Wednesday, May 12, 2010

About That Crisis

Thomas Paine penned some words back in 1776 that can also apply to shidduchim in the here and now. As Paine put it in his article entitled The Crisis, "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."

Now substitute marriage and shidduchim for freedom and the ideas still apply. Too many who are looking for shidduchim today who are like those "summer soldiers." They've come up with the "perfect" formulas for finding a shidduch, even though they don't seem to be all that perfect in reality, and then they complain that finding a shidduch is too much work. They throw the word Crisis around. And yes, far too many who are summer soldiers, who expect that finding a spouse is going to be easy shmeezy, and when it isn't they retire into a blue funk, pointing fingers everywhere.

Yes, shidduch making has its "King George" figures who need to be deposed--the ones whose words to singles always seem to begin "You can't do this/you must do this or it will be bad for shidduchim." And those King George figures are surrounded by others whose joy seems to be in establishing rules that are senseless at best and debillitating at worst. But if all the American colonists had done was complain, we would still be part of the British Empire. It took words, but words married to actions. It took hard work. It took time, lots of time. And yes, making a shidduch requires concentrated effort that may sometimes be painful. Paine wasn't wrong--what we obtain too cheap, we value too lightly.

Yes, the colonists had a crisis on their hands, and they rallied and struggled and persevered. We don't have a full-fledged shidduch crisis right now, but we have one in the making if we all adopt the role of summer soldier. More than time to rebel against "unlawful" restrictions and senseless regulations and get on with the business of establishing a new country--the country of your marriage. What's the worse that could happen? "King George" might shun you? It turned out that the original King George was of no importance to the emerging US of A, and his clones in the shidduch world truly don't have the actual power we seem to give them credit for.

And just as an aside, Paine's advice would apply to a whole lot of other areas in Klal where we are being held "prisoner" with no representation or input and where complaining alone seems not to have made a difference.


L said...

Oy vey!

First you praise the French and now you dis the English?

Good post anyway...

Ruth said...

Yes it fits shidduchim and all the other problems we can't seem to get fixed, but it's even more relevant today given that it is Yom Yerushalayim. The fight is not over there yet and we sure don't need summer soldiers in defending out holy city.

Anonymous said...

Do you really believe that the shidduch crisis is only in the making rather than here already? From what I hear and see the crisis is already here and has been for quite a while.

harry-er than them all said...

I'm sorry Prof K, this has got to be one of the least thought out posts I've ever seen from you. That is a backhanded compliment, but here's my take:

Being a guy, I do have the view from the other side of the shidduch crisis equation. I am the one who is being bombarded with suggestions, i would say on average 2 a week. Due to what we'll call time-economics, I do not have time to look into, nor go out with every girl who is suggested. I mean I could go out with every girl, wasting time and money on a nightly basis, and in all likelihood, not finish the girls that are suggested to me.

I do actually like the theory proposed on Orthonomics blog from a few days ago, how game theory would describe the situation, but that is for a different story.

My question to you is this; who, if anyone do you propose 'rising up' against? The shidduch system has a large variability even within specific groups. I mean in the 'yeshiva world' you have those who will see a girl at a wedding and find out who she is, you have those who will actually go up to the girl and ask who she is, you have those who do a lot of research, and those who make a half a phone call. There is little in the way of formalized rules. Really, once you get married/engaged, nobody cares how you met.

I don't know who it is that is telling people how to get married, how to find a girl/guy to marry, because I've never encountered any King George figures, nor do I actually believe they exist.

The thing about the shidduch system, is that when leaders do ask people to do things a certain way, people don't listen. How many shadchanim listened when the R"Ys' signed (suggested) earlier this year that girls should wait till they are 20? How many guys listened when they suggested that they should date their age cohort? I don't believe the problem lies in your imagines King Georges', but rather in individual choices.

ProfK said...


Just a few points in answer. First, there have always been exceptions to any rule, such as the ones you mention. That a few boys may go up to a girl directly does not mean that for most on the right this is encouraged.

Second, part of that crisis in the making is because, as you mention, it is boys who are redt to first, who have the lists and backload of girls to out with. As you say, you can't possibly go out with every girl who is redt to you because it would take too much time and money. And when you don't go out with a girl for any reason you are still going out with others. This is not the case for most of the girls. They don't have lists to choose from. When you and others don't go out with them they sit home. So perhaps the first part of the rebellion needs to be against this arbitrary rule--as someone mentioned at Orthonomics, maybe shidduchim should be redt first to the girls. When boys won't like the resultant lack of girls to be going out with, they might rebel.

As to the King George figures you say don't exist, sure they do. Step into any girls' high school or seminary and there they are. Anything and everything they don't want the girls doing is prefaced with the words "This will be bad for shidduchim, you won't get a shidduch." And they back up their words by not keeping those girls in mind for shidduchim who might not adhere to their dictates, to giving wishy washy recommendations when they are called as references. The girls who rebel in any way find themselves on the outskirts of their group, and many are not happy about that and many give in because they believe these people have the power to hurt them in the future.

One high school I know of places a designation of "with highest honors" next to the names in the graduation program of those girls who are in the top 5-10 girls in the class. And yes, shadchanim and parents of boys have no trouble getting a copy of those programs. And they use them to pick from the "top" girls first. Logic would seem to dictate that it is your marks in school that would get you that designation. At one graduation 3 girls who were among the top 10 in marks did not get the listing "with highest honors" and strangely enough those three girls were not going on to seminary but going on straight to college, something the high school had repeatedly ranted against. So they paid the girls and the girls' families back by publicly screwing them. Not the only example I could give of school administrators flexing their muscles to get blind obedience and using the threat, which they voice openly, of "It's bad for shidduchim."

Re your comment about the Rosh Yeshivas who recommended that girls wait until they are 20 to marry, please point out to me where they did this recommending and when. If they did so it's the best kept secret in the frum world. The news didn't make the Jewish newspapers and didn't spread like wildfire around the communities. It surely did not make it to the blogosphere. You can't obey a dicta you have never heard about. Boys yeshiva administrators and heads are just as guilty as the girls' schools heads when it comes to the "It's bad for shidduchim" clap trap. Know any head of a yeshiva who publicly has stated that a boy doesn't have to go on to bais medrash after high school and not learn for a few years after marriage? Know any rosh yeshiva who has said publicly that all his boys MUST go on to college or MUST get technical training so they can produce parnoseh? Know any head of a yeshiva who has publicly stated that it is the responsibility of a boy and/or HIS parents to support a young married couple, not the girls' family's responsibility? What they do publicly state for all to see and hear is that if you don't follow our thinking, if you don't follow our rules as to what you need to do and when, "It will be bad for shidduchim." King Geroge-ism in the flesh.

Trudy said...

Maybe the problem with using the King George idea is that the actual King George was someone who everyone could see and everyone knew about and he laid claim to all those proclamations and policies that the colonists hated.

A lot of those rules for dating are out there but they are authorless. Everyone follows most or all of the rules or follows them at least most of the time but no one knows how precisely they got to be the rules. Trying to follow the thread back to a specific person or group of people can be impossible. Take that rule about the shadchan setting up the first date and the boy's not having to call. Where did it come from? Somebody had to have that non-brilliant idea but nobody knows who. And yet it gets followed as if it were Torah Mi'Sinai.

It's hard to rebel against the craziness if you can't precisely figure out who to rebel against. Sure, you could simply decide to not follow the rule, also a form of rebellion, but for some there will always be that fear that "somebody important" made up that rule so they won't rebel until they can figure out who made up the rule, and that's a tough almost impossible thing to do.

Agree with you on one thing though. The yeshivas use that It's Bad for Shidduchim stick to beat the kids into thinking what the schools want them to think and into acting how the schools want them to act.

Lion of Zion said...


that story with the girls and the honors is crazy. (but again, i have to ask what the parents of those girls were thinking when they enrolled their daughters there in 9th grade.)

i did hear about the takanah that harry mentioned re. closing the age gap (but not girls waitin until 20). i have no idea how serious it was (this whole shidduch business is not my world), but it's probably like a lot of those rca resolutions (more my world) that are worthless.

if the rabbonim were serious about closing the age gap, they'd treat it like bugs in water.

(not that i necessarily think rabbinic fiat is the best way to solve any problem.)

ProfK said...

I can tell you what at least one of the parents was thinking, since my husband and I were one of those sets of parents. When we enrolled our daughters in that particular school there was no indication that by the time the girls were going to graduate the school would be listing so heavily to the right. When we put the girls in this school (in the upper intermediate grades because our local girls yeshiva closed down) seminary was simply not a huge issue. Very few girls were actually going to Israel to seminary and no, not all girls were going to local seminaries either. The school's graduates were going on to college for the msot part and the girls got a solid preparation in secular studies. Sure, there were some girls in the school from families more to the right but they weren't being held up at the time we registered our kids as the product the school wanted everyone to look/act/think like. And a lot of the "right wing" actions were being done "b'shtikah" where not everyone in the school heard about them.

Yes, we got an inkling in my daughter's senior year that things were changing--the senior class Shabbos was suddenly held in Lakewood, to show the girls what lifestyle the school was now advocating for them. But half way through the senior year is no time to pull a child out of one school and into another. And yes, purely by accident we caught wind of the school's wanting any girl that was going to be in the honor society (again, on the basis of marks achieved) was going to have to sign a paper stating that she never would talk to a boy on the street, regardless of family relationship or not. There I raised cain, told the Assistant Principal that we would not allow our minor daughter to sign such a declaration and that we would further raise a huge stink. The school caved and our daughter took her rightful place in the honors society. And then, without fanfare or announcement, came the graduation debacle.

It is not by accident that neither of my daughters would ever consider their old high school as suitable for their own kids.