click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Still Not Married

Still Not Married

Older singles in the shidduch crisis.


At 50, Benjamin's soul aches. Day after day, not only does he encounter people younger than he with kids, but the kids themselves are starting to have kids. He is happy for them and dances joyfully at their simchas. He saves his complaints for God.

"There are times when I feel so angry at God, so downtrodden. Dear God, You give me so many talents, but you don't give me the opportunity to serve my wife with them."

If Benjamin had some significant shortcoming his circumstances would be more understandable. But he doesn't.

A vigorous man with a youthful air and good sense of humor, Benjamin has been steeped in Jewish culture, languages and identity. Since his late 30s, he has been religiously observant, having become so gradually over the years through his involvement with Aish HaTorah.

Benjamin longs to invite his friends to his wedding -- and he has many friends. His gregarious nature and very caring personality have earned him a high profile in Toronto's Jewish community. Notwithstanding his rich social network, numerous people have tried to set him up over the years. Even more have expressed bewilderment that such a wonderful man is still single.

You'd think he was fussy, but Benjamin's list is short. He's clear on what he wants, and it hasn't changed significantly in the past ten years.

Benjamin's situation is heartrending. He is Mr. Community -- and the quintessential victim of an ever-growing shidduch crisis, a societal calamity that needs to be understood and addressed.

Chasing delusions

"Women often interview me on the very first date, and make snap judgments."

A new ethos has taken hold in the West. It's called ‘now-ism'. Overlaying the self-centered, serve me attitude that's been around since the ‘70s, people today have less patience and lower tolerance for shortcomings than in the past. Maybe it's our fast food, jet travel, instant messaging culture. We want the perfect date now, we want to fall in love immediately, and we don't want to expend a lot of effort getting to know a person's character, goals and values -- factors that greatly determine the long-term success of a relationship.

Instead we focus on the superficial or the transient: A Hollywood waist size, a kippah versus a black hat, Ivy League graduate vs. regular graduate -- such considerations detract from what is really important about a person. "Women," says Benjamin, "often interview me on the very first date, and make snap judgments."

Materialism is rampant. Expectations of an expensive engagement ring, visions of a lavish wedding and a luxurious house. Benjamin says that some women attempt to figure out his income bracket within the first 15 minutes of meeting. He feels like bantering, "My income runs in the six figure range -- but that includes a decimal point..."

Among the more religious, there's yichus, an unyielding pressure to marry into a blemish-free family with prestigious lineage. It's been mused that if our patriarchs were living today, they'd easily fail the shidduch test: Abraham's father was an idol worshipper, Isaac had an Arab brother, and Jacob's twin was evil.

Many people think of an eligible single as having a certain ‘market value', which takes into account health, beauty, income level, social skills, education level, and so on (the weight of each factor differs between men and women, and is culturally dictated). This market value is above, below or approximately what we ourselves are ‘worth'. The goal, simply speaking, is to secure the best deal we can.

Problem is, relationships don't work that way. Love doesn't work that way. We're not in competition with anyone; and even if we think we are, the factors that cause two people to want to or not want to sustain a relationship are too complex, too elusive and too subjective to be able to plug into some formula and test for ‘market value compatibility'. Doing so can lock us into singledom: the desirable will be unobtainable, and the obtainable undesirable.

As for perfection, it doesn't exist. Moreover, imperfection is what a marriage thrives on -- it provides space for self-improvement and allows each partner to make a unique and meaningful contribution to the other's growth. Compatibility, while critical, is only one key determinant of a happy marriage; another is the effort both partners put into continually nurturing their relationship after the chuppa.

Doing our part

There are many things we can do, as a community and individually, to help the growing numbers of dejected singles find their bashert.

Why not a pre-dating course that teaches young people what to look for in a spouse?

Rabbis recommend that people take pre-marriage classes when they get engaged. Why not design a pre-dating course that will teach young people what to look for in a spouse? Such a course could be offered in Jewish high schools, and cover the religious as well as psychological aspects of dating.

How about establishing a shidduch committee in synagogues that would be dedicated specifically to addressing the needs of local Jewish singles? Even better are community-wide shidduch organizations that would recruit volunteers, raise funds and help singles meet -- much like a gemach or other chessed organization in the city.

Communities should try to organize innovative singles events; for example, having a trained facilitator or a married couple present to help with introductions, or inviting a rabbi to give an interesting talk at the event (e.g., about what to look for in a spouse).

At the individual level, maintain contact with your single friends after you get married. While interests change, responsibilities multiply and you have less in common with singles, a 15-minute call on Chanukah or Pesach can boost your old buddy's sense of worth and feeling of connectedness to the broader community. Offer moral support and guidance.

Keep a readily accessible notebook. Dedicate one column for eligible men and another for eligible women you know. Include telephone number, city of residence and age (be sure to date the entries). Jot down a few pertinent facts: a medical condition; vegetarian; wants to move to Israel; and so on. Every time you meet or think of new singles, enter them in the appropriate column and scan the other column for a possible match.

Invite singles for Shabbos or Yom Tov. Host them individually in order to get to know them better, or have a mix of singles and married couples at your table. However, don't invite only two singles and try to set them up in your home, unless you first informed them of your intention.

Include singles in your prayers. Besides the power prayer has in affecting change, doing so will secure them a place in your consciousness, making it more likely that you will recognize, and follow up with, any match-making opportunities that may arise.

For Benjamin, as for countless others who long to build a family of their own, time is running out. Still, he is positive and optimistic. What's kept Benjamin going is that he firmly believes God must have someone very special lined up for him to have made him wait so long.

Benjamin is doing his part. Let's make sure we do ours.

December 8, 2007

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 114

(101) Bobby5000, May 25, 2018 2:26 PM

lessons from someone who does well

While I had challenges before getting married, I have a family member who is quite successful with women. Here are some lessons, applicable to both men and women.

1. Be upbeat and smile People like happy people. And no, people do not want to hear about fibromyalgia or other illness on a first date.

2. Dress well, not overdone, but not showy. He gets tailored suits, not everyone can do that, but be attentive to how you look.

3. Be a good listener. Don't change subjects, be genuinely interested in what another person has to say. Every person is different, in a social setting, smile, try to understand how they think and be in sync with their views. You're right, great comment, tell me more, I understand, are good things to say.

4. Be aware of social norms Gutter talk is likely offensive to many woman like inappropriate touching. Being overeager usually backfires.

5. Be confident and not worry about slights My friend ignores small slights and simply enjoys life.

6. Get feedback Professionally, one thing he does is constantly solicit feedback, and is happy to address negative feedback though he is unusually successful. Don't hesitate to ask a date what happened in a support fashion so he or she can be honest

(100) Inbar, July 2, 2013 10:54 PM

Hopefully, Benjamin has by now found a match

I sincerely hope that Benjamin has, by now, found a match, and that they are happily building a good Jewish family. For all the others who are unmarried in spite of their wish for a partner: with Hashems help for you, too, there will be a match. You are in my prayers, and in those of many others.
Do not give up hope, you are worthwhile partners and there are good matches for each person.

Adina, December 31, 2015 11:38 PM

I don't believe that there is someone for everyone. I am 50 years old and have not had one date in 18 years. I no longer think I will ever be married. I am very shy so I am sure that is part of the problem. Loneliness is so painful and depressing.

(99) Lois Homer, February 26, 2013 7:06 PM

There are both men and women who look for movie star looks, big incomes, big engagement rings, and there are others who seem great at first but turn out to be selfish, mean, cold and a guy like Ben may overlook these things to find someone. He shouldn't sell himself short. It's better to be single than marry the wrong one and go through a painful divorce. I am happily married but in my family, cousins uncles, aunts had horrendous divorces because they didn't see through the glamor, fake personality, phoniness. Ben may have been meeting the wrong women even if he's dated a lot. I hope he meets a woman with his values. As for children, I don't know about this for sure, but can older couples adopt children who need a loving home? Is there a cut off age for adopting from adoption agencies?

(98) Anonymous, February 13, 2013 10:46 PM

Meeting Benjamin

I would love to meet Benjamin !

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment