Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Answers: An apple, an orange and a cookie

Imagine a child asking his mother, "Can I please have an apple, an orange and a cookie?" The mother responds, "Sure! Here is an apple and an orange." The mother's omission of giving the child a cookie is glaringly obvious. There must be some reason why the mother didn't give the child a cookie. Contrast this with the mother saying, "No! I'm not giving you any of those!" or with the mother not responding at all. Clearly in the first scenario she heard the child asking for the cookie, and clearly she wants to give to him as demonstrated by the fact that she gave him an apple and an orange. This begs the question, why didn't the mother give the child a cookie? Why just the other two? We can guess it's because she is saving the cookie as a reward for after the child ate the healthy food first. But the child doesn't know that. The child stares curiously, puzzled by the one request that was denied.

I confess that sometimes I struggle to maintain my faith in the power of my Tefillot. I pour out my heart to Hashem, and know that He's listening. But then why doesn't He answer me? Why does it feel like my requests fall on deaf ears? Doesn't Hashem want to give to me as a parent wants to give a child? I know all the answers in the book. I've read so many books and articles and heard shiurim on Tefillah. "He did answer, He just said no." Well, why is He saying no? Because it's not best, and Hashem only does what's best. Well, if that's the case, then why do we ever daven at all? If you daven to Hashem, then you must believe that your Tefillot cause some sort of change that causes Hashem to "change His mind" so to speak. I believe Hashem set up the world in a way that He wants us to daven before He gives us something because He wants us to build a relationship with Him. That's just one among the many other reasons that our Tefillot have the power to be effective.

Recently I was lucky enough to hear Hashem answer me. In a certain difficult situation everything fell into place in a perfect way. So perfect that it was scary and amazing. Many pieces of craziness came together and it all worked out. I went from feeling panicked to feeling thrilled. One solution pieced together many problems. Hashem's involvement in my life was so obvious that it was though I had been hit on the head by a baseball bat.

Yet some of my Tefillot remain unanswered. And it feels like Hashem saying, "I hear you. I hear your prayers, I hear everything you are saying. And I want to give it to you. There is a reason I'm not giving you this!! A very, very good reason!!" Like the child who asks for an apple, an orange and a cookie and doesn't receive the cookie, I believe Hashem is saving the cookie for a better time. And while it's frustrating because I really do want the cookie, it's comforting to know that Hashem loves me and it's comforting to be the recipient of Hashem's gifts in other areas.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Three Weeks

The time period of the Three Weeks is an emotionally challenging one. Each year on the 17th of Tamuz and again on Tisha B’Av, I find myself trying very, very hard to be sad and to try to miss the Beit Hamikdash, because that’s what we’re supposed to feel. But usually, to be honest, I just don’t feel it. I wish I did. On an intellectual level, I know that the Beit Hamikdash was an awesome place, and the place where a person had the potential to be as close to Hashem as one possibly could be. The fact that we don’t have that anymore is a terrible loss for the Jewish people. So I know I should be sad that we don’t have that and sad that Hashem is so hidden from us today, that we don’t have Nivi’im and it’s often so hard to see Hashem in our lives. I focus on all these things, and feel a drop of sadness, but not really. It’s so hard to connect emotionally and spiritually to this time.

So then I focus on the fact that it’s so sad that I don’t even know what I’m missing. When I read Tehillim 137 about how the exiled Jews felt they couldn’t sing on foreign ground, I feel so distant from that mindset. Music is a part of my every day life, and chutz l’aretz doesn’t seem so bad. So I focus on the fact that I am so far removed from all of that. If I really knew what it was like in the times of the Beit Hamikdash, then I would be devastated at the current situation of the world. If I had any kind of idea what it was like then, then I would feel something. What’s sad is that I don’t feel sad. That I have no clue what life could be like if G-d was a constant, obvious reality in my life.

But as much as I try and I try to focus on all of these things, I usually still end up being an emotional stone wall. I was always jealous of those around me who would cry and sob during Eicha on Tisha B’av, while I listened silently to the words being read and focused intently. Perhaps one of the psukim would move me to tears. Many of the psukim moved me, but it seemed like just a drop in the bucket compared to the heart-breaking feeling I felt I should be feeling.

So I focus on the difficulties that face Klal Yisrael. On the situation in Eretz Yisrael, on the many cholim, on the terrible Sinat Chinam that I unfortunately see or hear about, on the difficult situations of so many people. And I long for what could be, and what will be hopefully one day soon. I long for the day when there will be peace, peace between Jews and non-Jews and peace between fellow Jews. I long for the time when we will all be united and not so divided.

May we all use this solemn time period during the Jewish calendar to focus on mourning for what was and for longing for what could be, and what hopefully will be soon- the coming of Mashiach and the building of the Beit Hamikdash, bimiheira, biyamenu, amen.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quote of the Week

Quote of the week:

C.S. Lewis said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one."”

I have found this to be true in shidduchim, if you subsitute the world “Friendship” for “A good date.” Sometimes I find that all a guy needs to do is make one random comment about a hobby/interest/habit/pasttime of his that I share, and I’m suddenly interested. Especially when it’s a CD that isn’t the most popular, or a book that’s not one that most people have read that I like. Forgetting for a minute about hashkafa and personality and the myriad of other technical things that I look for, I look for that feeling that there is something we share in life, that we have something in common.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How much to spend on a first date

I personally don't like it when guys spend money on me on the first date. I mean, who knows how long it's going to last, and especially if it's a one and done, then it's just a waste of money, when just sitting and talking is all that really needs to happen on a first date. A friend of mine is of the opinion that guys are supposed to spend a lot of money on a first date, so she was appropriately impressed when a guy took her to an expensive steak restaurant on a first date where even the cheapest item on the menu was not cheap at all. The idea is that the only way to build a relationship with someone is through giving, so the more a guy gives, the easier it is to build a relationship. So we give of ourselves by taking the time to get dressed up and do our hair and makeup and pick out a special outfit, and the guys are supposed to give to us by spending money.

I have three problems with this. Firstly, I don't think getting dressed up can really be considered investing in a relationship, and that's besides for the fact that I am not into the whole "getting dressed up" thing for a first date. I make sure to look nice, but I don't spend more than 1/2 hour getting ready. I would probably go dressed more casually on first dates if everyone didn't keep looking at me in horror and going, "That's what you're wearing on a first date?!" Therefore if they guy spends money on me, then all the giving is coming from his end, so he'll end up developing feelings for me, while I sit there as a passive recipient without giving very much at all.

Secondly, the first date isn't the time to start working hard and building the relationship, it's the time to just get to know the person and see if you want to build a relationship at all. Wait until a few dates in, when you have seen some sort of potential before wasting money that could be better spent.

The third problem I have with this relates to guys paying at all. One day perhaps I'll write a post on my view on feminism, but suffice it to say that I believe men and women are equal - not the same, but equal, and the short version of the story is that anti-feminists call me feminist and feminists call me anti-feminist- it depends on where you're coming from. Anyway, I don't think it should be automatically assumed that the guys are paying for dates, and I think girls should chip in so that it's equally split. I confess to being a complete a hypocrite in this area, simply because I am afraid that if I offer to chip in for a date then the guy will think I'm a feminist, or he'll think I'm weird for not sticking to standard social protocol, and I don't want to make him all flustered and confused and not know what to do. And also because the few times I have felt comfortable offering to pay or chip in, the guys refuse to let me pay, which they are told to do. I heard that guys are told to say no to girls who offer to chip in, since many girls are just testing guys and even though they offer to pay, they actually don't mean it and expect the guy to be all chivalrous and insist on paying for them. But they offer because then at least they appear as though they are being nice. Obviously I think that's ridiculous, and none should make offers they don't intend on following up on (Emor Miat V'Aseh Harbeh, anyone?).

I also think it depends on the situation. If the girl working and the guy is still in school or learning, why should he pay if she's making more money? Or if both people are in school and it's clearly their parents paying, why should his parents be the one paying? Don't worry, I feel the same way when it comes to weddings- I don't think it should be automatically assumed that the girls side is the main contributor. I think it should be evenly split, but that I think depends on the two sides and what agreement they come to.

Some suggest that men want to pay for the date because they need to be manly and their manhood would be offended if the woman paid for the date. However, we no longer live in a world where the men provide the main source of income. In many couples, especially ones where the guy is in kollel, the female brings home the bulk of the income. Why should a girl who wants to be a kollel wife wait until marriage to support a man's learning when she can do so by chipping in on a date? The main problem with this way of thinking is that the guy is the one planning the date, so it's not fair to ask a girl to chip in just cause the guy decided to take the girl some place fancy. I can just see where this is going, "Let's go out for steak...but you can pay." Perhaps if they made the decision together of where to go it would be more logical to ask the girl to chip in. If a guy decides to take me to a fancy restaurant where even the cheapest item on the menu is expensive, then I would not offer to chip in, since if it was my choice he wouldn't have to spend any money on me at all.

Back to my original question, I know that if I was a guy, I would not want to spend money on a first date that potentially leads no where. So when guys spend money on me I always feel bad. On my very first first date, the guy took me somewhere where he didn't spend a cent and I was so thrilled! Some guys have bought me something to drink on a date, which I thought was nice- if you feel like you have to spend some kind of money on me, then at least let it be something small- a dollar or two or three, and not more than that.

So, girls: Do you like it/not like it when guys spend money on you on the first date? Would you offer to chip in, or never c"vs you should be labeled feminist or weird or and never get a shidduch?
Guys: How much would you spend on a first date? Would you be weirded out/ would you find your manhood at risk if a girl offered to split the cost, or would you be thrilled and find it refreshing?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The thing I notice the most, walking through the city on a warm, sunny day, is the large number of couples who are walking around. I see them everywhere I walk, laughing, talking, holding hands, gazing into each other's eyes, strolling along. No matter where I go I see them- in the park, on the streets, in the stores, even when I try not to focus on them and try to look away, there they are. Everywhere.

And while part of me reminisces about how nice, sweet and cute it is, most of me is envious and saddened by the unmistakable lack in my life. I long to walk together with that special someone, smiling, strolling peacefully along as the wind blows gently through my hair. There are so many couples and couples and couples, everywhere I go. Though they are two people, they are one entity, they share their entire life. Did I notice these couples before I started dating? Perhaps, but not nearly as much. You see what you want to see, and as I child I probably noticed all the other children, but now all I notice are the couples. And all I feel is empty and sad.

Yet, this is how it's supposed to be, this is the stage that is such a necessary prerequisite for marriage. In fact, that is exactly what happens in the very first union of a man and woman, Adam and Chava. In Bereishit 2:18, a posuk famous to all daters, Hashem decides that it's not good for man to be alone and decides to create for him an Ezer Kinegdo, a term with tons of meaning, but for now suffice it to say, a partner in life. And in the very next two psukim, what happens? You might think that Hashem would then carry out his decision and create Chava, a partner for Adam. But nope! That's not what happens at all.

What happens in the next two psukim is that Hashem brings all the animals to Adam so that he can name them. Why does Hashem do this? Because He wants Adam to look around and see that every single creation, every single animal, has a partner. There is a male animal and a female animal for every species. It is only by looking around him and seeing this that Adam can say, "Hey, wait! Where is my life partner? Isn’t there a pair for me? Why am I all alone?" And that's exactly how 2:20 stating that Adam didn't find his Ezer Kinegdo. He looked around and realized he was all alone.

Hashem didn't want to just give Adam his life partner, and He doesn't want to just give us ours either, because then we wouldn't fully appreciate it. Without having that sense of "wait, there is something missing in my life!" we wouldn't appreciate what it feels like when we find the person who completes us. If we feel 100% complete by ourselves, then why would we want someone else in our lives? We would accept them resentfully and wouldn’t make room for that person. We would say, "I'm good enough by myself, I don't need you. Why did Hashem give me you?" (It is this kind of ungrateful thinking that Adam uses later on after he sins (Bereishit 3:12) and while talking to Hashem he blames it on “the woman that you gave me,” implying he did not want her.)

Hashem wants us to look around and see that everyone has a pair, that everyone has a partner, so that we will search for ours. A spouse isn't someone you find right away, it's someone you have to search for (even though some people do marry the first person they date, or don't have to do very much searching). I once learned a midrash (I forget the source) which said that Hashem brought Adam to Chava through seven curtains. He had to push each curtain away before he got to her. He didn’t just wake up one day and *poof* she was there; he went through a process first. Though this empty feeling of lacking is awful at times, it's ultimately what helps a person appreciate what it feels like to be complete.

I see couples everywhere I go, and despite my efforts to ignore them, I'm glad that I notice them. Because the emptiness isn't a permanent kind of feeling, it's a hopeful one. It's one of longing to get to a certain place. A place that I will one day reach. And though I'm not there yet, and I focus on the goal, I know what wiser people than I have told me; that there is a purpose to the journey. The point of the journey is to reach the goal, but the journey is crucial and meaningful, and without there would be no way to reach the goal, the goal of being a pair, united with another person, as it says in Bereishit 2:24, Basar Echad.

Monday, June 21, 2010

That's not my train

This morning an ordinary thing happened. As I went to catch the train, I saw a train pulling up in the other direction. The person I was with thought that it was the train I was trying to make and exclaimed, "Quick! Run! Go get on the train!"

"Oh, that's not my train," I replied calmly. "That's the train going in the opposite direction."

So often, though, I arrive just as my train is at the platform and the doors are closing. I see (or hear) the train from just far enough away and I say, "Oh no, that's my train! I gotta get on that train!" and I rush around trying to get on it, just to arrive when the doors close and the train pulls out. I sigh, catching my breath, annoyed that I missed it. Luckily, the train comes pretty often, so I only have to wait 5-10 minutes. But it's still annoying.

The incident this morning, where I saw a train on the platform, but effortlessly remained calm, made me think about what happens so often in life. Sometimes we'll see a chance, an opportunity, or a way to get where we want to be. We see this "train" and rush to jump on it because we think that's where we want to go. But for some reason, we don't make it, the doors close. At this point we have two options. We can choose to get frustrated or annoyed and think, "I can't believe I missed it!" We can dwell, and wallow and focus on what could have been. But there are two things that will change the way we view the situation:

The first one is when we realize that, "that is not my train." Maybe we thought we should have been on it, but the reality is we are not, and for some reason Hashem didn't want us to be on that train. Example: A person who wants to get married, (yup it always comes back to shidduchim, though believe it or not that wasn't the first example that came into my head, it's just the easiest to write about) and sees so many others around her/him getting married might think, "I should have been on that train, why am I not on it? I missed the train." Translation: "I should be married right now!" When that person realizes that "that was not my train" and that was not the path they were supposed to be on right now, then they realize they are not missing out on what they are supposed to have. It's not the right time for them to get married. For some reason Hashem doesn't want them on that train.

The second train of thought (pun intended) that changes our perspective is when we realize that another train is coming soon, and we'll get on that one. It's not like there is only one train that goes to that destination. Maybe we missed the one train, but another one is coming. If we're lucky then it's a frequent train that comes every 5 minutes, but even if it comes once every hour, we will get to our destination eventually.

So the next time an opportunity comes your way and you try and try and try your best, but see the doors close in your face, just remember. That's not your train, it's not the train you were meant to be on. Don't worry, the right train will come around and you'll get on that one. Just wait for the right train to come around, eventually you'll get to where you want to go.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wait, shul isn't over yet!

Most shuls that I have attended on shabbos morning have the minhag to conclude davening with Adon Olam. The Tefillah Adon Olam is one of my favorites because it talks about how Hashem is in charge of the world and we don’t need to worry or be afraid because Hashem is always there for us. Which is why it’s so sad that most shuls mumble it quickly, and half the shul barely says it at all. Perhaps because it is usually led by a kid or maybe because it’s the end and people are in a rush to get out, but either way people don’t take it seriously. My view is if you’re going to sing it, sing it, and if not, not. But the half-hearted mumbling is just not cool. Also in many shuls they make annoucements before Adon Olam, so people are already in the mindset that shul is over. Maybe we should wait to make annoucements after Adon Olam. Why do shuls make annoucements before Adon Olam anyway?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What would you give up for love?

Some say the shidduch system doesn’t work because it’s backwards. In secular American society, couples meet each other first and get to know each other (I’ll refer to this as “the person”) and only then, after they’ve determined that they like each other, do they discuss their beliefs, outlooks, perspectives on the world (I’ll refer to this as “the paper”). In the shidduch world, we look at the paper first and then the person. Here’s my question: Let’s say you found someone and you were in love and you wanted to marry them- the person, but didn’t know so much about what they believe- the paper. What would you give up to be with that person?

I mean, isn’t marriage about giving and compromise? We ask all of these questions which seem to be perfectly reasonable, but when you think about them, if those one or two issues were the only thing standing in your way between a life of love, happiness and marriage, and a life of being alone, would you really let those issues stand in the way? Isn't the most important question, "Do I want to spend every day, every hour, every second of my life with this person? Do I want to build a life with this person?" If you found someone who you enjoyed spending time with and understood you, and who you admired etc, what would you be willing to give up to be with them? More specifically, would you give up on:

1. Place to live: What happened to the idea that as long as you’re with your true love then it doesn’t matter where you are? If you were in love, wouldn’t you move to the middle of nowhere (for those who claim to refuse to live outside of the New York area) or to New York/Brooklyn (for those who claim to refuse to live in the New York area)? Would you really pass up on love for this one or would you try to compromise?

2. Family: Let’s say the person doesn’t have the best family for any number of reasons- you just don’t get along, different background then yours, whatever it is. Is that enough to deter you? You love someone, but have an issue their family so that’s the end of it?

3. TV: If you watch TV, would you give it up for true love? If you don’t watch TV, you wouldn’t be OK with your spouse doing so? “I love you, but we can’t spend the rest of our lives together happily ever after because I don’t want our kids to watch TV?”

4. Education: If they are the right one, does it really matter where they went to school? Of if they don’t have as high of a degree as you?

5. Working vs. learning/kollel. Girls: If you fell in love with someone who wanted to learn and you wanted someone with a job, or if you want someone who will learn and he wants to get a job, wouldn’t you try to make it work, - maybe he could agree to work for a few years or you could live a different lifestyle than you imagined. Wouldn’t you rather be happy? Guys- if you want to learn- you wouldn’t get a job for the woman you love? You wouldn’t sit and learn- maybe for a few years for the right girl?

These are just examples, I’m sure there are more things you can think of that you’d give up. Yet all these questions are commonly asked (or at least some people ask some of them). I understand that these questions are indicative of other things. Perhaps people assume that if it’s a bad family, it’s something in the genes and maybe their kids will end up that way. TV, earner vs. learner, education, location, these are all indicative of the type of life style you want to lead, how you envision your future and your life.

Compare and contrast with: If you were in love with someone, but they didn’t believe in Hashem or keep Halacha, would you marry them anyway? No. I don’t think you would, and I don’t think you should. It’s too big. You can’t marry someone on a completely different page than you.

You might say, “So now what? If we don’t ask these questions, why not just go out with anyone? How do we differentiate one potential date from the next?” My answer is: What if shadchanim tried to set people up more based on personalities and if two people would get along? Granted this is harder because it requires knowing the person and not the paper and that takes time, but what if we shifted the focus from the paper to the person? Which of those things (or others) would you give up?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Soul Mates

I am a hopeless romantic. Having just read that sentence and noting that the title of this post is “Soul mates,” you might expect this post to be about how we are all broken halves of souls trying to find the other half of our soul, and when we meet The One everything is perfect and we live happily ever after. I think that’s a beautiful idea, but I’m not sure I believe that.

One of my Rabbis in seminary once gave us a shiur about shidduchim and soul mates. He said that he believes that everyone has one person who they are destined to be with. We all know the famous Gemara which states that 40 days after a baby is born it is declared who they are going to marry. The point of this Rabbi’s shiur was that there is one person out there for all of us, and so we had better start davening for that person. Because what if that person has been making bad choices in life and is headed on a bad path? Let’s say while we’re here learning, growing, working on our middot, our bashert is involved with activities that are not quite so holy. Well, that is the person we are meant to marry, so we should daven that they make good choices and find the right path. Let’s say that person takes risks and isn’t safe and chas v’shalom something bad happens to them and they have some health issue (example: smoking, reckless driving), that is still the person we are going to marry. So daven that everything is going well with them because that is what is meant to be.

Maybe I used to believe there was only one person out there for everyone, but I certainly didn’t believe that after that shiur. I’m here being a good person while he’s out drinking, smoking, and who knows what else and too bad, I’m stuck with him? I don’t believe that. The other big issue that comes up when it comes to the whole soul mates issue is: what about people who remarry? Either because they got divorced, or their spouse passed away. Is their current spouse their soul mate? Is their previous spouse their soul mate?

I’m not sure where I heard this or if I just kind of put it together myself based on other ideas I’ve learned, but the way I see it, we are all flexible puzzle pieces. I call this the Puzzle Piece Theory. We all have a basic shape, but we can move around a bit to fit together with more than one other piece. Meaning, there are a small number of people out there who we are compatible with, who we could marry and have a happy marriage with under the right circumstances. If we change one way, then we fit better with one piece, but if we change a different way then we are more compatible with a different piece. At any given point in time, there is only one person who is best for us.

We are always changing shape and our potential basherts are always changing shape. At one point in time we somehow meet one of these people who has changed in certain way so we mostly fit together. You could meet one of these people, but because you changed in different ways then they did, you won’t end up marrying them. Does that make sense? The great thing about this theory is that if my “bashert” has gone off the derech, I don’t need to fear that my only options are to be single the rest of my life or marry someone who doesn’t keep shabbos or share my life values. I’ll find someone else to marry who fits my puzzle piece.

I still think that ideally, there is one shape we are supposed to be, and there is only one puzzle piece that fits it perfectly, given that that person has taken the shape they are supposed to be. Not everyone finds that person. Some people are lucky enough to find someone who really is The One, but others marry one of the very few other people (one out of, I don’t know, ten, at most) who they can possibly be with. It’s not a bad thing. Instead of being 100% perfect, it’s 99.9%. It’s barely detectable, and you might not know the difference. But if you end up remarrying, that second person can be equally as perfect for you. That doesn’t mean the love you felt for either one of those people is any less.

This doesn’t mean I don’t see a point in davening for your bashert. Hashem knows what’s going to happen and who you’re going to end up marrying, and the same way you daven for the people in your life right now, you should daven for the person who is going to be in your life. (Though, on a side note, I admit that often when I daven for that person I imagine that he is hoping to get married, so I daven that Hashem will help him find the person to marry…which is me, so that’s kind of selfish, but anyway…)

It would be great to find someone and know that they are the only one for you and that you were meant to be and that you are two halves of a soul and there is no one else for either of you. I wish we could all experience that. But not everyone does, which is why I’m sticking to the puzzle piece theory. May we all be zoche to find the right puzzle piece that matches us best at the right time. Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Things I wish I knew before I started dating

Here are 3 rules of Shidduch Dating Survival that I wish I knew before I started dating. By “survival” I don’t mean that I’ve survived and I'm done dating, I mean that I feel like I'm surviving every day by still dating and haven’t given up hope and become completely depressed because of how difficult it can be at times. Perhaps the word "survive" is a bit extreme, but I couldn't think of a better one that meant exactly what I'm trying to convey, and that was as close as it gets.

Just to clarify, these are not three rules about HOW to date, but they are things that I use to deal with this difficult time without falling into sad/upset/frustrated moods all the time. Most people feel sad/upset/frustrated at some point while on their quest to find their life partner, but there are ways to limit that.

These rules are based on my experience and many of my friends’ experiences as well. These rules, at least the first one, apply to girls more than guys, I think, though I could be wrong and I’d be curious if there are guys out there who feel the first rule is helpful to them in any way. I'd also be curious to see a version of this that was applicable to guys, since guys and girls struggles with dating are somewhat different.

Here goes:

1. Rule #1 of Shidduch Dating Survival: Don’t get your hopes up. This may sound extremely pessimistic and depressing, but in fact it is quite practical, just let me explain. Girls (in general, of course there are tons of exceptions, some who I know personally) are often quick to get their hopes up and jump to “Maybe he’s my Bashert!” This can happen before we’ve even met the guy and have only heard about him, or even after a first phone conversation that went well. We are quick to find reasons why this guy is the one, for example, a cute story of how we met (or how we met the shadchan, who we would never have met except for…*insert long complicated hashgacha pratit story here*), or he likes some obscure thing that we like as well, such as a music group that few people have heard of, or a writer or artist.

An exaggerated version of this demonstrated on the YU boys will be Stern girls video (an absolutely hilarious video based on this original video) where one of the guys (based on the premise of the video, which is that the guys are behaving like girls) explains that he knows he found The One because he was at an event and he dropped something and the girl said “Thank you.” He gushes, “You know when someone says ‘thank you’ and you just know that they’re you’re bashert?” This is obviously exaggerated for humor purposes, and in my opinion is successful at that goal, but the point is well made. We often find ridiculous excuses to decide that someone is meant for us, when those things mean absolutely nothing.

Back to the rule, “Don’t get your hopes up,” the point is not that you should never get to a point where you are thinking “oh, maybe this is the one!” but that point where you allow yourself to think that thought should be after you get to know the person and not after one date (or before one date).

This rule is practical, not depressing, because if you don’t follow this rule, then you end up crushed. Every time you go on a date you hope it’s the one, and when it’s not, then it becomes very hard to deal with. Obviously if there is no chance that this person is right for you, then you should not be going on a date with them. But if the person is shayach at all, then you are bound to come away with some cute stories at some point, and while you might be thinking, “this would be a great story to tell if we got married!” the fact is that I’ve learned it can still be a cute stories, even if you don’t get married. We often get so caught up in focusing on the negative aspects of dating and we like to tell horror dating stories because everyone wants to hear those, like the ones people post on this site, but sometimes there are good stories and good moments and shared interests and that doesn’t mean you’re going to spend the rest of your life with that person.

So, don’t get your hopes up too soon, otherwise you will end up sad/upset/frustrated.

2. Don’t take rejection personally. This one is self explanatory. People are going to reject you, sometimes based on absolutely nothing, and sometimes you will have no idea why. Don’t start being hard on yourself and think that it’s because you are a bad person or undesirable. Remember that you’re awesome, because you are. If Hashem decided to create you, then He has a reason for that. Hashem doesn’t create people who don’t have the potential to be great and change the world. Don’t let rejection make you forget this and think that there is something wrong with you. We all need to work on ourselves and change, but unless you are evil and need to do teshuva, there is probably nothing major wrong with you, everyone experiences rejection.

3. Remember that Hashem is the one and only shadchan. This is a tough one and the one that I wish the most that I had known before I started dating. We tend to think that shidduchim come from shadchanim, people or even websites, and that if we were set up on a date it is because someone decided to set us up. “So-and-so set me up,” we claim. The truth is that shadchanim, family friends who set us up, etc. are only means that Hashem uses to set us up. Ultimately, Hashem is the one who decides who we will go out with and who we will not go out with, when the right time is for us to meet our bashert, and when it is not the right time. No one ever taught me this directly and said it straight out that way and emphasized it.

What are some practical applications? Let’s say someone suggests you go on a date with someone and you agree, but they decline. If you believe that the reason you did not go on a date with that person is that they said no, then you will focus on the reason they said no. You’ll try to change your profile/shidduch resume/ whatever form of information you give out. You’ll take new pictures determined that the picture you have isn’t flattering enough, and you’ll blame factors external to yourself as reasons why you’re not married yet. If only I had better yichus, if only I lost weight, if only my parents were different, if only I had gone to better schools, etc. That is completely the wrong reaction.

You will never know exactly why you’re not married yet, but you should always know that if you are not married and you want to be, then it is because Hashem decided it should be that way. Hashem wants us all to get married, of course, but for some reason, which you will probably never know, it is not the right time. I wish someone had told me that before I had started dating, so that I could have started earlier on reaching the level where I believe and trust an important idea: If Hashem doesn’t want you to be married right now, if Hashem has decided that now is not the time, or that you’re not ready, then there is nothing you can do, from an external standpoint, to change that (granted that you have put in enough effort).

The only thing you can do is daven, and change yourself, work on your middot. Going to more shadchanim will not help, talking to more people will not help, taking 100 pictures of yourself will not help.

Of course you have to put in hishtadlus. You can’t sit back and say “If it’s the right time for me to get married, then I will meet the person, so I don’t need to try or put in any effort.” If you expect your bashert to appear out of thin air, then that is not bitachon/emunah, that is foolishness. How much effort should you put in? I once learned that you need to put in enough so that when you find the right person you won’t consider it a miracle, because Hashem tries to hide in the world. I’m oversimplifying the shiur that I heard, but for example if you apply to 2 jobs and you get a job, you will be shocked. The number after that depends on you. If you think that applying to 10 jobs is reasonable amount to apply in order to get a job, then apply to 10, if you think 100 is normal, then apply to 100. But once you’ve reached that point of, “I have put in a decent amount of effort,” then you have to “let go and let G-d,” as they say.

So if you barely put in effort into finding your bashert, to the extent that if you *did* find your bashert you would think, “Wow, what a miracle from Hashem,” then you haven’t put in enough. But if you put in an amount of effort that is considered a normal amount, then you should focus on davening to Hashem and having Bitachon in Him. Otherwise dating is upsetting and frustrating. Until you know that Hashem has it all planned out, you’ll worry and look to the wrong places to find reasons you’re not married. I wish I was on that level that I fully internalized this message. Although I believe it’s true, it’s often difficult for me to focus on it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

That was me

Sometimes G-d sends people into your life briefly to send you certain messages. Despite the fact that I’m no longer in school, as the school year comes to a close and summer begins, I found myself thinking about where I was last year and all of the things that have happened. It’s been one year since I graduated Stern College, (just curious, how many of you thought it was longer than that?) and as you can guess from the name of this blog, I quickly discovered that real life is not the same as school. And people tell you that the entire time you’re in school and you look forward to finally finishing school and starting “real life,” but like most things people tell you about, you don’t really understand what it means until you experience it yourself. Adjusting to change is a big part of life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Today I met a girl who had just graduated college, and though our meeting and conversation was quite short, as we were talking all I could think was, “That was me, one year ago.” Although she did not attend Stern College, we had the same major, and we had a number of other things in common as well. The direction she chose to take after college was similar to the direction I chose. It felt as though G-d was whispering, “Remember what your life was like a year ago? It was a lot like this.”

Luckily, I was able to walk away with a positive feeling. When I graduated college I was so nervous for the future, it seemed so distant and cloudy and unknown. I probably would not have guessed that my life is the way it is, since you can never predict what will happen in your life, though it would not have come as a big surprise. It’s cool that I can look back at a year ago and note all the changes in your life, all the things that happened, the way things turned out, and all the ways that I’ve changed as a person.

This incident was all of 2 minutes, but just the thought, “that was me,” quickly led into, “and what am I now?” What direction has my life taken? Is the path that I find myself on the one that I wanted to be on, the one I chose, or one that I’m on simply because I didn’t keep my focus on the path that I wanted and now I ended up here? It was so strange- it was like a flash of lightning- *that* was me, but it’s not me anymore.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Slipping up

I am a klutz. I have proved to be capable of tripping over my own two feet, bumping into walls, and knocking over cups filled with various liquids, luckily most often water, which is not nearly as difficult to clean up as soda, which gets sticky. The reason I mention this is because a while back I was on a date and we were walking some place slippery.

I always make sure to wear comfortable shoes on dates, ones that I can walk in for hours if need be. This is partly because I never know how much walking I will end up doing, but also because I enjoy walking and one of my ideal date ideas is just walking around and talking, preferably in the park on a nice, sunny day. I say this as a preface to the rest of the story, so that you don’t blame it on the lack of traction on my shoes, but the fact that I’m clumsy combined with the fact that where we were walking was slippery.

If you’re thinking, “Oh she probably slipped and fell down,” well, Baruch Hashem that did not happen. What happened was that I slipped, lost my balance for a second, and almost fell, but managed to regain my balance. The interesting part, though, was the guy’s gut reaction, which was instinctively to reach out his arms to catch me. Remember that this happened in all of about 3 seconds- me losing my balance, saying “whoa,” his arms in a split second reaching out, ready to catch me, and me regaining my balance, so there was no need.

But I always wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t regained my balance. Would he have caught me and would we have touched? Would I have instinctively grabbed on to the closest thing to help me regain my balance, meaning, him, and then quickly let go the second I was back on my feet? That would have been so awkward, so I’m glad it didn’t happen. But the alternative would have been to hope that he didn’t stretch out his hands, and just let me fall, so as not to touch me, which could be viewed as halachic or as rude, depending on how you look at it. He also came from a background where he had not been shomer negiah for his entire life, which I think was part of the reason why his impulse was to reach and not to refrain.

Here’s the question: Should he have stretched out my hands to catch me or shouldn’t he? I remember being shocked that his gut reaction was to reach out like that, instead of to panic and stand there motionless as I struggled to maintain balance. My immediate reaction was, “Hmm, was he really about to touch me?” I think if a guy I was on a date with lost his balance, my guy would be not to reach out, since it’s touching, and it’s been so ingrained in me to refrain from touching males.

I know of a girl who is dating a guy who was a trained EMT and certain circumstances arose where she needed medical attention and he was there and he did what he needed to do. She commented how strange it was for him to be touching her, but of course it was necessary so she was glad he intervened. That still doesn’t negate the fact that on some level it’s a bit odd.

So, what do you think? Should he have reached out to help me, and should I have taken this as a sign that he has good middos, and is a kind person for not letting me fall? Or should I have been concerned about the fact that he was so quick to abandon the laws of negiah? What would you do in this situation/ what would you expect your date to do in this situation?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Platonic Relationships

This post is in response to Coralcap’s post “Just Friends” about whether it’s possible for a guy and a girl to be only friends and nothing more. My comment started getting long so I turned it into a post.

To quote Coral: "So what do you think? Is it possible to be just friends? Is it worthwhile to keep and/or form friendships with members of the opposite sex when on the Shidduch scene? Are there permissible boundaries or is the platonic relationship as mythical as the Tooth Fairy?"

My response:

When I was in 9th grade, Rabbi Orlofsky came to my school and gave his famous speech on Platonic Relationships, where he states that such a thing is impossible because males think about sex a lot and therefore in the back of their minds always want something more. He advised all girls to “break up” so to speak with the guys who they are “just friends” with. The speech didn’t really affect me one way or the other since I didn’t have close guy friends, but I remember girls thinking he was extreme for telling them to write break up letters to male friends. Being the goody two shoes that I am, I believed most things my teachers and Rabbeim said in high school, and what he said made a lot of sense so I concluded that it was impossible for a guy and a girl to have a platonic relationship.

My views have changed slightly since then. In general I still don’t think it is possible to have platonic relationships, but there are cases where it is possible. Even in those cases, however, I think that both people at some point think about dating the other person. There is always that question of "maybe this will become something more?" hanging between the two people.

Also, from my experience (not personally, but witnessing friends' experiences), what ends up happening is that one of the two people begins to develop deeper feelings for the other person. I know plenty of people who would claim to be in platonic relationships, but the same way one of the girls on the video said that there are people who she calls "friends" who she would agree to date, usually one of the people involved hopes for something more. Unlike what Rabbi Orlofsky said, it is not always the guy who is the one secretly hoping to one day date the girl, just as often it is the other way around.

How does this affect shidduchim? I always learned in school that guys and girls should not interact because this may lead to friendship. The reason I was always told it is bad to become friends with a member of the opposite gender is that then it has the potential to become something more and if you are in high school, when hormones are crazy, it is difficult to keep the halachot of negiah. So, if this were the case then one would logically conclude that this does not hold true when one reaches the stage of shidduchim, because if the friendship becomes something deeper, then the two people can just get married. Right? Why not start becoming friendly with lots of members of the opposite gender when you’re ready to get married, with the purpose of marriage in mind?

My view on this relates to how I see relationships in general. To me relationships aren't something you can just start and end whenever you choose like turning on a song on your iPod that you can pause and play and stop and skip as you choose. I don’t think it is a good idea to have relationships with members of the opposite gender after marriage, because that possibility of it going further exists and that could potentially be a big problem. So unless you’re just going to give up all of your friends of the opposite gender after marriage, why start up these kinds of relationships before marriage just to break them off?

If you’re a girl and you start becoming friendly with lots of guys in the hopes that one day one of them will lead to shidduchim, what do you do when you’ve found the person to marry? I know of girls and guys who are close friends, and when the guy got married he invited female friends of his to his wedding. I find that somewhat awkward, for a few reasons, but on a practical note- weddings are very separate, so the female friend probably won’t even see her friend who is the groom, for more than a few seconds. She’ll dance with the kallah, who she probably doesn’t even know at all. That’s if the guy and girl who are not getting married to each other decide to continue being friends after one or both of them get married. It gets complicated. And if you decide to become friendly with one person at a time, then why not just date? Isn’t that the same thing? So, my biggest problem with becoming friends with guys just when you’re ready for shidduchim is that you’re starting and stopping relationships.

There is another category which I didn’t mention which is “being friendly,” but not “being friends.” This is when two people are more acquaintances, the type of people you have the “Hi how are you?” “I’m good B”H and yourself?” types of conversations with that never get further than that. In my opinion that is just polite and always OK, to just have basic small talk with the other gender. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t get past that, which if one of the parties believes in platonic relationships and the other does not, could get complicated.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time to play psychologist

From a recent conversation I was having it seems like most people don’t know how to deal with people who are upset. Most of us get upset at some point and we all know that there are certain people who will calm us down, while there are others who talking to them makes us even more frustrated. The same is true when you’re on the flip side of the coin and a good friend or family member approaches you clearly upset about something.

This reminded me of the time when I was on a date and the guy was telling a story of how this girl he encountered was crying and he had no clue what to do and he asked if she was OK, and was shocked when she said no. He didn’t know people said no to that question. I thought that was ridiculous because why ask a question if you don’t want the answer? Why do you ask a question assuming the person will lie and say that it’s Ok even when it’s not? And why would you assume that someone who is crying is Ok…if things are OK why are they crying?

When he first told the story I was extremely critical and could not understand how he could have no clue what to say. Someone is upset! Try to comfort them! Even if you don’t succeed, at least try something. But then after I thought about it more and realized that guys are probably not used to dealing with people crying since guys are told by society that its not Ok for them to cry unless it’s a funeral or something. And after recent conversations it seems that many girls aren’t any better at knowing how to deal with people who are upset. So I guess I was a little hard on him.

Anyway, whether a person is crying or just plain angry, the best way to deal with it is by listening and not talking too much. Every situation is different and you have to use your gut to decide whether a person wants to talk or just wants to be left alone. But if they do want to talk, do not under any circumstances offer advice. They just want to vent. Just nod along and look empathetic and try to put yourself in their shoes to feel how they might feel if you were them. The worst thing you could do is to try to tell them why they shouldn’t feel the way they feel (they can’t help it!) and the second worst thing you could do is to tell them what they should do to stop feeling that way. They need to figure it out for themselves. You can try to help them in a more practical way after they have calmed down, but when they are in the moment, the best thing you can do is actively listen, pay attention to what they are saying. Don’t tell them everything is going to be OK because if they are not calm, then they are not rational, so they can’t see that. They are not in a place to accept what you’re saying.

If you have to say something besides for “right” and “that’s really tough,” then what you should be saying is something that validates them. Let them know that it’s OK to feel however they feel and that they have every right to feel the way they feel given the situation, even if you don’t believe that’s true.

Food for thought: What are things that people say to you when you’re upset that make you even more upset? What things calm you down?