Unsettling Phenomenon In Yeshivish Circles
Once upon a time it was understood from day one of a married life that it was the husband’s duty to support his family. If the wife cared to shoulder that responsibility in order to afford her husband the luxury of learning full time, she had the right to do so — with one caveat: the husband would willingly and graciously take upon himself the burden of parnassa when his wife would no longer be able to carry it.
Needless to say, the husband privileged to spend his hours in Torah study never failed to appreciate his wife’s sacrifice, never took it for granted, and made sure to help lighten her load at home to the best of his ability. The wife was not shy in asking for her husband’s help as needed, nor did she feel inept when doing so, or guilty for “taking him away from his Torah learning.”
In recent years we seem to have turned a tide. Today young men feel that having the wife (or her parents) provide parnassa is a given, while his only job is to provide the Torah learning. They may actually believe that this was Hashem’s plan when He created the institution of marriage.
This mindset has generated a new attitude in regard to shidduchim. I have had single males tell me that if a young lady is looking for someone who has “a plan,” she is not machshiv (respectful of) Torah and therefore not for them. Single females who state their willingness to support their husbands for a set amount of time are likewise being declined for not being truly machshiv Torah. The young male does not feel it a luxury – but rather his G-d-given right – to learn full time for as long as he desires and will only consider a young lady willing to shoulder the burden of parnassa without stipulations of any kind.
Terrified that they will never get married, many girls agree to this arrangement – often with devastating results (for themselves as well as for their parents who are inevitably affected). Those with a more realistic/practical approach, who are unwilling to go along with this arrangement, are experiencing increasing difficulty in finding men who will learn after marriage, but seriously commit to their obligation of providing for parnassa at the appropriate time.
We seem to have taken the curse that Hashem gave to man and handed it over to the woman. We seem to have decided that the kesubah makes no sense for a true Jewish home. We seem to have reversed the roles; women leave the confines of their home (and their babies) and face the world, whereas husbands sit inside (the bais medrash), shielded from the outside world.
We seem to have determined that it is more beneficial for a Jewish home to have substitutes (for mothers) taking care of the little ones, so that the husbands/fathers can learn undisturbed. And we are creating a generation of children who presume that Mommies go to work while Tatties only go to learn.
The reader who agrees that this is the way it should be may as well stop reading right here and now. However, those who see something wrong with this picture can perhaps help bring about a change.
For starters, word has to get out that many frum young ladies today would be very happy to marry young men with a concrete plan for parnassa (with or without college), who may either wish to learn for a select few years and thereafter go to work, or even begin earning a livelihood directly or shortly after marriage — while being kovei itim l’Torah (setting aside regular learning time).
Do not believe the shadchan who will tell you otherwise. Encourage your sons to not fear formulating concrete plans for parnassa before marriage. Impress upon them that this is indeed the Torah way — as well as what they commit to under the chuppah. If you have sons who are not cut out for full time learning, you do them (and their future wives) a great disservice by advising them to “act the part.” The truth will come out after marriage, with possibly devastating results.
The fringe benefits of this change in attitude: For one, it will lead to more shidduchim, because the financial status of a young lady and her parents will no longer play such a huge role in the decision-making process, and more girls from financially moderate homes will be enabled to find a shidduch. Secondly, our down-to-earth daughters will more easily find suitable boys (who will work immediately after marriage or as the need arises).
The reader who concurs with the need for change can copy this article and share it with the mentors of our girls and boys. It is no secret that parents do not have the same authority over their children as they did in the past; children are far more apt to listen to their mentors. Unfortunately, the fallout/ramifications of the decisions of the latter usually end up on the parents’ doorsteps.
“…Praiseworthy is each person who fears Hashem, who walks in His path. When you eat the labor of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the inner chambers of your home; your children shall be like olive shoots surrounding your table. Behold! For so is blessed the man who fears Hashem….” (Tehillim, perek 128)
A Concerned Shadchan
Your concern is well warranted; this problem is as pervasive today as it’s ever been. As a shadchan you are in tune with the way things are in the world of shidduchim and have gained a keen perspective from first hand experience and up close observations. Thus you are able to present a compelling argument for the purpose of promoting the pairing of zivugim and subsequent shalom bayis, harmony and healthy parenting in the Jewish home.
As always, readers are welcome to contribute their views and personal experiences.
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