This, of course, leads to some problems. Why? Let's tick off the reasons:
1. Most chareidi families in Israel (which is the segment of the population that we're talking about here) have large families. Since, on average, half of those children are daughters, most families are looking at buying at least three apartments (if not more) for their prospective sons-in-law.
2. Most of these families are barely squeaking by financially. Most chareidi families have lots of kids and spend years paying for private education for those kids, In addition, since secular learning is, for the most part, verboten, many of the ones who are employed are earning wages that are typically found in the unskilled labor market. Yes, there are some who are making it financially -- but those are the exceptions, not the norm.
3. They have educated their daughters that the only "acceptable" choice for a husband is someone who is going to sit and learn for an indefinite time into their marriage. Anything else is substandard and not befitting for a Jewish girl. This message is pounded into their heads by their teachers from the time they are old enough to even think of marriage.
As anyone who has studied a basic economics course knows, there are the concepts known as supply and demand. When there is excess supply and/or little demand for any particular item, the price of the item falls. Likewise, when supply is scarce and/or demand is high, the price of the item will rise. What has happened, very simply, is that over the last thirty years or so, we've increased the demand of a learning groom to the point where, once free market forces take effect, there is a rise in general prices -- not only on the best learners, but even those of lesser capability. As a result, even boys who aren't the best learners are demanding the purchase of an apartment. Lord alone knows what the true best learners* are asking for.
Rav Chaim Shlita used the opportunity to discuss the trend with young chasanim requesting an apartment before wedding arrangements are even finalized, the weekly BaKehilla reports. The Rav explained that he receives telephone calls from mothers of young girls, explaining they want an apartment and as a result, there cannot be a shidduch since they simply cannot accommodate.
“It has crossed acceptable boundaries. Today, every bachur who learns four or five years believes he has attained a level of worth higher than his father-in-law and therefore, he is entitled to an apartment. We must fight this trend. A fast day must be declared to stop this epidemic”.
The Rav called on roshei yeshiva to combat this trend and to use their influence with talmidim to begin turning this around. He added that at most, one may request half of the cost of an apartment from each side, but that is the limit.
It's good that Rav
Ultimately, it may take Adam Smith's invisible hand to undo the distortions in the dowry market that chareidi society has created over the last thirty years.
* Of course, one could make the argument that the true best learners might also be the best ba'al midos and know what their prospective in-laws can afford. But that's another story for another time.