I have received much e-mail from my readers in response to my series on “Why Can’t I Get Married?” There is one common denominator that unites them – finding a marriage partner has become one of the most challenging problems of our generation, and the older one gets, the more formidable this simple quest becomes. While this dilemma applies equally to males and females, by all indications, it appears that women suffer more. At the end of the day, in this area at least, it’s still a man’s world, with older men seeking young women, while the converse does not hold true.
Among the many recommendations that our readers seem to agree upon is that there be less focus on the romantic illusions of our 21st century that have rendered “electricity/chemistry” the criteria for all shidduchim. The time has come to focus on the examples of our patriarchs and matriarchs who regarded chesed – Torah values, as the critical ingredient for marriage.
While this is a vexing problem, affecting many, and unfortunately, there are no silver bullets or magic panaceas, I would nevertheless like to offer my own personal invitation to all singles to avail themselves of our Hineni organization’s shidduch services. And of course, remember that for a shidduch, we need Hashem’s help so constant prayer is essential. Minchah is especially propitious – a good omen for a shidduch, for it was after he davened Minchah, that our Father, Yitzchak met our Mother, Rivkah.
The following are excerpts from e-mail that has reached my desk:
I applaud your addressing the painful problem of older single Jewish women. I am in that category. I can tell you that I wasn’t picky in dating, that I was engaged to an abusive man and broke the engagement (which I do not regret). I am convinced that if I hadn’t taken that step, I would now be a divorcee with even more burdens and scars to carry. I am now 51 and because of my age, I have encountered terrible frustrations in my search. My appearance belies my age – I am slim, very attractive, personable, talented, and hold a good job, yet I have an incredibly hard time finding my soul mate.
Rebbetzin, without going into detail, I suffered much pain in my search. I am not from a religious background and chose to be frum – observant. One would think that, with my qualifications, it would be easy to find a shidduch, but sadly, the opposite is true… I have been reduced to a number – “51” – and it is humiliating. I just want to marry and build a beautiful Jewish home, but men want women who are much younger than they are. They are simply unrealistic and think that they will get someone 30-years-old even though they are over 50. It is very tragic, because, in our contemporary society, as people get older, they become less desirable as marriage partners.
Surely Hashem must have someone for us. Surely He has not destined us to live our lives in loneliness. What can we do to build a vessel so that we might receive this blessing of marriage? I hope that your column will speak to all older singles – and I mean not only to women, but to men as well so that we might go under the chuppah and build Jewish homes before our lives pass us by.
May Hashem bless you for all the incredible work that you do – for your dedication – your passion – your love.
Letter # 2
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I’ve read your column for many years, starting from before I became observant. Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of singles and non-singles alike. When I read this column, I was moved to write to you for the first time. As you say, this issue is complex, and in my observations it is as difficult in the religious as in the non-religious world. I’ve come to believe that there is a crucial factor that must be addressed. While of course there are always exceptions, and by no means should my comments be viewed as something that applies to everyone, I do believe that among older men, marriage is no longer an imperative, even if they loudly protest to the contrary.
On the other hand, women yearn for marriage and family and are willing to put in whatever effort is necessary; networking with matchmakers and making spiritual, emotional, physical and psychological improvements. They try to look at shidduchim with a “good eye,” but this does not appear to hold true for most men. Of course, this is not always their official position, but in practice it becomes clear that they are not as driven to marry and do not consider the single state an unbearable void in their lives.
We are taught that the first criterion in an appropriate marriage partner is Yiras Shamayim – fear/awe of Heaven – commitment to our Torah values. Of course, this has many implications and dimensions, but what I am getting at is that if observant men would meditate on the fact that marriage is a mitzvah from Hashem, things would look quite different.
In the same way that they would stop at nothing to put on tefillin and search for it even it they had mistakenly misplaced it, similarly, they would stop at nothing to find their missing half – their soul mate. They would realize that to be a frum Jew is to be married – and that their service to Hashem is incomplete without their entering into the holy covenant of marriage.
Marriage is good, it is G-dly (surely it is not rational) and just like a father rushes to make his son’s Bris early in the morning, men must rush to fulfill this vital mitzvah as soon as possible
Thank you for your consideration in publishing this letter.
With Warmest regards and Chag Kosher V’Sameach.
Letter # 3
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I have been following with interest your series of columns on the difficulties of getting married in today’s society. I originally wrote to you with my own woes in that area, but I also have thoughts on that issue arising from my own conversations with people in similar circumstances, be they married or single. Since you requested input in your latest column, I decided to share a bit more with you.
You hit on a strong factor with the “chemistry” issue, but I think it needs to be delved into more deeply. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who think romantic love is the be-all and end-all of marriage, and that if the “romance” is gone, it justifies “moving on.”
Like you, I do not deny that attraction is important, but it is not love and should not be mistaken for it. Love is an action of the will, a choice, but so many think it is a force of nature, of something that strikes like lightning and those who are so struck must follow its dictates, even if it means destroying other relationships, whether it be with parents, siblings, or current spouses and children.
In my opinion, attraction can draw a couple together, but love is something else – something that must be earned and given to someone who is honorable and trustworthy and is willing to live up to the demands of marriage and raising a family. Even if you don’t feel “chemistry” right away, love develops over the years. This is substantiated by our Torah. Let us consider the example of Isaac and Rebekah, regarding whom it is written that it was only after marriage that they experienced true love.
Of course, all this assumes that a potential spouse will be evaluated. Eliezer, the trusted agent of Abraham evaluated Rebekah before he recognized her as a proper shidduch. I’ve found that nowadays, many people evaluate a potential spouse less carefully than they would a sitter for their cocker spaniel.
Thanks again for taking on this difficult, painful subject. And I do hope that, G-d willing, you will write a book on the subject!
(If you like, you may publish any or all of the comments in this e-mail, but please do not publish my name. Thanks!)Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis