By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Everyone knows the recipe for a yeshivish guy: Begin with yeshiva elementary school (till age 13 or 14), then yeshiva high school (till 17 or 18), followed by two years in a good post-high-school yeshiva (finish at 19 or 20), then two years in Eretz Yisrael (till 21 or 22), then BMG from Elul to Tu B’Shevat (freezer door opens at 21½ or 22½), and voila — we have a bachur ready to date.
Juxtapose this to the girls, who are ready to date after their seminary year, at age 18 or 19, and we have a much larger pool of girls than boys. In the chassidish world the problem is the opposite. Boys begin shidduchim earlier and there are more boys than girls, but not that many more, so the opposite crisis in the chassidish world is less severe.
Enter the BMG bachur’s idea: Why don’t we accelerate the schedule of boys’ chinuch? If, somehow, some way, we can use all of our community resources to ramp up the boys’ curriculum, we can perhaps speed up the system. With an accelerated curriculum, boys could skip eighth grade, enter high school at 12 or 13, finish high school at 16 or 17, do their two years at a good post-high-school yeshiva by 18 or 19, spend their two years in Eretz Yisrael by 20 or 21 and then get out of the freezer at 20½ or 21½ — and the gap has lessened from 3 to 1 to a more palatable 2 to 1.
Methods of Implementation
One method of implementing the bachur’s idea is by instituting summer school. Imagine if haschalas Gemara was in fourth grade instead of fifth grade. If we added two months to yeshiva in July and August from the summer of fourth grade through the summer of seventh grade, we accumulate eight extra months of school. Since the school year is essentially ten months, we are only two months short.
There would also likely be a net gain. Most education experts say that it takes a while for kids to catch up from the losses they experienced over the summer. When measuring grade reading levels, the last two months of fifth grade are called 5.9 and 5.10, respectively, by educators. The first two months of sixth grade are called 6.1 and 6.2, respectively. Many kids at 5.10 are at a higher reading level than kids at 6.1. The same is true with both Gemara and Chumash, according to most rebbeim who have delved into the matter. Thus, there would be a net gain.
Is It Practical?
Yeshiva Siach Yitzchok in Far Rockaway employs this summer schedule (although not for the reasons suggested by the BMG bachur). The benefits are enormous.
It significantly helps the finances of the average tuition-and camp-paying families. It keeps kids out of trouble. It boosts their education. And it helps the mothers keep their sanity.
Eliminating the eighth grade is just one method. Alternatively, a program could be created where the twelfth grade in boys’ yeshiva high schools is eliminated as well. This was what used to be done in many places anyway; the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County used to only have a three-year high school program and that worked out fine for many years.
Would Gedolim Endorse This Idea?
In a recent Emailing BaTorah (yes, that is a thing), Reb Moishe Friedman of Toronto cited a number of rulings by our gedolim pointing to the idea of earlier dating. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l (Shalmei Simcha p. 3) urged people to get married by age 20. Rav Elyashiv, zt’l, also said that bachurim delaying dating should be eliminated (Yevakshu MiPihu p. 52–54). Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Halichos Mussar Vol. I p. 287) says that all the Torah the bachur teaches after will not make up for the fact that he delayed marrying. Even Rav Shach, zt’l, (Orchos HaYeshiva p. 299) recommended early marriage for everyone who is not completely shaku’ah in learning (a very high level). In short, the gedolim are behind the concept; the BMG bachur’s tweak is only to make it more practical to implement.
Is a Fourth-Grader Ready for Gemara?
Is a fourth-grader truly ready for Gemara study? There are fifth-graders who fall behind!
That is a good point. Many of our fourth-graders are not ready or mature enough for haschalas Gemara. With the right resources, this can be overcome and we would be better for the effort. In order to prepare them, perhaps special editions of Gemara should be printed, with specially written introductions to help them adjust. We have remarkable sefarim coming out every week. We could have introductory sefarim that will introduce the fourth-grader to Gemara thinking. We could also do certain easier Gemara sections until the young man gets acclimated to its study.
What Would the Girls Do?
Our girls are attending many college programs when they return from seminary. It is possible to start them off on this earlier. CLEP and Raizel Reit TTI tests can be taken during high school. This would allow girls to finish their programs more quickly after they start dating.
Before we dismiss this idea, let us remind ourselves of an important point made by none other than Rav Aharon Kotler, zt’l (in the Elul section of the Mishnas Rav Aharon, chelek aleph). He explains that the growth of the zekeinim of Klal Yisrael came about because of their empathy for Klal Yisrael. These zekeinim were the same shotrim who took the hits for Klal Yisrael from the Egyptian task masters. The same is true for Moshe Rabbeinu — he became great because “Va’yar b’sivlosam,” he empathized with Klal Yisrael’s tzaros.
We have remarkable, wonderful girls who get no shidduch calls and go for weeks or months without a date. There are bachurim who go out every week. We need some Nachshon ben Aminadavs out there who will stand up to make a change.
We must seriously consider the needs of Klal Yisrael’s daughters and devise a solution. Reb Shlomo Yehudah Rechnitz initiated a project along these lines. This bachur’s idea seems to be an excellent tweak to that approach. He deserves a yasher koach for thinking of others. If we implement this idea carefully, we can achieve have a win-win situation.
Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.