In a recent article in Mishpacha magazine, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz attempts to resolve the “Shidduch Crisis.” He points to the number of Bais Yaakov graduates who are pushing thirty and older and have not found their mate in life. Bais Yaakov is the network of haredi (ultra-Orthodox) girls’ schools. His suggestion is to encourage the boys to marry younger and thereby close the age gap between the boys and girls, in the process lessening the number of unmarried young women.
The Mishnah states: Even though they did not agree concerning whether certain relationships were forbidden or permitted, the School of Shamai did not hesitate to marry women of the School of Hillel, nor did the School of Hillel hesitate to marry women of the School of Shamai.
The Gemara asks: How could they not hesitate to marry one another? The offspring of forbidden relationships would be illegitimate (and forbidden to marry)! The Gemara answers: They would simply inform a member of the other school if they could not marry certain individuals. And this indeed makes sense, as the Mishnah continues: Despite the fact that there were many instances where one school deemed certain foods kosher and the other deemed the food non-kosher, they would still not hesitate to use one another’s kitchen utensils.
And why does the Mishnah inform us that the School of Shamai did not hesitate to marry women of the School of Hillel nor did the School of Hillel hesitate to marry women of the School of Shamai? To teach you that, despite their differences in halachic rulings, they treated one another with love and kinship, thereby fulfilling the dictum of Zachariah, “Love truth and peace.”
There’s a much simpler solution to solving the “Shidduch Crisis” than asking men to get married when they still have very little education, barely out of high school. Young women and men need to start looking beyond their own little enclave communities.
The most interesting element of Rechnitz’s article was his obsession with Bais Yaakov girls and the shortage of boys in the ‘yeshiva’ world. The tragedy of our time is the factionalism that has developed in the Orthodox world, way worse than it ever was in days of yore. Back in the day, says the Talmud, the Schools of Hillel and Shamai bitterly disputed many aspects of Jewish practice. But at the end of the day, they displayed “love and kinship” towards one another and did not hesitate to seek marriage partners in the other community.
Today, we live in an age of unprecedented factionalism in the Orthodox world. Many people wouldn’t dream of marrying a young man or woman outside of their hashkafic (philosophical) community. You want to resolve the “Shidduch Crisis”? Start by opening up your mind to the options out there.
When I was looking to get married, I am proud to say that I dated across the Orthodox spectrum. I went out with girls who were Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, Chabad, Sefardic, and even one girl who had been educated in Hasidic schools. I was looking at the inner person, not meaningless external trappings. My wife jokes that in the end, I got ‘all of the above’!
If you know someone who is looking to get married and has been unsuccessful in their own little community, encourage them to be a little courageous. Tell them to try YUConnects, Yeshiva University’s shidduch program. Have them call a shadchan (matchmaker) in Crown Heights or Williamsburg. You never know where that one right person might come from! We may not solve the “Shidduch Crisis” but if we open up our minds, we’ll go a long way to closing the gap.