A Conversation in Shul

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

A conversation in shul recently took place on a Sunday morning between a prominent lawyer talmid chochom and a mechanech.  The subject of the conversation was about a Kollel for single bochurim. The conversation went something like this:

Mechanech:  “The aim is to create Torah scholars for the next generation that are fully proficient in seder nezikin and Choshain Mishpat.  Twenty-five bochurim would be hand-picked for their commitment to learning Torah b’hasmadah, for their ability to study Torah in great depth, and for their ehrlichkeit.  The Kollel would pay the bochurim $50,000 per year in order to ensure that their financial needs would be met – allowing them to learn undisturbed.  The only condition of the Kollel is that the twenty-five bochurim must commit to remain in the Kollel until the age of forty, and to remain single during the duration.”

The response from the lawyer was, “WHAT?  That is against halacha!”

“Why?  It is for Torah growth.”

“But until forty?  I have never heard of such a thing.  Chazal tell us that one must marry young.  This is something that Gedolei HaDor, the einei yisroel must pasken.  And I highly doubt that this question was brought up to them.”

“But think of the future benefits..  Don’t you see the advantages of such an idea?”

“Yes, but I also see the disadvantages – The Gemorah encourages everyone to marry young.  Also, it would exasperate an already catastrophic shidduch situation.”

“Okay, but what would you say if they knocked down that last requirement to 35 years of age.  There are plenty of bochurim that do get married at 35.  Then would you agree that it is a good idea?”

“Absolutely not!  We don’t change what Chazal tell us – no matter what.”

“Well, you wouldn’t disagree with it  if it was until age 30.  If they adjusted the requirement until age 30 – then you would surely be behind it, no?”

“I would ask Gedolei Torah.  I would not go a day longer than what the Gedolim would say. But I still think that they would never agree to such an idea.”

—-

Analysis:  This conversation that took place – was absolutely real.  The Kollel under discussion, is fictitious.  The two points that the lawyer made, however, are  very salient,  very real, and very current.  Also, the matter was brought up several times to Gedolei Yisroel.  It concerns what is contemporarily known as, “the freezer.”   The “freezer” refers not to that bulky appliance kept in the basement and used to keep meats, soups, and kugels frozen for the impending yomim tovim – but rather to a policy of what is arguably the largest yeshiva since the days of Sura and Pumpedisa.

It is a yeshiva wherein the Kol Torah does not stop.  It is a yeshiva wherein Torah scholarship has reached unprecedented heights, where Gedolei Torah are both born and come of age.  It is a yeshiva that fosters growth in Torah and midos, and a yeshiva that carries the heritage and birthright of Sinai – including the precious mesorah of the Vilna Gaon and his Talmid, Rav Chaim Volozhin.  It is a Yeshiva that has established Kollelim across the nation – indeed, across the world.

The policy of the “freezer” is that bochurim that arrive from Eretz Yisroel to attend that yeshiva – may not date until after Tu Bishvat – some six months into the new zman.  It is a policy that did not exist in the times of the Yeshiva’s illustrious founder, nor his son zt”l.

It is a policy that the Gedolei HaDor have gone on record to disagree with – in writing.  It is also a policy that has exasperated an already desperate shidduch situation.  It is important not to chalilah bash a Yeshiva that has literally changed the landscape of Torah in this country.  Rather, this article was written to encourage a re-thinking of this policy.  The ideas set forth in this article are the ideas espoused by Rav Elyashiv zatzal, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman zatzal, Rav Shmuel Auerbach zatzal, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky zatzal and the Chazon Ish zt”l.  They should neither be dismissed nor taken lightly.

The issue was brought to these Gedolei HaDor and, without exception, they all signed on the enclosed letter dated in the month of Taives ten years ago and is translated below.  The only additions that were made to the letter by the author are the headings – which were added to facilitate better comprehension and greater clarity:

THE DILEMMA

Our community finds itself in an increasingly difficult situation, with thousands of Bnos Yisroel getting older and not finding their zivug. It has become clear, with Hashem’s help, that the primary cause for this is that bochrim generally marry girls who are a number of years younger.

Since the population increases every year, there are more girls entering shidduchim than boys – and many girls are left unmarried.

THE REMEDY

Clearly, the way to remedy this terrible situation is to reduce the age disparity in shidduchim. Many Chassidishe communities who do not have age disparities in shidduchim are not facing this tragic situation of numerous unmarried girls. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us to work diligently to save our daughters from this plight.

FORBIDDEN NOT TO ACT

It is assur for anyone who can help to stand passively by. All Yidden are responsible for each other and the Torah cries out to us, “Lo Sa’amod al Dam Rei’echa!”

A key component of the solution is to have our sons marry at a younger age. And in order to accomplish this, it would be good for the bochurim to come back earlier from Eretz Yisroel. Calculations show that if bochurim would begin shidduchim one year earlier on average, then within ten years, over a thousand women would be saved from the agony of waiting indefinitely for their zivug.

OBLIGATION ON YESHIVOS AND ROSHEI YESHIVA

Therefore, we have come to publicize our opinion that there is an obligation on the yeshivos and Roshei Yeshiva to find ways to enable the bochurim to begin shidduchim at a younger age including encouraging them to return sooner from Eretz Yisroel.

OBLIGATION ON BOCHURIM

We are also calling on the bochurim themselves to return from Eretz Yisroel at a younger age in order to be ready to get married at the appropriate time. Through their nesias ol, they will merit true Kinyan Torah, reaching ever-greater heights, and they will be zoche to build a Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisroel L’shem U’siferes.

Rav Elyashiv [zatzal], Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman [zatzal], Rav Shmuel Auerbach [zatzal], and Rav Chaim Kanievsky [zatzal].  Rav Elyashiv zt”l signed it one year before the letter was published.  This author’s research is that Rav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky shlita, a mashgiach in Orchos Torah was the one who was behind the writing of the letter.

RAV GERSHON EDELSTEIN SHLITA’S VIEW

This very question was posed to Moreinu Rav Gershon Edelstein shlita by Rav Eliyahu Kellerman, the Mashgiach of Ponevech, regarding “Tshalmers” in his own Yeshiva – Ponevech.  “Chalmers” are people that originally stem from Yerushalmi families (although most of them live now in Beit Shemesh).  The current practice of many Tshalmers is to go to Ponevech at 18 and get married at 19 and ½. Rav Kellerman wanted to make a takana that restricted this practice.  Rav Edelstein responded that it would be forbidden to do so [heard by this author from Rav Gershon Edelstein’s Gabbai on 17 Elul 5772].

This author has it on good authority that Moreinu  Rav Shmuel Kamentesky shlita once called one of the Roshei Yeshiva and pleaded that the restriction be removed.

In an interview with Mr. Gary Barnett at an Agudas Yisroel symposium, Rav Elya Ber Wachfogel shlita said that if the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah were around today the first thing they would address is the crisis for our young ladies.  This is the first thing they would address.

CONCLUSION

This was not just the opinion of the aforementioned Gedolei HaDor, but was also the view of the Chazon Ish zt”l.  We find a fascinating remark that the Chazon Ish made to Rav Yisroel Singer zt”l, the son-in-law of Rav Reuvain Trop zt”l cited in Maaseh Ish Vol. II  page 206.  A bochur learning in yeshiva was told by the Chazon Ish that he must start dating and that the Mishna (Avos 5:21) states “Ben Shmonah esreh lachupah – at 18 one should enter the chuppah.”  Rav Singer inquired of the Chazon Ish, “Is it possible that this refers only to their time – but in modern times they should not marry young?”  The Chazon Ish sarcastically responded, “If your reasoning is correct, then we should also change [the beginning of the Mishna that states] 13 years of age to entering Mitzvos..”

The freezer policy is about 26 years old, and when it first came out, there were at least three shailos regarding the policy that were posed to Rav Shach zt”l (1899- 2001 – 16th of Cheshvan).  For each of them, Rav Shach paskened that the bachur should disregard the restriction on his dating.

More recently, Rav Chaim Kanievsky zatzal explained (Rav Chaim on Shidduchim Vol. II [Hebrew] questions 144-146] that any bochur in any Yeshiva is not obligated to adhere to any such rule restricting dating because it is likened to “masneh al mah shekasuv baTorah – placing a condition on something that is written in the Torah [and one who does so the condition is negated].”

A bachur also once asked Rav Chaim zatzal the following question (See Rav Chaim on Shidduchim Vpl. I p. 106):  I am a bochur who has two options for next year when I return to the United States.  I can study in a yeshiva where I feel I can learn better, but they have a condition that I cannot date for the next four months [and practically it is six months if one comes in Elul zman] or I can go to a Yeshiva without such a policy at the outset – but I feel that I will not be able to learn as best as I could. What should I do?

Rav Chaim responded that the bachur “should study at the Yeshiva where he can learn better and ignore the condition, because  masneh al ma shekasuv baTorah – one who stipulates a condition that is in contrast to the Torah – the condition is batel – invalid.”  The wording of

Rav Shteinman zt”l once explained in a letter, “although the common practice is to delay dating at least until twenty, this is only if the bachur himself wishes to delay, but we may not force him to do so.”

It seems clear that the Gedolei HaDor were not and are not in favor of a policy that restricts bochurim dating.  Such a policy further exasperates the situation of shidduchim for bnos Yisroel – our precious daughters.  The letter that was signed ten years ago states that anyone who can do something to effect such a change should do so.  We see from their letter that we should do what we can to alleviate the situation.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


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