was responsible for being in touch with the military authorities. After World War II, Dora and her husband moved to the American zone of Berlin and helped with the rehabilitation of our survivors.
My own father made the acquaintance of Rabbi Rosenberg in the Bergen Belsen DP camp. Upon returning to America, Rabbi Rosenberg became a food scientist and headed the kashrus division of the OU. Their son, Rabbi Yankel Rosenberg, was the founder and beloved rosh yeshivah of Machon Shlomo, a well-known yeshivah located in Har Nof, Jerusalem.
Mrs. Dora Heiden was my husband’s great-aunt. Her accomplishments at such a young age never cease to amaze us. Her caring and concern for her Jewish brethren simply did not allow her to sit back idly; rather she was inspired to take action. What a powerful legacy she has handed down to her descendants.
Your Song Spoke to Me [EndNote / Issue 945]
The song “Yosef,” sung by Beri Weber, featured in this past week’s Mishpacha, is very special to me. In the article, Beri mentions how he wrote the song for boys who had been bullied. I don’t exactly fit that profile, but the song has touched me deeply nevertheless.
Nobody would ever guess by looking at me, but I am also being bullied — physically, emotionally, and mentally — not by classmates, but by a family member. This is otherwise known as abuse, and believe me, I am not using that term lightly.
For various reasons, I can’t speak to anyone about what’s going on, and I just try to get by, day by day. Usually, I am able to manage, and I have built myself up into what I have never thought possible. One day, however, my situation reached a new low. I retreated into myself and just cried and cried. I couldn’t imagine leaving my room and facing the world again.
Then Hashem sent me this song. I came across it that night, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I listened to it over and over, internalizing the message that these struggles are making me who I am today. Baruch Hashem, I have moved on, and have continued being the successful person that I have become.
Thank you, Beri.
Left with a Bitter Taste [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
As a 45-year-old single frum woman, I admit I was surprised to see the topic of older singles/fertility actually being acknowledged and addressed in public. However, once I read the two related articles, I understood what it finally took to force the rabbanim and frum establishments to be willing to not only address this issue publicly, but to urge the possibility of financial help given to the singles who would otherwise not be able to afford fertility-preserving procedures.
It left me with a bitter taste and a deep sense of disappointment at how the frum world, and yes, the rabbinic leadership, has failed this demographic once again.
Ironically, I can save a large sum of money for anyone seeking to commission a costly survey about the causes for the large number of older single frum women. It is not about an age gap or lack of shadchanim or any of the theories floated in your article. It is so, so simple.
Think back to the late 80s/early 90s, when the “at risk” (OTD hadn’t been coined yet) population began to explode. I remember it well, because I was a young girl. I had a brother who was a part of that world. I knew his friends.
Five to ten years later, when my generation was entering the shidduch world, suddenly there was a dearth of young men to date (whether actually in yeshivah or solidly frum college or working young men). Why? Because such a large percentage of the boys of that generation were no longer frum or barely frum, dealing with all sorts of emotional and physical fallout from their lifestyle. This has snowballed and continued to this day.
Since I come from that original generation, I can tell you with certainty: match up the ages of the original OTD boys with the “oldest” of the older single women (we have reached our mid-forties) and you’ll see they correlate — those of the original OTD generation are in their mid-forties to upper forties.
I know the frum world likes to share heartwarming stories of those who left but came back, but the harsh reality is that many of them haven’t. Of my brother’s friends, a few came back or are still frum. Many are not. Some married non-frum girls or non-Jewish women. Some are still dealing with drug addictions or have succumbed.
This isn’t something that hiring more shadchanim will solve, let alone blaming the “selectivity” factor.
Finally, I do want to say that while on the whole I appreciate the topic being raised, and I do recognize an attempt to write about it sensitively, more can be done in this area. I don’t know if you had an older single read it through, but I suggest that in the future you do. There were a few “inspirational” quotes in the article that would have been better left out (patronizing at best, dismissive at worst) but one line really stood out for me: stating that the angst of a single childless woman can’t be compared to that of a couple undergoing fertility treatments.
I beg to differ. As someone who lives this reality every day of my life (I feel an invisible baby with me accompanying me everywhere I go; sometimes this imaginary baby feels so real that I feel it as a weight in my arms), that line cut deep. It is untrue. Perhaps it was said with mostly 20-something singles in mind, but the pain of the 40-something single, childless woman should not be minimized.
I do want to end off by noting that my disappointment is not about Mishpacha itself. I appreciate that you allowed your magazine to be a vehicle for this topic to at least be raised and to bring a bit of awareness to a painful topic that most people don’t understand or can relate to.
Crucial Awareness [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
Thank you for your painful but necessary reporting on the shidduch crisis.
In particular, thank you for opening a discussion of the previously taboo topic of fertility preservation. The lack of discussion and information on this topic has not only left single women struggling with where to turn, but has kept many of them totally ignorant of their possibilities.
In fact, I once heard about a woman in her early forties proclaiming how hurt and insulted she was that a friend recommended this option to her; she was clearly unaware that she was already several years past the optimal age for this procedure and was fast approaching the age where it is no longer a viable option.
Thank you for your continued efforts on behalf of Klal Yisrael.
If You Have to Say “No” [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
Reading last week’s very informative, somewhat depressing, and ultimately uplifting articles about the shidduch matzav made me thing that perhaps part of what we can think about improving on as a community is how we empathize for each other.
Reading about the Ginzbergs’ amazing work in promoting koach hatefillah brought a well-known story to mind. It is told that a rosh yeshivah once came to meet with Rav Aharon Leib Steinman ztz”l to discuss the need to expel a bochur from his yeshivah. After the rosh yeshivah made his case, Rav Steinman asked the rosh yeshivah for the young man’s full Hebrew name. As is told, the rosh yeshivah was at a loss, and Rav Steinman was aghast that the rosh yeshivah would arrive at the conclusion that the boy must be removed without first engaging in intense tefillah on his behalf.
So here’s a suggestion to all those singles in the parshah and parents lucky enough to receive shidduch suggestions. Going forward, if we review a shidduch résumé of a prospect that we have decided is not right for us or our child and should not be pursued, before we say “no” let’s take a moment to daven for that young man or woman — that Hashem should hasten their personal journey to successfully, and as painlessly as possible, be zocheh l’hakem bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.
Give and Gain Support [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
I was glad to see the articles on improving the shidduch system and the validation of people understanding what it’s like to be single. I want to let people know of a WhatsApp support group for Singles 30+, a space where one can give and gain support from those in the same situation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
Outside the Box [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
I am writing with awe to be part of this special nation. Yasher koyach to Avi Schwab, Leizer Scheiner, Ari Berkowitz, and Chani Jaffe. Thank you for seeing a painful issue and having the fire to do something about it. As a shadchan, and a mom with singles and married couples, I want to humbly add my thoughts.
Statistics are nice in a perfectly math-oriented world where 1+1=2. We, however, are a nation that’s l’maalah min hateva. Perhaps the problem stems earlier than selectivity, age gap, gender misalignment, and limited capacity. Perhaps we need to listen to Rabbi Ginzberg’s suggestion a few issues back.
I noticed that the survey was conducted for the “yeshivah Orthodox community.” If we were to include many other readers — such as the Sephardic, chassidish, Modern Orthodox singles, singles with manageable disabilities and other categories — our surveys may look different, the numbers might line up better, and the dating pool will widen.
Rabbi Ginzberg suggested that there’s room to get stronger in ahavas Yisrael and this is a perfect area to do that with. There may even be a direct correlation. Perhaps in magazines as influential as Mishpacha, we can speak to the issue that’s beyond statistics.
My mainstream yeshivish son has dated Sephardic girls, girls whose fathers wore shtreimlach, girls who were not a size two, and wonderful frum girls who went to modern day schools. He married an incredible girl whose values were exactly like his but whose background was very different.
Finally, as a shadchan, I think we are all aware of how difficult it is to get a yes from both sides, let alone make an actual shidduch. But it’s important to remember that we are only messengers to whom Hashem will give a zechus, if we are lucky to merit it. Wishing hatzlachah to everyone involved in this huge undertaking on behalf of the klal. I, for one, am going to work on my bitachon and ahavas Yisrael.
A mother of children who dates all boxes
Leave the Teachers Out [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
I am writing a response to the letter writer who suggested that our high schools assign teachers to be shadchanim/advocates for their students.
Please, NO. How many of our girls first shine and sparkle once they get out of school? For most young ladies, the year following seminary is a year of tremendous growth and maturity.
Just like camp is a fantastic place for those girls who are not scholastic, so too, can the work environment be. Book smarts and street smarts are two different skill sets, and I will leave it to your readers to decide which is more important in a marriage.
A mother of five girls who needed to get out of school to shine
Please Respect our Decisions [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
To A.W., the problem-solving Torontonian who mentioned several problems prevalent among wannabe shadchanim, I want to thank you so much for your insights. As a single, I found your points extremely on target and validating.
Yes, there is a concept of paying shadchanim, and the more appreciation one gets (no matter what the chesed/field is) the more motivated they will be to continue. However, the goal of the shidduch system is to help singles find their bashert. There is so much talk about compensating shadchanim, when really the primary focus should be on the single.
Meeting shadchanim and shidduch initiatives are beautiful, but I have found from personal experience that since most of these shadchanim meet hundreds of people, they have a hard time really getting to know each individual and keeping them on their radar.
Additionally, life for today’s singles is far more complex than it was for most shadchanim when they were in shidduchim. Baruch Hashem, the Jewish community has grown, and so have its challenges and awareness of these challenges. Please respect us singles for our thought-out decisions. Although we may seem picky to you, we have a right to choose someone who we could feel comfortable being our ezer knegdo in building a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.
We Can Split the Sea [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
As you discussed in your features on shidduchim, shadchanim today are overworked and underpaid. Maybe it’s time for all of us ordinary people to become the new matchmakers.
Uber and Airbnb have transformed capitalism into a peer-to-peer economy. In this new “shared economy,” it is the person-to-person sharing of goods and services that drives the market. So too, we need a new shidduch “person-to-person” approach, which is a “chaverim kol Yisrael,” shared-responsibility approach.
Bereishis Rabbah 68:4 states that since He created the universe, Hashem has been making marriage matches, and that for G-d it is “as difficult as splitting the sea.” In those moments before Kri’as Yam Suf, Hashem was waiting for man to act with bitachon and trust Him by moving forward into the sea, despite the apparent “impossibility” of redemption. Only after that first step taken by Nachshon ben Aminadav, did Hashem split the sea. We must all become Nachshon.
At weddings, after the chuppah and before the first dance, the grassroots Split the Sea initiative arranges roundtable meetings for the single friends of the chassan and kallah, supervised by chaperones. (This is only done with the agreement of the families of the chassan and kallah.) The singles go into a side room after the chuppah, and supervised by a rav and chaperones, enter into round-robin discussions to see if someone might be shayach for them or a friend. This is done in a tzniyusdig and modest manner.
What do you need to do to Split the Sea? Every day make one shidduch reference call, make one match-suggestion, or attend one shidduch meeting on your block or on Zoom. Hashem is looking for partners. Thousands of businessmen, business women, lawyers, doctors, homemakers, psychologists, retirees, nurses and speech therapists are making lists of their married children’s single friends, neighbors are getting together weekly to match people, and friends in different cities are doing Zoom calls with each other to see who they can set up.
Rabbi Yisroel Roll
The writer can be contacted through Mishpacha.
Core Resources for the Core Problem [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
Thank you for your recent article, “Splitting Seas, Drying Tears,” regarding efforts taken to ease the growing numbers of single girls.
As the father of two out-of-town, bright, beautiful, and eligible girls, allow me to offer a comment that nips at the edge of the challenge. While out-of-town boys are often equally attractive to in-town and out-of-town families, their sisters — frum, capable and genuine — may be passed over by in-town parents as they raise the chance of the couple settling out-of-town, far from where they would like to see their son. If parents of out-of-town boys give strong preference to out-of-town girls, they will be helping their daughters greatly.
However, this addresses only one small edge of the larger problem. Numbers are stubborn things. A three-year age gap and a rapidly growing population places more settings at the table than chairs, and does not necessarily allow every girl to take a seat. Of the four causes listed in the article (Selectivity, Age Gap, Gender Misalignment, and Limited Capacity), it is the Age Gap that creates market conditions, with the other three issues merely extending it. Core communal effort ought to be spent on the core problem.
Indeed, the Nasi Project addresses this issue. I would love to see Mishpacha articles on how effective that effort has been, and what can be done to further its work. I, for one, have yet to see a résumé of a 21-year-old BMG Lakewood boy suggested to our 21-year-old daughter, but am eager to see that change.
Yaakov Rosenblatt, Dallas, TX
We Need a Different Key [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
I was happy to read that the dedicated people of the Shidduch Institute have been working on increasing the current system’s success rate. Even with the hoped for improvements, no system is perfect, and the current one won’t ensure that every girl and boy will get engaged within a year of starting the process.
The real crisis is with the ones the system has failed after about five years. Trying to use the same paradigm on the men and women that have been left behind is like trying to open a lock with the wrong key.
When dealing with singles who have reached their mid-twenties, a new, more imaginative system needs to be established. One in which the filter is more reasonable, less exclusive and less wasteful of time. One in which the young people will have a greater share in the process and the mothers’ role will be reduced.
Edwin Levi, Englewood, NJ
While We Wait [The Lonely Wait / Issue 946]
As a single woman in shidduchim, I’ve been somewhat intrigued and also bothered by the recent articles about the “shidduch crisis.”
There is a piece that I believe was missing from the conversation about the root causes of the shidduch crisis. The real root cause of what’s being called a “crisis” is actually… Hashem’s plan. The real issue is that we are attributing the number of “late marriages” to our own issues, to issues with the single men and women involved, to the difference in numbers of eligible men and women, rather than to Hashem’s plan for us.
We are forgetting that Hashem created people and He knows how many single men and single women are in each age bracket. Of course, there is always a level of hishtadlus on our part, but that hishtadlus needs to be coupled with a measure of acceptance for what Hashem wants from you now, where you are.
I always think that, after 120 years, when the film of my life is played in Shamayim, these single years will not just be bloopers. I can confidently say that these years have taught and continue to teach me so much about myself, about challenge and triumph, about loneliness and longing, about what it means to be fallible and human, about what real growth looks like, what doing hard things feels like.
For those who got married at 19, perhaps you didn’t need these years, and perhaps you will learn these lessons, or your own lessons, in other ways. For those who didn’t, I implore you not to waste these years simply because you somehow believe you should not have needed them.
As one of my teachers once told me, “You don’t have to look at marriage as if it is a prize. You are the prize.” So maybe it’s not a crisis? Maybe it’s just a stage that some of us go through? Just like some of us will go through widowhood, or divorce, or infertility, or illness?
We need to daven and network and do all the right things… but we also need to remember Who is the Root Cause. And we need to allow these years be our teachers, not our tormentors.
That said, if we are going to hold this dialectic of acceptance along with our hopes and pleas for change, then the way that we treat single men and women needs to change.
In a recent interview, Chana Cohen, a researcher on this very topic of the “shidduch crisis,” named two crises happening simultaneously: the crisis of process and the crisis of experience. The crisis of process includes what we usually allude to as the shidduch crisis: not enough shadchanim, differences between men and women in the dating pool, etc., whereas the crisis of experience is informed by how single people are perceived and received in the community.
Often, Chana noted, “we try to solve a crisis of experience with a crisis of process.” This is not to say we shouldn’t optimize the process; rather it means that we also need to respond to the challenges of the experience.
Some of the issues mentioned, which I have also encountered as a single woman, include being called a “girl” when my younger married colleagues are “women;” not feeling part of a larger community; lack of Shabbos invitations; others engaging in conversations about sheitels or carpool that I must, necessarily, drop out of, as if I’m invisible.
As a somewhat tragicomic anecdote, some of my frum colleagues were flipping through a cookbook before Yom Tov in the faculty lounge. I was 23 at the time, living in my own apartment, and supporting myself (as is normal in the community I come from). When I mentioned that I really enjoyed that cookbook, one of them remarked, “That’s great practice!” (Practice for what? Eating? Do only married people eat? I’m not a plant… I don’t subsist on photosynthesis…) These are the small but powerful moments that create loneliness.
Now, you might offer the argument that single men and women might become comfortable and complacent with their single status if they are accepted by the community. I don’t think this will ever be true, because of the simple fact that we are wired for connection. Hashem built into his creation the need to unite with the other half of one’s neshamah. I will never stop longing for my other half until I find him, but while I’m in this place, while Hashem has put me in this place, I deserve to be treated with respect.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 947)
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