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.
4 days ago