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What is the Jewish approach to finding a mate?

by Rabbi Yehudah Lebovits

  

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"And Abraham said to his servant, the eldest in his household, who had charge of all that was his... 'to my land and to my birthplace you shall go and take a wife for my son, for Isaac."1

Dating 

Choosing a mate is a complex undertaking.

Only too often, after their initial infatuation wears off, men and women find that they have made a serious misjudgment. They wonder what happened to all those qualitites that each thought the other possessed. Even when two people go out together for years, spend countless evenings together, and come to know each other thoroughly, the effort often eventually seems to have been of no avail.

Inevitably, they discover that they did not understand each other's characters at all. Even if they are satisfied with their marriage, not once will they find that their partner is exactly as they had imagined him or her to be.

Common sense would argue that when people select mates entirely on their own and know each other for a relatively long period of time before marriage, the frequency of divorce should be lower than it was fifty or sixty years ago, when parents had a voice in choosing mates for their children. Precisely the opposite is true. Today's divorce rate is significantly higher than it was in the recent past.

only the man and woman involved can decide if they feel that necessary mutual attraction.
The primary cause of today's failed marriages is people's inability to judge a prospective marriage partner with even a semblance of objectivity. Most men and women are unaware of the subconscious drives and inclinations, both good and bad, that pull them in many directions. They ignore the difficulty of perceiving things clearly in areas as volatile as love and human relations.

Once they feel attraction to another person, they rarely pause to consider whether this attraction is rooted in an objective appraisal of that person's qualities or in prejudice, a desire which projects virtues onto the person. With a fool's confidence, they let their captivated hearts lead them into marriages in which they are sure they will live happily ever after. Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

Wise people realize they cannot depend on their own judgment in matters that involve their emotions. At such times, they rely on others to tell them what is right and what is wrong. They know that if they do not ask others for help, they are likely to commit major errors.

The Shidduch

There are two, separate aspects to a shidduch (match): character traits and attraction. The attraction one person feels for another, or "chemistry", as it is often called, is as elusive as it is undefinable. It is inexplicable even to the couple themselves. It may spring from a person's specific personality, from upbringing, or from the essence of his soul. In any case, only the man and woman involved can decide if they feel that necessary mutual attraction.

The practical aspects of a shidduch [on the other hand] is the area in which one should seek guidance.

The guidance is needed for a very good reason. Third parties are not influenced by the subconscious desires that blind those who are personally involved. Outside observers can view a situation objectively, without being taken in by a prospective partner's beauty, sparkling conversation, or social popularity.

Footnotes

  • 1. Genesis 24:2-4

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » Courting

Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.