As an Orthodox rabbi living and working on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I’m thrilled to see so many single men and women actively involved in Torah and mitzvot. This is also the case in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, and wherever else singles are found. Whereas in the not so distant past the observance level of many Orthodox singles dropped the longer they remained single, today there are more scrupulously observant single men and women than ever before.
Sounds great, but let me qualify what I’m saying.
When it comes to ritual observance, there’s a tremendous amount of attention paid to even the most minute details and stringencies. But here’s one religious area, probably the most important, that seems to have gotten lost in the unrelenting quest for the perfect shidduch: faith – better known in the frum world as bitachon.
I recently tried to set up a man I’ve known for years. He’s 38, good looking, successful, and earnestly frum. I had just met a very attractive woman I was sure he would be excited to meet. I started off my pitch and he was interested. Then I told him she was 33.
“Sorry, but 32 is my limit.”
“But she’s only 33, that’s just one y…”
“No, I’m very sorry but I need to stick to my rules.”
“OK, best of luck to you!”
This is not an isolated incident. In my role as a Sawyouatsinai matchmaker, I read through dozens of profiles of men in their late 30s to 40s (and yes, even 50s) who are very blunt in demanding to only be matched with women below a specific age, usually ranging from 32 to 35. The reason they give always relates to childbirth. They want to have big families and they’ve determined that women past a certain age are not biologically qualified.
I’m not going to attempt to debate the scientific factors regarding childbirth and aging because I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist. The large number of women on the Upper West Side, clearly in their 40s, pushing sets of twins and triplets in fancy buggies is obviously not the kind of empirical evidence one brings into the lab. As a rabbi, however, I do think I’m qualified to speak about bitachon. When I hear or read the age and family planning requirements of an older single man who is scrupulous in all areas of halacha my response is, “What happened to bitachon?”
You don’t know what Hashem’s plan is for you. No one does. Do you know how many younger couples are struggling to have even one child? Do you know if you’re even meant to have more than one or two children? Do you realize that the years you are spending in search of someone you believe can bear you a large family are years during which you could actually be enjoying the amazing blessing of a precious child of your own? If you finally do have children, are you going to be young enough to be able to play with them? What about your second child? How old will you be at the bar mitzvah? The Wedding? When grandchildren come along?
The answer to all of these questions is that it’s all in Hashem’s hands. Bitachon. We don’t have ultimate control over our destinies – and when we think we do, we usually learn the hard way that we don’t.
I wonder how many single religious single men above 30 have asked ask a rav whether it’s better to marry a woman they connect with and are attracted to who is 37 – or spend another few years (or more) single in the hope of marrying a 32 year old.
Having gotten married at age 41, I know what my answer is, but I’d like to know what our Gedolei Torah would say. My guess is they would agree with me, especially knowing the range of potential issurim waiting to ensnare even the most scrupulously religious unmarried man and all of the mitzvot, joy, and blessings that these men are missing out on without a spouse and family. Perhaps by clearly articulating their position, our rabbinic leaders could make a significant impact on the decisions of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of single men.