EmunaDating: Going on dates in a G-dly way

By Samantha Hulkower

It's an exercise I've played with all of my friends (both single and married): what are the most important qualities for you in a partner? This is an important practice when you are single because you never know when someone you meet is going to demand this information from you, and quickly, to see if there is anyone they know that could be mateem for you (especially in Israel where even the cab drivers are famous for working to marry off their fellow Jews). Inevitably, one of the first few things to come out of everyone's mouth is 'kind'. There are a few variations on this: nice, a good person, menshlich. Ultimately, we all want someone who is going to treat us well. 

Hebrew, ever a terse but nuanced language, has a word for this: chesed חסד. It is typically translated as lovingkindness. Already we see that there is more to this than just being nice. Something that is merely three letters in Hebrew becomes two conjoined words in English. Kindness for it's own sake is just compassion, but kindness from a place of love - that is the key for a happy marriage. 

We, as people on this planet, are expected to bring G-d into the world by emulating G-dly traits. One of them is chesed. The fact that G-d doesn't strike someone down when they are doing a sin is actually a really nice thing. By keeping us alive, G-d is saying He believes in us and our ability to make the right choices in the future, even if at that moment there is nothing redeeming about our actions. After Adam and Eve ate from the one fruit tree they were not supposed to, G-d kicked them out of the Garden of Eden like He said He would, but he also made them clothes because in their new state of mind being naked was embarrassing.  This is what we need to emulate - when someone in our lives is doing something that we think is bad for them, trying to change their behavior through being mean or cruel is not the way to go. You need to treat them with chesed, have patience, and believe in their ability to see their mistakes and want to improve. 

Chesed is also predicated on being kind without expecting anything in return. So many of the mitzvot associated with being kind - visiting the sick, making a bride happy on her wedding day, helping to bury the dead - can't be done in a tit-for-tat way. Sure, you can visit friends when they are ill in the hopes of them returning the favor if you later become sick, but who wants to bank on a favor being returned that requires you to get sick first? When we do acts of true kindness we do them simply for the benefit they bring others. Taking joy in making other people happy is the real gift we get in return. 

How can we apply this to our dating life? First and foremost - go into every date wanting the other person to have a good time. Even if five minutes in you realize that you are not compatible and there will be no second date, continue keeping the other person engaged in conversation and enjoying themselves. You don't have to fall in love with every person you go out with, but you do have to treat them with kindness. Being kind to your date, especially when you don't want to see them again is true chesed. Also, we can be careful not to lead people on. Who doesn't enjoy attention from the opposite gender? Knowing someone else thinks you are pretty or smart feels great. Acting in a way to give the person the idea that they have a chance of dating or marrying you when you don't feel the same, in order to keep that attention coming, is cruel. By following these two rules, we can ensure that we are doing everything in our power to be the kind person our future spouse is looking for. 

There are so many things in life that we have no control over. If we are honest with ourselves, the only thing we really have control over is how we react to people and situations. Working to treat everyone around us with kindness is sure to not only increase your circle of friends, and perhaps hasten the arrival of your future husband or wife, but also allow you to feel like you made a positive impact on the world. Is there anything more G-d-like than that?

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