Reprinted with permission from author’s blog “Libi BaMizrach“
To the Editor of Mishpacha Magazine:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I read the article by Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz entitled “There IS no Shidduch Crisis” in your August 6 edition with great interest. I want to thank him, and you, for devoting so much attention to this very serious issue. Upon reflection, I would like to make the following observations, some of which differ with Mr. Rechnitz. I base myself on my experience of having been, ב”ה, “in the Parsha” and married three children in the past two years, and from what I hear as a Rav and a member of the community.
To begin with, let me summarize what I feel are the main points of Rechnitz’ presentation:
Too few of the young women are married by age 21. It is not a crisis, but a “catastrophe” that, for example in Los Angeles, only 13 of 72 girls of a high school graduating class were engaged or married by age 21-22. Furthermore, “Any change should not have to come from the girls”, as the risk to the current group of girls is too high if they will wait until they are older to begin dating”. This is not “a problem among Chassidim and Chareidim in Eretz Yisroel, and other populations. It is only “our oilam – the American Yeshiva World – that is dealing with a self-created problem”. This is a problem to which too many have become “deaf, blind, and desensitized. We speak about it and then push it aside as we digest our dessert.” The problem has nothing to do with money, as “money cannot and will not solve this catastrophe.” The core of the proposed solution is that bochurim should begin shidduchim when they are about 20 or 21, and an elaborate description of how the yeshivos would adapt to this is laid out. Even though the bochurim may be insufficiently mature at this age for marriage, (or even at 23), they can be expected to rise to the occasion and “quickly become men” when they need to, much as young men do in the army, or during times of crisis — you “grow into the role”.
I would like to examine these points, in the order noted above.
The notion that if young women are not married by age 21 or 22, it is a catastrophe in the making.
In short, I believe that this type of thinking is, in itself, one of the main causes of the problem.
Apparently there is an unwritten rule that as soon as a young woman in our community finishes the year after high school, or even earlier, she must immediately enter the shidduch process. If a year goes by, and it is two whole years, Heaven forfend, after High School, and the big Two Oh looms, it is time to begin panicking and to enter crisis mode. Why? Why do we already begin to consider this a crisis and misfortune, and 21 year old girls begin worrying about becoming spinsters?
Here are some possible factors that ought to be examined in the light of this problem: There is an ethic that it is undesirable, or even dangerous, for a young woman to have finished High School and Seminary, and not be interested in getting married quite yet. That somehow it will be harmful if she finds employment or goes on for higher education for a year or two while having some degree of independence.
While many young women do want to marry younger, I know of many others who would prefer to have a year or two as a young adult without having the responsibilities, and yes, the burdens, of being a wife and mother by age twenty. To be free to work, explore, travel, see something of the world outside of school and seminary and figure out for themselves who they are and where they fit in to the community. They resent greatly the pressure of having to immediately put all their efforts into getting married, for fear of being “left out” while “all the good bochurim will already be taken”.Rabbi Lenny Oppenheimer