Let’s get this straight, there is no Shidduch crisis. There is a crisis in function when it comes to meeting and dating people. The whole name “Shidduch Crisis” alone tells you what’s wrong. It’s not a marriage crisis, it’s a problem centered on shidduchim. Get rid of the Shidduchim and you get rid of the “crisis”.
The whole reason we have a “Shidduch Crisis” is because we’re American Orthodox Jews living under two clumsily grafted together dating systems, one half American, one half Eastern European.
The Shadchan was a great way of bringing together two families for marriage based on social class and money, aka Yiches und Gelt. It worked great so long as the two people had little say in it didn’t care too much who they married. And by great, I mean it worked as badly as any other system for meeting and marrying someone.
But today American Orthodox Jews, at least the ones who can speak English and pay sales tax, actually care about who they marry. They actually want to get to know them and to make sure they can live with them. It’s not just two families making arrangements and working out the down payment. It’s two people, with feelings, personalities and expectations. And the Shidduch System wasn’t built for that at all and grinds to a slow and painful halt.
I’m not advising what to do to fix the “Shidduch Crisis”. I’m advising people not to be stupid. The Shidduch system was never built to do what is being expected of it. The Shidduch system worked and works only when people are minimally selective, when both sides can be reduced to a simple checklist of bank statements and Yichus. But nobody today marries a 200,000 dollar bank account and the great-grandson of the Divrei Something. You marry a human being, a human being you get to know and maybe even love. And there’s no checklist for that.
If every business had to recruit employees by calling a mean old woman in Boro Park or the Five Towns with a jotted down list of names of potential employees who they had to wait months to interview… business would grind to a halt.
Hell even if every business had to recruit employees through professional recruiters, but couldn’t go out and look for employees or put out ads or accept walk ins, business would grind to a halt. And then there would be a “Business Crisis”.
That’s all the “Shidduch Crisis” is, a crisis of function. When a system stops working, you either reform it or throw it out. But that’s not what the Frum world does, because the Frum world continues to insist on treating every bit of Narishkeit that was adopted along the way, every social custom, every tradition from 18th century Poland as Torah Mi’Sinai. American Orthodox Jews want the benefits of the American life while maintaining the customs of the Eastern European life. The resulting compromises produce hypocrisy and dysfunction. Pushed hard enough they produce crisis.
The solution to the “Shidduch Crisis” is not Tefilot or keeping the Mitzvos of whatever, though those all might be helpful, particularly to individuals. The solution to stupidity is to stop being stupid. The Shadchan system cannot be expected to do what we want it to. Not even if every married frum woman in America pitches in. Trying to cover over the resulting misery with talk about Bashert and Everyone has their own Nisoyon, won’t do it either.
Don’t look to me for solutions, but if you must have one, let me give you a Torah answer, that no frum person will accept. Yaakov Avinu met Rachel by a well and kissed her and impressed her by lifting a giant rock. Moshe Rabbeinu met his wife by a well and saved her from a bunch of hooligans. Calev met his wife when she saved his life while he was on a spying mission in her inn. Then there was David Hamelech who won the hand of his wife by bring in the castrated body parts of the king’s dead enemies.
Does that sound daring, romantic, too much like romance novels? We all know Yidden don’t act that way. Except they did and do. Men and women always have and always will remain the same. For better or worse.
The Shidduch system has blip all to do with religion. Every culture has two ways that marriages happen. The social structured way that involves careful family negotiations and have more to do with dowry and the in laws than the couple and the unstructured way that involves men and women meeting and falling for each other, wisely or unwisely. Many more traditional cultures proscribe the unstructred route. The frum world mostly does. Some try to structure it with dances and organized meetings. Back when we were Am Yisrael, before we were “Yidden” and groveled before every ridiculous European and Babylonian Goyische custom we picked up and hugged close to our chests, on Tu Be’av the girls danced in their white dresses waiting for a man to come to them.
No doubt there was a shidduch crisis then too.