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January 15, 2007

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Extort Me A Match

The average haredi family has about seven children, four girls, three boys. When the girls get old enough to marry, the cost of the wedding, an apartment (i.e., a condominum), furniture and more falls on the girlls' families. Ynet reports on the cost of being "frum" in the Holy Land:

…The problem is that the more impressive the groom, the higher the demands. Very high-quality grooms demand an apartment in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak that is as close as possible to the head of their yeshiva. In Jerusalem and Bnei Brak apartment prices are about USD 150,000- USD 250,000. Grooms who are outstanding students with a lot of chutzpah demand that the wife’s parents also pay a small stipend to allow them to live decently.

If a family’s boys are not considered attractive as prospective grooms, then the son also needs to have one third of an apartment. The result is that the average family has to spend half a million dollars in a short period of time, and they have no sources of income. And what is a family with 15 children supposed to do?

In order to finance all of this, parents take out many loans and insane mortgages. The loans have to be paid back, and the interest is high, so the parents make use of free loan societies. But even they have to be paid back, so the parents take more loans from other free loan societies. Another solution is to go to the U.S. or Britain and ask for money from wealthy Jews.

Before the wedding the terms of the match are negotiated. The ultra-Orthodox Bakehillah newspaper, which writes a lot on this issue, has published the price list for a groom. For a prodigy in a prestigious yeshiva such as Kol Torah or Hevron in Jerusalem, Or Yisrael in Petach Tikvah or Bet Matityahu in Bnei Brak, you have to pay for the whole package.

For a groom who is half a prodigy you pay somewhere between the whole package and 80 percent of the apartment. For a good guy you have to pay between half of the package and two thirds of it, and for an average guy you have to pay for half an apartment.

In yeshivas such as Grodna, Be’er Ya’akov, and Haknesset Hagedolah, which are a bit less prestigious than Hevron, they demand two thirds of an apartment for a prodigy and half an apartment for an average guy. In the average yeshivas they demand half an apartment.

“Sometimes you have several offers, and the money the family offers is definitely a significant factor in the decision because then you can sit in yeshiva and study the way you ought to,” says D., a student in a prestigious Jerusalem yeshiva. It’s a market thing, supply and demand. Of course you have to pay for a high-quality groom. At our yeshiva we’re the elite, and people are prepared to pay a lot for a groom.”

Why do the bride’s parents have to take a loan in order to pay for your apartment?

“It’s painful to see parents taking loans, but in order to sit and study in a yeshiva you need funding. You can’t buy an apartment on a yeshiva student’s salary. That’s why the parents need to take money. It’s a wheel that can’t be stopped.”

Sometimes the grooms are more interested in the assets they’re going to receive than in the bride they’ll spend the rest of their life with. Ultra-Orthodox newspapers are full of emotional letters from parents shouting to the Heavens in the hope of influencing the yeshiva heads. Important rabbis are now supporting the parents’ point of view and calling for an end to the economic madness.

The leader in this fight is Rabbi Yehuda Silman, a Rabbinical Court judge in Bnai Brak and an important adjudicator of Jewish law.

“In the Lithuanian yeshivas there’s a situation in which the more guys in the yeshiva get an apartment, the more prestigious the yeshiva becomes,” says Rabbi Silman. “The yeshiva heads encourage this to some extent, and in order to preserve the yeshiva’s reputation, they demand of their students that they make a match conditional on getting an apartment.”

Many times the grooms don’t want complete apartments because they know how their parents suffer, but the yeshiva heads push them to take the apartments with no apologies. After all, the whole package is evidence of the yeshiva’s prestige, and a guy who compromises harms the yeshiva’s good name.

In addition, a guy who compromises has to go to work in order to pay for the apartment, and then he can’t sit and study in yeshiva, which also harms the yeshiva’s good name.

Haredim have turned marriage into avodah zara

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B"H
(to read the whole Sicha click the link bellow)
A review of the various codifiers through the centuries will turn up the interesting fact that generally the Chachmei Sefard (Oriental and Spanish Rabbis) ruled that yibum was given preference over chalitzah while the Ashkenazic rabbis ruled that chalitzah is first choice.

Another related subject in which we find the same ongoing difference of opinion concerns the permissibility of marrying more than one wife. Among Ashkenazim the cherem (ban and prohibition) of Rabbeinu Gershon (Me'or Hagolah) is strictly adhered to in all religious circles while Sefardic Jews never accepted the cherem and up to modern times continue to practice polygamy in Sefardic countries.

We may suggest an explanation of this dichotomy in correlation to the general philosophy covering marriage as expressed by the Rambam:

The sensible course is for man first to choose an occupation that will give him a livelihood, then buy himself a home; and after that take a wife; as it is said "and what man is there that has planted a vineyard and not redeemed it...what man is there that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? ...and what man is there that has betrothed a woman and not taken her?" (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 20:5-7) But the foolish first marry, then if one of this sort can afford it, he purchases a house; and last of all, towards the end of his life, he sets about seeking a trade or lives on charity. Thus it is said in the imprecations: "A wife you shall betroth...a house you shall build...a vineyard you shall plant" (Devorim 28:30); that is, all your activities shall be in the reverse order of what they should be.

(Laws of Moral Disposition and Ethical Conduct 5:11)

It is clear that the Rambam predicates the institution of marriage on the ability to support a wife and family.

How have Jews prospered during the long years of exile? We have seen a tangible difference between the condition in Sephardic lands among the Moslems as compared to Ashkenazic lands among Christians. The golus among the Edomites (Christians) has been considerably worse. This may depend on the fact that the Rambam rules that the Yishmaelites (Moslems) believe in G-d while Christians are actually idolaters. For this reason the golus among the Edomites has been so much more fearful.

With this in mind the Sages of Ashkenaz have felt that the pressure of the exile precluded a Jew from having more than one wife or consummating the levirate marriage. In Sefardi lands where life was easier the restrictions did not apply.

May G-d grant that speedily we will see the end of both the exile of Edom and Yishmael. "For so many years have passed since all the predestined times have passed," and we can only say "How long!"

Certainly, G-d will fulfill our request and redeem us from the golus with our youth and elders, sons and daughters, with our complete Torah and mitzvos, to our Holy Land, Yerushalayim the Holy City and the Bais HaMikdash. So may it be, speedily and truly in our time.

One of the accepted reasons for the Nazi terror is that the religious Jews demanded nadden, a dowry. Many women were left single and cried bitterly to Hashem. No less an authoritative journal, The Jewish Observer, mentioned this explanation. Perhaps this is why it isn't so bad in the US.

"One of the accepted reasons for the Nazi terror is that the religious Jews demanded nadden, a dowry."

I don't accept it. There is no possible why the Jews, the vast majority innocent, deserved the Holocaust. It defies explanation.

If a girl, and her parents, are so moronic that they want one of those freeloaders, they deserve whatever they get.

There are many young men who are G-dfearing and hard working people, who can make these girls happy. Most of these girls have never seen the inside of a Gemara and have no clue as to what goes on in a Beth Medrash. They only do what they are doing because of the propaganda issued by the ESTABLISHMENT.

Marry a nice frum boy, let him come home from WORK every day and spend a few hours learning. You will be a much happier prson.

What happens when the new groomhas children and has to spend $$$$$$ to marry of his daughters? Simple: What goes around ,comes around.

Why do you think the CITY of Bnei B'rak is bankrupt?

The Orthodox world is collapsing on itself like a red star. Too many people are producing too little, and spending too much!!

Tuition for elementary/secondary schooling in Yeshivas is rising at an unprecedented rate. Too much of the limited resources of the Orthodox community is geared toward "higher" education (sic!), and the accompanying "bank-kvetching", while the needs of our precious little ones are overlooked. If we don't restrict Kollel to serve only the select few, who will be carefully groomed (fat chance!!) to serve as educators, jurists, and pulpit Rabbis (LOL), Orthodoxy will wither on the vine.

I see positive in this post. Haredim have adopted many of the practices of closed off cultures, the dowry is just one of them. But it's good to hear that in this case "Important rabbis are now supporting the parents’ point of view and calling for an end to the economic madness." I'll grasp onto any straw of hope in that haredi madness!
This situation does bring to mind the over the top Bar/Bat mitzvah situation in the US particularly in the Conservative Reform and M.O. worlds. The pressure on parents to drain their finances to put on that black-tie/country club affair is tremendous. And what connection to mitvah is there when you have a Titanic themed affair or hire Aerosmith to perform. Those groups rabbis need to speak out too (but of course the guys putting on the $1mil bar mitzvahs are also big temple donors...).

The left wing Rabbis who don't complain about the "million" dollar Bar Mitzvas are afraid to have the money donated to Jewish education. Too much education, might make the kid observant, and the Rabbi will lose his sinecure.

The right wing Rabbis are afraid that hey will lose their sinecure if the populace gets acquainted with the real world out there.

The middle of the road is screwed from both ends!!

At least the parents who throw lavish Bar/Bat Mitzvahs aren't doing so on someone else's dime. I still agree with you though. It's outrageous.

"The middle of the road is screwed from both ends!!"

I agree. It's about time to stop kvetching and start something new. That's my main complaint about this blog- it rightfully points out the negative, but offers no alternatives.

The "solution" is simple. You go to America and collect for "poor Talmudic schlars in Israel." Parasitism begets schnorring. Or the parents can wise up, put their foot down and just say no. Go out and work for a living like you undertake to do in the ketuba. Remember that ketuba? I will work for you, I will support you. . . .?

Unfotunately, it is not the fault of middle of the road Orthodoxy that it is screwed, and the other 'sides' will not bother respecting the middle. Therefore, there are many solutions to the problem, but these solutions lie on the side of right or left wing judaism, and they will refuse to help those of us they despise. Do you have an alternative that can help centerist orthodoxy that doesn't require help from the 'sides?'

Sorry, YU Guy, I am searching for a solution myself. Maybe Chovevei Torah and/or The Union For Traditional Judaism. But I'm not sure those guys have what it takes.

Centerist Orthodoxy is proposed as a "middle" position? Well, that's today's healthy laugh for me, YUGUY.

My question is, what are the children of those currently studying going to do? If the parents become so overburdened that they cannot leave a legacy to their children and the fathers/husbands aren't making any progress towards a career that provides a sustainable salary, aren't they dooming their children and grandchildren?

Frankly, my dear, they don't give a damn!!

I think we should learn from the great Rabbi Chanina bar Chama. From the Chabad.org website, "Rabbi Chanina did not wish to make the Torah "an axe to dig with." He did not wish to use his knowledge of Torah as a means to obtain a livelihood, or honor and the like. He began to deal in honey, and his business flourished. He became a rich man, and the first thing he did was to build a Torah academy in his town Tzippori entirely from his own money."

Dear neoconservaguy;

Yuguy and his centrist Orthodoxy do represent the middle of the road.He stands for halacha sans add-ons that are merely there to artificially divide groups of Jews. What was considered satisfactory amongst the most observant Jews 40 years ago, can get you thrown out of Yeshiva today.

Where do you find centrist Orthodoxy to be intolerant BEYOND the realm of Halacha?

Notice how the opposite of "god fearing" is a "guy who works"

Dear Shmuel Bais;

If you carefully read my post, you will see that I recommended that girls look for G-d fearing, hard working young men. These two concepts are not opposed to each other. Isn't it funny that King David started out as a shepherd, Elisha did, Moshe did, Obviously all three Avot did. Yirmiyahi was taking care of his vineyard, Nechemia was an aide at the Persian court. All of these personages must have been G-d fearing, working people. No Biblical figure (ZIP, NADA, NINGUNO, KEN EINEM NIT) was recorded by the Nevi'im as being in Kollel (KOILIL)!!

Read the large paragraph in the Shema. We are promised that if we behave ourselves, the grass will grow for our animals, the grapes will grow, the rain will fall, etc... It does not say YOUR SHVER WILL SUPPORT YOU!! (and it certainly doesn't mention food stamps and government programs!!)

I went to Ohr Samecha in 1985. I was taught a wife can work just so long as it is not out of the home. They viewed a wife who stayed home as the ideal. The rabbis there said the attraction to women in becoming religious was here was an avenue in which the women can realize the traditional way of life.

Thats unfortunate. Women can work wherever they want. And the phrase 'working out of the home' is very ambiguous, by the way.

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