Using the REBS Rate to Solve the Shidduch Crisis


Title page of  Mishnah Kiddushin- Amsterdam, 1700-1704

Title page of Mishnah Kiddushin- Amsterdam, 1700-1704

Tu b’Av is yesterday’s news and we are back to the shidduch catastrophe. I first posted this REBS Rate article back in November 2009. But some things don’t change and Mishpacha Magazine just recycled the issue along with some hagiography about Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz.

For those not in the know, the shidduch crisis is a state of the art term in the Ultra Orthodox world for the fact that a number of old maids (over 22 years of age) cannot find suitable mates. The ideal suitable mate is a male immersed in Torah learning, and willing to let himself be supported by all and sundry. These prize catches prefer younger women (e.g, less than 22, preferably 18-19). If they had their way they would also get the taller women shortened because it turns out yeshiva men honor the Torah by not letting woman tower above them. In fact it is an unstated piece of yeshiva lore that eye-to-eye is an indecent position between husband and wife. They also feel entitled to wealthier women with distinguished lineages (which pretty much precludes a convert or a baalat tshuvah).

The great rabbis of this world have declared this a crisis. They have proclaimed days of prayer, urged greater modesty, told women to be less picky, and of course promoted the cure-all, learning. However, they are not content to rest on their laurels because, alas, the problem persists.

Eureka!  The New York Post has revealed their latest initiative in its article, irreverently titled, Dreidel Robbers.  They issued a directive to matchmakers to stop letting younger girls hitch up with older guys. Their ways are discreet. Sixty of them signed and it was privately distributed. How could they know that Yenta the matchmaker would betray them. But we now have a copy of the text.

The rabbis can ban things to their hearts’ content and their followers usually fall in line. But weddings are an arena in which they have less impact. When was the last time an excessive wedding led to shame for the wealthy sponsors or was not graced by droves of influential rabbis? A measure they impose on matchmakers is a sham. It will not be carried out.

There is something they could do. They could just issue an injunction to girls/women in their schools: don’t get married till you are 20 years of age. They could give the proclomation some teeth by refusing to attend any wedding of a woman under twenty. With enough women removed from the marriage pool, the crisis would be resolved. Sooner or later the bochurim would marry older girls, perhaps even women.

They could implement the decision by creating a rate similar to the Fed rate for interest. They could announce the allowable marriage age on a quarterly basis. The group implementing the rate would be called the REBS, short for Rabbinical Education and Bans for Shidduchim. To assist long-term planning they could signal anticipated changes by announcements in Hamodia’s financial section. Picture the headline: “Harav Unterfeerher announced 1 month  drop in the marriageable age.” The rate would be based on leading indicators including catering reservations, real estate transactions, and purchases of rings, watches, silver ritual items, and complete sets of shas. The calculation of the REBS Rate would also draw on the results of a quarterly shadchan survey.

There is another solution. Girls could be educated to grow up into women with a stronger preference for men who support themselves. They could also educate boys and young men to aspire to be self-supporting and dramatically reduce the sizes of their yeshivas. Perhaps they could fulfill koveiah itim for parnassah as practiced by rabbis such as the tanah Yochanan Hasandel (shoemaker), the kabalist R Kaduri (bookbinder), the Ari Hakadosh (spice trader) or the Rambam (physician). The only negative effect would be less income for roshei yeshiva and kollel heads.

Then the disgrace of manipulating marriage matches for financial advantage could be ended and more dollars would flow to support a smaller number of students genuinely suited to become Torah leaders.

Oops! I forgot that very few leaders, including roshei yeshiva, advocate practices that reduce their own influence and income. Besides, with extra time before marriage the women might accumulate too much money (no problem) and too much learning (big problem). What happens when Channie listening in rapture to her prize kollel boy corrects his grammar or recall of a biblical verse? This could damage the social structure.

No, it would be better to pray, mandate longer skirts, criticize picky women and deliver directives that no one will obey. Oh yes, also announce that our rabbis have taken bold actions, which they cannot reveal. Unmarried woman should remember they are blessed with great ones who worry on their behalf. Alas, no REBS, and no chance for one of these older women to become a rebetzin. Finally, no way to End the Madness.

Postscript- A poignant example of the issues on which rabbonim work so hard was reported by a kiruv worker who had amazing success with several girls’ basketball teams. Under his influence they all converted or became frum. Alas they were also poor, tall and old (i.e., > 20). The kiruv worker proposed setting an example for the community by having the rabbis arrange shidduchim for these girls with their grandsons and their talmidim. The rabbis were very moved and wrote the girls a strong letter of chizuk. They then hastily signed another letter to matchmakers.


21 thoughts on “Using the REBS Rate to Solve the Shidduch Crisis

  1. Actually, I was in the States recently and my old friends who have children actively in shidduchim say there *is* a trend of guys starting to prefer girls over 20 who have finished or who are nearly finished with their education. The better to support them in learning, perhaps, but whatever the reason, this is a welcome trend, certainly for the girls.

    • The trend is money-minded. Parents are being squeezed tighter and tighter and the boys who are “in learning” (99.9% of Yeshivish boys) are feeling the pinch. So the boys figured out that if they seek out girls who are a little “older” who already have their advanced degree, then the girl can jump right into working full time to support the new couple and their forthcoming children, without having to rely as much on parents who mean well, but who just can’t keep up on their promises to offer full support for their married daughters’ family while she is still obtaining her advanced college degree.

      Of course this means that 28-38 year old boys are ALSO interested in girls who are 22 and have completed their professional education and can support them and their family. But no older than 23, please.

  2. Hysterical, albeit sad account. The US GOVT. could use you to produce reliable economic numbers, indices, that are not always re-adjusted a month or so later (after the stock market has spiked 1000 points based on fake numbers.). oh, but I ignore the obvious, that is done on purpose to “viagrify” the DOW, S&P, NASD etc….
    I have another creative solution directed to the perhaps 33% of our kinder in the frum world, who were abused in various ways by various people. This solution will both aid the shidduch crisis AND bring more minuvalim to secular criminal justice, yes, locked up by victims unafraid to testify publicly. 33% is a rough estimate, but reasonably accurate per many in the field.
    YL establishes a new secret organization for the purpose of arranging shidduchim between yidden who have been abused. All sorts of checks and balances will need to be instituted to keep the members (abused shidduch seekers anonymous from the larger Kahal). With the “terrible stigma” (satire folks) of having been abused no longer an issue, this secret society could go back to worrying about age and height. But they will be limited me’rosh to 33% of the population.
    Once members of this select organization were married safely, dozens and dozens of criminal lawsuits could be filed against all of the minuvalim. It is true that those who sign up for this pool of potential shidduchs, will be leaving 67% on the table, but wth, when i pulled out of thestock market in early 2010 I left far more than that on the table. And I’m fine.

  3. I liked this. Thought-out and well written.

    I’d push the age up to 22- that way girls can work/go to school and relieve their parents of many financial stress when it comes to engagement.

    I don’t care how “right winged” someone is- I never understood how parents were okay with their 19 yr olds getting married. These girls are straight out of seminary and have zero way to support themselves. No college degree/no saved up $. I don’t know why partners do this…it is practically ASKING for financial stress.

    It would be great if girls would start dating at an age like 22. And yes- the guys def have the advantage. A 28 yr old guy will still be set up with a girl a decade younger but he’d never go out with a girl his same age.

    I spoke to some Lubavitch girls once. In their circles it is completely acceptable for girls to get married at 23/24. Under that is considered young for them. Plus, the boys are very willing to go out with “older” boys. Good for them.

    You brought up something which was touched upon on a Meiseles post- that boys who were rlly made for long-term learning should do so. Everyone else, go “learn a trade” (aka- get a job).

    If anyone wants to change this system, there needs to be a strong group of ppl willing to stand up and begin a new/better one.

    • Truth, your typo is actually funny, re boys being “very willing to go out with “older” boys. LOL, pedophiles usually go for younger boys. sorry, could not resist.

      btw, i did answer your last query to me, and hoped you would read it, but cannot find it or the thread. perhaps it was moderated out, or in the thread that YL closed down. it was an explanation re mis-use of a word, btw frumspeak and modern Hebrew, or rather secular mistranslation, and was meant to be an apology. I can’t find it, nor your original comment to me. i hope it did make it’s way through and that your negative emotions were alleviated. It was NOT intended as it sounded. apology. perhaps you did get to see it, if it did not die under moderation.

      BTW, on another subject, most Lubavitchers work (and have smicha). . unlike vast numbers of Satmar et al. were it not for the messianic stuff, yes a major major problem the (messichistim) they would have a far far better reputation in the entire frum world. IMHO a deserved one. No group is perfect. I know that many here will not agree with my mostly positive assessment of Lubavitch. (few other problems, but not appropriate in this limited context).

  4. We can talk about this problem of shidduchim/kollel/in-laws till we’re blue in the face. Instead when listening to Rabbonim/shadchanim/Roshei Yeshivas/seminary teachers we should train ourselves to listen between the lines and see who their advice is really benefiting.
    When my son came home from Mirrer Yeshiva and most of his friends were heading to Lakewood I informed him that I have NO money to support him and I will not marry off my son to be a moocher and besides i don’t trust many people who promise set ammount of money so he better register himself to the local secular college. I would hope at 21 1/2 he is able to be true to his frum ideals. He actually got frummer!
    Again, what was my perspective on the advice i gave him? Only for his benefit!

    • Concerned Mom,
      Kol Hakavod lach. Our jobs as parents is to bring up children with good values, AND self-sufficient children. That is it in a nutshell. And you, B’H’ have succeeded. Yasher Koach to you and your fine son. Nice to get nachas from one’s kids during one’s lifetime……

    • When you write that he “got frummer,” did you mean that he went to secular college and got frummer while he was getting his degrees?

      • The word ‘frum’ implies increased ritualistic observance of the halachos that pertain to one’s relationship with Hashem.

        This narrow definition enables scoundrels in human relationships (bein adam l’chaveiro) to be labelled ‘frum.’

        In my view, a young adult who is striving to become economically self-sufficient to enable him to support his wife, as called for in the Kesuva, is ‘frummer’ than someone who is escaping obligations by pretending to learn full-time.

        • Sorry not come to across snobby about becoming “frummer”. He definitely is more makpid on areas of Halachah such as Kashrus and davening with a minyan 3 times a day and takes his learning more seriously since he has to squeeze it into his day. Also, he was NOT raised to use religion as a point system against your neighbors but something very private between you and G-d!

          • Great!!! There IS hope for the next generation! You are fortunate that your son took what you taught him to heart, and is also respectful of his parents’ wishes when it comes to the learning/earning issue. As you said yourself, most of his friends were heading to Lakewood to learn. It was probably difficult for him to buck the trend, and I’m sure a part of him wishes he could still be “one of the boys” in that Lakewood club. Not all kids can withstand peer pressure (and let’s face it, at 21 – they’re still kids). All the cookies go into the same oven, but some come out good, and others don’t. There’s no guarantee as a parent, even if you do everything “right.” You are fortunate. Enjoy the nachas you surely get from your son, and kol hakavod for raising him with good values.

        • wish this site had a thumbs up. i would grow a few. your comment deserving of a handful. yasher koach.

        • I emphatically agree!! I simply wanted to know if this mother was proud of her son for going to get a secular education which would lead to gainful employment, or if she was complaining – if he got “frummer” in the sense that people use it and refused to go to college because “he got frummer.” It was unclear and I was simply curious.

          I know of many people whose boys and girls “got frummer” after going to learn in Israel, and came home with the boys refusing to go to college, no matter how much the parents insisted, and the girls refusing to date boys who were in college, no matter how ehrlich and sincere a boy was in his Avodas Hashem. Unfortunately, kids get brainwashed in Israel to believe that the learning way is the only way. It doesn’t help that the entire Yeshivish society in Israel is set up to have that as “the only way” and that the teachers in these schools are all from Yeshivish circles and impart that hashkafah, whether overtly, or subvertly (though it’s mostly overtly, even in the “Modern” Yeshivos).

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