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Why Do Orthodox Jews Tend to Marry at a Younger Age?

Hi JITC-

Why do Orthodox Jews tend to marry at a younger age?

Thank you,
Alec

Dear Alec-

We’re going to be able to keep this one short and sweet because it’s pretty straightforward for a change.

The reason Orthodox Jews tend to marry at a younger age is because they’re normal.

Jewish law doesn’t permit premarital sex. Or heavy petting. Or light petting. Or making out. Or holding hands. In short, any form of affectionate contact that might be considered a romantic overture is prohibited by Leviticus 18:6, “A person shall not draw near to any prohibited relationship….” In halachic literature, this is known as kiruv basar (nearness of flesh) but colloquially, people call it negiah (touching).

This prohibition only applies to affectionate contact, which is called derech chibah (in an affectionate manner). An example of permitted, non-affectionate contact is when a dentist or a dental hygienist of the opposite gender sticks their fingers in your mouth. That’s not a particularly intimate moment for most people. Handshakes are often seen as a gray area, which some people consider affectionate and others don’t. (I’d say that most authorities do consider handshakes to include an aspect of affection. See more here.)

So why do Orthodox Jews tend to marry at a younger age? Because, despite what TV shows may try to tell you, Orthodox Jews have normal romantic feelings and sex drives. And, if they’re following the rules, they’re not feeding those urges unless they get married.

That’s not the only reason to get married, of course. The main reason is hopefully to have a family and to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel (a faithful house in Israel) but the sex drive thing certainly contributes.

The mishna in Avos (5:21) says that one should marry at 18 and the Gemara in Kiddushin (29b) says that if one hasn’t married by 20, God “lets his bones rot.” While these ages may be taken more or less literally by some communities – Hasidic communities, for example, tending to marry much younger – most Orthodox communities don’t view these as halachic parameters. So while Orthodox Jews do tend to marry younger, most of them don’t marry quite that young. (A 2013 Pew Research Center study showed that 75% of “Haredi” Jews were married by age 24, as opposed to 48% of modern Orthodox Jews.)

“And that’s all I have to say about that.” – Forrest Gump

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Educational Correspondent
Follow Ask Rabbi Jack on YouTube

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2 comments

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  • Winston Smith says on May 30, 2021

    This is relates directly to my “thesis” [ for lack of a better word ]. “Orthodox Jews have normal romantic feelings and sex drives. And, if they’re following the rules, they’re not feeding those urges unless they get married.” This is 100% accurate. The corollary of this however is that combined with other halachot it becomes financially impossible to be a 100% Orthodox Jew. The price of a home within the Eruv and the prohibitive cost of Jewish day school make it almost impossible for a young couple to be truly Orthodox and still pay all of the expenses that relate to an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.

    Reply
    • Devora says on June 1, 2021

      I’m an Orthodox Jew who follows ALL of the Halachot. My children are still young and not yet in school and we are still renting an apartment, but I know 100’s of older families who do have their children in school, own homes and are 100% Orthodox keeping all of Halacha.
      Perhaps they are under a greater financial strain than non-observant families in the same demographic, but they are ok.
      Why do you think that it’s impossible?
      (as a side note, why do you think that you can only own a home inside an Eruv?)

      Reply

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