We are all being asked to play a role to assist in any way we can in ameliorating a burgeoning crisis. There are many difficult issues and situations in Jewish life requiring that we gather together in some fashion and make a communal effort to achieve a much needed and desired result.
But whoever would have thought that we would not be able to get a handle on the matter of shidduchim in our extensive and even diverse Orthodox communities to the point that many are ready to declare the matter out of control and perhaps even a national emergency of sorts?
People who are active in these endeavors, aside from taking time to try to match prospective candidates, are turning in every direction possible and exploring all avenues to try to find the combination of things we can do as a community so that the situation can possibly be eased in the months and years ahead.
Our communities are growing and developing both exponentially and beautifully, baruch Hashem. Along with the increase in numbers, however, is also the compounding of the problems associated with that advance. And the greatest issue is that of singles who want to be married and begin their own family but somehow are just not managing to get it done.
Last week, Rabbi Yitzchok Kolodetsky was in New York to speak to and inspire audiences specifically on the matter of shidduchim. Rabbi Kolodetsky is the son-in-law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, the Bnei Brak sage who sees thousands of people from around the world every year to receive his blessings and good wishes for health and success in their endeavors.
About a year ago I had the opportunity to pick Rabbi Kolodetsky up from JFK Airport upon his arrival here in New York and take him to the home of the people he was staying with in Far Rockaway over Shabbos. We communicated mostly in Yiddish, along with peppering in some Hebrew here and there, and we had the chance to discuss the matter he is focused on: shidduchim.
Here we are almost a year later, and one day last week the young man he travels with, Rabbi Yehuda Berlin, called to say that the rav was in the Five Towns and wanted to stop by our office, which was a great opportunity to get an update on the issue.
In our endless quest for answers and to achieve some clarity on why things happen the way they do, we dived right into what might be the crux of the matter. And that is why there is such a crisis in the matter of shidduchim. Why are so many young men and especially young women apparently stuck in a kind of dating limbo that can go on for years? And more than that, why are there such long stretches of time and few opportunities, in particular for the young women in their twenties and thirties, to receive ideas about prospective matches?
His first response to my question was that the girls are more advanced than the boys, and therein lies a large part of the problem, he said. I asked Rav Kolodetsky to elucidate the issue for us, and he reiterated that the girls are more educated, mature, and ready for marriage, and in too many instances the boys are just not. So, I inquired, why does he think it is that way and what can we do about that?
“Hashem wants to hear our tefillos. He just wants us to daven,” Rabbi Kolodetsky says in a very matter-of-fact fashion. So I insist that we are already davening three times a day, bentching after meals, saying Tehillim, and so on. Rabbi Kolodetsky is sitting across my desk in our office; stretches out his arms and shrugs as if to say that this is just the way it is—Hashem wants to hear us daven.
OK, I say to the rabbi. But I know that he spoke about this exact subject for the Chazaq organization in Queens a few nights prior to our meeting, and that could not have been all that he said. And then Rabbi Berlin, who speaks English well, said that after the presentation he met with about 50 young women to listen to their concerns and try to guide them accordingly. So what did he tell them?
Prior to her passing in 2011, Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, a’h, met with hundreds if not many thousands of women to give them berachos and counsel and advise them on issues many were dealing with, and most often the matter of concern was shidduchim.
After she passed away, her daughter Rebbetzin Leah Kolodetsky has stepped into her place and has assumed the mantle of the source of blessing that so many are seeking.
I asked the rabbi to share with us some of the advice that his wife is imparting to the many young women she meets with every day. The main recommendation, which he says originated with Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l, who passed away in 2017, is that women should bring in and accept Shabbos upon themselves ten minutes prior to the actual z’man.
To this end, Rabbi Kolodetsky makes three points. The first, he says, is that the transition between when the week concludes and Shabbos is brought in is an “eis ratzon,” a particularly propitious time when prayer is received in an extraordinarily favorable way.
Secondly, the rabbi says that when you bring Shabbos in early, it is as if you are bringing a korban that forgives any misdeeds that may have been committed. And he adds that “all the women and girls who accept Shabbos early counterbalance all the women who light candles at the last minute, and bring a z’chus to everyone,” he says.
And there’s more. Rabbi Kolodetsky says in the name of his father-in-law that in order to facilitate finding a shidduch, young women should daven three times a day, and they should do so even if they cannot have the proper or full kavanah on the tefillos. The rabbi added if one davens from a Siddur and not by memory, that alone counts for 50% of the required kavanah.
Rav Chaim has also said that the tefillos of mothers have special value and that every effort should be made to daven these tefillos. According to Rav Kolodetsky, his father-in-law has said a mother who has to go to work and gets up early to daven is guaranteed that this will not detract from her time to sleep. If she has younger children, the rav explains, they will sleep better at night, and if she has older children, she will have fewer worries from them and her quality of sleep will be improved.
An acquaintance of mine who needed a shidduch for his daughter a few years ago visited with Rav Chaim and related his concern to the rav. R’ Chaim told the young man to daven. The person listened and then before leaving said to Rav Chaim, “So all we should do is daven?” R’ Chaim looked at him and responded in Yiddish, “Davening is doing.”
In case you were wondering where it is that heaven and earth meet, where our mundane physical existence interfaces with the truth and involvement of G-dliness in our lives, we may have found it. And it just might be the matter of creating matches for young men and women.
As to why there is such a problem, some will attribute it to a broken-down social system or rather one that does not exist in some segments of the Orthodox Jewish community. While changes can take many years to effectuate and implement, something needs to be done in the interim to address the growing problem that the matter of shidduchim has become. I suppose that is where davening comes into the picture.