Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shidduch Dating: Gila Manolson on the Traditional Jewish Approach to Dating

I had Shabbat dinner one time at an Orthodox rabbi's home.  As I was leaving, the Rebbetzin said something like "You should bring your daughter next time.  You never know, maybe she and our grandson will make a good shidduch!"  I was struck by how welcoming they were toward a non-Jew like myself (and by how welcomed I felt, something I hadn't experienced at a UMJC synagogue) but, most of all, I was struck by how determined Jewish mothers must be to make a match for their children and grandchildren!  I mean, we were talking about four-year-olds for crying out loud!  : )

So what is a shidduch anyway?  It denotes a match made between a man and a woman (though if I'm not mistaken it connotes peacefulness).  But really it refers to a whole system of dating based on traditional Jewish values (which really used to be universal values up until the last century).  Here's a quick overview:  

"Shidduch dating has four characteristics.
    First, it assumes you're ready to get married.  That means you're reasonably mature, know who you are, and have some idea of where you're heading and the kind of person you want.  You also know what's negotiable and what isn't.  This concept of being thought out, even to the point of having a mental 'shopping list' of qualities you're seeking, may offend some.  (Funny how rationalism in relationships bothers us, as if using your head means you have no heart.)....
     Second, a shidduch is arranged through a third party.  He or she must understand you, be fairly wise and perceptive, and be able to introduce you to someone fundamentally compatible....
    Finally, shidduch dating includes no touching--being shomer negiah.  While ridiculously difficult if you intend to hang out together for a few years, this self-control is definitely feasible in a shorter-term, marriage-oriented relationship.  Many insist, of course, that 'trying things out' helps determine compatibility in marriage.  All the evidence indicates they're dead wrong, for theirs is a pitifully shallow conception of sexuality.  True sexuality expresses not only who you are, but your feelings for your partner and the quality of your relationship....Strange as it may sound, postponing physical contact is actually the best way to assess compatibility.  It promotes objectivity, letting you see the other without the illusions frequently created by physical closeness.  It fosters a genuine, person-to-person (rather than body-to-body) connection.  It helps you discover if you can appreciate the other not for how good he or she makes you feel but for who he or she actually is.  Being shomer negiah is therefore essential in acquiring perspective on the big question:  'Is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?'....
     Dating for marriage, using an intermediary, doing research, and being shomer negiah all help you put your head before your heart, and constitute 'religious dating,'....The purpose of religious dating is to reach the point of knowing, 'This is the person with whom I want to, and can, make a relationship work,'" (from "Head to Heart" by Gila Manolson).


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