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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 11/28/08

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Dear Rachel,

Your words of encouragement to the distraught mother of the 25-year-old daughter (Chronicles 9-12) helped mothers of many such young women sleep at night, I’m sure, but there is something to this basherte thing that I see differently.

My great aunt, many years deceased, first married at age 56. She was proud to be a stepmother and step-grandmother and wanted to be the one to explain “things” to my mother when she became a kallah, as she never had her own daughter to share with. The reason that she waited so long to marry is that she lost her mother as a young girl, helped raise my grandfather, and then took care of her ailing father.

By the time she was free to marry, most young men were no longer available. It took time until she finally found a widower but she was too old for pregnancy. She found her basherte who lived for only seven years after they were married.

Now in our community there are numerous singles that seem to date less as they get older. They passed up opportunities when they were younger and now most of the good possibilities are taken.

Another columnist wonders when the rabbonim will sanction mixers so that these older singles can meet. It appears to me that many rabbonim are oblivious, or else they would find a way to let young people know that they should not pass up these opportunities for silly reasons. Rabbonim who don’t use the Internet, or for that matter read The Jewish Press, when confronted by parents of older singles just throw out the same worn out line about everyone having a basherte.

The basherte coming at 56 is better than none at all, but I would imagine that this aunt would have loved to have a child of her own. While everyone initially starts life with a basherte, not everyone marries while there is still time to have children. There is plenty of reason to worry when a young woman passes up chances and then puts herself outside the circle of dating singles.

This mother just may have to contend with a daughter who will be indefinitely single and who will be asked to grant mechilah so that her younger sisters can marry.

Families may soon be reading articles on how to include older singles in their family celebrations rather than how to get them married. It is an unfortunate reality.

Taking care of parents or raising orphaned siblings prevented those in previous generations from marrying. Today’s singles have plenty of freedom but want something more than what is coming their way.

Just call me realistic

Dear Realistic,

You paint a most dismal picture of today’s single scene, while pinpointing part of the problem: “They passed up opportunities when they were younger ” The majority of singles 40 and up will no doubt recall at least one date they should perhaps not have given up on, that, in hindsight, may have led to something fulfilling, given the chance to develop.

“Today’s singles…want something more than what is coming their way,” you opine. The fact is that with age there’s a tendency to become more discerning. Additionally, remaining on the single scene long enough allows one to learn from others’ mistakes -which can also instill the fear of falling into similar undesirable situations. Moreover, the older singles’ maturing outlook on life makes them more distrustful, especially of the matchmaker; the aging factor makes them less likely to rely on parental views and advice; and the more settled they are in an economic sense, the more the reluctance to give up all or part of that hard-won security. Eventually, the narrowing selection of availabilities diminishes the hope of ever marrying.

Little wonder all around that the Torah advocates betrothal at the tender age of 18! Shared experiences and milestones cement the blossoming relationship of a young couple starting out early in life with youthful innocence and optimism – while the aging single grows to be obstinately independent, making it that much more difficult to strike a healthy balance with a life partner.

Yet your comment that “this mother just may have to contend with a daughter indefinitely single” is senselessly disheartening. The news of girls in their late 20s and 30s getting engaged is constantly resonating. And surely you will grant that there is quite a difference between a single 25-year-old and an over-40 or a 56-year-old.

The young lady referred to by a distraught mom is not occupied with caring for an elder, nor has she given up on dating. There is every reason to believe that her zivug has simply not yet made an appearance.

As for a woman’s aging reproductive system, this is a reality that one must come to grips with. Though most of us aspire to be young mothers (and fathers), we must trust in G-d’s plan for us. Provided that we exercise reasonable caution in choosing a mate (not foolishly dismissing shidduchim out of hand), there is plenty of room for optimism. Today we hear of many women having their first child later in life.

While we cast aspersions on singles, some criticism must be directed at the parents who reject shidduchim without rhyme or reason, due to a skewed “nobody is good enough for my son/daughter” mentality.

As always, Hashem is the One to turn to, with a steadfast belief that nothing is beyond His control and capability. And, as unpalatable as the thought may be, there are neshamos in this world who seem destined to remain single or childless for reasons that are beyond our realm of understanding. Rest assured, however, that there is good basis for everything that befalls us.

One day, hopefully very soon, it will all be made clear. Until then, each of us must do our share in facilitating the meeting of singles with their other halves.

Thank you for writing.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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