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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Missed the boat? Readers think not…
See Chronicles of Nov. 16

Dear Rachel,

As I was reading the letter written by “Missed the boat,” I was taken back in time to when our second to youngest daughter fell in love with a young man whom she met at a summer job. She was eighteen years old at the time and certainly didn’t need to rush into marriage.

She also had two still single older siblings and was sensitive to their feelings. At first we all thought that over the course of the following winter the young twosome’s ardor would cool, but that didn’t prove to be the case.

We couldn’t even be upset at our daughter because she was a good girl and up front about her relationship, and the boy who courted her was a serious and decent young man whose parents were casual friends of ours.

Extended family members chimed in with their varied opinions, but Grandma said it best: You can’t let a good thing go in this day and age when shidduchim are not so easy to come by. Grandpa agreed but for different reasons: It’s not healthy to date for so long. Let him do right by her and marry her.

I believe that in our particular situation, having more than one older sibling helped ease the discomfort, for it couldn’t be said or thought that the older was taking her time, etc. Obviously this was all about the younger, not the older. Still, the kallah-to-be sought her siblings’ whole-hearted approval before making it official and made sure that they played an active role in all the preparations for the big day.

Should I assume that there were no hard feelings to speak of? I can only say that there was no outward indication of any, and for that I am most grateful.

What became more complicated with time was that one of the older siblings was eventually skipped over and over, and that was hard on everyone. Despite that, she was a good egg, a doting aunt to her nieces and nephews, and she never blamed anyone for her loneliness or frustrations.

You were right on, Rachel, when you said, “thirty is hardly the end of the world.” My daughter who married past that age would back you up. She is today, baruch Hashem, blissfully happy and Hashem has blessed her with beautiful, delightful children of her own.

Relieved Empty Nester

Dear Rachel,

I read the letter written by Missed the boat with great interest. Years ago I lived near a chassidic family whose firstborn, a male, got engaged, married and divorced in quick succession. The next one up was a girl who was getting to be “of age” and there was much hope that her older brother would soon find the zivug meant for him.

Well, if pairing zivugim is said to be hard work, trying to find a shidduch for someone who had already been married can be at least three times as difficult. The point I’m getting at is that these parents saw no sense in holding up the rest of their brood, and a good many of them were married off before the oldest finally found his match.

Of course this is somewhat of a different case since he had already gotten married once, but it was painful regardless.

A nosy bystander

Dear Readers,

If the reaction via incoming mail is any indicator, it would seem that “younger skipping older” on the way to the chuppah is not all that uncommon — at least if one leaves the chassidic sect out of the equation. So why are the latter so adamantly opposed to such practice?

I posed the question to a chassid who seemed surprised at my naiveté and explained that the Torah’s injunction to honor one’s father and mother – kabed es avicha v’es imecha – encompasses the command to respect one’s older siblings. (This is not his personal view but is brought down by the Talmud.)

According to the Arizal, each sibling from the firstborn down is a link in the chain that connects their souls to their parents and from them to G-d, and thereby the mitzvah to respect parents extends to all older siblings.

Even when a younger sister or brother would have good reason for marrying before an older one, permission from the older must be sought beforehand. That’s not so difficult to come by, we both agreed. After all, for the most part the older would not wish to be perceived as standing in the way, or of being resentful or bitter, and would generally grant his or her consent without hassle.

But who can really know what’s doing inside a person? Now that can be problematic. Feelings of envy can result in an ayin hara (a bad eye), and the heavy-heartedness of the skipped over older sibling may not bode well for the married younger. Thus chassidim try hard to avoid precipitating such negative energy fallout. Marrying children off in age sequence in the chassidish world is not simply the preferred method; it is a way of life. And since the likelihood of an eighteen year old “falling in love” is remote, their method has a high success rate.

This insight into the modus operandi of the chassidishe approach should give us pause for reflection; things are not always as they may seem on the surface. As we know but need to be reminded from time to time, knowledge leads to understanding, which in turn promotes tolerance.

A special thanks to those who wrote with offers of possible shidduch prospects for Missed the boat; your messages have been conveyed. May Hashem facilitate the shidduch process for all singles and imbue them with the intuition to recognize their intended.

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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