How to Date in the Jewish Community

by Elisheva Maline

When it comes to marriage, opinions vary on which things make or break the ideal spouse. For some, decisions depend on several simple but important factors: if the guy has a stable career, if the girl has good middot (character traits) and a compatible personality, for instance, people are willing to talk shop. With others, however, the fine balance between a yes and no gets more complex as they zero in on details like height and weight or how loud or soft spoken the other person is etc. 

By the way, no judgment. Everyone has personal needs and everyone's got a right to his personal preferences. Being picky is not what dooms any of us to solitary confinement (no pun intended) and at the end of the day, whether or not we marry isn't up to us. Ultimately, our destiny is in Hashem's (G-d's) hands. After all, forty days before a person is born, a ma'alach (angel) announces whom will be his or her intended; breathe easy – you're not in control, you can't possibly mess things up. But (I should add it in capital letters), BUT one has to recognize that even so, one of the keys toward finding one's soulmate (or for you to create the space in which s/he can find you) lies in personal integrity. You've got to do your part by taking a long honest look at yourself and asking, “Why am I asking for these specific things in a spouse? Are these things that I need?” Or, “Is this really a deal breaker, or not?” Everyone – especially those who've waited a long time for that special someone – knows that examining one's soul can get challenging, especially when one's list, as well as emotional bias, is apt to grow over the years, like shadows lengthening in the twilight. An emotional bias is what keeps us from making an entirely objective judgment call. Since emotional bias can be blinding, many people tend to seek out someone who can help them get perspective. A more objective opinion is also important after one gets engaged and married. And, by the way, it will prove invaluable with helping one avoid friction by in-laws as well.

Among traditional Jewish communities, these objective resources usually come in the form of shadchanim (matchmakers). The word shadchan connotes the tying of two to make one (which is why, by the way, modern Hebrew speakers refer to staplers as shadchanim). Therefore, one earns the title shadchan only once s/he has helped two individuals get hitched. Realistically, though, shadchanim end up setting up more dates than marrying off couples. Since the ratio of hard work to results can be pretty grueling, many of us have decided to shirk convention by simply giving credit where credit is due: whether or not one's local shadchan has struck gold, people will call him a shadchan. After all, getting a guy and girl to the chuppah (marriage ceremony) can take hours of prior planning: researching every couple to find out if they're a match, making phone calls, house calls, mediating, reassuring, giving advice, on and on. I'm a single girl and I have an inkling as to how much time my shadchanit puts into researching my shidduchim (dating experiences). And although I don't know if she's going to be the one to get me married, I persist in referring to her as such. As far as I'm concerned, she is every inch the shadchanit.  

Typically, the shadchan's job is to help a couple figure out if they are truly compatible as they go through the process of getting to know one another. The success of a shadchan can be measured by his or her ability to be objective as well as play mediator as s/he takes each dating person's opinions and feelings into account. A good shadchan is also able to help the couple see a bigger picture take form i.e. a long and happy life together as opposed to watching helplessly while they get bogged down in minor issues. Last but not least, a good shadchan prays for siyatta dishmaya, divine assistance. G-d holds the keys to marriage, after all – we must keep Him involved.

One very successful shadchan gave me a fool proof formula, one that anyone can apply, on how to keep objective and at the same time, honor one's personal preferences and needs, “Keep an eye out for the following three things,” she told me. “They are an absolute must in a marriage – if any of them are missing, consider it an automatic deal breaker:” I should add that finding all three things doesn't necessitate making wedding plans right away either, but you can start planning how you're going to fit into a size two wedding dress.

The three things to look for in a potential spouse:
1)                  Do you both have physical as well as emotional chemistry?
2)                  Do you have the same ideals and future goals?
3)                  Would you feel proud to introduce him to your family and friends?  

Remember: Hashem (G-d's) in charge. Don't forget it. 

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