| Counter Point |

Why Risk Shidduchim?

The conversation about the uneven nature of the shidduch process continues...

The Other Imbalance
A Bachur Who's Nearing the Parsha

As a bochur who is not yet in shidduchim, I have been reading the recent give-and-take about the shidduch crisis as a somewhat objective observer. Much has been written about the so-called age gap. However, the imbalance seems to be driven by an additional, mostly overlooked factor. Even if the gap were closed, this issue would still not be resolved.

I believe this is because an overwhelming majority of our girls want a top (really top) learning boy — and there are just not enough of them to go around. This arrangement sadly pits them against each other as the commodity.

The cause for this is multipronged. First, it is much more excruciating and challenging to be a long-term learner than it is to want to marry one. Case in point: the next Sunday you have a headache, wake up at eight, daven, and learn till lunch. That’s an off Shabbos. So the natural course is fewer boys taking the alef train until the end of the line.

Second, if a guy from a weaker background ups his game later in life, “flips out,” and becomes a long-term learner, few self-respecting, aspiring girls would consider the prospect of dating him. Yet at the same time, many girls start to spiritually blossom in seminary, and this is where they first begin to dream of a husband who toils in Torah. And yet after they are woke, they turn up their noses at the guys who trod the very same path they took. Go figure.

Finally, it seems to me the way the girls are being educated is with the mindset of “go big or go home.” Either a boy plans to learn full-time forever, or he doesn’t get a date. Now, isn’t that just a bit archaic and plenty myopic?

I’m sure you know how this story ends: the ogre mother of the boy chooses the richest and the prettiest girl for her son. Why? Because she can! The pool is a vast one to select from.

I’m sure many will rail against this letter, but I feel something needs to be said. I have seen an increase in ads and letters recently implying that young men are at fault for the shidduch crisis, and I think this is a very dangerous trend.

Before you start telling me I don’t understand the girl’s perspective, let me tell you that I have been there myself. I got married at 24, after years of going many months at a time without dates. The dates I had were thanks to my mother’s extraordinary efforts to “beg” dates for me. I experienced rejection after rejection. My family didn’t have enough money. I was a size 6 and not a size 4, I was too “out of town,” etc. I understand the pain of this parshah and the indignities that many young woman suffer.

Yes, there is something very broken in our system. And many boys/mothers of boys may be perpetuating that. But not all.

I was very concerned with one young woman’s objection, however well meaning, to discouraging single girls from pursuing advanced careers.

When you think deeply about many of our halachos, especially in contrast to the secular value system, you’ll realize very clearly that the Torah takes into account basic human nature, as opposed to insisting that people just “ought to behave better.” The Torah doesn’t say “men and women should just do the right thing if they find themselves alone together” — rather, Hashem knows the nature he instilled in us and commands us to set up gedarim. In other words, Hashem commands us to understand that people are oftentimes weak and will succumb to their impulses, and therefore we must adapt accordingly.

With that in mind, I find the attitude of “single girls should be able to pursue whatever career they want, at whatever level” without acknowledging the risks of those decisions, deeply misguided. At best. Of course not every girl will be fulfilled by a simpler job, and girls who have a strong skill and passion — a calling even — for a certain line of work should be encouraged, I believe, to pursue those careers regardless of their prestige. On the contrary, Hashem instilled that passion for a reason!

But if a girl is considering pursuing an advanced position or degree just to make more money, or for status, or simply as an alternative to “waiting to get married,” as the writer put it, is that really the best idea? On a purely logical level, does that extra money (or stature) really justify putting yourself in a position where men will have to fight their nature — whether severely or mildly — to be comfortable with the idea?

As a guy, I never had a strong passion for the career in finance I have today. But I didn’t expect a large number of girls to just “get over themselves” and date me if I wasn’t able to provide a respectable living. And it’s a choice I’m happy I made.

There are many ways to grow and accomplish while still single. Perhaps seek an option that doesn’t demand asking potential suitors to fight their human nature.

I’m sure many will rail against this letter, but I feel something needs to be said. I have seen an increase in ads and letters recently implying that young men are at fault for the shidduch crisis, and I think this is a very dangerous trend.

Before you start telling me I don’t understand the girl’s perspective, let me tell you that I have been there myself. I got married at 24, after years of going many months at a time without dates. The dates I had were thanks to my mother’s extraordinary efforts to “beg” dates for me. I experienced rejection after rejection. My family didn’t have enough money. I was a size 6 and not a size 4, I was too “out of town,” etc. I understand the pain of this parshah and the indignities that many young woman suffer.

Yes, there is something very broken in our system. And many boys/mothers of boys may be perpetuating that. But not all.

I also have two close family members who are single young men in their mid- to late twenties. They are both working bnei Torah of real depth. They will not ask about a girl’s size or her parents’ bank account. They will not even ask for a picture. And yet, they are rejected (often before even meeting) time and time again. One girl doesn’t like his trim beard, another says she doesn’t like boys from out of town, one complains that he doesn’t learn enough sedorim after his long day of work, another says he is not “with it” enough. Many bedieved will consider a working boy, but will be sure to let you know that he is second rate. Many will go on a date but won’t consider a second date.

Some look at “older” single boys and see their piles of résumés. I look at my family members and see the piles of often incompatible résumés shoved under their noses. And I see the shattered self-esteem that comes from rejection after rejection.

Please know that there is no monopoly on who is causing pain and who is feeling pain. We have much to fix on both sides of the crisis. Please stop villainizing the boys. Let’s stop the blame game and focus on getting both our girls — and boys — married.

In the recent Counterpoint feature on shidduchim, “Seen Enough” asks, “Where are the good boys?” and hypothesizes that there are many boys who would be considered “good boys” if it weren’t for the institutionalized “tracking” that is apparently prevalent in today’s yeshivah systems.

Well, I know where the “good boys” are: They are out of town.

First, we must understand the term “good boy.” Usually this translates to the strongest learners, most eidel middos, someone who can be a challenging chavrusa and make for a perfect son-in-law.

Now, how does a boy achieve this most high status? Well, he would have to start in ninth grade — learning Gemara during recess instead of playing ball, start wearing white shirts with his tzitzis hanging out, stop talking to those of his friends who, “gasp,” have Internet in their house, and generally become a computational machine for holiness, spirituality, and nachas to his parents.

As he gets older, he must rid himself of those things that make him “materialistic” and take up that which would make him divine.

This is in contrast to those boys who grow up normally — that is, the type of boy who plays sports to relieve inner tension and aggression, hangs out with those friends who make him feel good about himself, and learns Torah not for ambition’s sake, but because he senses that the Torah is special.

And eventually, in due time, with real-life experience and maturity, these normal boys figure out that life and its materialism is aimlessly temporary, while Hashem and service to Him is all that’s real.

I was born in Flatbush and moved to Dallas when I was 14. I like to say I’m the best of both worlds. While New York has its perks, there is definitely one advantage that Dallas, and I would say every out-of-town city, has over New York (and its surrounding communities): promotion of normalcy. Normal people do not put children in “tracks,” and they do not engineer boys (or girls) to be “good” — they simply promote normal behavior, have normal expectations for them, and raise them with the hope that they will be “normal” and not exceptional.

Alas, maybe normal is now, indeed, exceptional. Normal people do not tell a 14-year-old boy that it’s “okay” for him to play ball during recess while making it very clear that it’s a bedieved — such pressure destroys a kid. How sad it is that it’s so prevalent.

Your letter writer asks: “Where are the good boys? In this age of incredible Torah, avodah, and gemilus chasadim, where are they?” My answer: They are all over, but they have a different label — normal.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 791)

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