Monday, July 30, 2007

Warning: Spoiler Ahead

No, it's not a Potter post. You won't find me lining up at a bookstore to read a mediocre children's book. This post is even worse: back to dating. It's kind of a theme for a young, single, frum guy...

Normally, when you are in the world of Shidduchim, of third-party arranged dating, the process is rather dry (or at least it has been for me). You get a name, ask a few questions, make an awkward phone call, and spend an evening on small talk. Go out again until you find something incompatible, and then repeat the process. The cycle ends when you can't find anything disagreeable with a girl (or, of course, she with you). As subjective as the judging is, it gets handled pretty objectively, as if we were scientifically qualified to analyze a person't true self.

But who'd have thought, there is a little something called emotion that can actually play a part. Now, I never dated somebody outside of a formal setting. No high school sweethearts; no camp romances. So the practical level seemed pretty natural. But then you meet one girl that clicks, and the game changes. As I wrote about before, I went out with a girl for over a month, but it ended up not being the one. I've always known you can "click" with somebody who isn't your Bashert. In fact, that seemed to be the advantage of the Shidduch system - by focusing so much on a goal of marriage, you eliminated the risk of confusing emotional connection with long-term potential. I always figured the Shidduch world shielded you from this complexity, and let you rationally evaluate a relationship fully before you invested emotionally. But I learned that's not the case. It's a good thing, but it definitely reframes the Shidduch world. It definitely opens up a world where you realize you can open yourself to connecting with a person before you've wrung them through all the analytics.

And that is a little bit of a scary thing, because it means it can be tempting to form that short-term fling and drop some of that objectivity. But as great a release as it can be to bond with somebody, the ultimate goal hasn't changed. Balancing the compatibility of two people with the progression of a complex relationship can be even more draining. But adding the emotional component enables a more textured, intense, and, ultimately, a more realistic sampling of a relationship's long-term potential.

I guess even I learn new things...

I am an older person who remembers that shiduchim involved a tiny part of the Jewish community--today,even in so called modern orthodox families,the shiduch has become normative behavior....with great respect to you,return to dating--this isn't the shetel & a return to normative Jewish behavior is perfectly ok & every effort to set up artificial barriers would best be avoided.The Rabbis in the 1950's,60's,70's,& 80's supported dating & many of them & today's modern ortho(YU type) rabbis also dated--no shiduch for them,but they insist on it for you...reach your own conclusions---you are an intelligent & decent person---trust yourself--not those who enforce rukes they very well didn't live by themselves!!!!
And,love is not a rational process that can be reduced to the qualities of a job interview---love means taking risks,chances, certainly doesn't need a 3rd party!!
Passion: I think you're forgetting a number of things: 1) No one's saying that within the shidduch world you cannot take risks. I think the whole point is once you've covered certain basic topics, can respect the individual on a superficial basis, are attratcted to them and can have a decent time with them...that's the time to take the plunge and become risky. Why become risky ahead of time only to be hurt at the end, when all the things that bothered you, were things you could have known before hand? I only speak from experience from dating both ways. It can be extremely taxing on one's emotions to grow close to them only to find out something that you could have found out from a simple phone call to a reference. 2) We live in a society where for better or worse (I personally feel that it's not a good thing) there is nowhere for people to meet. Maybe for the regular modern orthodox world, there are some possibilities but not many but certainly not for the yeshivish world. How else are you supposed to meet someone, when there is no venue with which to meet them? You're left with only one choice...

Shidduch dating is complex in and of istelf. I have a very hard time just saying that we should forget about the shidduch world. There are a lot of issues but there is also a lot of good in brings. You can find fault in any system. You just have to find what works for you. Believe me, everyone would die to just 'bump' into their future spouse, walking down the street, where you magically fall in love and live happily ever after...unfortunately, we don't live in a chick flick.
Anon--i certainly agree that one should have the freedom to choose their mate in any way they prefer & in the Yeshivish culture,freedom of choice is predicated on the authority of the leadership(other mortals just like everyone else) & those leaders only permit shiduch dating.Practically speaking,given the issue you correctly mention,regarding the lack of meeting places availible to the yeshivish men & women,this edict may be most sensible & reasonable.
In the Modern Orthodox world however,there are ample circumstances & places for men & women to meet in groups & then to get to know one another & develop relationships.Nonetheless,a large number of Modern Orthodox(MO) leaders require shiduchim & many ban dating.
So,at the very least ,while i strongly differ with the authoritarianism i have seen in the Charedi or Yeshivish world,i respect their logical consistency.In the MO world,it is inconsistent & all too often hypocritical to witness leaders who themselves dated as college students & beyond, insist on shiduchim for their talmidim & talmidot.
As to the points you make to defend shiduchim,as the Rambam emphasized moderation, i see that an extreme view on the matter,from either perspective,is not useful....thus,for those who choose to live a life within certain cultural contexts & with the consequent constraints,the concept of shiducim is reasonable.However,providing halachik justification for such an approach,or as the only approach is simply absurd.Good day!!
Passion: In my comment, I specifically pointed out how there are many different approaches. I am not one to determine what's right and what's wrong but just because our rabbis did it as 'kids' doesn't make it necessarily correct for them to do it now. Generally speaking, a rabbi coming out and claiming one way or another has probably thought through their oppion, whether we think it is correct or not. Ask those rabbis why they think shidduchim is the better way to go, you might be very surprised by their answers. In addition, the MO world does not have nearly enough venues to be able to meet one another. I'm not sure how you think that there are but I know many people and 99% are frustrated simply because there is nowhere to meet anyone. It's hard, plain and simple.

I don't claim to have answers or solutions, I'm just trying to open up your mind to see the other side regardless of religous disposition.
Anon--Put simply,we are living in different worlds,my friend--as a frum Jew,growing up in a family of rabbis,i learned from them,some 45-50 years ago,that a Jew thinks....a Jew learns that rabbis err & that one has to make & trust their own decisions.A rabbi,as you suggest,may give careful thought & have good intent,but we all are products of the times,the people,the culture,etc.---rabbis are people & they too have sociological,psychological,& personal influences & demons...this is a topic also,of rabbinic OPINION not FACT(HALACHA)---& in "my" world & in the past Jews solved these problems with greater ease---witness all the Jewish camps--like Morasha,Moshava,Massad,Hillel,etc.---these were where people met---today new rules evolved from a younger culture in the MO community during the last 20 years.
We can go on & on & back & forth--i respect your opinion--i have mine--my values were formed & my dating & college & post college years were lived,as i live today,as a Jew with deep emunah in Hashem & davening each day,hoping i will find the wisdom to do what is right without relying on rabbis or any others to neccessarily be any wiser than some of the homeless people i've spoken with whose suffering defines their view of the world---not all of the past was wrong....
Josh - Even if you've done your research and decided that the person fits the general profile of what you're looking for, you still have to then take the risk of opening yourself up emotionally to see if there's a connection and to get to know the person more fully. It's very possible that the person who doesn't meet every one of your requirements, but who you like and connect with, might be the right one.
O Sailor, Come Ashore

(Part I)

O sailor, come ashore

What have you brought for me?

Red coral , white coral,

Coral from the sea.

(Part II)

I did not dig it from the ground ,

Nor pluck it from a tree;

Feeble insects made it

In the stormy sea.

~by aoc gold
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