A short while ago I posted about how I think that people in the chareidi world approach the whole issue of shidduchim wrong. It's not just that they get caught up with stupidities (which they definitely do), but that the very basis for their getting married is founded on idiotic and superficial reasons. To be precise, I said that it's not that I think people in religious marriages don't love each other and have healthy stable homes. I'm sure even in situations where the marriage was entered into for the wrong reasons, many of them eventually do. It's just that that's not why they get married. And it's irresponsible and reckless to enter into something like marriage for the wrong reasons, regardless of if there's a chance that it might turn out ok.
Various people took issue with my position and said that my portrayal isn't quite true. Well, sadly, I now have some more first-hand anecdotal experience to corroborate what I wrote. A relative of mine is now engaged at the ripe old age of 17 (and a young 17 at that). Now, the obvious problem with this is simply that the person is just a bit too young and way too immature to be getting married. But putting that aside, what really bothers me about it is that the sole purpose of this marriage is because the person is not in a yeshiva and does not have a job and basically has been drifting aimlessly for the recent past. So the parents evidently feel that it's important to have them enter in some sort of structured arrangement rather than possibly get involved in even riskier behavior than has already been done (which hasn't really been anything too terrible AFAIK).
I expressed my misgivings to a different relative, someone who I thought would share my reservations with this arrangement. He is a respected talmid chacham in the yeshivish world, and someone who I usually consider to have a broader view of things than the typical yeshiva graduate. Well, it turns out I don't know some people as well as I thought. He actually thought it was a good idea. Here's what he said:
"Look, now he may be young and immature, but after a little time married, he'll adapt and become more responsible. It's better that he get married now than continue to be involved with the crowd he's been hanging out with and then who knows where that might lead.... I've seen this been done many times. It'll be fine."
Well, there you have it folks. Unless you think that "preventing someone from hanging out with the wrong crowd" is a valid justification for marriage, please don't tell me that chareidim don't marry people off for the wrong reasons. Yes, I know, this is just one anecdotal case, and doesn't prove anything. It might not, but my friend's attitude about it does prove something. If this is his view, then it is more than acceptable in his mainstream black-hat world. Whether or not it happens often, I wouldn't say, but the fact that people look at marriage this way says a lot.
When you think about it, it's also pretty hypocritical. Chareidim are the ones who extol the importance of marriage over everything else, saying how it's the most sacred and central component of Jewish life, how the institution of the Jewish family must be treated with the utmost reverence, you know, all that "bayis neman b'yisrael" crap.
Really? Is this how you treat something so sacred? By just using it as an excuse to avoid properly dealing with a totally unrelated problem? You consider it responsible to put someone immature and flighty in charge of one of your most venerated institutions? Gimme a break! This kind of attitude shows that to you marriage is actually nothing special at all; it's merely a tool; a tactic to be utilized when the need arises.