Three a.m. The telephone was definitely in working order. New
York policeman is on the line. "Rabbi, I have a young girl on
a rooftop, ready to jump. She says she knows you. We need
your help. I have her on the line."
I prayed for the right words. "Your parents..." She wasn't
`buying.' "Your accomplishments..." No go. She claimed there
were none. She was at the end of her rope. I took a wild
chance. "What will I tell your chosson?" "I don't have
one." "Yes, you do! A heavenly voice announced your true mate
forty days before you were conceived." Desperate crying and
wailing. Sounds of boots on a roof. "Rabbi, thanks. That was
a close call. She's ready to come down."
[Based on a story in "It Happened in Heaven -- Personal
Stories of Inspiration" by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser.]
The thought that there is a bashert for everyone can
literally revive the dead and give hope to the hopeless.
Today, alongside the tremendous growth of a vital and
flourishing Yiddishkeit worldwide, there is an emerging
crisis in the ever expanding singles population, representing
every sector of the religious spectrum. Torah leaders
worldwide have addressed this problem.
The Noveminsker Rebbe, R' Yaakov Perlow, considers the
growing singles crisis in America to be the most pressing
problem on the agenda of Orthodox Jewry. He was instrumental
in establishing Invei Hageffen, an organization
dedicated to finding shidduch solutions for religious
singles. R' Yitzchak Zilberstein, one of the gedolei
Torah in Eretz Yisroel, considers the situation
On Chol Hamoed Succos, R' Zilberstein addressed a
packed audience of 200 single girls who have been waiting for
several years for their match. Following the gathering, he
issued a public proclamation explaining the gravity of the
situation. "There are hundreds of very wonderful eligible
girls who have been searching for their mates for many years.
They sit in their homes in great pain and pathos. Their
parents try to bury their pain but they become very sick and
their joy is extinguished. They are waiting for Torah leaders
to free them, as they free agunos, by changing some of
the accepted norms in shidduchim. If we will all do our best
to help these girls, perhaps Hashem will have mercy on us and
open the heavens, and shower us with great blessings."
ANALYZING THE SLOWDOWN
R' Zilberstein explained that stressed parents and singles
become ill. Outside help is needed. "What can be done?"
"Every person should view the older single as his own
daughter. If he is capable of helping a single and stands on
the sidelines, he transgresses the commandment, `You shall
not stand idly at the expense of your brother's blood'." He
urged the religious media to speak out very forcefully and
press for action. The issues are relevant to us as a
community and deserve our individual attention.
One of the reasons given for the slowdown in shidduchim is
`particularity'. Some singles have very exacting
specifications for their intended mate. "Not for me." "Not my
type." "Different background." "Different hat." R'
Zilberstein says, "If it were permissible to marry Esav [and
Yaakov was faulted for removing his daughter, Dina, from
Esav's sight), there has to be much greater flexibility.
Girls have to think about matches from different backgrounds
and different circles. A good wife can raise the level of her
In addition to personal considerations, peer pressure exerts
a great influence on the choice of a mate. Inter-group
fighting accentuates our differences, causing the common
denominators of Torah and yiras shomayim to be pushed
aside because of secondary issues. In-fighting limits options
for a single greatly. In private conversations, many great
rabbonim have encouraged older singles to broaden their
horizons, to overcome their prejudices and look beyond their
immediate circle for a spouse, and appreciate that the inner
mensch is the essence and that a mature individual can
manage to negotiate many hurdles. Short term peer pressure
should not be blown out of proportion when making the
decision of a lifetime.
THE ROLE OF MACHLOKES
People and interests who fan the flames of machlokes
are directly responsible for segmenting our community, and
increasing the credibility gap between groups. The more
dissension, the harder it becomes for singles from different
strata of the community to marry. In massive Torah gatherings
in Israel and the USA, R' Aharon Leib Steinman scored
machlokes as a direct cause for many current
tzoros. In a message delivered to thousands at an open
air rally in Bnei Brak in Cheshvon, and in a letter sent to
the annual Agudath Israel Convention in America, he explained
that our community is afflicted by severe decrees, including
premature deaths and the proliferation of opphans and widows,
as a direct result of personal and communal machlokes.
He urged groups and individuals to forego, not to stand on
petty principles, and to thus bring plentiful blessing to our
If you have been blessed to marry, have children, and
possibly to marry them off, don't flaunt your good luck.
Share your blessings with others. If you remain self
absorbed, oblivious to pain in your environment, you are
marking yourself as a target for hostile feelings, G-d
forbid, or for an evil eye. Singles in waiting undergo great
ordeals and feel rejected, or at least under-valued. A good
suggestion at the right time boosts morale, and may even
facilitate a match. Lack of suitable attention can demoralize
other Jews, causing damage to the Klal.
TZOROS IN OUR MIDST
The Steipler Gaon urged the father of an older single girl to
pursue a match which he considered under par, but was of
great interest to his daughter. "She will sit until her hair
turns white. She will not forgive you if you let this match
pass by. You are spilling her blood and will be called
accountable" (Letters of the Steipler Gaon).
Though parents play a crucial role in their children's
shidduchim, the long view of Torah leaders has
promoted many matches which would have otherwise not come to
Leaving a shiva call to a young widow, a single forty-
year-old girl commented that she was jealous of the fresh
widow. "After all," she said, "the woman sitting in mourning
had gotten married and had children. I have done neither."
The frightening insight into the mind of a very distraught
person was mentioned to a great woman who is a widow herself
and should set off alarm bells in our head. If a single girl
can express this thought, how much hostility does she harbor
for those who are watching her blood being spilt? And what
are the repercussions of her painful feelings? Hashem
collects the tears of the downtrodden.
EXPLORING SOLUTIONS TO THE SINGLES CRISIS -- EXPANDING
Singles are tired of hearing that they are too choosy. But
perhaps they have imposed artificial blinders on their field
of vision. Perhaps pride and prejudice has impaired their
chances of meeting the right person. Following are a few true
life histories in a nutshell. You or your local
shadchon would probably not have dared to suggest the
A. came from a comfortable Lithuanian family which immigrated
to New York City in the early 1900s. She was European born,
but American bred. Her English was American and her Yiddish,
very American. Her father had built yeshivos and schools in
Eretz Yisroel in the early 1900s and had a great love for
Torah. He wanted to marry his daughter off to an ehrlicher
shomer Shabbos Jew. He found her match in a wonderful
person who was a Yiddish speaking Galicianer who had recently
arrived in America. To add to the story, she was more than
ten years his junior and was much taller than him. They got
married and produced generations of Torah true Jews in the
days when most people were dropping out, intermarrying or
remaining marginal Jews.
B. was a young girl raised in the Western European culture of
Antwerp, pre- World War. Communiciation with Eastern Europe
was very limited. The flames of World War II left Eastern
Europe desolate. Shidduchim were made on a different
basis. B. met and married her husband, a student of Kelm who
was destined to become one of the Torah leaders of our
generation. Despite the differences in culture and mentality,
these great women built Torah generations with their
C. came from French Morocco and knew few words of English,
but used them to her best advantage when she met and married
her non-French-speaking husband.
D. was a bochur in one of the top Lithuanian yeshivos,
with a smidgen of Chassidic background. He was chosen to be
the grand-son-in-law of one of the great Chassidic Rebbes in
If you are fresh and alive with hope but single for overly
long, if you can live with some variety, are flexible in your
approach, you may be able to grant yourself happiness by
listening to a bas kol and ignoring imaginary (and
real) feedback from the street. "Why did SHE marry HIM?" It
was bashert. "What will EVERYONE say?"