This is a follow-up to the Matzav.com well-commented-on article earlier this week regarding the shidduch crisis.
At the beginning of last year, there was a kol koreh, an open letter, which was widely publicized and signed by nearly every major American Rosh Yeshiva. It stated that they have pinpointed the root cause of the shidduch crisis. They wrote that the “primary cause” of it is the age gap, the fact that boys marry girls that are several years younger than them. Since in any growing population there are always more younger people than older people, there are many more girls on the market than boys and therefore many girls cannot find a shidduch.
This was stated as a fact by our Roshei Yeshivos. In other words, the next time you are sitting by a table, and someone says, “You know why there’s a shidduch crisis, it’s because…” and they give one of the many explanations that have been tossed around over the years – “It’s because nowadays the girls are too picky,” or “there are more good boys than good girls”, or “it’s a gezeirah from shomayim, and there is absolutely no hishtadlus that can change the situation” – you have to carefully examine what they are unwittingly saying. They are saying that although there was a kol koreh signed by nearly every leading Rosh Yeshiva (66, to be exact), and they wrote that they had finally found the “primary reason” for the crisis, this person is saying, “I disagree with them. That is not the primary reason. There is another explanation for it.”
We are left with a “mathematical” problem – that the age gap of four years between the boys and the girls in the shidduch market is just too large. There are only two mathematical solutions. Wither the girls wait until they are older to enter the market or the boys enter the market earlier. There is no doubt that either of these would drastically improve the current shidduch situation. However there is one very important point to consider: the fact that something makes sense mathematically is not enough. Which of these things can actually happen in real life? In other words, is it a theoretical solution or is it a practical solution?
The first option: The idea to have a “freezer” for the girls makes sense, and would definitely help tremendously, but it is very unlikely for it to ever occur. How will it happen? Which parent will volunteer that their daughter should be the “korbon”? Even if the gedolim sign a letter forbidding girls to date until they are 20, it is something that would be very hard to enforce. Parents are so nervous about their daughters becoming an “older single” that it would be very painful for them to have their daughters stay out of the shidduch market.
There is a variation of this solution which has been widely proposed, and that is that there should be an unofficial freezer. It wouldn’t be the girls that would volunteer to be “frozen,” but they would be frozen by the boys. In other words, the boys shouldn’t go out with younger girls, rather they should be encouraged to date girls who are closer their age. Additionally, the shadchanim should try to suggest older girls to the boys, instead of suggesting younger girls. This solution however, is only a partial one, as many boys will want to go out with the best girl that they can find, even if she happens to be a younger girl.
In short, the whole idea of trying to keep younger girls from the shidduch market – either by having a freezer, or by telling boys not to go out with younger girls – is a very good idea in theory, but it just isn’t so practical.
The second option: The other way to reduce the age gap is for boys to date when they are younger, perhaps when they are 21. They wouldn’t be the exact same age as the girls, but it still would drastically reduce the intensity of the shidduch crisis. This would require a major change – that most boys would not go to learn in Eretz Yisrael before they are married. This change would remove the tremendous pain of thousands of girls who are desperate for a shidduch.
The advantage to this solution is that it is very practical. It can happen in real life. Let me explain.
Most boys who go Eretz Yisroel go the very large yeshivos. Usually the majority of the boys from their American yeshiva stick together and go to a specific yeshiva. Every few years there is a new smaller yeshiva that opens up – usually from the Brisker derech – and there will be a core of bochurim from one or two yeshivos that form the nucleus of the yeshiva. If you ask around, why a particular group goes to a specific yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel, you will usually hear expressions like this:
“Reb Reuven sent his oilim to ….. this year”
“Reb Shimon told his oilam not to go to ….. this year, but instead to go to ……”
Although the boys’ roshei yeshivos are usually not very forceful in suggesting a specific yeshiva, nevertheless most bochurim take their suggestions very seriously. Bochurim have tremendous respect for their Roshei Yeshiva and they will follow his advice. Although many boys can sometimes lose their close connection after many years, nevertheless, at this point in their lives, a bochur’s Rosh Yeshiva has an enormous influence on him. If a Rosh Yeshiva would tell his boys that the shidduch crisis has reached a breaking point, and the boys should stay in America, it is hard to believe that a bochur would violate a direct command of his own Rosh Yeshiva.
If thousands of boys would stay in America, it would have an unbelievable impact on the shidduch market. It is hard to even imagine – but it would be possible for a girl’s parents to get a few phone calls a week, suggesting shidduchim for their daughters.
This solution is not just a mathematical theory. It is very practical.
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