I remember when I was younger in the south of France for a friend’s Bar Mitzvah celebration.
A handsome young man, I was walking down a street surrounded by the summer air and typical European buildings in the warm beautiful sunlight.
Walking side-by-side with a girl with whom I was friendly, she started holding my hand.
I felt so close. I realized she liked me.
After the Bar Mitzvah celebration we parted our ways and hardly spoke due to our business with our separate lives.
Looking back, many years later, I realize that we were not meant for each other – even though she was a great person.
Those were the days before I was observing the Jewish Laws of Negiah / Touching.
Marriage can be a great opportunity to grow and give and live.
One of the reasons for marriage is to help a person reach their potential.
But because you like someone it doesn’t necessarily mean you should marry them.
There are many factors that one can look at before getting married.
The Celibacy Challenge
I heard a story recently about Gila Manolson, who wrote a book called “Outside Inside” on Jewish Modesty and one called “The Magic Touch” on celibacy before marriage. She said that once she was giving a lecture in a University and at the end of the class she challenged the class to not touch members of the opposite gender for a month (In Hebrew we call this Shomer Negiah – Being Careful about Touching) . When she left, the class started discussing the possibility of observing the challenge.
They agreed to do it.
After three months she inquired, what ever happened about that “experiment” about not touching the opposite gender before marriage.
She found that seven couples emerged that eventually got married together.
Apparently their mind was not clouded by feelings enabling them to decide that the mate had good values, character traits, were mentally stable – ie, didn’t have psychological issues, were kind, etc.
Dating – Highway to Finding Ideal Mate or to Dead End Relationship?
Used properly, Dating can help a person reach one step closer to marriage. It can help a person sort out prospects from non-prospects. This is when dating’s objective is to find the proper marriageable mate.
Many times dating leads to a dead end relationship. People pass time with a person to have a good time – but that person has no intention of marriage whatsoever. They use dating as a tool to fulfill their selfish desires.
What is in the Minds of Men
The author got to the root of what was in the minds of many of the men (and perhaps women) in the class. Many men said they had no intention whatsoever to marry their dating partner. While women had the idea that the men eventually wanted to marry. Unfortunately many young women and men fall into this trap. They find a mate that they “fall in love” with and they pass many years of their life, getting nowhere. When women realize it was a dead end, sometimes they are too old to have children. When men realize it was a dead-end relationship, they realize they lost many precious years of life that they could have been building instead of escaping.
Or at times a person marries the person they “fell in love” with and it turns out that mate is a snake. They cheat, torment and/or beat their mate and they fell for it because of “love.”
Thus dating to find if one is the right marriageable mate makes more sense than dating for dating.
The people one dates are not necessarily the ideal candidate for marriage. It depends on what your objective for dating is. Ask yourself “Do I date to find a life-time marriage partner or just to have a good time?” Dating is to spend an agreeable time together – marriage is to build a family. Sometimes the couple can achieve both. It takes work.
Thinking Before Feeling
Ideally to get married one should first answer rationally – “is this a person that I want to help build my family with?” That is why Orthodox Jews date – not with the objective of having agreeable time together, but to find someone that will help to found a family based on the solid values of the Torah.
First they pose their conditions to narrow the pool of potential mates. They must be Jewish, religious – ie, observing the laws of Judaism, have a proper Torah Hashkafa (Jewish Outlook), have good values and character traits. They do their research – if a mate has potential – they inquire with friends, rabbis, teachers, etc about the person. They ask pointed questions – like :
– Does the person have any psychological issues?
– Do they have health issues? Which ones?
– Are they able to bear children?
– Does the person get angry quickly?
– Were they ever put in jail or convicted of a crime? If yes, why?
– Can you name three incidents that you saw that you thought were improper in your eyes?
– Can you name three incidents of what they did that was positive?
– What are their strengths?
– What are their weaknesses?
– Can you describe their trait of responsibility?
– How do they treat their fellow man?
– Do they talk a lot about themselves?
– Are they humble? what is an example how you know this?
– What do they like to do in their spare time?
– What Mitzvah are they particularly careful about?
– What Mitzvah are they not particularly careful about?
– What are some of the things that they value?
– Do they have a sincere desire for growth in Torah and Mitzvot?
– What personality traits do they have that you think would make a good husband or wife?
– What are three traits that you would think that they would have to improve to be a good husband or wife?
It is better to ask pointed questions – than to ask general questions like – “are they nice?” Every body can be nice in their own way. Think of your own pointed questions to dig out the truth on this person. Better to ask open-ended questions than those with “yes” or “no” answers. Follow up on “Yes” or “No” questions with “Can you explain or give me examples of what you mean?” Now is the time to dig out the details so that you will make a proper life decision. Ideally, Marriage is forever – a couple remains married in this world and the next.
The three major things one should find out about a potential mate is their Hashkafa / Jewish Outlook and Values, Desire for growth, and Character Traits.
Once the basic foundations are there, the couple meets and determines if their personalities are compatible, if the mate is attractive to them and if they have common goals in life. The Date is specifically to determine if the person is a good prospect for marriage. Having a good time during the date is also part of it – the secondary – but not the priority.
Lashon HaRah / Speaking Badly About Others
It is forbidden to speak badly about a fellow Jew according to the Torah – even if it is 100% true. But if it is for a purpose / Toelet – like to find out if a person is good potential mate – one is allowed to ask about, say and listen to bad things about a fellow Jew – to assure that they do not fall into a trap of marrying a mate that is improper for them.
Thus when inquiring about a prospect, one should explain to the person that you are asking, that you are interested in this person for a possible Shidduch / Meeting Date. You might want to explain that the questions you ask are for the purpose of this information and so that they will be able to expose some points about the prospect that they would not be able to divulge had it not been for a purpose.
The Lure of Romance and Kind Words
Women who read romance novels or have a family that does not appreciate her value – sometimes fall into the lure of seeking romance. The charming prince that will sweep her off her feet to a rosy land of delight. Or sometimes they fall for the man that talks nice words. They thus sometimes meet a person of this type that speaks nicely or seems romantic or nice – but is really a wily snake. When they realize the truth – it is sometimes too late. Either they have already fallen for the person or they are married and it is difficult to get out.
Suspect but Respect
Thus, using one’s head and “suspecting, but respecting” are some of the requirements in due diligence before finding a mate.
“I’m In Love”…Really?
Many answer the question of “why do you want to marry this person?” with “Because I am in Love.”
Then you ask “Why do you love that person?” and they say “Because s/he makes me feel so good.”
Unfortunately it is really infatuation in disguise. That is self-gratification. The difference between love and infatuation is love is “other-centered” and infatuation is “self-centered”.
Love is what I can give to someone else. Like when one loves a child, they try to provide for all their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.
Infatuation can be best described by a story.
A person asked another “what would you like to eat?”
He said “I Love Fish!” The other person, thinking, said to him: “Do you really love Fish?” He answered “Absolutely.” So he said if you loved fish you wouldn’t trap it, then cut it up and fry it! You don’t love fish. “You love yourself!”
Some marry because of the way the other makes them feel. This is self gratification. It is based on making yourself feel good. It is not based on the apprecaitoin of the qualities of the other person. The person can be a bully, a violent person. So it is not really love of the other person it is love of how one feels with that person – that is infatuation and self gratification.
One must be practical when choosing a mate and love comes later after much giving. Like we see with the Patriarchs of Judaism – First Yaakov / Jacob married Rachel then He loved her. He first was married then he developed feelings of love. Love comes as a result of giving not taking.
That doesn’t mean one should marry a person they don’t like. It means that “that they make me feel good” should not be the only requirement in getting married.
It is possible this is the reason for the high rate of divorce. Because people don’t look at the practical issues or the character traits of the other before marriage. Do Your Homework before You Get Married!
Prayer to Hashem and Effort
Praying to G-d to help you find the right person and to make the right decision once you find them, is also due diligence. Making strides in Mitzvah Observance is also a positive step. (See below). Also speaking with the people that can help you find the right mate is also in order. One must make their proper effort to search for the right mate.
Prayer for a Soul Mate
I was once looking to go out with a girl. I would pray “G-d please help me marry this Girl.”
We were practically engaged, but we realized we were not for each other. So we broke it off.
Prayer has to give some leeway to G-d. What I did was to pray to marry a particular woman that I thought was appropriate for me. He answered my prayer – He helped me to become closer to marrying this girl. In the end I realized she was not the right one. The Proper prayer would have been -
“Please G-d please help me to find the particular mate that is good for me, that will help me reach my potential in serving You and help to bring up our kids in the good and just path of Torah and Mitzvot. May it be Your will that she have good character traits, the proper Torah values and be kindhearted. May it be your will that when I do meet her that I will have the proper wisdom to recognize that she is for me.”
This is a prayer that gives “leeway” to G-d.
Shomer Negiah – Being Careful about Touch
There is a Halacha / Jewish law that a Jew should not touch members of the opposite gender. This applies to almost all people except for close family members – ie, immediate family – ie, mother, father, daughter, son and spouse. Thus this makes things much easier in dating. The closeness brought about because of touching that biases ones decision is removed, because the couple does not touch. Thus the people can make a more rational and better marriage decision and this leads to more solid marriages and less divorce.
Marry the Mate that Will Bring You and Your Family the Most
A Man wants to find a woman that has the proper values to raise the children in the good and just path of the Torah. A woman that is kind hearted, and has fear of heaven.
A Woman wants to marry a man that has the potential to bring in warmth and love and Mitzvoth to the family. The woman gains much of her reward for the next world from the Mitzvot the husband does and from her children learning in a Torah day school or Yeshiva. Thus many women want to marry Torah Scholars – because they recognize the great value of Torah and bring in much Mitzvot by their Torah learning. Obviously many woman who want this are mainly interested that their husband will help the Klal Yisrael / the congregation of Israel.
A Jewish woman or Jewish who “intermarries” loses the tremendous reward for the Mitzvot that their mate does.
The thing that should be of high importance is the character traits of the person. Is the person giving or stingy? Are they benevolent or selfish? These are things that one would be smart to inquire about before marriage from a third party. Observation does not always tell the whole story. Some people are great actors before marriage, but after marriage they change their face.
Many people ask more questions before buying a potential car than they do before dating a potential mate. It should be the opposite – a car lasts about 10 years, while marriage should last forever.
To Marry a Princess become a Prince
I usually suggest to people of marriageable age to reinforce themselves in Torah and Mitzvot. G-d will match you with a person that is similar to you. If you hang out in drinking bars – so you will likely meet the type of woman or man that likes to hang out in bars. Is that the best kind of mate to raise a Torah family? You decide.
If you are Shomer Shabbat, G-d will help you meet someone who also respects the Sabbath. If you are keeping Kosher, Hash-m will help you find someone who is also Kosher.
Marriage to Reach Potential for Achieving Purpose in Life
Marriage is to help a couple reach it’s potential in serving Hash-m together. Having children is the first Torah commandment. Teaching them to serve G-d through Torah helps a couple to guide their children in the proper path and help them to reach a meaningful life and their potential in this world. Thus the Torah’s requirement for Jewish people to marry Jews – so that together they can give the family the proper education and tools to reach their potential, achieve happiness and walk in the pleasant ways of Hash-m.