Friday, January 22, 2016

Beshalach: Mira-calculus

"Matchmaking is difficult like splitting the Red Sea" [Sotah 2a]

"One should not rely on miracles" [Kiddushin 39b, Pesachim 64a]

I'm far from the only one who thinks that the "shidduch crisis" has little to do with actual shidduchim.

As I've noted elsewhere, if the endgame of shidduchim was simply to empty all the neshamos from Guf and bring the geulah faster, we would still practice polygamy, and divorce-after-ten-years-of-childlessness would still be mandatory.

Obviously communal support of marriage imperatives should go beyond the pru u'rvu mandate.  Which is precisely why there is one element that crisismongers and crisis-skeptics like me should be in full agreement on.  And they can point fingers at guys.

Specifically, older guys.

More specifically, older guys who use a cutoff age significantly below theirs as a dealbreaking criterion, sometimes citing fertility issues as a justification.

There was time when fecundity may have been paramount.

There was a time when there were no correctives or options other than the usual [or fervent prayer.  I mean, we could mention that 3 of the 4 foremothers had serious fertility issues.  Two of them were way under 40.]

These are not those times.

Any guy past the age of 40 [especially if he's not a Kohen] who plays the fertility card in turning down a woman--especially one reasonably close to his age, plus OR minus--might have a hava amina that he's both entitled and obligated to have a large family at the same time, and ergo, it's a "mitzvah" for him to set a much lower age cutoff.  What's sometimes even more shocking is that some communal singles orgs seem to go along with this when the top cutoff for female attendants at their events is lower than the one for males.

The only thing that is being promulgated above has nothing to do with mitzvos or hashkafos.  It's male privilege with a religious veneer, which makes it infinitely more reprehensible.

I can already hear some naysayers, even based on the quotes at the top of this piece: "A shidduch is ALREADY a miracle.  You want me to have to rely on another one if I marry an 'older' woman?  Ain somchin al hanes!!!"


What makes a guy think he has anything to do with the miracle of childbirth beyond his initial contribution, if that, especially with options provided by reproductive technology and adoption?  And that's even assuming that a woman over 40 will have "trouble", which is not even close to being always the case.  Certainly using 35 as a cutoff borders on inexcusable.

In fact--in line with what I wrote about prenups last year--one of the most romantic things a guy over 40 can do for a woman close to his age is be willing to support her through her possible reproductive struggles and be ready for that possibility.   

There was a time when [Sanhedrin 104a, re Eichah 1:1 ["rabasi 'am"]], as a matter of communal "policy", to "produce more children [they would] marry young women to older men....and vice-versa."  

A time when they did both.

There's something rather bizarre in thinking that one has earned the right to an intergenerational match by virtue of having lasted single for so long.  It also introduces some sort of imbalance into the process if that becomes one of the first things a guy looks for.

A time when they did both.

Only then would it have nothing to do with privilege and the evolutionary impulse to pass on one's genes.  Otherwise that's all it is, and it really doesn't deserve a religious imprimatur.  


A time when they did both.