Why is the Single Not Married?
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
Why is the single not married? Why do we have people of all ages who spent decades looking for a shidduch but fail? Why do we have some young people today who simply refuse to consider shidduchim?
I have asked this question to single activists, and there are many answers. But I add to all of these answers one answer, the answer that I believe is central to the entire issue of singles and marriage. People do not know the Torah laws of marriage. If people would know the laws of marriage, singles would decline in number, very much.
The Laws of Marriage are in the Fourth Section of Shulchan Aruch, Even Hoezer, which begins with the obligation for a man to marry. One who does not marry, says the Shulchan Aruch, is not an ODOM (person), drives away the Shechinah, limits the creation of people who are in the image of HaShem.
The Shulchan Aruch states clearly that a man must marry by eighteen, and not delay more than perhaps a few years in the twenties. After that, in early generations, Beis Din would intervene, as this person is a public sinner.
Reb Chaim Pelagi adds in his teshuvose that when a couple came to him with a broken marriage, he considered them to be a threat to the community. Biology is very strong. A man and woman outside a functioning marriage are a menace to themselves and to others.
Let us be brave and talk about this. Reb Eliyohu Lapian was one of the great Yeshiva mashgichim and he was a power of holiness. Many are the stories about him giving advice that could only have meant that he had ruach hakodesh. When Reb Aharon Kotler died he was taken to Israel for burial. There was at that time a great dearth of rain. As Reb Aharon’s body was lowered into the grave, Reb Eliyohu Lapian approached and cried out, “Reb Aharon Kotler zt”l, Gadol HaDor, go to the Heavenly Throne and ask for rain.” It started to rain, first in droplets and then in a strong rain and it kept raining for a long time. We mention this story to bring us to the second story, which is more on our topic.
A student of his Yeshiva once approached Reb Eliyohu Lopian for permission to leave the Yeshiva to attend a family wedding. Reb Elya asked him, but your family is not so religious. Surely you must be worried about how people dress, so how can you go? The student answered that those things don’t bother him. Reb Elya replied, “What is your mother’s name?” meaning, I will pray for you because you are ill. The student objected that he was not sick. Reb Elya answered, “I am in my late eighties and have only one eye. But if I see such things they bother me. If you are not bothered you must be sick. So I will pray for you.”
What is our point? Singles, in their thirties, forties and who knows what else, date and date. They get into cars and drive around. They are alone talking as much as they want. People at that age, fully employed, are independent. Do we really believe that singles who spend such times on a regular basis are not in mortal danger of sinning?
When I learned by Reb Aharon Kotler zt”l there was a student who was very frum. But he got along in years and was not married. I went over to him and said, “Look, you are a frumeh. But this is hefsed merubo (a great loss). Every year that goes by without marriage is one less child. A child is a wonderful thing. And the only way to get one is to marry.” He married very soon afterwards.
Let’s look at the ledger. Let’s make a business decision. If you marry young, you and your wife are malleable and merge together, but if you are already older it is harder to merge with another person. Thus, marrying late threatens the entire marriage, and because it is harder to relate properly the entire process of shidduchim is stymied. It is then much easier to refuse a shidduch and it is much harder to finish and marry. Thus marrying late makes it much harder to marry, period.
If you marry early, you can have children. Every child is a soul from HaShem who can have generations. A single who marries fifteen years later has lost fifteen years of potential children. And if a woman is a single, as she approaches forty, she trembles. What are the singles waiting for?
Yes, as the singles have told me, there are reasons, many reasons, for people to refuse shidduchim and refuse marriage. But these Torah people who refuse shidduchim and marriage and age older and older, do they realize that they are defying the Torah? Men and women must both marry. People come into the world to populate it. Moshiach cannot come until a certain amount of souls come into the world.
A marital therapist has explained that there are two types of marriage. One, where people like each other. And two, when people commit to each other. For instance, two people may spend time together and like each other and decide to marry. Or, people may marry because their parents suggested the match. This level, called arranged marriages, is permitted in the Torah only if the child has seen the prospect and approved, but nonetheless, the commitment is there regardless of how excited the person is.
The therapist, Mort Fertel, says that studies show that marriages based upon love may fail because people change as they grow older. They are thus different than the person they met before the marriage and this can destroy the marriage. But studies have also shown that commitment creates love even where it did not exist naturally.
Thus, a single facing a shidduch has to consider primarily the Torah; he/she must be married. Men and women both want children. The problem is that they have to choose somebody who is available that may not be perfect. The person may be the wrong age, or not have enough money, or not know enough Torah, or not have a pedigree to brag about. But the Torah does not ask you to marry somebody of the right age, income, or Torah learning. The Torah commands marriage. You can find somebody to marry. If you delay, each year makes the choice less appetizing. When will it end? In 120 years you will be asked why you married so late, or why you never marriage. You will answer____?
Thus, the young person of today, and even a single advanced in years, has a choice. Look for Mr. or Miss Perfect, and age, or find a proper person, maybe not so exciting, and commit to the marriage, and allow love to develop, stronger and stronger as the children come in. A couple that walks their child to the Chupah, is a product of commitment that continues with the children. And the person who wants to find somebody more exciting or somebody more impressive to show off what he/she got, well, good luck.