To the Shadchan:
My son, who is in yeshiva, just turned 21. Like me, he has seen the ads and articles in various publications about the shidduch crisis, including the idea that boys should get married at a younger age. (The assumption is that eliminating the age gap between boys and girls would help equalize the numbers of boys and girls in the “market.”)
He is not asking me to help him find a wife, so maybe he is not ready yet – although I get the feeling he is worried about it. I, too, am not sure he is ready to get married. But looking ahead, I am thinking about what to say if he does bring it up. Normally, I would encourage him to wait until he is older, but I am wondering whether these ads apply to him. How would I know if he is ready to get married? What kinds of qualities in him should I be looking for? How can he and I know when would be the right time to start searching?
I occasionally insert the topic of “what kind of girl are you looking for” into our conversations. Should I continue that, or should I avoid it, so as not to encourage him to pursue marriage at this time? Any guidance you can give me would be appreciated.
The Shadchan answers:
We have all seen the ads and articles about the “shidduch crisis” with the suggestion that boys should marry younger and to older girls. In my opinion, distilled from my many years of “redting” shidduchim, the current crisis has nothing to do with age. I know that many may not agree with my answer, but what I see is a self-made crisis. This is the cause of so many wonderful, beautiful, and tzniusdik girls who are still single.
Too many michsholim (obstacles) are put in the way of couples even meeting. Our mesora advises young men to marry a bas talmid chacham, the daughter of a learned man. Yet I know of many cases where the talmid chacham is forgotten. Instead, people want to know about the bank account. (Oh – the girl also has to be size two and beautiful.) Once the girl’s family promises support, the phone starts ringing. The parents have to make a commitment to support a son-in-law for X number of years in the manner to which he is accustomed, even if they have financial difficulties. The latest shtick is that the girl must meet the mother personally, or the mother has to at least view a picture to see if she is “right” for her son. If the prospective date doesn’t pass all these tests, she is told there is a “list,” and the boy’s family moves on.
You might have noticed that there are no pictures of women in the Yated or Hamodia, Mishpacha or Ami, yet people demand a picture before they will approve the girl. Great rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael and America have called this practice improper and unbecoming. Yet mothers counter that their sons don’t have time for bitul Torah (wasting study time), which would occur if they date a girl who does not have the “look” they want.
But let’s get back to your dilemma: Your son is 21 and in yeshiva. Perhaps he is getting scared when he sees these ads and questions whether he should start going out, because that is now the thing to do. My first question is whether he is mature and independent enough to make his own decision about this, or whether he will ask his mother or his rebbe what to do. It doesn’t matter if he is 21, 23, or 27; the real question– and you mention this in your letter – is if he is ready for marriage. Marriage is not just about the excitement of becoming a chassan and the wedding day. Is he prepared to face the trials and tribulations that come with building a life with a wife and children? Is he equipped for what comes later? Does he have a plan? Is he going to school? What kind of parnassa will he have after his year or two in kollel?
If he asks himself these questions, he will know when he is ready to start dating. It does not matter how long it takes him to figure things out; everything will fall into place at the right time. He cannot be “pushed” into it. There will be a girl out there for him in a year or two or three. Don’t forget, shidduchim are made by the Ribono Shel Olam. We are just the messengers.
You are the mother of a boy, so your son should not have a problem finding the right girl. Unfortunately, it is the girl’s parents who have to worry. (As they say, “The girls need a press secretary, and the boys need a social secretary.”) As far as your role, I think you can ask him what he is looking for, so that he can give it some thought and know what he wants when he is ready. I do not think you should go any further than that. Please let him decide on his own. Let him come to his parents and tell them when he is ready to go out!
Above all, please don’t get over-involved, other than looking into the references. This is how it was years ago, and believe me it worked! Think about your parents and grandparents. Don’t you think that the older generation did something right? People didn’t look at age, which is just a number. When you were ready, you got married. And you married for you, not for anyone else. You brought the girl you chose to meet your parents when you felt confident that this was the girl you wanted to marry. There was no shidduch crisis then, because there were no meshugasim (foolishness) then.
We need to ask ourselves, is this what Hashem wants of us? That our daughters should be crying year after year? This problem will never end until we go back to yesteryear, when the girls were “princesses” and not commodities.
I hope I have answered some of your concerns. May Hashem bring your son his bashert in the right place at the right time and bring you much nachas. Hazlacha rabba.