Thursday, January 17, 2013

Craigslist Shabbat Dinner Invite = Soulmate Dinner Date?

I'm a bit flabbergasted that 7 single Jewish guys even thought of doing this, but I have to say it's a brilliant idea and one that, with tweaking, could be a fun, new way for singles to meet people.

Basically, the 7 guys posted on Craigslist that they want to put together a Friday night meal for 14, and invited any interested single women to contact that for the opportunity to be one of their guests. Surprisingly, they got a TON of responses, and were able to successfully confirm a select 7 eligible women will join them for dinner this Friday night.

While one of the men in the story, using the alias David Ben-Gurion, stated that they aren't necessarily looking at this dinner event "as a means to get married." But, he later goes on to mention that there will be future such Friday night Shabbat dinners for the women who replied to their ad but were not selected, then remarks, "Though if all goes as planned, it may only be six of us next time." Seems like marriage is definitely on their minds, even if not completely in an overt fashion.

Using such an approach to meet women is very interesting - and would take some serious intestinal fortitude on the part of the guys and girls involved. This is a far step beyond even the annual YU Connect singles Shabbatonim or other such meet and greet events. 

Would any of the single female readers out there be interested in such a unique invitation - assuming everything checked out once communication between the parties began and the gentlemen in question are indeed gentlemen without any cause for concern for the women's safety? 

Maybe this sort of thing should be looked into as a potential YU/Stern related dating event?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Judging Yourself While Dating

Looking Within
This post was born from some ruminations in my head about people going out with others who veer away from their personal standard of "normal," and how to come to terms with such differences/conflicts/complications.

Case in point - you've always been an omnivore, enjoying both meat and dairy (as well as vegetables) as part of your diet for 20-something years, and suddenly you find yourself on a date, or perhaps in an even a more serious relationship, with an individual who will not, per his/her beliefs, or cannot, per his/her biological constitution, eat the same foods you've always enjoyed at mealtime. Whether he/she does not eat meat at all, red meat, dairy or some other comestible you've come to define as a staple of your regular diet, you are now presented with a conflict of interests.

Does this person mean enough to me, given the rest of his/her personality, middos, dreams, desires, needs, etc, that I can handle this deviation from my norm?

Perhaps you've been one of the fortunate individuals who has always known what it means to have a loving home with two married parents, and the biological parents of this person sitting across the table from you haven't lived in the same home since your date was 5, or fought like cats and dogs until their bitter divorce a few years ago. This clearly has had some impact on your date, molded the way he/she has grown and developed, shaped his/her perspectives in ways you probably can't begin to comprehend.

Does this worry you, frighten you? Do you think about those statistics you read about regarding children from divorced parents being more likely to become divorced themselves?

These are simply two examples, among countless others, which can create mind-twisting dilemmas for daters.

The key to navigating these "deviations" from the norm - or rather, your norm - is to stop and turn inward. Your date's norm is clearly different from your own, and by the standard with which you were raised and have experienced life, they may be lacking or even seemingly "problematic" in some form, based on your own experience.

But that's not the way to determine if he/she can be a worthwhile spouse.

The key is to remain objective about your date, and his/her differences - assuming he/she is otherwise healthy, not plagued by harmful emotional imbalance or utterly unrealistic expectations that border on impossible and perhaps dangerous fantasy - and to judge yourself, not your date.

Hopefully, your date will be forthcoming, given the appropriate timing and length of the courtship, with all the ins and outs about him/her, including things that may not be viewed in such a positive light. Real marriage consideration requires knowing the whole picture, warts and all, and determining if YOU can live with this other reality as part of your own.

It is not for us to judge someone who comes from a broken home, automatically labeling him/her as damaged goods. They are what they are, and that is factual. Hopefully, he/she has learned to be resilient and grown from potentially negative experiences, rather than allow them to remain as destructive or caustic influences in his/her life - regardless if the issue or persons involved have become entirely resolved. One can live with a disruptive parental figure by placing the appropriate boundaries and developing healthy emotional reactions that maintain one's own sense of well-being, notwithstanding the parent's anger or personal imbalance. Such a person can also learn from positive parenting role models, and through self-introspection, develop a form of beneficial parenting that he/she would like to embody for his/her own future children, distinct from what was seen during his/her childhood and being actively cognizant not to fall to the trap of the modes of parenting he/she experienced.

What one needs to do as a dater is to look within. Given the reality of the person sitting across from me, can I acknowledge, accept, adapt and live with the challenges, difficulties, and "abnormalities" that are being presented to me, and will be a part of my future life should I choose to marry this person?

The decision regarding "can I handle this?" should not negatively impact on your view of your date. No one is perfect, and we are mandated to judge everyone favorably.

If you end up deciding your date is not appropriate for you, based on your self introspection, your choice shouldn't hinder your ability to suggest this person to others you may know - and allow them to evaluate the potential of their match with your former date without preconceived negative impressions that you may want to pass along.

Judging yourself, rather than your date is not an easy thing to do. But it's essential to figuring out the marriage potential of the relationship. You can't expect a person to change or willingly alter their habits and attitudes to match your own to prevent conflict. Take into consideration who they are and what they're about, and see how well it fits you and your ability to act in consonance with another person as a life partner.

Part 2 coming soon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Why Did Aharon, Not Moshe, Turn The Staff Into A Serpent?

In this week's Parsha, Aharon, not Moshe performs the first 3 of the 10 plagues, Blood, Frogs, and Lice.

Rashi explains that the reason for this is because Moshe owes a debt of gratitude to the Nile River (which would turn to blood and from where the frogs would appear) which sheltered his floating cradle as a baby, and to the sands of Egypt for concealing the body of the Egyptian he had killed before he ran away to Midian to escape the wrath of Pharaoh.

However, there is another miracle performed before these 3 that Aharon, not Moshe, also performs: turning his staff into a tanin (serpent, snake, some say a kind of fish) in front of Pharaoh.

Why didn't Moshe perform this miracle? He had already done it once by the episode of the burning bush, so its performance does not seem to have any sort of association with disrespect like the first 3 plagues.

The only idea that came to me was that when Moshe turned his staff into a nachash (snake), "Moses fled from before it," (Shemos 4:3). Perhaps HaShem took this into account and thus had Aharon perform the miracle this time.

The Kli Yakar is the only perush I have been able to find that comments on this particular notion. He first clarifies that the tanin is a larger, more dangerous version of a nachash. He then goes on to explain via a series of symbolic literary comparisons from various psukim in Tanach of Pharaoh and Egypt to different animals and the tanin being more powerful and able to subdue both Pharaoh and Egypt. Moshe had demonstrated already that he was a person of character who could "take on" Pharaoh, but Aharon had not as of yet. Therefore, Aharon, who was working with Moshe (and was about to perform the first 3 plagues) had to also have a display of might that showed he was also able to stand up to Pharaoh.

While I understand the Kli Yakar's explanation, I wonder if there is anyone else out there who may have a more pshat-based interpretation. If you've heard or seen anything, please post in the comments.

Have a great Shabbos!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Marry Jewish: Our Future Is In Your Hands.

Today I read an op-ed piece on The Jewish Daily Forward by Jane Eisner titled "For 2013, A Marriage Agenda," thanks to a link on Hirhurim's news postings.

Eisner's piece is thoughtful, and thought provoking, especially for those of us who know, are friends with, or perhaps related to Jews who are not particularly observant and are rather free-spirited when it comes to who they date and who they would consider marrying.

As I mentioned at the end of my post The Shanda of "Chrismukkah," I believe that intermarriage is perhaps the worst thing an individual Jew can do nowadays, because he or she is actively choosing to betray his or her own people, friends, family, and parents.

Eisner cites the statistics of later marriage period, and thus fewer marriages and fewer births, which combine with a 1/3 to 1/2 of those unions being intermarriage, are set to decimate (and are decimating) the non-Orthodox Jewish population.

While some people in various circles of our Torah Observant populace might turn their nose up and announce that our less observant brethren are getting just what they deserve - and as soon as they're all gone the "frum" people will be the only ones left to define and embody Judaism - I say we have to stop this madness before so many unique, precious people are lost to the sands of time.

One particular paragraph in Eisner's piece struck me:

But this acceptance — some call it assimilation — comes at a price we are not willing to acknowledge, which I believe endangers the future of egalitarian, progressive American Judaism. And we don’t know what to do. Parents do not want to alienate their children with what may seem like outdated prejudices, while religious authorities, such as they are, are reluctant to judge for fear of rejection. We hope that those coming into our community will compensate for all who leave, but they won’t. We pour money into free 10-day trips to Israel with the not-so-hidden agenda of promoting inmarriage, and they do a little. But such “success” comes at a huge monetary cost, with the added risk of tying Jewishness only to Israel — hardly a winning argument in today’s political environment.

Without expressly admitting it, I think this indicates who the primary people at fault are: the parents.

For years, in personal communication with people in my hometown community and elsewhere, I've been decrying how much the parents have negated their responsibility for instilling a firm sense of Jewish identity in their children. This happens in Orthodox homes as well, Modern and not - and is the reason I strongly encourage high school graduates to find the program in Israel that best suits him or her so that they can forge their own Jewish identity of their choosing - one that will be strong enough to combat the pressures of college, wherever they attend, and guide them in a path of recognition and service of G-d that includes marrying a Jewish spouse.

Parents who still have young children need to open their eyes and realize what impact, or lack thereof, they are having on their kids with regard to establishing and creating their own Jewish identity. Children may not want to be exactly like their parents, hashkafically or otherwise, and that needs to be acceptable, rather than a source of discord that pushes their offspring further away and into such a lack of Jewish observance that they intermarry.

Parents who themselves have been fortunate enough to marry a Jewish spouse need to realize that what made them choose to do so will probably have little to no influence on their children. They don't have the grandparents or parents who were immigrants and instilled the basic need of marrying someone Jewish, regardless of how many mitzvos they did or didn't keep. The more these parents keep their heads in the sand, the more they will come to regret a future heartbreak when their son or daughter brings a non-Jew home to meet the parents and their dreams of Jewish grandchildren go up in flames. Even if a daughter ends up marrying a gentile, that does not create an environment which will be conducive to the growth of a hardy Jewish identity, and those grandchildren, though halachically Jewish, will be that much more likely to care very little about having a Jewish husband or wife - and could view their mother as hypocritical for suggesting otherwise.

For the youth, young adults, and adults out there - we need to educate them. Books like Why Marry Jewish? by Rabbi Doron Kornbluth (who I heard speak when this book was released) explain the need to marry-in without beating people over the head with Jewish guilt or more extreme-minded perspectives that can and do turn people off.

Every Jew out there has a spark within, some call it the Pintele Yid, which can and should be engaged. There is bound to be some topic about Judaism that interests the guy or girl you know that can capture their thoughts and imagination. Even if they don't become complete ba'alei teshuva, as wonderful as that would be, averting the disaster of intermarriage is something that needs to be addressed by every single one of us.

Keep our future Jewish. Date Jewish. Marry Jewish. Raise your children to be proud of their Jewish identity. Make it the bedrock of who they are so that they will always choose to build the rest of their lives by that path.

Let's not forsake any more unfortunate souls... we've lost too many already.