A “Let’s Schmooze” letter to Country Yossi magazine detailed what happened when a man tried to withdraw his son from yeshiva to attend college. The rosh yeshiva explained that parnassa is min hashamayim, and college wouldn’t help. The man countered that his own rebbe, Rav Pam, zt”l, said everyone has to do their hishtadlus. The rosh yeshiva then suggested his version of hishtadlus: marry rich. The writer has a moment of epiphany: the self-serving attitude of modern yeshiva bochurim in shidduchim is the product of the attitude of their rabbeim.
Good morning, Anonymous (of course he’s anonymous. Giving his name would just shoot his son’s chances…) And kudos for taking the time to write about it in one of the few publications that would have the guts to print it. Can you see the Yated or Hamodia printing a letter that accuses roshei yeshiva of causing the “Shidduch Crisis”? And yet, the fact is that bochurim think they have the right to demand dowries (because lets call a spade a spade). And the fact is, that this attitude doesn’t rise in a vacuum.
I knew about this before Mr. Anonymous, because my brother recently entered shidduchim out of a very large and prestigious yeshiva. He explained that when boys enter shidduchim they go to their rosh yeshiva for advice.
What do you suppose the roshei yeshiva advise? Doubtless things like “Middos are the most important,” or “Understand that marriage is a compromise,” right? Wrong. They simply provide the bochur with his lowest bidding price. “$25,000 and a car,” or “$20,000 and an apartment,” or “Minimum 7 years of full support.”
“So what are you worth?” I asked my brother. Turns out he didn’t go get his asking price. He wants to marry an eishes chayil, not her father’s bankroll. Sometimes I’m proud of my siblings.
Now, I’m not lambasting roshei yeshiva. Torah study is essential – so the basis of their advice is sound. But bochurim very carefully follow the dictum “asei lichah rav.” They take their rosh yeshiva’s words as the word of G-d on high. And this puts the rosh yeshiva in a position of great responsibility. If they tell bochurim it’s OK to insist on full support, the bochurim will go forth with complete faith that it is the correct thing to do.
But step out of the ivory tower for five minutes and tell me that someone who chooses a lifestyle of “pas bimelach tochal” deserves a car and seven years of complete support, worry free. Tell me that any given bochur is such an incredible masmid that his father-in-law should go in debt for him. Tell me that it is appropriate for bochurim to enter shidduchim convinced that they are G-d’s gift to the world (worth $30 grand for five years and a car!) and should filter their applications by income. Tell me that it is proper and good to marginalize girls who are ba’alei middos, who appreciate Torah, who are n’shei chayil waiting to be proven, and who will make excellent, dedicated wives, simply because they don’t have the income of a venture capitalist.
Let’s not devalue our Jewish girls, showing them that their contribution to their bayis ne’eman is only equal to their husband’s if they come with $25,000 and an apartment. (As if earning the income, raising the kids, and doing all the housework isn’t enough for a single mortal. The wives these coddled bochurim get are worth $50k plus a weekly box of chocolate!)
Yes, Torah study is important. But let natural selection take its course. Bochurim who truly treasure their learning will marry girls who feel the same way—and are willing to support them in it, whatever it takes. And bochurim will learn to make sacrifices for their learning, living in the gashmiyus-deprived conditions that have fostered Torah giants for generations.