The 57-year-old man who wrote the second letter expressed resentment at the attitude of those around him. For one reason or another, he never married. Nevertheless, he was still determined to find someone young enough to bear children, and therefore he was interested only in women up to their late 30’s. He explained that his desire to have children went beyond that of most men, for his only sibling had intermarried and consequently, it was up to him to carry on the family name. However, not only did he find that people were uninterested in helping him, but they were downright discouraging, telling him that it would be more realistic to consider someone closer to his age for marriage. He expressed resentment at their lack of understanding, especially since he knew of other men in his age category who did find younger women, so why, he wondered, couldn’t it happen to him. The following is my reply:
I decided to publish your letters in one column because, while they touch on different points, there is a common thread running through them – and that is your anger and resentment.
I can certainly empathize with your feelings. It is very painful to be alone in a community where most people are married and have children and grandchildren. You always feel like the ”odd man out” and stigmatized.
There is no escaping the fact that your situation is distressing no matter what spin you try to put upon it. There is a saying in Yiddish that a sick person is uncomfortable, regardless of the position in which he is placed. Similarly, to be single and over a certain age is cause for anxiety. So while I understand your concern, I’m not certain whether you are being altogether fair in your criticism.
Of course, I am not familiar with your individual situations, but speaking generally, I do believe that of late, the Jewish community has become more sensitive to the plight of singles and much effort has been expended on reaching out and helping. I know that there are many good people who invite singles to their Shabbos and Yom Tov tables, although singles have confided to me that that too can be a hurtful experience. To have to sit at someone else’s table – to see husband, wife and children interacting, knowing all the while that you are alone – is not always easy to swallow. But the Torah community does extend itself and many innovative measures have been taken. Shidduch committees, in which married women meet, put forth names and try to make matches, have become popular, and many organizations have some sort of singles programs. In other words, I believe that there is a definite awareness among our people as to the plight of singles. This is not to say that there is no room for improvement, but certainly, progress has been made.
Obviously, I am not familiar with the dynamics of your family, but in general, I can say that wherever I go, there are always aunts, uncles, cousins, who approach me and say, ”Rebbetzin, I need a shidduch for someone in my mishpacha. Can you help?”
I’m sorry that that does not seem to be the case in your family, but there are many people in the Torah community who would deem it a genuine privilege to extend their families and open their doors to you. If you wish, come down to Hineni and I will be happy to make such a connection.
As for the 57-year-old man who takes offense at his friend’s suggestion that he forego the idea of finding a woman in her late thirties and marry someone closer to his age… I really don’t think that you have a right to be annoyed at your friends’ recommendation. They are being realistic and sincerely want to help.
I vividly recally when, some years ago at Hineni, a gentleman walked in who looked vaguely familiar. When he introduced himself, I recalled that he had attended our classes over 30 years ago.
”I’m still single,” he announced, ”still looking.”
It so happened that at my class that evening was a lovely woman, close to him in age. I asked if I might make an introduction, to which he replied, ”Oh, she’s much too old. I would still like to have children.”
Today, four years later, to the best of my knowledge, that gentleman is still single and still looking. So while it may be true, as you stated in your letter, that there are some men who marry women much younger than they and raise families, the story that I cited is also true, and it is that possibility that your friends want you to consider.
Before closing the subject, I wonder whether you ever entertained the possibility of marrying a widow and adopting her children, or adopting children.
Finally, may I recommend that both of you come to Hineni, and perhaps we can help you find your bashertes. In the interim, I would like to suggest that you bear in mind one of my husband, Ha Rav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l’s favorite teachings from the Bresslover Rebbe, zt”l: ”When there is no reason to smile, put a smile on your face and G-d will give you every reason to smile.”
Don’t wear your bitterness on your face. Don’t allow your resentment to show in your eyes, because that will only serve to retard your situation and alienate people from you. Keep smiling even if you are hurting. I know that that’s easier said than done, but the other alternative is harder, for if you give in to anger, your world will become an angry place and you won’t be able to escape the darkness.
Attend those family simchas and even if you feel that you are being ignored, extend yourself to your family, and if you do, you will see that, B’ezras Hashem, eventually your kindness will be reciprocated.