After all these years, I’m a little bit tired of trying to get my sons into yeshivas. I’ve been doing this at the rate of at least one child a year for like 7 years now.

I mean yes, you should be in a school that’s geared toward you. But you don’t necessarily end up in a school that’s geared toward you; you end up in a school that accepts you.

Girls’ high schools have their own difficulties, but in some ways that situation is easier. There are like 3 girls’ schools in your town on your radar, and you know about all of them—there’s the one you want to send to, the one you specifically don’t, and the one that will take anyone who doesn’t get into the others.

With mesivtas, there are a million yeshivas, and you have to consider all of them. And you’re always hearing about new yeshivas. You hear from people that they know someone who may have heard of a mesivta.

“There’s a mesivta in my shul! I know nothing about it, but the kids are always around the coffee room when I come for davening.”

New mesivtas open every year. They don’t even need a name. They have a name for legal purposes, but they start off largely being called the name of the rebbi who started it. When the yeshiva is big enough, people start calling it by the actual name. Otherwise, the name is used only on the tax forms.

There are a million mesivtas. You can start a mesivta in your garage, as long as you have a coffee room. Outsource lunch—no one’s going to like it anyway.

But this doesn’t seem to happen with girls’ schools. You can’t put girls in a basement and say, “This is your school for the next 4 years.” If there’s no room in a girls’ school, they add more classes. If there’s no room in a mesivta, someone opens a new mesivta. And then the girls’ schools have 500 teachers, and every teacher interacts with every single girl.

“I have this teacher on the third Thursday of every other month. Make sure to talk to her at conferences. I’ve had her once.”

Girls go to school with a knapsack containing 80 looseleafs for all their different classes, and one of those looseleafs has a class schedule on the front, underneath the plastic. Guys don’t know what that plastic is for. Guys go to yeshiva in a hat and jacket, and maybe some papers folded in the pocket of their jacket. This is why a lot of them wear their jackets to class.

And you’re thinking, “If there are a lot of mesivtas, that’s great! So many options! If you don’t get into School A or B, then…”

Yeah, then he won’t necessarily get into School C either. The menahel of School C doesn’t say, “Well, if A didn’t take him, and B didn’t take him, I guess we should.” They’re not working together. Your son isn’t even doing better on the Gemara he’s prepared with each successive farher he takes. And you know this, because you ask your son every time how he did, and as it turns out, he thinks he did a spectacular job. In fact, my wife and I spoke to a menahel once right afterward, while our son was meeting with the rosh yeshiva, and the menahel said that our son made certain mistakes on the Rashis, and our son told us afterward in the car that he did great and wasn’t corrected once. What, did the menahel look it up after he left?

“Wow, we got all the Rashis wrong!”

No, he knew. The menahel doesn’t correct your kid; your kid is not his problem. You haven’t started paying tuition yet. It’s not his job to help you get into the next yeshiva.

And they feel like they have to be picky. Because the mesivtas are so small, they don’t have the infrastructure to deal with anyone who’s not exactly like the other boys they’ve accepted. “Go to that other yeshiva. That would be better for him.”

“Thanks, that’s helpful. That place didn’t want us. They said they’re full. There are too many people like him at that yeshiva.”

“Yeah, but here there’s no one like him.”

“Yeah, but you have an empty bed. They don’t. Maybe switch buildings?”

The good news is that a yeshiva that takes your son is usually willing to take his brothers, even though brothers are not always the same, but suddenly the yeshiva doesn’t care.

“Eh, close enough.”

Every bochur is unique, they say in their PR, but brothers get the first spots.

Beis midrash is harder. First of all, there are infinitely more batei midrash than mesivtas. There are even secret ones that no one knows about, because there are literally no legal requirements to be a beis midrash. All of the talmidim are adults who can legally be out of school. My brother has a yeshiva across the street from his house with like 9 guys and a rosh. The bochurim all dorm in that house. If an inspector comes, they can just say, “Yeah, we’re just nine adult roommates paying the rent on this place! And our landlord drops by every day!” And it’s not even a lie.

But with beis midrash, it’s pretty clear why there has to be so many: It’s because everyone has to be the top bochur somewhere, for the purposes of shidduchim. If there are more yeshivas, there are more top bochurim.

But you have to farher for those too, so they can see if you can sit in their beis midrash and learn with a chavrusa all day. Which really is open to the entire neighborhood to do usually, for free. But they need to farher you to see if you’re worthy of being charged for it.

It’s even harder to find a yeshiva in a different country. (Well, really just the one country.) Everything is hearsay; you have no idea what the yeshiva is really like. Yeah, you see the pictures they decide you can see, chosen from the thousands of pictures they took.

“All the bochurim have beards!”

Yeah, it was taken during Sefirah.

“All the bochurim squint!”

Yeah, it was taken outside.

Seminary actually has this issue too. If the seminary is in Israel, you don’t know anything about it. The mother and daughter go to an open house, and they come home and tell the father a price, and he has a heart attack, and you use the life insurance money to send her to seminary.

And you want a seminary with a name people have heard of. I’m not just talking about the name “seminary,” though there must be some legal reason we’re calling them seminaries, because technically, there are only two kinds of people in the world who go to something called a seminary: Frum girls and priests. If you don’t believe me, google “seminaries,” because it’s important that you don’t send your daughter to the wrong kind. It’s not good for shidduchim. Case in point, priests don’t get shidduchim.

But you want to send your daughter to a known seminary with a good name, because it’s all for shidduchim. Something that’s just a single Hebrew adjective, like Ateres, or Tiferes, or B’nos. There are no seminaries named, “Rebbetzin Baila.”

Whereas if you say the name of a yeshiva your son went to, and the person has never heard of it, there are so many yeshivas out there that the person just says, “Okay.” You don’t even have to go to a yeshiva. You can just get a chavrusa and tell people you learn by Reb (insert name of your chavrusa here), and when people ask, “Where is that?” you say, “It’s very small. A lot of one-on-one. They cater it to the specific person. I’m the top guy.” Meanwhile, he’s telling people he’s the top guy in your yeshiva.

Which brings us back to our original topic, which is mesivtas: Basically, it’s like the shidduch crisis. You want to match up kids with the right mesivtas, but there are way more kids than mesivtas, and all the mesivtas sound basically the same despite each claiming to be unique. And you meet for one beshow—in the mesivta usually—with the parents in the other room, talking to whichever member of the hanhalah is not farhering the kid.

And if the yeshiva decides early on that they aren’t interested, they spend the whole interview talking about themselves and then say no, much later, like a bad date. Like, why did we have to hear all about you if you were gonna say no?

“Would you rather we talk about something unrelated?”

In fact, there’s a certain logic that if we’re applying, you should take our kid. There are way more types of boys than types of yeshivas, and we know more about you than you know about us. There is more information out there about your yeshiva than there is about our son. The only reason we called you is because we were told this is a good idea by someone who knows our son. We had a shadchan. At least let’s try going out again. Let’s get together for a second farher—maybe next time you come to us, or we meet at let’s say a zoo—and eventually, we can make a tna’im and decide who’s paying for what. n

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com. Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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