Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shidduch Shams

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.

Mazal Tov!


SuperRaizy said...

Wow, this is new to me. I agree with you that this is a ridiculous reason to marry off a 17 year old. And what about the bride? Aren't her parents gambling with her future by allowing her to marry an immature and irresponsible teenager?

Baal Habos said...

>Mazal Tov!

And IY"H by you :)

(assuming you're not already married, engaged or otherwise dis-inclined)

m-n said...

What are you going on about? She's good-looking, he's rich, it's perfect.

Shtreimel said...

Haven't you heard the ultimate refute to your claim? The stricter the sect the less cases of divorce. Those who meet only once before their wedding have a smaller statistical chance of ending the marriage. Don't you know that? ;)

The Hedyot said...

They actually dated for around a month or so. It wasn't the chassidish style courtship where they barely talk even once before announcing the engagement.

Enigma_4U said...

Hedyot, you've apparantly moved so far from chareidi society that you have trouble understanding this kind of mentality.

The thinking is like this: Marriage is a cure all for almost anything. Got a boy with raging horomones? Marriage.! NOW! Got a boy who's confused about his sexual identity? Marriage will reinforce his heterosexuality. Got a girl who's rebelling by wearing low cut dresses? Marry her off quickly and see those buttons close up. Got a boy not interested in learning? Marry him off so that he doesn't fall into the wrong crowd. If only Goyim knew the secret of fixing all of society's ills by marrying off everyone, the world would be a better place

Baal Devarim said...

"This kind of attitude shows that to you marriage is actually nothing special at all; it's merely a tool;"

But it's a very special tool! Like duct tape, it fixes everything, and you're always disinclined to remove it and get left with the sticky, gooey, dirty mess it tends to leave behind.

Anonymous said...

I always look forward to your insightful postings. I have been a social worker at a yeshiva for 10 years, and I have seen marriage used as a "fix all" several times. Sadly a young man who many suspected to be gay was "forced" by his parents to get married shortly after his graduation. This subsequently led to a great deal of heartbreak for the young bride once she realized what she got herself talked into.

Anonymous said...

i am a pretty secular jew who has many friends who are bal t'chuvah and orthodox.
I suppose you can be snarky about this idea of marriage for a young man, but at least try to remember that you aren't the authority on life decisions.
you don't like it? you don't want to marry this way? not for your kid? whatever.
it's wrong "objectively"? ha ha.


TikunOlam said...

I am unclear from you comments on my post and from your stuff here - are you out of this world yet? And if not and you are looking for some support - feel free to contact me through Dovbear's email - he'll get it to me.

Anonymous said...


thank you for posting such a meaningful and honest post.

The whole shidduch thing is so self contradictory. The Shadchanim are horrible. While they claim to be frum they make the worst shidduchim for money. They are also nasty enough to pull the "psycho" on you if you are a girl who is in her late twenties and don't want to date a 50 year old shidduch.

I hate the shidduch and the shadchan world. They made me feel like piece of trash cause I was a baal tshuva.

Tikkunolam, why would Hedyot return back? He has to be insane to do that. Baalei tshuvas do not belong into the "frum" world, cause the FFBs insult and hate them. So let the FFBs live happily among themselves. I can assure you that ex-frummies are happy with their lives too.

Sarah said...

I'm with Superraizy. My first thought, when you ask:

"You consider it responsible to put someone immature and flighty in charge of one of your most venerated institutions?"


"You consider it responsible to put someone immature and flighty in a committed, intimate relationship with a young girl?"

Perhaps having his own home life, and a sex life, and responsibilities, will indeed help this boy to "get his act together."

Or perhaps we'll be reading his wife's blog in a few years, about how her husband can't keep a job, often mysteriously disappears, and takes no responsibility for their home or their relationship at all.

I'd hate to bet my daughter on a risk like that.

abandoning eden said...

What are the "right reasons" for marriage. Love? Historically, marriage has only been based on "love" for like 200-300 years. Prior to that people got married because they needed a partner to run farms, because their parent's wanted to have a connection to another set of parents, or because that was the only way to gain status as an adult in society. Some people loved each other, yes, but that was considered icing on the cake...and not a good reason to get married in and of itself.

So it seems orthodox jews arn't coming up with some new model here- they are just (as usual) hearkening back to an old, perhaps outdated model.

There's an excellent book on this subject called "Marriage, A history: From obedience to intimacy, or how love conquered marraige" by Stephanie Coontz, who is a leading historical sociologist. I highly recommend it (I have my students read a few chapters from it every semester)

Jewish Sceptic said...

unfortunately i have to agree with enigma's take on this all...I have a friend who has entered shidduchim on the basis that he's horny, been going into the wrong crowds and wants to leave yeshiva.

He doesnt have a job, hasn't been to college, barely graduated from high school and isn't all that mature even now. Good luck to him though...

hesh said...

Haven't you heard the ultimate refute to your claim? The stricter the sect the less cases of divorce. Those who meet only once before their wedding have a smaller statistical chance of ending the marriage. Don't you know that? ;)"

Thats because if you get divorced you might as well go to college- its worse then going off the derech for some people. Many people in the charedi community resort to far worse devices because they fear getting a divorce. Take a look at craigslist for example or the underground chassidish sex world for men and women who are stuck in crappy marriages.