The Matzav Rant: Dealing With The Age Gap – A Different Way

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age-gap-smallBy Shmuel Miskin

We all continue to grapple with the “shidduch crisis” and spend our days and nights analyzing whether the age gap is the true cause or not.

It seems that most people do agree that the obvious root of the current problem involves the disparity between the ages at which boys and girls begin to become involved in shidduchim. Therefore, the obvious solution would be to arrange that boys and girls marry at the same age.

Unfortunately, this is very impractical under the current conditions. To suggest that boys only consider girls their age is unrealistic for a number of reasons. Firstly, by the time most boys begin shidduchim, the selection of girls of that age is much more limited, since they have been dating and marrying for a few years. Meanwhile, a new group of younger girls has just entered the market. Thus, the selection is much greater among that group, so it is only natural that boys will begin their search among this larger group. Additionally, although there are many wonderful “older” girls available, there is a feeling that someone who has been involved in such an emotionally trying situation for 3+ years begins to be affected by it. It may be unfair or untrue, and may not even be a conscious decision, but the subconscious feeling remains. Also, until it becomes more common socially, nobody will want to be “the one” to make the first move. Therefore, a solution must include a change in the time boys and girls begin dating, and not just the age group they date.

This, however, is also extremely difficult. To suggest, as some have done, that girls wait to date until they are older is also impossible to implement. Considering the current crisis, nobody wants to wait and risk decreasing one’s own time span to be involved in shidduchim. Furthermore, many prominent rabbonim strongly maintain that girls should marry (or at least do their hishtadlus to get married) immediately after leaving Bais Yaakov, seminary, etc. A possible solution to this issue would be an extended seminary program designed both to provide a positive environment and to delay the beginning of the shidduch search.

From the boy’s perspective, it is difficult to consider starting the search any earlier. The achrayus involved in a campaign to reduce these years spent as a bochur in yeshiva, is immense. Only the gedolei hador and roshei yeshiva are qualified to make such a decision.

I do not know the solution to these problems. I do, however, have one suggestion related to me by a friend which can be implemented with minimal inconvenience and can potentially reduce the problem by a considerate margin. It is strictly a long-term solution and the results will take years to be felt, but Chazal say that a chochom is someone who is ro’eh es hanolad.

The proposal is to change the age in which children are admitted to school. Under the current system, January is the customary date, with children 5 ½ to 6 ½ starting 1st grade each September. The suggestion is that we move the cutoff date six months earlier for boys and six months later for girls. Thus, boys would enter first grade at the age of 5 to 6 and girls would enter at the age of 6 to 7. The result would be that the bochurim would graduate from high school an average of a half a year younger and girls would graduate a half a year older. Thus, even if we continue the trend of 1-2 years seminary and 4-5 years of bais medrash, there will still be a reduction of a full year in the difference between when boys and girls begin dating.

To illustrate, let’s use the children who will be starting first grade during the next school year, September 2010. The current system will include all those born from January thru December 2004, ranging in age from 5 ½ for those born at the end of the year to 6 ½ for those born at the beginning. Under the proposed system, boys born from July 2004 thru June 2005 will go into first grade, so even the oldest ones will have just turned 6. Meanwhile, girls born from July 2003 thru June 2004 will also go into first grade, so the youngest ones will already have turned 6 and the oldest will be 7. When they graduate high school in June/July 2022, the boys will be a maximum age of 18, while the girls will all be 18 and some will already be or will be approaching 19, as opposed to the current system where both boys and girls graduate between the ages of 17½  and 18 ½. After their years in bais medrash, boys would be an average of a ½ year older. When deciding when to begin shidduchim, age plays a lesser role than the number of years since graduation, so the age at which they begin to be involved in shidduchim will correspond accordingly.

This plan will admittedly have some interesting effects. The most obvious is that boys in a given grade will be one year younger than girls in that same grade. However, this is a small price to pay if the system can have a positive effect. A more serious problem will be in the first class of the new system. As a result of the change, there will be an age group spanning 1 ½ years in that first class of boys, and only half-a-year for the same class of girls, and it would remain that way throughout their school years. This would cause an imbalance in class sizes, affecting the numbers of teachers required. It may be more practical to implement the change over a span of 3 years, changing the cutoff only 2 months at a time. The details would have to be worked out by schools, but should not prove to be insurmountable.

I understand that we need to work on solving the problem now, and this approach is definitely not intended to do that. However, if we can reduce the potential problem for the future, in tandem with other solutions and ideas, perhaps we can do our hishtadlus and be sure that Hashem will help us deal with this nisayon.

Just a thought. Let me know what you think.

{Shmuel Newscenter}


  1. Boys AND girls should start dating earlier.

    Pirkei Avos says to get married at age 18.

    The following is a quote from HaRav Avigdor Miller ZT”L’s Sefer:

    1105. Before marriage it is imperative to ascertain the young woman’s attitude toward feminism and “women’s rights” and careerism. It is out of the question to build a Jewish home, or any home whatsoever, if the prospective wife has been tainted with these anti-natural and anti-social preachings. The woman’s career and happiness are in her home: absolutely and entirely. Her husband, her children and her home are the expressions of her personality and her Free Will, and they are her chief forms of serving G-d. The modern orthodox “Rebbetzin” with a college degree and a job in secular professions is a misfit even in a non-Jewish home. The ideas of revolt against a husband’s authority and the unrealistic dream of equal leadership in the family, lead only to unhappiness and failure, and very frequently to divorce. A Beis Yaakov girl should be wed soon after or before graduation. Every day after she leaves the Beis Yaakov marks another step away from idealism, for the street and the office and the secular school have an unfailing effect which increases from day to day. It is never a simple matter to achieve harmony in the home; effort and wisdom and fear of G-d are required. But with the additional burden of feminism, all problems become aggravated; and like all the unnatural and anti-social affectations of the libertarians this leads only to failure and unhappiness.

    1095. There cannot be two kings. The marriage-relationship is twofold. 1) The wife is submissive. This is not only Jewish but natural. There can be no harmony when there are two commanders. Without this indispensable condition the home is disordered. “Arrogance is unbecoming to a woman” – Megillah 14B. For a man it is not an ornament, but for a woman it is as if she wore a mustache. 2) The second, but equally essential foundation: a man must always demonstrate respect for his wife. This is “the way of Jewish men that…honor and support their wives in truth” as stated in the Jewish marriage contract. “He honors her more than his own body” – Yevamos 62B, and “A man must always be careful with his wife’s honor”- Bava Metzia 59A. He is the captain, but she is the First Mate whose counsel is respected. She cannot be made a doormat, she need not beg for money, she deserves some assistance in the house chores, and the husband sides with her against his kin. He must express frequent appreciation and give words of encouragement, and he should remember his wife from time to time with gifts, big or little. Husband and wife should always say “Please” and “Thank you” and never forget to be always polite to one another.)

    Awake My Glory, pp. 339-340

  2. “The achrayus involved in a campaign to reduce these years spent as a bochur in yeshiva, is immense. Only the gedolei hador and roshei yeshiva are qualified to make such a decision.”

    The Chazon Ish and the Steipler held that Bochurim should get married younger.

  3. The writer writes: “From the boy’s perspective, it is difficult to consider starting the search any earlier. The achrayus involved in a campaign to reduce these years spent as a bochur in yeshiva, is immense.”

    Nu, so how is your proposal any different?

    It would make more sense to start learning as earlier as they can, since education a tool for life – not only to get married, and to get married 6 months earlier, than to just wast an extra 6 months at the kindergarden.

    Either way, it’s a “big Achrayus”.

  4. Halevai the other factors should be attacked with such enthusiasm and strategy.
    I don’t think social engineering is the best answer to promote a future dor of batei neeman b’Yisrael.

  5. Oh, not this again!

    I called up a familly last week to suggest a shidduch for their daughter.

    The initial response to me before even hearing the name , was: Well just know that we are very selective , and such turn down most boys before a first date.

    After hearing that , I continued on to redd the shidduch , but at that moment determined that there was no shidduch crisis.

  6. YOU HAVE OVERLOOKED THE fact that girls mature quicker than boys and getting the boys to be younger in each grade would only increase the ammmou9nt of boys that do not do well in yeshivah which will definitely not help the situation.

    ask any educator and they will tell you that many many boys need an extra year maturity wise to begin the limud of gemara etc

    this is definitely not the way to go

  7. I don’t see how this could possibly work.

    1) Most boys are not ready to sit at a desk and learn at such a young age. Then they will be too young to start concentrating on Mishnayos/Gemarah and a whole bunch of problems will just snowball.

    2) Chassidish yeshivas will not follow these guidelines because, as it is, they marry off their boys young. So there will be an age issue between the boys chassidish and non-chassidish cheders which will show up when they are thrown together in the same mesivtos.

    3) HOw about a different solution? Maybe mesivtos should skip 12th grade and the boys could go on to Bais Medrash while their girl counterparts are still in High School. They would go to Israel a year earlier (OTOH-maybe that is not so great. They don’t mature a year earlier just to fit a timetable.) and will come back for shidduchim a year earlier.

    4) 13 years of school for the girls is way more than enough. Time for them to work and put $$$ away for marriage.

  8. I have no idea weather this plan is a good idea or not. However, if you aren’t able to convince a guy to go out with a girl who is within four years of his age, you aren’t going to be able to change the entire school, yeshiva and seminary systems!

  9. Why just 6 months.
    Make this 18 months (from both ends) & presto you’ll have your 3 years!
    You can implement this over a period of several year.

  10. “Only the gedolei hador and roshei yeshiva are qualified to make such a decision.”

    and that is exactly what is in the process of taking place

    stay tuned…..

    FYI is is awesome that people are finally facing the issue of age gap and discussing debating various ways to alleviate it.

    Kudos to matzav for being such a help.

  11. 12 – thanks. I think that boys starting to go out younger will just necessitate even more exorbitant support demands.

    Meanwhile, after spending a few years working in early education, I don’t see it. Kids are ready for school at a certain age, and this will not be in the kids’ best interests. I won’t elaborate, others have already.

    However, important question: could R’ Miskin share with us the opinions of the educators I assume he contacted before floating this idea?


  13. 13, here’s a scenario based on what you say:
    The gedolim have discussed and floated this idea. They get a front man to put it out on newssites such as this to see what the hamon am has to say, without even having discussed it with prominent mechanchim and educators who are dealing in early education. We are now getting to see sausage being made.

    Somehow I don’t think this is the scenario. I don’t think the gedolim have anything to do with this. There are people out there who posit themselves as all but the mouthpiece of the gedolim in this age gap business yet who have apparently never heard of the dictum,”Divrei chachamim b’nachas nishmaim.”

  14. In Israel, this is already the basic system. The boys are generally at least a half year ahead of the girls. Boy/Girl twins will very often be in different grades, and the boys here are definitely ahead (grade) of their American counterparts.

  15. Shmoneh esrei l’chupah say Chazal. What does our Kehilah say? Wait and see. That is the problem. We read that in Eretz Yisrael there is a housing shortage and new Cities must be built for affordability. What are we doing in NYC? That is the problem.

  16. I thought the plan is that Moshiach will be here by then!

    Forget about meeting one’s bashert; people know better than the Ultimate Matchmaker.

    This is insane.


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