Sunday, January 15, 2012

What about the Kavod of a Ben Yisroel?

I just read the article, The Kavod of a Bas Yisroel, by Rabbi Yair Hoffman in which, in my opinion, he fundamentally misses the point. Granted, the attitude expressed by the young man mentioned in the article is terrible. But the real problem is that every single girl (and/or her parents) is chasing after guys like that and ignoring large numbers of fine frum boys who don't fit their notions of perfection.

Hoffman writes that "statistical reality affords guys five to ten dates per month, yet affords our young women perhaps one date per month." While a statistical disparity may well exist, it is not even close to large enough to explain that kind of disparity. (If it were, then the only possible solution would be to reinstate polygamy.)

However, when only a small group within the larger group of available men is considered to be truly "eligible", then this result is to be expected. And, in such a situation, the fact that many of these "eligible" men begin to feel overwhelmed, and also a bit arrogant, is also to be expected.

There are many aspects to this problem. However, Rabbi Hoffman's article is an excellent example of one of the biggest problems. Rabbi Hoffman describes the women he is discussing:
"These young women daven so very beautifully. Their davening is an inspiration to see. They work long, hard hours in school with the goal of supporting a Torah scholar. They attend shiurim; they learn and read Rav Pincus, Rav Dessler, Nesivos Shalom; they are fluent in halachah. They ask halachic questions whenever they need clarity."
Over the years, I have known innumerable young men who fit this description perfectly, but are not considered good shidduch material. In some cases, they have left yeshiva and are working. Or any other of the thousands of things that render a bochur "inferior".

Rabbi Hoffman's description points to a reality that has long been recognized by yeshiva bochurim: It is much easier to be a "good" girl, than a "good" bochur! A good girl needs only to be frum, value Torah, and have a pleasant personality (what passes for "good middos" nowadays). Such a girl is so "good" that she, and her family, will not even consider a bochur who has exactly the same virtues. If you have two young people, a young man and a young woman, working in the same business, sharing the same values, attending shiurim, reading Torah works, volunteering for chesed organizations, etc., the young woman will be seen as the ideal catch for an up-and-coming rosh yeshiva from a prominent family (even ordinary yeshiva boys are not good enough for her), while the young man will be seen as a good match only for someone with no other options.

Rabbi Hoffman's article is also a good example of our tendency to over-romanticize the virtues of Jewish girls, "her lofty and precious value and significance", as if every Jewish girl is the eishes chayil of Mishlei. This would be fine if we looked at our young men with the same rosy glasses, but - on the contrary - when it comes to our young men we tend to see every flaw, even the most commonplace, as a disqualifying "red line" for shidduchim. (An example of this tendency is this article by Yonasan Rosenblum. You can read my comments on the specific issue raised by that article there.)

Rabbi Hoffman complains that, "We do not educate our young men as to the value of a bas Yisrael anymore. Our girls are taught the value of a ben Torah, but somehow the flip-side lesson has been neglected."

I must disagree. Most of our bochurim do understand the value of a bas yisroel, but many of these bochurim are not even considered worthy of notice by these princesses. For we have taught our young women that they are too good for the ordinary frum boy, that only the "elite" is good enough for them. Yes, we have taught our girls the value of a "ben Torah", but in the process we have so narrowed the definition of a ben Torah that many true bnei Torah no longer qualify.

(Thanks to Daas Torah for bringing the article to my attention.)


Anonymous said...

What about the kavod of non-FFB women, who'd gladly love to date and would honor a Ben Yisrael?

Someone that does has had to work for their Judaism and didn't have it handed to them just very well may appreciate the qualities that the so-called princesses reject.

Nope, those girls tend not to be considered good enough by a Ben Yisrael or his family.

LazerA said...

Thank you for your comment. The issue I discussed in the post certainly plays a role in the difficulties faced by newly-religious members of the community. However, there are several other factors, some of which are legitimate, that make that issue far more complex and difficult.