Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Yeshiva Boy Auction

The boys wait in the wings. Their fathers stand beside them, wearing the same hats and suits, indistinguishable aside for the beards they sport. Their mothers are also there, even though they won't be joining their sons and husbands on the stage, for the obvious Tznius reasons. Still, the women are needed, and often only with their nod, spotted on the sidelines, can the deal proceed, be finalized. For who can know a boy's true worth, if not his mother?

The Rosh Yeshiva stands behind the podium. He welcomes the middle ages couples, spanning the rows of the auditorium. He doesn't mention the girls, sitting there too. Really the Rosh Yeshiva would prefer the parents came alone, without their daughters. He finds something a tad immodest, about the single girls examining the single boys from afar, as they are led on stage. The transaction should be about Torah, and Torah's value, not about looks. However, he has given up fighting that battle. The funds raised are sorely needed, and the parents refuse to go about it any other way.

Yaacov Hirsh strides on. Hirsh has no official title, but without him the Yeshiva would collapse in a day. He initiated the auction, later copied by all the top Yeshivas. He is to thank for this blessedly steady income. He's happy to explain the reasoning, to any man who asks.

"It's fair trade. A four year stint in Yeshiva increases a boy's net value to 50- 250,000 USD, payable in property, preferably an apartment in Jerusalem or Bnai Brak. Any Yeshiva graduate can typically fetch this much in the marriage market. And it's all thanks to us, thanks to the Yeshivas.

By all rights, the Yeshiva should be reaping some of the profits too. We take raw goods and turn them into valuable commodities."

And so the Yeshiva Boy Annual Auction came into being. The boys were sold, based on the traditional criteria of Yichus, intelligence, and diligence in learning. A percentage of the price they fetched went to the Yeshiva.

The Yeshivas were happy, no longer needing to send fundraisers abroad. The parents were happy, for it enabled them to see the boys on offer, without resorting to desperate measures. The only people to suffer were the matchmakers, now out of a job.

"Cutting out the middle man" is what Hirsh said. "And rightly so, for these are our Bochurs, on the market. Why should matchmakers be getting a cut, instead of us? What did they ever do for the boys?"

Shlomo Greenbaum is led on stage, flanked by Reb Greenbaum senior. The chatter stops, the air is still, filled with nervous tension.

In the audience, Ruchy Kahn says a short Kapittel of Tehillim. There has to be one boy here, for her. There had to be one boy, with a low enough asking price. Mammy and Tatty have already explained to her, as gently as possible, that they only have a small amount put aside. It sounds like a lot of money to Ruchy. But they look worried.

Hirsh consults with Reb Greenbaum, in a hushed tone. They come to an understanding, a price they can both agree on, taking into account the Greenbaums boy's average intelligence, and the time he spends learning, three full Seders, no more, no less. 100, 000 USD, the price of an apartment in Kiryat Sefer, is the starting price they settle on.

Hirsh starts the bidding. Ruchy's parents don't raise their hands. The amounts flying across the room are more than they can ever offer. Tatty is in Kollel, Mammy teaches, this is the most they can spare.

The Greenbaum deal is closed. The next boy is offered up. He is a top Bochur, from a Choshuve family, learning night and day. He is out of Ruchy's league entirely. She doesn't even aspire, for him.

There is a dimmer of hope, at one point. A skinny boy appears, in a wrinkled suit. He stands there alone. His parents are divorced, his father is abroad. He leans too close to the microphone, and his voice echoes through the auditorium, as he answers Hirsh's questions. His stutter is audible, as he stammers out the answers. He isn't a catch, by anyone's standards.

Perhaps he is the answer. Perhaps Ruchy will be a Kallah this year, after all.

But no, it is not to be. He fetches an apartment in a development town. He will be learning in a small Kollel in the south, next year. It is still more than the Kahn's can offer. For the first time, Reb Kahn regrets not going into business, not making a good living, like the other men in the room. He wanted to learn Torah, his wife encouraged him, they managed to make do, from month to month. But now, they have a single daughter on their hands. How are they to marry her off?

As the participants stream out of the hall, Ruchy and her parents remain seated. None of them want to go, want to give up on this dream, of finding her a husband.

"Next year, please God." Reb Kahn says, eventually. "We will put some more money aside. I will go to the Gemachs, see how much they can lend me. We will come again, to next year's Yeshiva Boy Auction. Next year, with Hashem's help, we will be able to afford a Yeshiva boy for you."

Brachy nods. She is a good, sweet girl. Together they walk out.


  1. This is an eerily fantastic example of Ortho-noir literature. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Forced to either laugh or cry, we choose to laugh. It may be a slightly hysterical laugh, but a laugh it is... ;) Well penned, F&F!

  3. Your writing is generally great, and is getting better and wackier with each post. I hope for you that you find the right person soon, but fear that your writing will suffer, once you lose your angst.

  4. Excellent writing.
    Sad and depressing.

  5. OMG this was scary-I felt like I was reading an excerpt from "The Giver!"

  6. I thought exactly the same thing--either "The Giver" or the more recent "Hunger Games"!
    Creepy atmospheric parallel universe with totalitarian society that nobody questions....
    Excellent piece.

  7. Funny, I hadn't read The Giver. But I'm going to now.

    And the only detail from real life I changed was making it an auction..

  8. Amazing writing...and an amazingly sad piece of (non) fiction.

  9. wow.... just wow. This belongs in mishpacha. Just so we can see what kind of wacky "letters to the editor" people can come up with "defending" the wonderful system.

  10. your writing is fantastic,i love reading your blog! and this post just takes the cake - i got the chills reading it

  11. I really would like to see you succeed and be happy...I think you should try this writing workshop which I tried and liked a lot. They are happy to see me every time I am in Jerusalem:538-5507
    also try this hareidi totally kosher Ma Tovu Wedding Gamach with a sense of humor: Rabbi Yakov Gurvitz537-3123 Someone I know got married through them and still smiling
    Try networking with the ladies' davening circle, inspired by R. Avigdor Miller 626-0459, the great and reputable alternative to the jaded shadchanis circuit.
    and of course the Tehillim/Braha parties - sounds corny - but it is the way to meet mothers who don't put their gaonic sons up for sale Rebetzin Shear 052-7677074/532-1796

  12. great piece. Literature is a great way to send the message

  13. All I have to say is this, the world you live in, is very very sad. Really, these are not the values of Torah, and if they are, then what really is all of this Torah worth? Use a little critical thinking.

  14. Disturbing. I wasn't thinking the giver or hunger games until i saw them above, I was thinking more Orwellian almost. The sad part is, I read the "Four Seasons of Golda Mirel" and similar books and that really is what it was like almost exactly, only without the standing on a platform bit.

  15. Fantastic piece! We need more GOOD fiction like this written by frum people instead of the repetetive, predictable novels that exist today.

  16. hey, been reading for a little while, enjoy your take on life, never commented. this one though deserves a standing ovation. I agree with Bz though - send it to mishpacha and see how many good souls out there will defend the current system...
    Well done and much hatzlacha!

  17. This was great. On a similar theme I wrote about paying for the son-in-law by selling a kidney "Torah Sage Advises: Hold Onto Both Your Kidneys."

    I also wrote about my proposed REBS RATE to solve the "shidduch crisis."

    Keep up the writing. I think the next step should be a cartel fixing the prices to push them ever higher. Perhaps a futures market with speculative investing.
    Thia could include folks buying short and then spreading rumors to destroy the value of particular bochurim. Perhaps a response by a cartel of bais yaacov schools. Bookmakers could start taking bets.

  18. I found this post apt, a good satire. But I am of the opinion that if a girl like Brachy/Ruchy buys into the corrupt view that she is only as good as her life savings, so not even God can help her.

    We ourselves should have an individualistic rather than communal view of shidduchim, that I will not place my faith in a mortal rather than divine matchmaker.

    Those who want to do without God's help can line up at the auction block.

  19. Congrats your on

  20. Wow...excellent! And true, unfortunately.

  21. I think you've thoroughly confused the Matzav readers :-)

  22. :-D Yeah, it's amazing how many people missed the point. Whodathunk?

  23. of course, the next step (in order to solve Ruchi's problem) is the Yeshiva boy raffle...

  24. lol chinese auctions?

  25. Great satire - my oldest daughter is 10 and I am starting to save up now. I am thinking of paying her to elope!

  26. Oy yoy yoy. Same comment I had last year. Get yourselves out of Brooklyn and be free!!! I went to Israel, met my husband through a good friend, and did whatever I wanted! (within halacha)

  27. Hi Mindy! I haven't seen you for ages. What's up?