Agudah Convention Holds Incredible Panel on Shidduch Crisis

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

It began on Thursday evening, but it reflected, on a tiny level, something that happened way back in 1160.  In a virtual panel discussion on the Shidduch Crisis, Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva in South Fallsburg, adamantly stated that the current system of Shidduchim must be restructured.  The Yeshiva Bochurim must begin dating at a younger age.

The Rosh Yeshiva further remarked that “this could be the biggest tragedy facing Klal Yisroel today.”  He explained that the girls undergoing these struggles are facing, “Gehenom.”

The moderator of the session was Reb Gershon Barnett, a real estate developer and the son of a Rosh Yeshiva in Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim.  His father had written numerous b’iyun seforim on Shas.

The panelists were Rav Wachtfogel shlita,  Lakewood Shadchan Rabbi Shlomo Lewenstein, and Dr. Yossi Shafer, the founder of Empower Health Center in Lakewood.

The panelists presented some very shocking statistics.  Almost 1 out of 7 young ladies age 29 and up are not married and 1 out of 4 young ladies age 24 are not married.  There are a number of 21 year old girls that have not even had a date.

The solution that Reb Gershon discussed with Rav Wachtfogel is to lower the age gap and have young men start dating a full year earlier.  Reb Gershon stated that he went with Reb Malkiel to Rav Chaim Kanievsky who fully backed the idea.

THE 1160 SHIDDUCH CRISIS

Historically, we also had a shidduch crisis during the time of Rabbeinu Tam. The young women were not getting married and a solution needed to happen. The greatest Rabbis of the generation got together and worked out a solution. They made enactments, and people took it seriously. The solution worked. Girls were able to get shidduchim once again, and a major social obstacle was overcome.

THE BACKGROUND

It was one of the enactments in a gathering called the Takanas Shum. The confluence of illness, danger and the crusades had contributed to the fact that there was a higher than normal mortality rate in the Jewish community. If a young woman’s new groom were to pass away, Chas v’shalom, the entire dowry that the bride came with – went to the husband’s family. The bride’s family did not get any of it back.

As a repercussion of this reality, many parents no longer provided their daughters with a large dowry. They did not wish to risk the significant sums of money that it entailed. As a consequence, the young girls sat single, with no prospects of shidduchim.

Something had to be done.

THE GEDOLIM GET TOGETHER

The great Gedolim of Medieval Europe, of the communities of Speyer Vermes and Mainz (forming the acronym Shum), gathered and made a number of takanos. Who were these great leaders? They were Rabbeinu Tam and the Rashbam, Rashi’s grandsons. The Raavan, one of the early Baalei haTosfos. Over 250 Rabbis, Rishonim were in attendance.

THE SOLUTION TO THE SHIDDUCH CRISIS

The takanah that they made at the gathering was to decree that if a husband chas v’shalom passed away in the first year of marriage, the dowry would not be inherited by the husband’s family, but it would revert back to the bride’s parents. If he passed away within two years of marriage, then half of the dowry would go back to the bride’s family (although this is a yesh omrim). The decree was passed and observed. The halacha is incorporated in the Shulchan Aruch and is mentioned in Even haEzer 53:3.

The gathering was held in the city of Troyes. It happened 857 years ago – in the year 1160.

But the result was that the Takanah worked. The parents of the brides began to once again give dowries and the young girls began to wed once again.

It solved the Shidduch crisis then.

** There is a Yesoma who boruch Hashem just got engaged.  If anyone would like to assist in making her chasuna please donate here or contact the author.**

WHAT WE NEED NOW

We need another Takanas Shum of sorts and now is the time. Our Gedolim have spoken.  We have girls that have not received shidduch calls in months – if not ever. It needs to be resolved.

There are individual people and organizations that are attempting to address it. Reb Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz tried to address it and even authored a number of articles and backed some initiatives too. But we need to make a macro-effort here.

This is something that should be on our spiritual agenda. If that Shidduch crisis of nearly 900 years ago so captured the attention of the Gedolei haRishonim, it is certainly be something that we should consider. The solution given then made it into the pages of our Shulchan Aruch. We need to address this issue on a grander scale.

WHAT ABOUT MORE DIVORCES?

Some have brought up the issue of “younger chasanim will bring about more divorces.”  To address this issue, it may be worthwhile to reinvigorate the Mussar Sedorim and to include within it Rav Avrohom Genekovsky’s shiruim on Shalom Bayis entitled “v’amudeha shiva.”  Before anyone comments negatively on this thought – please read the sefer.  It is a game-changer.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

** There is a Yesoma who boruch Hashem just got engaged.  If anyone would like to assist in making her chasuna please donate here or contact the author.**

6 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s go in the opposite direction.
    The girls should not be permitted to date until after they reach 20years of age. This would accomplish the same thing without pressuring boys who aren’t reeady at 21 (and there are plenty).
    Also this would allow the girls to work and earn enough money to pay for their weddings without bankrupting the parents, thus solving another major problem.

  2. Actually the idea of having a large gathering of Gedolei Torah get together to come up with a solution mean that THEY would decide what and which solution would be the one!! That’s the idea !! Revolutionary , no?

  3. Is there a reason we’re ignoring the older single guys? Look around there are plenty. Having guys start dating younger will increase the number of older single guys. Telling shadchanim they can’t suggest shidduch to girls under 21 will help the girls without creating even more older single guys. It also has a better chance of producing better marriages when those shidduchim work out.

  4. What is it about the American system that parents, of bochurim think they’re “not ready” at 21? In Israel and Europe 21 is the norm for chareidishe kehillos and I bet the divorce rate far less than America.

    Yes, clearly the boys should both stay younger and date older girls.