My son, who is approaching age 30, has been in shidduchim for quite a number of years. He learns in a yeshiva that has a dormitory. Recently, we were told by a shadchan that the parents of a girl we had given a yes to questioned why our son is still in a dorm. To quote them, “Shouldn’t he have his own place already? Why is he in a dorm with bochurim eight years younger than he is?”
We had never thought of this before. Is this indeed the way people look at this? Is this a legitimate observation?
Being that the norm in today’s yeshiva world is that bachurim who are in yeshiva, by and large, do continue to live in the dormitory, either until they get married or leave yeshiva to begin school or a career, it would seem to me that the root of the question being asked is not really “Why is your son living in a dormitory?” While it is certainly true that some bachurim who approach 30 or older become uncomfortable living in the dormitory and look for other living arrangements while they continue to learn, I believe that is the exception to the general rule.
It is possible that the parents of this young woman are not aware of this norm, and if so, someone would need to give them a rather lengthy explanation of the norms of yeshiveleit, but I do not imagine that to be the case here.
It appears to me that the real questions being asked here are “What is your son up to? Why is he still in yeshiva and living in a dormitory at age 30? What are his plans for the future, and have you or he given any thought to this?” If I am correct in my understanding of what is really being asked, I feel that these are most certainly legitimate questions.
As bachurim transform into young men, it is imperative that they regularly reevaluate what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what their future life plans are. Far beyond the scope of shidduchim, as young men and women mature from year to year, they must be consciously aware of what they hope to accomplish for themselves in the future.
Although it is normal, easy, and natural for yeshiva bachurim who are dating to continue their day-to-day life attending sedorim and living in the dormitory, as the years go by, and as 23 turns to 26, which then turns to 30, and so on, bachurim must reassess what and why they are doing what they are doing. That is part of being a growing person and living life as a sentient human being.
However, the fact that your son is still in yeshiva and living in the dormitory is not, in and of itself, a reality which should give rise to concern. And it seems to me, based on how this question has been asked of you, that the parents of this young woman appear to be aware of that. They don’t seem to be making a critical comment, but rather, they seem to be asking a fair and understandable question to better understand your son’s life circumstances.
To give a few examples of how a young man approaching 30 and still living in a yeshiva dormitory could be viewed in considerably different lights, let’s look at a few different scenarios.
Scenario 1: A young yeshiva bachur heads to learn in Yeshiva X in his early 20’s. He is dedicated and competent, or perhaps excels, in his limud HaTorah, and as he grows older, he is mindfully planning to be a rebbi, a rav, or go into some other klei kodesh type of field.
While he has not yet found his zivug, his plans for the future are clear in his mind and he is learning in the place where he feels he can gain the most, thus making it counterproductive to return to his home town. Moving into an apartment is economically unnecessary and challenging, and generally speaking, a yeshiva dormitory is more likely to maintain a ruach that promotes Torah growth than would living alone or with a roommate “off campus.” Even if his parent’s home were to be close enough for him to move back home while learning in his yeshiva, that is not always the wisest of living arrangements, and often presents serious difficulties for both the parents and their child. As far as wondering why he has not yet secured his employment, most klei kodesh opportunities are not given to single men, and I do not think it fair to hold that against him.
In this scenario, it would appear to me to be perfectly consistent with such a young man’s life goals to be living in a yeshiva dormitory as he pursues his future and continues to search for a shidduch. I also believe that after being given this explanation, most, if not all, of the concerns that someone might have, would be settled.
Scenario 2: A young bachur heads to yeshiva X in his early 20’s. He does well enough in his learning, but as he approaches 30, he has not given much thought regarding what he expects do to with the rest of his life. He has grown up in the yeshiva world, and this is his comfort zone. As long as he plays by the rules, and pretty much does what is expected of him, no one is going to hassle him too much, and he is satisfied to cruise along being part of the scenery until he gets married and has no choice but to stare his future in the face.
Scenario 3. A young bachur heads to yeshiva X in his early 20’s. He learns well, but he has realized that neither klei kodesh nor a life of long-term learning are for him. He is concerned that if he leaves yeshiva to work or obtain a degree, or even if he leaves the dormitory and thus deviates slightly from the norm, that his shidduch opportunities will take a sharp dive south. He fears that people will think he couldn’t hack it in yeshiva or that he wasn’t bright enough to stay in learning, so he decides to stick it out until he gets married and then he will move on.
In either of these last two scenarios, a young man’s somewhat mindless approach to life or intentional plan of inaction, based in fear, leading to his continuing to stay in yeshiva and live in the dormitory, might well raise an eyebrow. Given such an explanation, most outsiders looking in would plausibly find such a scenario to be, “not the best,” and visa vis shidduchim, might rightfully be quite off-put.
This is not to say that your son fits neatly into any of the above packages, and of course, these are but a few of the infinite scenarios that might be any individual’s life circumstances. It is only to make the point that without context, hearing that a young man approaching 30 is still learning and living in yeshiva, does not tell us much, and it is fair and legitimate for someone to make that observation and ask for a fuller picture to be painted.
As a bit of an aside, the assertion claiming your son to be living with bachurim eight years his junior is not really fair, and is, in all likelihood, erroneous. Most yeshiva populations do not skip from 22 to 30. There is generally a wide age-range of single bachurim living in the dormitories, and your son probably has a nice coterie of bachurim who are in similar situations.
May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bring your son his zivug, k’heref eyin.