Opinion: We’ve Completely Lost Our Minds l Baruch Rivlin

I held off on writing the following thoughts because I have spent countless hours over the past few weeks trying to think of any reasonable explanation for what I witnessed, but none have come to mind. And what happened demands deep introspection into how we sometimes behave, specifically toward those that can use our compassion and sensitivity the most.

It was Yom Kippur, the day we wrap ourselves in prayer and beseech Hashem to forgive our sins and sign our names in the Book of Life. It is a day above all others, a day in which we are extra careful in every aspect of our lives and behavior so that we may merit life.

And then the most mind blowing, shocking, and troubling thing happened. It occurred by krias hatorah. In the shul I was in they generally give aliyos and other kibudim to longtime members of the shul. After leining, the gabbai decided to give gelilah to a 30-something-year-old man who had been a paying member of the shul for over a decade.

As he approached the bima, a pensive discussion ensued between the gabbai and other members of the kehilla. The “problem” was that the shul had a policy of only giving kibudim on Yomim Noraim to married people. The man they honored with gelilah is, unfortunately, still unmarried. Ultimately, they decided that rules are rules and sent him back to his seat without performing gelilah.

I vividly remember the way this poor man’s face contorted in emotional agony over what had just happened. He smiled, but his beet-red face and the tears in his eyes could not hide the depths of his pain and humiliation. He walked back to his seat with his head hanging, his body slumped like a defeated, broken man.

Aside from being completely incredulous over it, another thing struck me – we do this all the time. Older singles are treated like hot garbage almost every day. Regardless of their accomplishments in life, the fact that they are unmarried causes people to judge them, assuming they are too picky, or there is something wrong with them, and so on. We often refer to them not as men and women, but as an “older boy” or “older girl”. When was the last time you called a married man or woman a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’? The terms are infantilizing, and we act this way for one reason: because they are unlucky. We are literally treating them as lesser people because they haven’t yet found their soulmate. It’s crazy.

We need to stop treating marriage as the be all end all of human accomplishments. Getting married and having children is very important because we put great emphasis, rightfully so, on raising future generations of frum Jews. But it’s not a binary choice – that if you get married you’re good, and if you’re not married you’re bad or less.

Look around at some of our “older” singles – many have racked up more accomplishments than most of us can ever dream of doing in a lifetime. In fact, their not being married often allows them to do much more to advance communal causes and efforts. So why do we treat them like we do? Because we’ve completely lost our minds.

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  1. This story breaks my heart. I am literally crying, imagining the humiliation this man felt. And it’s not okay. He’s no less in the eyes of hshem!

  2. Kudos to the writer.

    I have witnessed similar situations and they always leave me dumbstruck. BH I found my barshert while I was young. BH I never had to go thru the “bizyonos” of being single. BH.

    I know quite a few “Older” single men and women who I have envy on their astonishing life. Hashen is the one who determines our marital status. Nobody is above Him. If He decides that a person should struggle with finding his better half it should not reflect on an individual. If we have emuna we believe that you cant outsmart Hashem.

    What are these amazing singles supposed to do? Its hard enough being lonely. The only comfort they have is family and community. When these 2 sources of comfort turn on them as well it’s a shanda.

    In my neighborhood we have a few singles. We treat them like family. Because they are family. Kol yisrael arevim ze lazeh.

    Funny thing is that my neighborhood has a bad rap in town….. no worries. I rather live and raise my family amongst us “bums” if it means we have ahavas chinom and respect for hashem’s children.

    Derecho eretz kodma Latorah. All the way…. every day…. to everyone.

    May god bring the barshert closer to the individual in this story and to all other singles bekarov.

  3. You are right. We have lost our minds. We know exactly what we need to do to bring moshiach, yet scenarios like the one you described still occur. My heart aches for the man in your story. May the merit of not responding to his public embarrassment bring him his zivug hagun.

  4. What’s mind-boggling to me in this story is that there is no mention of a ROV, not regarding the actual story and not regarding the author’s ‘thinking for a reasonable explanation.’

    If the shul has a Rov, let him decide and defend his decision, and either trust his moral compass and sensitivity or don’t. If there is no Rov, you’ve lost your mind to be davening there, especially on Yom Kippur.

  5. Terrible! He should be Zoiche to find his bashert b’korov mamash! Hope he doesn’t leave the shul because if this! You should make him feel welcome!

  6. Blushing.. sweating.. so so angry and yet not surprised at all. What an awful story.. I seriously have no words.. older singles are judged, treated disrespectfully, spoken to like animals, spoken behind they’re backs, in front of their faces.. unbelievable.. this poor guy will def find an incredible shidduch soon because hashem felt his pain.. I literally am just so hurt for this guy. Wow.. the gabai should be thrown out.. the rav should resign and this young man should take him over.. a lot more qualities he has, that’s a definite

  7. Sad, so sad.
    Yes, we have lost our minds and this is far from being the only reason. Judgmentalism is not only limited to single people. I think Most of us, more often than not, judge and Treat people differently based on our view of them.
    I am guilty of this myself many times over. It’s not right but that’s human nature and it definitely needs correction.
    The fact that this was Yom Kippur, puts a totally new twist on this incident. to them this was necessary even at the risk of embarrassing this fellow BECAUSE it was Yom Kippur.

    According to their view, a non married person, regardless of age, getting a kibbud on y”k was equivalent to giving a kattan an Aliya.

    I do think it was blatantly wrong, especially once he was called up, but to them this was the right thing. Of course this was done” l’sheim shamayim” but it ended up being l’SHAME shamayim. Yes, we have absolutely lost our minds.

  8. I disagree. When did we start acting based on “feelings”? We run on Halacha and a Minhag is like Halacha (sometimes stronger). If a girl wants to sit in the mens section because it makes her “feel good” does it become ok? This shul should be commended for sticking to it’s true Derech Hatoyra especially in these rapidly changing times. The man should be content that he did the Ratzon H-shem by following what is bipherish halacha. Really he should be filled with joy and happiness that he was able to increase the shuls kedusha by causing it to show how dedicated to Halacha they are.

    • @BillyW

      Even if you are correct, that they followed what’s is stated in Halacha, I can guarantee you that once you give it to him, you do not retract it.

      Halacha may be talking about before it was given to him, but embarrassing him would definitely not override that.

      Your comparison to a girl in the men’s sections is an absolutely ridiculous comparison.

    • We find many times in הלכה
      אם עלה לא ירד
      it is definitely the same by a מנהג

      BTW, we cannot even call this a מנהג, it is just a standard. I am sure that if a חשובע person would come, it gets overridden, so it’s only a standard.

  9. Which Rabbi allows one to be called up and then declined the kibbud, this is wrong even if the guy was an unmarried 22 year old if the gabbai called some one up that’s it he gets the kibbud.

  10. I was once an older single (BH married now) and I very well remember similar experiences and how they hurt. Guys many years younger than me got priority for Kibbudim because they were lucky enough to be married. In the shul where I often Davened the only thing I was allowed to have was Gelila, like a 13 year old.
    What makes this story especially galling is that he was already called up and was then sent away in shame. There is no excuse for that.

    • Exactly right. The rules are that one cannot be given a kibud if he is not married. But I am certain beyond a shred of a doubt that the rules do not say that if he was given the kibbud it should be retracted.

      I can’t imagine the way that this bochur must have felt.

      And I can’t imagine that after this public humiliation he was able to daven with menuchas hanefesh.

      I hope he used the occasion to implore HKB”H to trade these awful yesurim for the yesurim of being single and may he find his zivug speedily

  11. Horrible story!! Not to take away from this story but this is a general problem which I’ve been witnessing. Unfortunately, the community and myself included have become less sensitive to other people’s feelings. In my shul over Simchas Torah the day where we are supposed to rejoice and appreciate that we are Hashems beloved nation, I can’t begin to tell you how many fights there were. Adults not children were saying hurtful comments to others about such unimportant matters. The same adults that were dancing their hearts out a couple minutes later were embarrassing others in public. This is so childish and unacceptable. The only thing what I can do is to work on myself and perhaps daven for these people that they should do the same. Very sad!!

  12. Which Rabbi allows one to be called up and then declined the kibbud because of some rule the shul has, this is wrong even if the guy was an unmarried 22 year old if the gabbai called some one up that’s it he gets the kibbud.
    @BillyW where does it state this halacha that an unmarried adult can’t get a kibbud on Y”K?
    Minhag doesn’t trump halacha even though there’s a minhag that it does.

  13. @BillyW

    If you are invoking halacha then you must know that if two people have the same exact name (ex Yitzchack ben Yaakov) and the gabai meant to call up one of them and then by mistake the wrong one came up for an aliya, you dont send him down since people may think that there is a pegam in him and he will be embarrased. I cant imagine how gelilah should be any different.

  14. Where did this “halacha” come from? There is such a halacha mentioned for the Ba’alei tefillos and maybe for the Ba’Al Tokeya – but for getting “gelila”? And even for these people – those decisions are made in private – surely not in front of all the mispallelim, and surely not on Yom Kippur!!
    Yes – they lost their minds, and probably their Olam Habah (until they all ask publicly mechilla)

  15. THis, indeed is a horrible story. I’m just curious, what type of shul has such a minhag ? A poster said he had a similar experience. Don’t say what shul it was, just what TYPE ? Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Yekkish, Yeshivish, chasidish ? I don’t know of ONE shul that has such a minhag.

  16. This is an awful story. I had heard that there are some shuls that don’t allow single men to get hagbah, so I was pleased to notice that in two shuls I frequent here single men get the same kibbudim as everyone else. BH we’re not as holy as the shul this story took place in.

  17. although they meant lshem shomayim, were is MISHKUL HACHASIDUS discussed to lengthily by the mesilas yeshorim. Once he was called up its an issur retzicha to embarrass him like chazal tell us mutav sheyapil astzmo etc check out rabbeinu yonah in sharei teshuva on retzicha

  18. I believe in the Yeshiva Hakodoisha – BMG – They give hagba and gelila davka to older unmarrieds on Yomim Noroim. (could be mistaken as I haven’t davened thee in awhile unfortunately)

  19. I remember too clearly when I was davening in a shul and the Rav was going around asking people to daven for the Amud. Being that I am single, he simply skipped over me to ask the married person standing right next to me to daven for the Amud. May HaShem have mercy. אבן מאסו הבונום היתה לראש פינה. Coming soon to all singles in Klal Yisroel

  20. The poster is wrong in most of what he says. The only thing he is correct about is that the fellow should have been given the kibud once he was called up, and there shouldn’t have been any discussion about it. I fear for the future of that Shul and its misguided mispallelim / Rov.

    As for the rest of the stuff he says, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In order to make marriage as important and prominent as possible in frum society, the recognition of his/her incompleteness until married will always be a necessary albeit painful side effect. It’s true that it’s up to Hashem, but we still talk about required hishtadlus, which would have less importance and impact if singles were 100% ok. But the story is terrible, very terrible…

  21. As a single woman in her 30s, thank you for this article. I am heartened by the comments and the sensitivity displayed therein.

    To H: no single requires public shaming to remind them they want to be married. No one (healthy) is happily single, despite their best effort to live a happy life. Hashem made us to crave connection, and no matter how sensitive you are to someone who isn’t married, that won’t make a single “100% ok.”

  22. “ but we still talk about required hishtadlus “. I imagine that the one who wrote this is a Torah observant Jew. This being the case, I refer him to a Vilna Gaon in his ספר יהל אור what he says on the פסוק, ״אם ה׳ לא יבנה בית שוא עמלו בוניו בו״. His words are “ששוא הוא עסק בני אדם בענין הזיווג שהכל הוא מאת ה׳ ״ . The English translation is- “ The work that people invest in the area of finding ones spouse is a ‘ waste of time ‘ because it is all from Hashem”. Quoted word for word. While laymen have taken on the idea that they have a responsibility of hishtadlus, and many are consumed in this pursuit, our Torah teaches otherwise. Personally, I feel that the words of the Vilna Gaon should be taken with utmost severity and reverence. He did not say things that he did not mean 100%.
    Besides, the idea of not wanting singles to feel too comfortable is a horrible offense. It can be compared with ridiculing a poor person publicly in the hopes that he will go find a job. These ideas obviously have zero footing in our beautiful Jewish teachings. דרכי-ה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותי-ה שלום is not just a song. It is a reality

  23. That story with the shul is very hard to comprehend. First, the policy appears to make no sense. Second, if they do have, why would the gabbai call him up? And third, it’s mind boggling that the decision would be made to send him back. No offense, but I would probably ask a shaila if ur permitted to daven there.
    On to the other point: yes, we should be very careful with the feelings of people who are single. Yes, it’s very important to get married. But of course we need to respectful to singles and be sensitive to them

  24. What a pathetic policy. The halacha is that you give the first Aliyah to a Kohen (in order to fulfill a mitzvah deoraisah) but if the minhag of the shul is to sell it, you can do that to raise money for the shul. Even the Halacha is willing to “bend policy” to help out a shul, but a shul can’t bend a “policy” in order to not publicly humiliate someone? (This is without evaluating whether the policy has any merit or reason to be instituted.) Presumably, they only give kibbudim to married people to fulfill the dictum of having a chazzan that’s a yarei shamayim, married with kids, and over 30, because someone with children has a higher degree of compassion and sensitivity. (I can only imagine the outrage if they called up someone who was married for 10 years and nebach RL hasn’t been blessed with children yet, and some righteous pious individual sent him back due to being childless.) Ironically, everyone who was involved in this decision betrayed that despite being married with kids, they did not yet develope the sense of compassion that the halacha (and presumably the policy) were aiming for; so this poor individual, in reality, should have been one of the only members eligible, according to shul policy.

    Moral of the story: when you take HKBH out of davening, the results aren’t pretty.

  25. There are also schools and institutions that won’t give single girls certain jobs. I was recently told at work they they just changed the rules to allow single girls to become supervisors. It’s bad enough to be a single girl not getting dates, surrounded by women chatting non stop about their husbands and children. Do we also need to be made to feel inferior and less competent? So gross.

  26. To 32 YEAR OLD BACHUR. Good point but others say differently. It is a very difficult sugya to understand. Because we find Hishtadlus by parnassah so how does it roll over to other areas?? But there seems to be different opinions.

  27. Duvi u are 100% correct. Rabonim, Teachers, rebaim, principals and school administrators, owners, and school boards. Have this problem big time. Basically every one has a different needs and tolerance levels especially when it comes to embarrassment. Some people are extremely sensitive and if the teacher etc. is of a different personality they dont understand the child. And dont realize what they are doing is rezicha.

  28. I dont believe the story. simply put. Not that it cant happen. there are unfortunately jerks everywhere. yet i never heard of a place where jerks hold the actual sway…. unless of course, there was no rav. And from the telling of this story; that a disagreement was centered around the bima it sounds like that. so perhaps it does make sense, after all a shul without a rav attracts a certain type of person more frequently then a shul with a rov.
    Also, i disagree that we insult older singles regularly, why, we constantly talk about how sensitive we should be and everyone seems to agree! so will you tell me there arent inadvertent cases of insult? unfortunately there are, but that is not because of a lack of sensitivity on most peoples part, i think we’re pretty good over all.
    Case in point, my wife called a friend of hers and said you know our mutual friend is also still looking for a shidduch and i thought that maybe we can do a daven for me daven for you arrangement. this girl got all upset and said ” you are trying to help but your not, you think your not hurting my feelings?” my wife was stunned and saddened and she wanted to call her and apologize, she felt awkward and guilty and ashamed. I told my wife she doesnt have to apologize, this girl does, if you didnt do something inherently hurtful and you didnt mean to hurt anyone, why in the world should you apologize? you did nothing wrong! the oversensitive person should apologize.
    And as to calling them “older girl”, would you rather we called them “older woman”? its just a ridiculous tayna.

  29. Nothing new here! For those that think and research the topic a little, this is a “shitah”. אין אדם חוטא אא”כ נכנס בו רוח שיטות
    Our crises founders have decided that in order to “protect family life, we must stigmatize singles. This is not just a mistake, or question of minhagim. Do the math – they are willing to burn in the psych ward for this holy cause. Try renting an apartment for a single. This was done לשם שמים, if not consciously then sub – consciously. No doubt

    I did mention that laymen have taken on another ideology in this regard. Laymen as opposed to Torah authority. I urge you and others to look at the Medrash Rabba in the beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei which clearly states that money is different than shidduchim. And that specifically in the area of shidduchim, it comes straight from the hand of HaShem. I further recommend looking at the last Bais Haleivi on Parshas Vayeitzei who clearly says that even pondering technicalities in the area of shidduchim is unacceptable. As a prerequisite to that, look at the second Medrash in Parshas Vayeitzei

  31. H Says: Thank you for admitting to the crookedness and insanity – you have created intentionally. Now anybody sane knows your doing an avirah with a mitzvah bag. There is no cure for your sickness, as you nebach think you are doing this for the one above.
    על חטא שחאטנו לפניך ביצר הרע
    יצרו של אדם מתגבר ומתחדש עליו בכל יום

  32. Our forefather Yaakov was an older single. I guess he would have been sent back to his seat as well. The Medrash Rabba in Parshas Vayeitzei says that the reason why Yaakov got married when he was 84 and Eisav got married when he was 40, is because HaShem waits to give to Tzadikim, but He delivers to the wicked right away. The exact words of the Medrash are: ״הא למדנו שהקב״ה משהה לצדיקים ומקדים לרשעים״. We are in good company! The עץ יוסף on the side explains- because good things are hard to find. The מתנת כהונה says it’s because by Tzadikim, the beginning is יסורים, but the end is שלוה.
    When discussing issues of such an important nature, it is necessary that we look at the words of Chazal, and base our beliefs on Them.

  33. I wonder if this young man was the only Kohen in Shul, if they would allow him to get the first Aliyah. More importantly would they allow him to Duchan! Also would it ‘Pas’ for a married Levi to wash his hands?

    Bottom line, regardless of the minhag of this Shul no one has a right to embarrass someone publicly!

  34. It saddens me to hear a man so filled with honor to be publicly shamed in front of everyone. Will he even walk back into that shul (or any other)?

    Instead of mistreating the older singles, people should commend them for their continued faith in Hashem when they see others so blessed while they wait for their shidduch.

    And since this shul was celebrating paying members, I hate to say that a single 30 year old with a degree and good job is probably able to donate more than a father paying 5 tuitions.

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