Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Criterion of a Jewish Date

I've tried in vain to locate the source of this memorable story I think is attributed to our sages, although, as I say, I have not found a source for it. (Maybe a reader can help me out here.)

A sage and his student were walking in public. The student spots a young lady across from them and asks the rabbi to mediate a meeting between them. The rabbi refuses. The student begs. The rabbi refuses. The love-sick student threatens to go on a hunger strike if the rabbi continues to refuse. The rabbi persists in denying his wish. The student becomes very ill and pleads with the sage. The rabbi tells him that even were the student on his deathbed - he would refuse.

The moral lesson here is imperative, especially for singles. That meeting between the student and the woman he craved for - had it taken place - would have failed, and therefore the rabbi refused. Why would it have failed? Because the relationship would have been launched on the element of lust. That she attracted him is fair game, but not as the prerequisite before all else. For if the relationship starts out on the basis of physical attraction, it lights the fuse for its destruction. A glaring example of such misfortune is the story of Tamar and her half-brother Amnon (Shmuel B, chpt. 13).

This warning we also find in Pirkei Avot (5:16): "Any love dependent on a specific feature, when that specific feature vanishes, the love ceases. But a love not dependent on a specific feature lasts forever." The specifc feature, in our case, that can vanish is the external feature of attraction.

On the other hand, were the meeting to take place FIRSTLY because the meeting holds potential for a sacred union, as Hashem commanded us, where this condition is yielded to as the first consideration, then the bond between the two can strengthen and endure.

If physical attraction defines the relationship's first step, all else that follows can no longer be counted on as being more important. Again, this does NOT imply physical attraction is trivial. On the contrary, our sages tell us physical attraction is mandatory otherwise they would transgress the commandment of loving another Jew!

But as a FIRST element needed for bonding, a selfish consideration, as opposed to a first consideration for Hashem's desire, betrays the value of Jewishness by trumping the spiritual with the physical, the sacred with the secular, depth with superficiality.

And who more than a religious Jewish princess cherishes her inner beauty more than her temporary outer beauty? Although, truth be told, beauty felt from within projects outward, no matter what the age.

Jewish singles who insist on making their first meeting based on an exterior impression will end up, instead of laying "golden eggs", cooking their own goose.

This is probably why singles meeting even in a kosher setting, such as at a Shabbos table, isn't a good idea. By eliminating the commitment to first give God His consideration, the relationship may well stand on shaky ground.

(As for the concept of "falling in love", a stark difference exists between the Gentile and Jewish meanings of this phrase. See here:


  1. the top of Sanhedrin 75a.

    Also cited lehalacha in Rambam, Yesodei HaTorah, 5:9:

    I think that extrapolating to singles meeting in a kosher setting is quite debatable.

  2. "is quite debatable"?

    You just want to debate? For if not, then at least say why?