The somber Three Weeks period of semi-mourning that we observed recently has been quickly replaced with the whirlwind post Tisha b’av “wedding season.” With an avalanche of invitations spilling out of mailboxes, and myriad calls made regarding time and place of sheva brachot, it seems like everyone you know is joyfully making a simcha.
But unfortunately that is not the case. For many young people their goal of standing under the chuppa has not been actualized; their dream of building a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael is still just that – a dream, not a reality. As the years pass and their single status remains the same – while seemingly everyone else in their sphere of friends and relatives has moved on – the unmarried endure a private Tisha B’av on a daily basis as they mourn the emptiness and deprivation that is the lot of one who does not have a soul mate. Friends and close family – as loving and supportive as they may be – still do not make up for not having a spouse who is your pillar, your “seatbelt” and co-navigator as you wend your way together through the inevitable curves, obstacles and pitfalls that confront you on your life’s journey.
For though an older single might spend his or her free time in a crowd full of close friends, and have an active life that includes going to evening classes, shiurim, restaurants and engaging in hobbies and doing acts of chesed with a carefreeness that many marrieds would envy, the reality is that at the end of the day he/she goes home alone to an empty house.
While it might appear that unmarried men and women have less complicated lives by virtue of being on their own, and hence have fewer responsibilities and obligations to take up their time and energy, life for them is nonetheless more difficult. Ask yourself what is easier – walking half a mile on one leg or walking a whole mile on two. The non-married person may only be facing “half a mile” of responsibilities, but dealing with them on one leg (i.e. alone, with perhaps family and friends as “crutches”) can be more challenging then the “one mile walk” of his/her married counterpart, who despite their potentially overwhelming and seemingly never-ending tasks and duties, can “navigate their mile” so much more easily because each half supports and works with the other. (I am referring to a happy marriage, for if there is no shalom bayit or unity, then for each spouse, the daily “mile” involves dragging a dead weight leg, which is worse than moving on one with crutches.)
The fact is, the older single (with older being subjective – in some communities 21 is older – in others 30 plus) often feels like an “outsider” due to the emphasis among the heimisch olam on being half of a pair. While being unmarried in the secular world is quite the norm, to the degree that having a child while single has become somewhat fashionable, that is not how our community operates.
Our culture revolves around creating a nuclear family, which is obtained through marriage and children (biological or adopted). This mindset so permeates our community that almost always, as soon as a baby is born, its parents, half in jest – half seriously, mention potential shidduchim for it from among their friends’ babies. Not surprisingly, after a bris, the blessing uttered over the eight-day-old -infant boy is that he should grow to Torah, chupah and good deeds. The priority is Torah or course, with marriage a close second.
Marriage is such a valued commodity in our community that couples and singles should make it their business to help their unmarried friends achieve this state. Young couples, however may initially be in the best position to do so since the husband knowsthe bachrim and the wife knows the girls.
On Yom Kippur and on other days of yahrzeit, people make pledges to donate charity in the merit of a beloved relative – often for several of them. I suggest that on the day of their wedding, while davening under the chupah, chosens and kallahs “pledge” to work at helping a beloved friend of relative – or several – find their bashert. It has to be more than lip service – they have to follow through with their pledge and make a reasonable effort to set the single up or network on his/her behalf in a way that could lead to introductions. For example, when they as newlyweds move to a different neighborhood or town and are guests of or hosts to other couples, they can ask their peers at the table if they have single friends, and then go from there.
An important, yet difficult component of helping a friend or relative get married is offering grooming or dressing tips to maximize their presentation; or if this is an inevitable conclusion, even recommend that they go for therapy to help them see if there are deep-rooted issues they are unaware of that is holding them back from making a commitment.
Of course, everything ultimately is in Hashem’s hands, and thus there is no guarantee that one’s efforts will lead to success; but the fact that you are trying – and will continue to do so, is what counts. Being unmarried for way longer than you thought you would be can be very demoralizing and depressing and can cause a person to start questioning their intrinsic value and self-worth. Knowing that even though they are alone – but not “alone; aware that others are thinking about them and caring for them, is like helium for the soul, lifting low morale, boosting faltering egos and most importantly, raising hope.