Opinion: So, About That Elephant… | Avi Gutfreund

A letter recently submitted and published on TLS decried the fact that many are focusing on making smaller simchos in response to coronavirus pandemic, even though there is not explicit issur regarding throwing a lavish party. The writer said that instead we should focus on two מגיפות being perpetuated in our society that nobody seems to care about.

The first מגיפה, he wrote, is being perpetuated by our bachurim who wait until the age of 23/24 to enter the shidduch market, and by the yeshivos/rebbeim who encourage it. The second is that there are far too many sincere young men and women in our community who are unable to get into school and yeshiva because our education system engages in elitism. I want to put aside the second point, which definitely has its merits, and focus on the first מגיפה the writer speaks of.

There is very little doubt in my mind that the shidduch scene in our circle is in crisis. There are many, many girls who are single – far more than there are single boys, although there are too many of those as well. The fact is that the math indeed doesn’t compute; boys getting married at 23/24 and girls getting married at 18/19 will inevitably lead to there being more girls in need of a shidduch than boys, resulting in the shidduch crisis we now find ourselves in. I’m not arguing that. However, the writer opines that the way to resolve the problem is by having boys get married at a younger age. I don’t know why that should be the case.

Let me bring up another crisis that is making life very difficult for many in our community: poverty. The lack of financial means in the majority of Lakewood homes is almost astonishing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Lakewood households, rely on Tomchei Shabbos, gemachim, and loans they can never pay back to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Let me take a plunge of my own and hypothesize why this is. I would argue that the reason so many Lakewood homes are beset by poverty is that the parents got married so young! Think about it: for homes where the father remains in klei kodesh for many years, the primary source of income is the mother. That means the more money she can save up before marriage, and the more she can gain years of work experience (thereby raising her earning power), the better off and the more financially stable the family will be. That, like the shidduch crisis, is simple math.

So we now have two מגיפות to resolve: the shidduch crisis, and the poverty crisis. And the way we solve one of those crises can affect our ability to solve the other.

Now, what would be the best option?

To have boys get married at a younger age and the couple having almost no money to live on, thereby perpetuating the poverty crisis? Or would it be wiser for girls to start getting more life and work experience before marriage, then getting married at 23/24, thereby solving the shidduch crisis AND the poverty crisis? I think the answer is obvious.

While I have no doubt that the writer of the letter had only good intentions, we need to bear in mind the unintended consequences of our interventions. If we get stuck on one way to resolve an issue (boys must get married younger), we will fail to notice the ways that we can fix problems without keeping bachurim from continuing their learning and also help their marriages remain stable.

Should boys get married at a younger age? Maybe. Should girls get married at an older age? Probably.


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There are 23 Comments to "Opinion: So, About That Elephant… | Avi Gutfreund"

  • Muti Klein. says:

    How about the elephant in the room that we have large families with expensive tuitions which we can’t afford. The biggest solution for our poverty problem would be incorporating cheap zoom schools or try to get public finding for schools like Monroe got.

  • Bruce says:

    Is it just me that was expecting an article about @DavidElefants elephant that went on fire 🔥

  • Anonymous says:

    There are many reasons for girls to marry older. The financial issue is just one aspect. Another is the responsibility that comes with marriage and pregnancy. Many young girls just aren’t ready and end up relying heavily on their own parents, blurring family boundaries and straining relationships. But you aren’t allowed to talk about this because everyone knows how important marriage and babies are, and how dare you suggest that they push it off?

  • bored says:

    ATTENTION ACHEINU BNEI YISRAEL: Due to the current matzav I a finding myself being very bored for a nice chunk of the day. (Im sure Im not the only one feeling this way) One thing that keeps me occupied and happy is reading the comments on TLS, especially the farbisenne ones (Im sure Im not the only one feeling this way) Therefore I plead to everyone PLEASE be reitzed on by this post and submit tons of comments so that I and others can enjoy! Thanks a million! Looking forward!! 🙂

    • anonymous1 says:

      +100000000000000 I have been thinking this for weeks. There is no better entertainment.

  • My Take says:

    Getting married young does not contribute to poverty. I got married young, my husband was in kollel for a few years, without parental support. He went to work when my oldest started school. We never got rich but, we managed to stay afloat. People live very lavish lifestyles now. Besides tuition costs, they expect to live in huge homes, dress their kids in expensive matching, trendy clothes, send the kids to over the top day camps etc. Our lifestyles are too expensive. People should live more simply.

  • yossi says:

    The writer is correct that this would solve the mathematics the same way. Yet since the girls are so deep into crisis – individual girls don’t want to wait and take chances if good suggestions come. Unless all girls would somehow band together and refuse to date until 23 until the boys change their dating habits-it is unlikely to happen. Other related points also relate to many girls becoming pickier and less close to good haskafa as they get older as well as pirkei avos saying men should marry much younger than they are doing right now.

  • Hmm says:

    (Disclaimer: The following comment may contain traces of sarcasm.) The Torah commands us to marry young, ask any gadol. But once we ignore that for the sake of our own agendas, why not take it all the way? Maybe people shouldn’t get married at all, thereby solving the, poverty, schooling, simchos and next generation’s shiduch crisis, all in one?

  • ole nugget says:

    The eventuality of girls marrying at a later age is highly unlikely to ever happen, far more unlikely than boys getting married at an earlier age. Nobody wants to take a high risk when already the chances of finding a shidduch are not guaranteed. The worst that can happen to a boy going into shidduchim earlier is that he will get married at the wrong time while a girl who waits to long before starting shidduchim very likely missed her chance

    • Anonymous says:

      Many girls are getting married older and are marrying boys the same age or younger. There’s absolutely a shift happening.

  • Steven says:

    Maybe a full article on this topic should be written.
    Marriage is not math!
    I believe that the average maturity level difference between a 19 year old boy and a 19 year old girl is hugh.
    This is a cause of many Shalom Bayis problems and divorce.
    The author of this articles solution to have girls get married later would be a disaster. The maturity level between a 24 year old boy in Yeshiva and a 24 year old girl that has been in the workforce for 5 years, would be a natural disaster.
    And the notion of fixing the shiduch crisis by having boys marrying early is going to hurt many as well.

    So is there a fix?
    But until we all sit down together without an agenda, we may not solve much.

  • Unsure says:

    So basically the article is saying that all financial responsibility belongs to girls, so they should hold off on marriage until they are well prepared. While boys have zero responsibilities so hey who cares if they are mature etc.
    Maybe the bigger elephant is that while the system is great, we might need to realize there is a kesubah for a reason. Regardless of being set up, many woman cannot realistically hold down a bread earners salary while going though pregnancy etc. so waiting until older will not help with that.

    • muti Klein says:

      Ur 100% right its not the woman’s role to be a bread winner, but I am a chasidesher working guy and make a nice living and still struggling with all the simchas expenses and the tuition’s this is just not a sustainable system,this system only works for the wealthy people ,either we work on as a community to cut out all the expensive simchas,clothing,houses and expensive life style and we resolve the tuition crisis.

  • Mark Levin says:

    Maybe we can solve this by allowing men to have more than one wife?

    All joking aside:

    We do have various Mageifos that we need to work one:
    1. The isolation out of our schools of children who are different than us . Baalei teshuiva , Russians , special needs, mental illness, broken families , Modern Orthodox , Israelis , Sefardim , handicapped etc We have’nt solved that yet and there are many many children who have been isolated and don’t have a school yet for next year, that’s the real ELEPHANT in the room

    2. another Elephant , we guide our boys to only take girls WITH MONEY and a FULL PACKAGE OF SUPPORT, therby shifting aside very top quality girls , whom happen to be zoicheh to be from average homes , but are considered second class!

    3. We have thrust and not cared about many, many boys , who could’ve been top shidduchim , brilliant etc and instead they are now members of the on the street clan ,we’ve lost all those boys to the shidduchim market.Major Elephant there!

    Wanna talk about Elephants? those are three big ones!

    I’m tired about hearing the demands for womaen to cut their sheitals, before you know it, they’ll be bald! That’s a private decision between the husband and wife and what level they are holding in.

    I’m also tired of the “cut down the simchas/ jealous crowd”!
    Do you understand how many families those large simchas feed and how your campaign will starve all those families? If Hashem blessed someone with a large family, many talmidim or many friends or money , its not anyone’s business what type of simcha they make. Noone is forcing u to go!

  • Out of your mind says:

    The Gemara in Kedushin discusses if one should first learn Torah and then get married or vis versa, ayin shum. We were just enlightened to yet another possibility, make money and then get married l, simply genius! I’m also baffled how we just solved the poverty crisis by working for an extra year or 2, unless he meant girls should work till they’re 40 and then get married. Otherwise a year or 2 of savings ain’t solvin dittly squat.

  • Not What I Read says:

    I just read my Kesubah and I don’t see anything like what the author is talking about. I am the husband and my role is very clearly defined. Prove me wrong.

  • cyrano says:

    The entire Nosui project sounds to me like the simple solution suggested in order to avoid getting a parking ticket; remove your windshield vipers immediately after exiting your car.

    THERE IS NO SHIDDUCH CRISIS! Yes, you’ve read it correctly, there is no shidduch crisis. There is, however, a values crisis.

    Has an “older” single girl ever considered looking across the aisle for a shidduch, rather than insisting on the same cultural prejudices that she had when she was 18 years old.

    I had a number of occasions to suggest what I thought was a great shidduch to an older yeshivishe girl. The young man that I had in mind was an earnest budding talmid chocham from a very notable family, who had contributed regularly to Torah journals. He was also highly articulate, kind, considerate, refined and well mannered. Besides being educated, being that he was an editor for Artscroll, he was also tall, slim and extremely good looking.

    “What’s the catch,” asked the girl. “Well , he is somewhat of a chassishe bent, and would like to wear a Shtreimel after his marriage. He isn’t a Breslover or any sort heavy duty Chossid. He just likes a Chassidishe flavor in his life.”, I replied . “A Shtreimel? It’s not really my thing, but thank you for keeping me in mind. Can you suggest something more appropriate?”, the girl responded. “Would you consider looking into it, before you reject it out of hand?” I asked. “No, it’s not for me. but thanks just the same.”‘, she answered coldly.

    I have had this experience many times, where whether a young man wears his hat cocked to the front of his head, or to the back of his head, or to the right, or to the left is the sole criteria by which a shidduch is deemed acceptable, not based on any true Torah values.

    Likewise, I am mystified as to why a sincere young man should prefer a silly, frivolous 19 year old girl, who is technically still a teenager, over a mature, settled 24 year old young lady.

    Only when our selection of life partners will be based solely on a shared broad hashkoffa of Yiddishkeit, will we realize that there never was a shidduch crisis to begin with.

  • aliza says:

    It’s all up to G-D what happens, maybe we should leave it in his hands…

    i got married very young and yes, in the beginning i didn’t earn a lot, but i built myself up with a lot of siyata dishmaya. I am making bh very nicely now and my husband is still learning. It’s really all up to Hashem!!!!!

  • i have a different opinion says:

    This would all be good and true if our lives were governed by math but it ain’t so.

    Mezonosov shel adam ketzuvin lo meirosh hashana…
    mi sheyeish lo pas besalo vaomar ma yochal machar harei hu miktanei emanah

    arbaim yom kodem yetziras havlad machrizin bas ploni leploni, bayis ploni leploni, sadeh ploni leploni

    Hashem alone runs the world, provides sustenance and creates marriages. Our job is to try to do what He wants WITHOUT MAKING CHESHBONOS. (we know this from the fact that chizkiyahu was punished for not wanting to have children when he saw that menashe would come from him).

    But how do we know what He wants? we do not have neviim but we still have talmidei chachomim and daas torah. our job is to listen to them.

    besides which, a couple years of savings from an entry level female employee is really not that impressive a figure.

    i’m not saying that there are not problems. there are many problems but i don’t think anybody needs a list from you or me. everybody needs to make their own list of THEIR own problems and improve slowly and steadily always keeping in mind that Hashem runs the world and i am trying to do His will

  • Uncommon sense says:

    Thank you! I have at least a dozen posts here and elsewhere encouraging marrying same age, minimum of 23-24.

    But this is a response to some of the comments.
    1. A Lavish lifestyle is not the only reason for poverty. For every family living in a mansion, there’s another living in an apartment with 5 children’s tuitions, an older vehicle, and if they’re lucky, someone gave them matching hand me downs.

    2. Learning boys are important, but for thousands of years young men have managed to get their chores done, apprentice or learn a trade, and still study, and yiddishkeit has thrived without 24 years of school and no other demands.

    3. To add into the problem is that we follow the Torah commands without living in Torah times. Torah says marry young, but life expectancy was only 30-40 for thousands of years. A bigger issue is pregnancy. Women traditionally nursed at least 2-3 years, preventing immediate pregnancies. Yes, Hashem created women to naturally space their births. But with formula, we override G-d’s design.

    Unfortunately, taking the time to nurse and bond doesn’t mesh with rushing back to work, having kids in 5 different schools, and living more lavish lifestyles.

  • Joe says:

    In my experience working with young adults and couples I believe the crisis has very little to do with math or age. I believe that the real problem is that it is significantly easier to be a “top girl” than a “top boy.” I put them in quotes because I don’t usually agree with the designation criteria which touches upon a previous post. But as to perception, if the girl is a Baalas Midos, dresses appropriately, and is attractive, she can be designated as a “top girl.” Doesn’t mean she will be, but those are the main criteria. When it comes to boys, if they are not “learning boys” they already have a mark against them. And since many boys do not have the make-up to be learning boys, and their purpose in life is to be solid learning Baalei Batim, you automatically decrease the number of “top boys” on the market who are available to the “top girls.” I would venture to say that the market for the non-learning boys is likewise small because of this problem and it often takes them a while to find their “top girl.”

    The answer to the crisis is 2 fold. First and most importantly., daven really hard to the Mezaveg Zivugim. That is really the only solution. But from our Hishtadlus perspective, we need to educate our kids to be honest with themselves and truly work hard on self awareness. There are parents who believe their kids to be “the best of the best” and push their kids into marriages which are simply not appropriate for them. There are also kids who misunderstand the teachings of Chazal and their teachers and believe that if they don’t marry a Rosh Yeshiva, and support him for the rest of their lives, then they are failed human beings. This attitude also causes many girls to reject wonderful working boys who are available, or worse, marry a Rosh Yeshiva type and then eventually come to therapy with a failing marriage that wasn’t meant to be in the first place.

    Educating our children to be honest with themselves , and find them a Shiduch that is appropriate to them, is the best way for us as parents to solve this problem – provided that we don’t forget to Daven really hard as well.