Friday, October 30, 2009

The "Very Short Marriage Crisis"

After mentioning short-lived marriages in my post earlier, I came across this very good op-ed piece about the very same trend.

Everyone currently dating should give it a read.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fortune Cookies, Part II

I seem to be doing a lot of RE: Last Posts recently. I have not intended this to be a running feature of my postings, but I guess life seems to work in that sort of fluid, continuous fashion. Piggy-backing on the last topic about fortune cookies, I had sushi for lunch in the caf and received another romance related fortune in my dessert cookie:

"A kiss? The renunciation of the heart when one is no longer alone."

It sounds nice; the idea of giving up one's heart to one's beloved upon finding them to presumably be one's soul mate. There is definitely merit to the idea of totally bestowing the entirety of one's affections on their love, and given the rate of infidelity scandals that abound these days (and that's just the famous people!), I hope more people are able to commit with all their heart and all their soul.

But "to renounce" also means (according to Meriam-Webster) "to refuse to follow, obey, or recognize any further," which I think is a bit counter-productive.
This is particularly true in the dating/shidduchim process which we Orthodox Jews find ourselves journeying. The prevalent mindset that I have heard most recommended is to not let the heart do all the decision making while going out with someone, because there needs to be an objective perspective while one is developing an educated opinion regarding the appropriateness of one's date as a potential spouse.

Time and again I've read/been told that the most relevant time for allowing the heart to take over is in marriage itself - once the final decision (hopefully final, at any rate) has been made, only then should you put on those rosy lenses and view life with your spouse as being peachy-keen. At that stage, you want to gloss over the little nuances that are troublesome, mannerisms that bother you, and other nit-picky things - all for the purpose of achieving a more harmonious union.

Doing that during the dating period is not as recommended, and can be quite disastrous. One needs to be critical (to a realistic and appropriate level) when dating so that no major "red flags" slip by - thereby influencing someone to make an erroneous and potentially disastrous decision. This is certainly one (of many, I'm sure) issues that lead to broken engagements, wherein the two individuals simply focus on the positive elements without realizing how wrong they are for one another. That doesn't necessarily mean that there is something unfit about the person being evaluated, but that upon viewing the relationship through an unbiased viewpoint, the negatives outweigh the positive, and they as a couple, would not work out in the long run.

Hopefully people are able to realize this and end a relationship before things are serious, or certainly before tying the knot... I have friends in-and-around my own age who have gone through broken engagements and early divorces, so it seems more people need to work on this aspect of their personal dating philosophies.

My other fortune was a classic example of "Engrish," which I found rather amusing, not just for the composition, but the humor of the message itself:

"If your cookie still in one piece, buy lotto."

This is one of the few fairly funny fortunes that I've gotten over my almost 4-years at YU, and I definitely appreciate its clever wit.

Just for the sake of completeness, the Chinese words were (in order) "cheng zi" - "orange" and "zhu rou" - "pork." Are all the "Learn Chinese" words forms of food?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fortune Cookies

The themed of tonight's dinner in the caf was Chinese food. I skipped the main entrees, and went with the typical baked chicken, but picked the hot and sour soup (which was actually neither hot nor sour, but tasty nevertheless), and two fortune cookies for dessert.

I've never put much substance into what the little "fortunes" say in these things, particularly is most of them are entirely nonsensical, inapplicable to me, or aren't fortunes at all. For example, the "fortune" I received a while ago in the caf which read something to the effect of "When you leave home today, take your first left." At the time, that would have meant venturing off into the local neighborhood instead of walking toward campus. Even better is the "fortune" that caught my friend by surprise while I and a few other guys were sitting at the lunch table with him. It read "It's time to make new friends."

However, there are times when the little cookie message is a bit more intriguing, such as one of the fortunes I received tonight. It read:

"Your love life will soon be happy and harmonious."

If that doesn't sound good for my dating life, I don't know what does. In contrast, the second cookie told me:

"Your life is like a kaleidoscope."

I'm not sure where to take that one... although I can probably come up with an interpretation or two. My "Learn Chinese" words were "ying tao" or "cherry" and "xi gua" or "watermelon," in that order, and I'm sure there can be many different variations on what those pairings mean, or the fact that both are fruit in general. Either way, not so interesting.

I really don't place too much faith in these things (along with the various other forbidden means of foretelling the future, etc). But there has to be some reason why I got them in the first place, right? The odds of my selection any other cookie in that big box in the caf was just as great as picking these two... or maybe I'm just over thinking things.

It would be nice to have some happiness and harmony in my "love life" though, more preferably through marriage than the typical American cultural connotation of a person's "love life." Hmmm.

Hats on, hats off

Slight update from yesterday: after speaking with a Rabbi/Doctor teacher of mine, the family medical history issue, while warranting further explanation, should not be a deal breaker of any sort. It seems I was fairly on target with the way I handled the news and how I considered it after the fact. One point he and discussed was that everyone (literally) has some sort of health issue in their family, and in this case, knowing what it is ahead of time can actually be very beneficial. With proper care of one's health, screening, and general alertness, the worst can be avoided. Additionally, it's much better to know what to expect rather than be caught off guard by a surprise that may only manifest itself at a later stage of development, when prognosis is much worse. So thank you, Rabbi/Doctor teacher!

Back on topic: Black hats. I figure I haven't been living up to the fullest intent of this blog by not commenting on a grey area in hashkafa recently, so I owed y'all one.

Hats have become a "thing" in more yeshivish/right wing circles. The wearing of fedoras (I am not going to discuss the furry headwares of the Chassidim) has become almost a uniform of sorts; an open declaration of what hashkafa you espouse. At least when you attend a right-wing Charedi yeshiva, or live in certain cities/neighborhoods (such as a certain city in New Jersey).

But hats have even become pervasive in the more modern community (the in betweeners, I guess) who, although hashkafically may be within the YU-realm, lean to the right (as an aside, don't we lean to the left at the Seder on Pesach to avoid choking? Just kidding). Typically, hat wearers also feature a velvet kipa, but I've also seen suede kipot with hats, and even a few kipa sruga/Borcelino combinations (and by kipa sruga I mean the white variety, I would say the black sruga are basically equivalent to suede), which really leave me discombobulated. That sort of seems like a case of tartei d'sasrei or something... but then again pulling elements from the far left and far right and blending them together sounds like a nice recipe for reaching a balanced central position.

I happen to wear a hat on Shabbos and Yom Tov, at weddings and (lo aleinu) funerals when I am "on the job" as a member of the Chevra Kadisha (I feel another post brewing). I've gotten a bit of flack in the past about not being consistent about the hat wearing, since most typical yeshiva bochurim wear them all the time for davening, no matter what day of the week. I'm not sure why I made that initial decision... perhaps it was part of my developing grey ideology wherein I was a wannabe yeshiva bochur, but never quite felt to the level to wear white shirts on weekdays (that's also a whole different discussion). I also wear the hat on chol hamoed, due to the yom-tov-ish status of those intermediate days, but only during Mincha/Ma'ariv and not Shacharis (and subsequently Mussaf) because I find the tefillin/black hat juggling act to be a pain in the neck - literally. The hat is so precariously balanced on the very back on the cranium, and you basically have to lean your neck inward while keeping your head up to keep it from falling. The end result? A visit to the chiropractor.

I remember a very memorable night dvar Torah/mussar schmooze given by Rav Cohen, a Rosh Yeshiva at YU, last year during on of the Friday night onegs. Rav Cohen himself is one of the more charedi Roshei Yeshiva at YU, and is known for his fiery, enthusiastic mussar - a real kick in the pants delivery (which I find we all need a bit of every now and then). I've always been a big fan of his, if one can say that about a Rosh Yeshiva, but he became an even bigger favorite after I heard this speech.

During the course of an enthusiastic talk about Shabbos observance, he randomly brought up the subject of guys who only wear hats on Shabbos, and the other yeshiva guys who make fun of them for specifically the point I mentioned - either wear it or don't, enough with the half-and-half business. Rav Cohen rebuked the critique-ers! He said that those who wear a hat on Shabbos and not during the week have it exactly right. Shabbos, he said, is a time that deserves our attention in various ways, which certainly includes upgrading our dress to reflect the increase in holiness inherent in the day. The yeshiva bochurim who wear white shirts, suits, and hat during the week have basically no recourse for "dressing up" for the Shabbos. A tie doesn't count, as insignificant a garment as it is, and certainly not in comparison to someone who dons a suit specifically for Shabbos.

Hats are the same thing. Someone who wears a hat only on Shabbos is doing so with the right kavana in mind, he's accentuating his attire for the sake of the holy Shabbos. Shabbos is important enough to him that he has a specific garment designated to enhance his appearance l'kavod Shabbos.

That certainly beat my old answer I'd use to give for wearing a hat - that I was an Indiana Jones fan... I do think I'm a bit old fashioned, taking into account the fedora and double-breasted suit, which I've been told is entirely out of style many times over. Add that to my trench coat, and I look like something out of the 40's, which would fit the Dr. Jones timeline quite nicely.

Anyway, I find Rav Cohen's perspective most agreeable. While I am not in any way endorsing the need to wear hats, and consider it more of a personal/fashion choice, I like the idea of the fedora having more meaning behind it than simply - "look, I'm part of the club too" because that makes them seem like those Mousketeer hats. Everything in life should be done with intent, not mindlessly because it's the "in thing" to do. I guess that's the bottom line in this post.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Great Date... Things to Consider

Today was probably the longest first date I've ever been on: almost, if not precisely - 5 hours. I totally lost track of time and didn't even check my watch at some random interval (inconspicuously of course). I've gotten better at weaving in that "looking a the watch" move into a gesture related to the conversation, such as a remark someone made about looking at time or something... I try to be nonchalant about these things - without offending people. As they say, time flies when you're having fun - and the conversation is flowing, personalities are meshing well, hashkafic similarity becomes evident, and the interplay of give and take of ideas feels natural. It also didn't hurt that unlike last time (and a few others before then), I thought she was fairly attractive.

This was also after a very positive, nearly 3 hour long initial phone conversation last week. I get the feeling that first phone calls really aren't meant to be nearly that long - basically the length of an actual date. But as with the date itself, what's wrong with prolonging the experience if both are enjoying the other's company and positive relationship-building is occurring?

Onto things to consider....

One concern that has become apparent this time, which I've never encountered in this fashion before, and is actually no fault to the person, but still something to consider: family medical history. I'm not talking about her grandfather died of a heart attack, but rather there is a much more immediate family member that suffered from a certain disease, and was successfully treated (thankfully), but statistically could mean that she is almost certainly at a higher risk for developing the same condition herself at some later stage in life.

Now, you could say to me, "Grey, you're being far too nit-picky about these things, give her a chance, and think about that sort of morbid topic later." While I admit that revealing the fact that a grandparent died of some ill-health related circumstance would certainly reflect negatively on me as well (paternal grandmother had Alzheimer's for 11 years, and her husband, my paternal grandfather had cancer, twice I think, and eventually died from it), and I would assume that most people's grandparents, unless they died relatively young, developed something that contributed to the end of their life, since as people age, things in the body start to go wrong. However, something like say, a parent, makes me a bit more anxious. Total family genetic history aside - a direct connection like that gives me a cause for concern.

I'm not going to go off the deep end and not have a second date because of this family medical history revelation (which I did not know beforehand, but maybe I just didn't ask the right people when I did research, or perhaps I should have let my usual research people do their job instead of me feeling all gung-ho and wanting to do things on my own). This is not something that can be entirely ignored and placed out of mind, particularly when I recall the recent panel discussion on the BRCA gene (breast cancer gene) that occurred at the Medical Ethics Conference (see audio files here: medicine, ethics, halacha). However, I fully realize that there is no guarantee of anyone having these sorts of inherited diseases (unless their entire immediate family and other extended family members have/had it, and their statistic risk goes through the roof), and this is not something I should be worried about at the moment.

She did freely offer the information unprompted, and seems to be not so concerned, I would presume since, thankfully, the condition was diagnosed in the early stages and proper treatment was sought and administered successfully. It was still a bit jarring to hear that mentioned so readily on a first date. Reality is what it is, and certainly everything that needs to be disclosed needs to be told over at the appropriate time in the dating process so that one can make an informed decision about this person as a viable marriage candidate. Maybe I was just thrown for a loop because of how early this was brought up (and rather early on in the date as well, even though it was semi-quickly dealt with and we moved on to other, more interesting topics).

Also, no one is perfect, and no one has a perfect personal or family medical history. I must learn to be non-judgmental about things like this, or perhaps that is overly judgmental, since nothing of this sort can be entirely ignored or denied.

It's up to me to focus my attention soley on her now and delve deeper into what makes her such a great person (as her friends attested to, and I'm just beginning to find out myself). Where we go from here, who knows? It's time to look forward to the second date.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

I don't think I've ever been so overwhelmed with shidduchim suggestions as much as I have been in the past week. I'm so used to considering one suggestion to consider at a time, and have not encountered the somewhat confusing dilemma of needing to choose between several theoretically positive candidates. I am beginning to feel that contrary to the more modern belief that being given a selection of potential dates to choose from is not the best idea, particularly when there are pictures involved...

The primary culprit (although certainly not the only one) is the relatively new and exciting website called YU Connects (or Saw You at Sinai for the non-YU students/alumni). As a YU student, I get to join YU Connects for free, where I fill a profile of sorts, answering a bunch of preference questions, questions about me, and write two essays, one describing me, and one for the potential shadchan to read regarding what I'm looking for.

The way the system works is that the members of the website (IE all the young single folk) have no access to viewing one another's profiles. Instead, the numerous trained connectors(YUCon) or matchmakers (SYAS) get to search through and read the details in the member's profiles, and the then send suggestions to either party, or both at the same time. When you are given a suggestion, you have access to view their profile, including up to three pictures. You're then given 10 days to respond to the suggested match, and can either accept (wherein the other person has to accept as well to make things official), decline (and provide a reason as to why, or suggest another person for the rejected nominee), or put the suggestion on hold so that you have more time to think about things and reactivate the suggestion later for a 2 day period. Once the suggestion window closes, you no longer have any access to that profile unless the shadchan suggests the person again, either voluntarily, or by your prompting.

In truth, I like this system a lot. Particularly since my friends and acquaintances (as of late) had been a little on the slower side when it came to giving me suggestions, I wanted to try something new. I think the idea about members not seeing one another's profiles, and instead leaving the "connecting" to the shadchans is an interesting, frum, yet not too crazy twist from the typical Jewish Orthodox dating sights (that I have seen, but not joined). It just sounds much more modest and less creepy, where people aren't potentially stalking other members, and the overall system feels more tachlis-oriented. I've heard/read some horror stories on other blogs of stalking and terribly mismatched dates, so this added geder of sorts hopefully prevents that sort of thing from happening.

The bad part about this, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, is the fact that (at least for a "Gold" Member, which is automatic with YUCon) you can receive up to 10 matches a week, and theoretically have them all active at the same time. I haven't had 10 in one shot, but in a period of 2 days I received 6 or 7. Some came in staggered, and a few came in at one time. You can change your dating status to different notifications, such as "available" which is when you'll receive matches, or various statuses that indicate you don't want to receive any more suggestions, such as "temporarily out of town," "reviewing matches," and "dating" to let the matchmakers know to back off for a bit. The matches seem arrive so quickly - one even snuck in in the few seconds between me changing my status to "reviewing" and the system registering that.

In spite of all that, I won't even be going out with any of these suggestions due to a rather random meeting with a very nice stereotypical (in the positive sense), caring, Jewish motherly woman who struck up a conversation at last Sunday's Medical Ethics Conference (the recordings are now available at after she noticed my name tag and recognized that my last name was very similar to her daughter-in-law's maiden name. Of course, the conversation veered off into inquiring if I was available, and after discussing that for a bit, we exchanged contact information, I did some research, and now I'm scheduled to have a date in the near future.

On top of that, they had a YU Connects, "Meet the Connector" night at YU this week (which I had intended to go to anyway, even before all this craziness started). I met with 3 different shadchanim, all of whom were very nice - and one of them actually had heard of me/seen me at the Medical Ethics Conference and requested to meet me when she saw my name on the registered attendees list. One of them (rather a pair working together) sent me a suggestion right after the even was over through their own shidduch system they run, including a profile and a picture. Needless to say, I appreciate their efforts, but I definitely did not need more distraction when I was trying to focus on the developing shidduch from the conference.

But wait, there's more! (Now I sound like an infomercial). Two independent friends emailed/texted me saying they had suggestions after I'd committed to the shidduch I am soon to begin, which I had to politely turn down for the time being (if/when I ever need to contact them again, but who knows with these things).

So at least the discombobulation sown by YU Connects has been averted for now. I declined all the enticing matches with the added response that they were (to varying degrees at any rate) fairly on target, but that I was busy and to please re-issue them in a few weeks, or whenever (if ever) I am available next. Two were entirely not shayich, so I declined and politely explained wy. You have the option to write a longer email message to the connector, and I made sure to do that and thank them for their efforts - it seems they put a good bit of time into this (assuming they're actually trying and now just throwing out ideas). These shadchanim were quite serious and dedicated, in fact, and said they appreciated getting a response. Some of the shadchanim I met at the event this week told me that it's frustrating to get numerous declines from guys who never explain themselves.

So who knows what the future will bring? I hope everything works out well, however they are meant to. To whomever may be reading this (and including those that aren't), have a great Shabbos!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Addendum to Previous Post

It turns out that Rav Tendler spoke about a very similar idea yesterday at the 4th Annual YU Student Medical Ethics Conference on Genetics with regard to a legend about Moshe Rabeinu and overcoming his own natural bad traits to become the incredible person, leader, and navi that he was - specifically because of his ability to surpass his genetic pre-dispositions. That, along with everything else Rav Tendler said, was fascinating as usual (the rest of the conference was amazing too, just for the record).

Notes for the conference can be found at the ever-talented and fastest-typist-ever Curious Jew's blog here.

The full audio recording of the conference and the accompanying PowerPoint presentations should be available on YU within the week.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Character Traits

It's late, but I need to compose something before my mind can rest...

Have you ever had someone you know point out an inherently negative trait of yours - and be completely correct? There is no use denying the claim, because deep down, you know it to be true. But what if having that negative trait really isn't the pitfall that you (and that other person) might have thought it was?

I have been called pessimistic on a few occasions by someone close to me. Admittedly, I have a certain pessimistic side that can take hold, given enough "encouragement" (and by that I mean a number of bad/wrong things happening in my life, usually all around the same time, or at the very same time). But I resent being called a pessimist, not because it isn't actually true, but because I think I can rise above that and become something greater.

This particular notion was crystalized for me by Rabbi Natanel Lebowitz, a rebbe at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah. While I did not attend Lev HaTorah during my time in Israel, I did have Rabbi Lebowitz as my shiur rebbe at NCSY Kollel the summer before my senior year in high school. He is extremely charismatic, pulls no punches when it comes to mussar, and is a very emes-dik person who is certainly worth the admiration he receives from his students. If there is anyone who can be said to have single-handedly influenced me to spend a year in Israel before college, it was Rabbi Lebowitz. When Rabbi Lebowitz gave a special mussar schmooze last year at YU, I couldn't help but attend, even if I was basically the only non-Lev HaTorah alumnus there. I was expecting to hear some inspirational divrei Torah (since most everything I ever heard him say was indeed inspirational), but I didn't expect to be blown away as I was.

I forget what source Rabbi Lebowitz cited, but this is the basic idea: While we know the Avos as being renowned for possessing specific traits, namely Avraham with Chessed, Yitzchak with Gevura, and Yaakov with Emes/Tiferes, the truth behind those designations are that the Avos were in fact born with the inherent opposite trait. The best example that he brought (with the most examples, although Avraham had a few, and Yitzchak as well) was Yaakov Avinu.

Yaakov is know throughout our rabbinic commentaries as being a man of Emes - Truth. But when you examine the parts of the Torah that tell us stories about his life, we see a bit of a different picture. First, there is the tricky bit about convincing Esav to sell the birthright. Even if you hold of the midrashim that expand the background of the story, and that Esav knew he couldn't handle the kehuna and Yaakov knew he was better suited for that, nevertheless, Yaakov still concluded the deal with Esav under duress from his exhaustion.

Esav's later claim against Yaakov that he makes to Yitzchak when Yaakov "steals" the brachos - that Yaakov is a trickster of sorts, is fairly on target. Yaakov doesn't resist too much when his mother offers the suggestion to play dress up and convince his blind, elderly father that he was in fact Esav. Seemingly a man of Emes would have no part in such a deception, no matter how righteous his cause. His response of "here I am, Esav is your first born" is a creative reading of the words, but Yaakov also intended to answer his father is such a way to successfully carry out the scheme to obtain the brachos of the first born.

Lastly, commentaries regarding Yaakov's dealings with his father-in-law Lavan are quite clear that Yaakov believed he could be just as much of a swindler as Lavan, should Lavan try to make an example of him and attempt to assume the title of best underhanded businessman. And Yaakov certainly does out perform Lavan with his strategy for breeding certain coat colorations in his flock, thus taking basically every bit of wealth Lavan had, as we are told (in Rashi, I believe).

So what's the point of all this? I'm certainly not trying to drag Yaakov's name through the mud - and neither was Rabbi Lebowitz. The important point to focus on is the fact that in spite of this inherent dishonest nature that Yaakov possessed, he overcame these tendencies to define himself as a man of absolute Truth. He didn't blame this inherent negative characteristic of his and use it as an excuse for anything he did. When it was necessary to utilize these tendencies for a more positive goal, he did so. Nevertheless, Yaakov is not defined for posterity as a man who went around being dishonest. He is forever known as a man of Emes, because he made the effort to conquer the negative trait that indeed was his given nature, and was successful.

Without claiming in any way that I possess the intestinal fortitude of our forefather, I do believe that we should all think about this example - as we should with everything the Avos did (ma'aseh avos siman l'banim, after all), and draw inspiration for our own lives. True, everyone has some negative trait(s) that they possess, that is undeniable, since no one is completely perfect these days (or ever, I guess). Nevertheless, we should do out very best to be motivated by the recognition of our negative traits, and be spurred to overcome them, effectively using them as a springboard to become better people.

So while I do have a pessimistic side, and I know for a fact that I demonstrated that trait far more often that I would like to admit in my past (certainly before I spent two years in Israel), I don't like the idea of being defined as a negative, pessimistic person. It simply isn't true, not because I don't have that trait, but because I reject it as a defining characteristic, because I know I can rise above that negativity and be a better person. As a result, I try very hard to be optimistic about most everything in life, and do my best to find the positive in everything and everyone I encounter.

I love the feelings of positive energy and simcha that are to found in simple, everyday life. True, there are moments where I can't ride the high of that positivity, and that's fine since life isn't perfect to begin with. I will still rise against those feelings and push back the darkness, a defiant light shining brightly amidst the blackness that can be the reality of the world we live in.

So the person who called me pessimistic wasn't wrong, per se, but I hope to prove to them that they were in fact incorrect about who I am now (and maybe someday they will recognize the change within me). I truly believe I have implanted the notion of being a positive person within my heart, and that such a concept has taken root. I'm not infallible, but I don't expect to be. I simply must do the best I can, and never, ever give up.

And with that, I'll depart for dreamland...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brrrrrr *chatter* *chatter* and some dating related things

I've been a negligent blogger as of late, my apologies. I have no real excuse as to why I didn't post over the Sukkos break, but at least I'm back now...

Man is it ever that much colder here in New York than below the Mason-Dixon! We're talking a difference of 30 degrees Fahrenheit! I will miss the lovely fall weather of the hometown (even if it went back to the 80's the last few days of the break), and now it's time to break out the sweaters/fleeces/sweat shirts/heavy coats etc...

Onto other things...

I must say that I've never had a harder decision to end a dating relationship before tonight. It has always been easy in the past when there was an overt difference that produced a palpable incapability. Parenthetically, more often than not I've noticed that it isn't usually just one thing, but a few issues bundled together that confirms the desire to not continue with another date. But this person was very different. I don't think I've ever gone out with anyone who was simply so perfect in every way possible, hashkafa, family background, personality, sense of humor, you name it. She is an absolutely amazing person, perhaps the finest I've ever had the privilege of taking out.

So what was the issue that created the curtain call you may ask? Chemistry.

I have often heard people belittling the concept of chemistry, or taking the opposite approach and testifying to the fact that if they don't experience fireworks, then clearly there isn't anything worth talking about. I don't really hold of either of those opinions (Grey Area Alert), but I haven't really emphasized those butterfly-in-the-guts feelings before this recently concluded shidduch. Either the feeling was there, and the dating lasted for a few weeks (or a month or two) and other "red flags" signaled long-term incapability, or there was not enough substance to the developing relationship that I never bothered to notice that the little winged insects were sleeping on the job, on coffee break, taking a vacation or whatever.

I could envision her very clearly as a caring companion, close friend, someone who would be incredibly easy to talk to and confide in... but an uneasy feeling deep within me gave rise to a voice that drowned out the many positive attributes I took notice of. I simply couldn't see her as a wife.

And that really bothered me. Really, really bothered me - because everything else was perfectly compatible in so many myriad ways that I have not experienced before. While it is certainly difficult to make up one's mind when there are several issues that balance out on the internal shidduch evaluation scale, it's far more frustrating to have the positive side weighed down almost completely and have a seemingly small, nit picky thing overpower that assembled pile of merits.

It reminds me a little of a remark that Rav Willig made at the most recent YU Connects event that took place before the break. He said that people often take the incorrect approach in thinking that just because someone wasn't for you, it automatically means he/she wouldn't work for someone else you know. He said that people should start to readjust their method of thinking and when a shidduch doesn't work out, try to think of someone they know to set up with their ex-date. It certainly is a noble concept, and it would be nice to find it more practically applied in our dating circles.

While I have not really considered anyone I've gone out with in those terms, this is perhaps the first person I would wholeheartedly recommend without a single reservation, simply because she is such a wonderful person... just not for me - but certainly for the lucky guy who will eventually marry her (at the appropriate time, hopefully sooner than later).

It feels odd to be happy, with a tinge of sadness, at this crossroads. I truly believe I made the right decision (and this was after a few dates of hoping my own feelings might change, given a chance), I detect a sense of positive hope welling up within me. Every person that someone goes out with is a step in the ongoing journey to find that certain special individual who is the one. A friend once quoted Rabbi Reichman ("Sr.") that each person that one goes out with has some sort of spark of your "other half" that you reclaim during that courtship, however brief or long that may be. The right person, in the end, will be the sum of all those little sparks, thereby reuniting you with your full other self. (At least I think that was the sum of the idea presented to me. Either way, it works nicely).

If I had to sum up the swirling emotional mixture floating in my head right now in one word, I'd say I feel "encouraged." If this last person, who was so wonderful, wasn't Ms. Right, then perhaps the next person will be... or at least I could be getting closer and closer...

To conclude this post, a short poem:

The future is bright.
I am unnable to see the end of my adventure
Because of the glare that fills my gaze.
Even so, I welcome the new beginning.