Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Shidduch Crisis: A spiritual explanation

Update  - Rap's Rebuttal

Guest Post Rabbi Yoel Small, M.Ed.

More and more Americans are choosing not to marry. The percentage of never married Americans over the age of 25 has more than doubled to over 20 percent. Forty five percent of these never-married Americans over the age of 25 either do not want to marry or are unsure whether they would eventually like to get married. (See link) Of those that do marry, over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. To sum up, we reside in a society that is continuously downgrading the value of families. 

Unfortunately, these attitudes have infiltrated our communities as well. The singles scene in the Upper West Side and Washington Heights neighborhoods of Manhattan - which hosts thousands of Jewish singles over the age twenty five - is one of its products. The alarming, ever-rising divorce rate is another one that has its roots the discard of the value of maintaining a wholesome family setting. 

Our community has also unfortunately been affected by a seemingly unrelated marital crises - the shidduch crises. This crises is unique in that it seems to only be affecting women. While several explanations have been suggested as the route cause of the crises, the age-gap theory is the predominant one.

There have been several initiatives that have been advanced to rectify the shidduch crises. One philanthropist, in an effort to ease the shidduch crises, has offered to ensure that, under certain conditions, each matchmaker will relieve $10,000 per match made.

The Rambam rules that when we see a crises befall our community, we have a responsibility to soul-search in order to understand why Hashem has brought this upon us - which will cause the  crises to leave us. The Rambam notes further, that refraining from soul-searching and attributing the crises to natural causes is cruelty

WHILE we’ve seen technical explanations as to why there may be a shidduch crises, have we seen spiritual reasons suggested? 

Is it possible that Hashem has allowed this shidduch crises to come about in order to save the Yiddishe family? As we’ve noted, we reside in a society where more than one out of every two marriages end in divorce, and the rate is continuously rising. Unfortunately, in our communities the divorce rate is also, sadly increasing at an alarming rate. 

What is the cause of all these divorces? While I cannot answer this question, the fact is that the vast majority of divorces are initiated and sought by the wife. Several studies have been conducted as to which party chooses to divorce. The studies vary in their results. However according the lowest study, over 66 percent of divorces are initiated by the wife and 20% by the husband (11% were mutually sought). According to one study, over 90% of divorces are initiated by the wife. That’s between a three to one and a 9 to 1 ratio. Many therapists have explained that the woman, even with children, feels that “she could do better” - find a better husband and selfishly abandons her marriage.

It is very possible that maybe, just maybe, Hashem created the shidduch challenge we currently face in order to protect and secure the Jewish family from these societal influences. A person values and appreciates an item that was difficult to obtain much more than an item that was obtained with little effort. A wife will value a marriage that she had to, unfortunately, wait and seek for a very long time, much more than had it come effortlessly. It won’t be easy for her to just pick up one day and say “I can do better”, when she is aware that “it’s a man’s world out there”.

(Rabbi Tzadok Katz once mentioned in the American Yated that NASI has conducted studies that have shown that certain communities have barley been affected by the shidduch crises. Those communities that are less affected are the communities that seem to be less influenced by secular society and are a lot less likely to seek a divorce, unless absolutely necessary. And their definition of absolutely necessary does not include “I could do better”.)  

So in conjunction to these fine initiatives being advanced in order to solve the shidduch crises, wouldn’t it be prudent upon us to internalize the value of marriage, the way Hashem would like us to treat marriage? 

As many segulos are available and suggested, I would like to propose one as well. Can we suggest that a segula for a young woman to overcome her own personal shidduch crises would be to internalize and appreciate the value of marriage. To firmly accept upon herself that as soon as she merits to marry, she will value and appreciate the marriage. Once married, she will feel a responsibility towards her spouse and will never, ever seek to end it to “do better”. Midah kneged midah, may Hashem save her time and anguish, and unite her with her zivug quickly. Omain!

======================Rap's Rebuttal ===================

There is no "spiritual shidduch crisis" – it's all (hu)man made!

Guest post by RaP

Most of society's problems are created for very real reasons that have to do with the people who live in that society. The talk about a "shidduch crisis" in the frum world often leaves one thinking as if it's some sort of disjointed inexplicable surprise "earthquake" or "tsunami" that has risen from the dark beyond or mysterious deep and hit us hard, when that is far from the truth.

Over many decades of observing the rising problems relating to dating, shidduchim, older singles, out of town singles, singles events and all the constant talk about this subject, it becomes quite obvious that for some or other reasons the real factors that are at work are often overlooked or are just too tough to face.

Here are some hard-earned observations and conclusions based on real-life interactions with people seeking shidduchim in the frum world, from modern Orthodox, Yeshivish or Charedi, to strictly Chasidish, in no particular hierarchy of importance:

Young people today are not prepared for the hard realities of married life. The luxurious lifestyle and catering to every last whim of children and teens does not prepare them for either dating or marriage. Years spent in yeshivos, Jewish day schools and bais yaakovs where teachers fear for their salaries and never really talk about the daily sacrifices required to meet and keep one's bashert. Never-ending amusement trips, summer camps, vacations and the many family happy events are not good preparation for practical realities like getting and holding a job, buying groceries, paying bills, and managing a budget, taking out the garbage and doing laundry, and the real pain of having babies, changing diapers and raising children.

In short there is a major disconnect between the chinuch offered up and the requirements of real life at the end of the day. Kids expect to have all their wishes met, all expenses paid, and be taken care of, when to date and get married requires that you take care of that other person you are dating, then your spouse, children and home.

So many people just prefer staying at home and eating Mom's delicious kugels and cakes rather than face the ugly cruel world out there.

Too many people are brainwashed by the need for "perfect looks" as if a nation of narcissists has arisen. Every boy wants a beautiful thin (and rich) girl who looks stunning, and every girl dreams of a handsome prince from some romantic tale. This is a common affliction in America and the frum suffer from it a lot even though they are not as involved in the mainstream culture. Yet hardly anyone cares that beauty is only skin deep and "sheker hachein vehevel hayofi" is a very real bit of practical advice.

How many people put Yiras Shomayim and real Mentsclichkeit before anything else? In short people's values are skewered beyond repair so that it's no surprise that a lot of folks can't hook up because they are lost in dreamland.

In some circles girls are educated to "support" boys in Kollel. This was a very vital and important idea after the Holocaust a "hora'as sha'ah" to boost the status of Limmud HaTorah in a world that had lost the cream of its Torah scholars in the Holocaust and to assimilation. But that was then, and this is now. Today we have hundreds of thousands if not millions of strict Torah-observant Jews, and tens of thousands of Torah learners with yeshivos bursting at the seams.

The reality now is that people cannot count on other's supporting them for long periods.

Even very frum families cannot do it because it is impossible to support ten scholars in every family if every family is "only" pushing for Kollel marriages. The frum educational system is still functioning as if it's in a world of Shtetels when it fact we are in world of wealth with high standards of living. The world of the Chofetz Chaim living in a hut with mud floors is long gone, today people require luxuries as necessities. Among the modern Orthodox they have another social sickness, convinced that every kid has to go to an Ivy League college ignoring that with that comes mixed dorms, and moral destruction. Yet for them it is "college ubber alles" no matter that most of those kids lose their Jewish identity on campus very quickly. Needless to say living on a modern college campus is the worst preparation for dating and marriage, and that should be self-understood but it is ignored for the sake of getting a degree, in anything, at all costs. It is a tragedy!

Tuitions and living expenses related to raising children, even for dating itself, are sky-high, and for the Charedi world what is needed is more income producing men. The Chasidish world is ahead of the game here, especially in America, they push their young men out to work soon after marriage and thus it's more doable for them to marry at a young age, while their modern Orthodox and Yeshivish compatriots flounder for a form of parnossa. Thus, young women often rebel and seek higher employment, which is logical, but then that locks them out of the Kollel-shidduchim. Working guys and higher earning women are a big part of the unmarried population and it's because they are being discriminated against for not being in Kollel.

Another major factor that contributes to girls being single in the Yeshivish community, is that unlike in the Chasidish world where girls do not go overseas to seminaries, it has now become "the divine right" of most Yeshvish girls in America, like the modern Orthodox girls do, to expect a year or two of an all expenses paid year or two of study, touring, and fun and games in Israel. During 12th grade she dreams of being in Israel, then spends a year or two out of circulation in Har Nof, then it takes another year or two for her to land and get down to dating back home in the USA. By that time she is already about 21 and she wonders why she is not getting as many dates. Unlike the Chasidish girls who do not leave home, get a good practical Chinuch in home making and being a good wife and mother who start dating by 18 and by 20 most are married.

It's absurd to read ads in the frum papers urging parents not to send their sons to Israel to help solve the lack of good guys, when the problem is the girls who should not be sent away when they should be dating instead and getting ready for marriage. But no, people must have their good times, nothing to do with preparation for dating, marriage or life, just another entitlement and desire for long vacations, being taken care of by Mommy and Daddy, and the easy life.

Then people wonder why things are not working out. How can they if you spend your life and all your money spoiling your children, giving in to all their whims, and then wondering why they don't know how to have a real relationship with a member of the opposite sex and be ready for marriage, parenthood, home-building and dealing with all the curve balls life throws at you and still be in one good monogamous healthy marriage for life, til death do us part, something that is becoming harder and harder to attain, due to our own very human failings.


  1. And what ist the contribution you expect from men?

  2. The figure quoted, "50% of marriages end in divorce". That not to say that 50% of people who get married get divorced, in my opinion. A large part of that 50% are second marriages, meaning that those that get divorced are more inclined to get divorced again than those that never divorced.

  3. When they say we have more divorces than before, is that because there are more of us now or is it a higher percentage than before?

  4. No contribution from men needed, presumably. Acc. to this shtickel Torah, it's mostly the women who are undermining marriage, so they are getting their arms twisted so that they'll behave better.

  5. He should also internalize and appreciate the value of marriage and commit to remain married and not give it up.

  6. Sadly, I tend to agree.


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