(12th in a series on Matzav.com)
By Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin MA
We live in modern times and therefore often take on modern ways of thinking without being fully aware of it. Our surrounding cultures influence us, while Yiddishkeit reminds us never to forget who we are as a Torah nation and how Torah Jews are supposed to think and act. It is not easy, as we all know.
In the last few years, when the so-called shidduch crisis in the frum world has been discussed or written about, there has been a strong tendency to cite statistics and numbers and charts. This is understandable, because we use technology, which is all mathematically based on “ones and zeros,” and our computer programs generate automatic flowcharts and columns, requiring us to just fill in data and numbers. Our brains have become wired and conditioned to think that way, and we think it is a normal “Jewish” way of thinking, when it really is not, in my opinion.
If anything, the Torah and all of Tanach and all the related Torah and rabbinic literature teach the exact opposite of our modern way of thinking. The lesson from Hashem over and over again is that numbers do not count. It is a different way of thinking.
Just stop for a minute and consider just a few examples from the Torah. Avrohom Avinu and Sarah Imeinu could not have children because Sarah was childless and they were both too old to have children. Even when G-d sends angels to tell them that they will have a child in their old age, they laugh at that, because they were going with the conventional thinking of people that old folks cannot have babies. Yet, obviously, anything is possible if it is the ratzon Hashem. Likewise, no matter how strong the numbers of our enemies seem, if Hashem does not will it, then no army, no matter how many soldiers are in it, can ever win.
So, obviously, in Hashem’s eyes, numbers and statistics do not matter. It is what Hashem wants and tells us through the Torah that is important. The rest is not for us to worry about, no matter how “convincing” it may seem. Just forget about it. It means nothing as far as Yiddishkeit is concerned.
I would always tell my children and any people I was counseling about shidduchim never to be impressed when they hear how many others are “competing” with them, because it is not important. I would tell them, “All you are looking for is just one person to marry. Do not worry about trends. People get overwhelmed and they think they must do the impossible, but it is not so.”
Say you were looking for a job. Would you ever say that there are too many other people who are also job hunting, so you will give up? No. You keep on looking seriously, you have emunah and bitachon, and if you are serious and qualified and realistic, you will find that one job. Likewise, with shidduchim, you are just looking for that one bashert.
In many of the statistics about the shidduch crisis and the concerns about age gaps between males and females, the whole approach is faulty, because it is going with the conventional assumption that shidduchim must take place within one type of group, while the truth is that, as people, we have vast options, if only we went out and took advantage of them. Chassidim are better at this, I think, than the English-speaking yeshiva world.
You often hear among Chassidic families that they are having weddings in Israel, England, Belgium, or Canada. You hear far less of this among our yeshiva crowd. Who says that you are right that you will only marry within your own pre-selected type of socio-economic and religious type of people, living in only a favorite geographic area?
In Israel, we hear a lot more of Ashkenazim marrying Sefardim, while in the yeshiva circles, it is not as common. People have decided that they only want to marry the boy or girl “next door,” and they get fixated on that. Then they read statistics on Matzav or elsewhere that discourage them. Then some people start doing what is known as “social engineering,” advising total strangers that they must get married “older” or “younger,” when it is nobody’s business.
We can only know what it says in halachah and the Shulchan Aruch, which is that it is advisable to marry at 18 years of age. Neither you nor I made this up. It is in the Shulchan Aruch, and that is what should be the focus – not charts and statistics coming from people no one really knows about.
Every single human being deserves happiness. Everyone deserves to get married. If within one group of people, there are blockages and delays in getting married, then you do what you would do in any situation in life: You look around, or you move on, or you find other people who can help you. It’s like being on the road. Many times, I have been on a bus from the Port Authority in New York City to the Catskills and there are slowdowns due to heavy traffic. Many times, the good drivers will not care; they will just take the next exit off the swamped highways and use smaller, lesser knows roads with hardly any traffic.
The same applies to life and shidduchim. Sometimes we get stuck on the highway of life and on the Shidduchim Super Highway. Out job, then, is not to “get lost in traffic,” but to “get off at the next exit” and figure out how to get to our destination along roads we may not have chosen in the first place. But we know that life requires us to be practical, so we get smart and use the lesser known roads to get home safely.
Not everyone has to or can marry a person who is a carbon copy of themselves. Hashem has plans for all of us that might not be what we think they will be. Not enough is left for the unknown. People want to know that they will get their “order,” as if they were in a restaurant. Life is not like that. There is no such thing as instant “mail order” brides or grooms in the Torah world. You must work with the unknowns as much as with what is in front of you.
We have our precious Torah to teach us that. The Torah tells us how our avos and imahos met and married. It was not all planned or by the numbers.
As a final thought connected to Pesach, we see that Moshe Rabbeinu met and married Tzipora outside of Mitzrayim. He did not find his shidduch through shadchanim or whatever method the Bnai Yisroel used to marry each other in Mitzrayim. Instead, he set out in life on a journey not knowing how it would end, and along the way he met the righteous Tzipora, the daughter of Yisro, and she became his wife.
Have a chag kosher vesomeiach and a wonderful Pesach.
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin lives in Flatbush and is the director of the Jewish Professionals Institute www.jpi.org. He and his wife Zahava, although they are not shadchanim, have counseled many in the area of shidduchim and dating. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718 382 5610 and 718 382 8058.