Hilchos Dating – Kavanah


Dating has an arbitrary and often ridiculous protocol of its own. Just trying to understand the protocol can make a person dizzy. I guess that’s a downside to living a life based on halacha—as a nation, we expect everything to be codified and set in stone. So when there are no guidelines, we make up our own, and expect everyone to stick to them like they’re the Law from on high.

A neighbor once dated a girl whose family came from somewhere in Hungary with strict dating customs. So my neighbor goes to pick up his girl, and the parents sit him within eyeshot of a lavish spread and interrogate him, but don’t offer him a morsel, even though he’d driven an hour and a half to get there. One date #2 they offered him a drink. Apparently, that meant they liked him. If they ever offered him a piece of cake, it would mean they were waiting for him to propose. This poor neighbor wanted to break it off, but didn’t know the ceremony. So he just did it his own way and told the shadchan to forget about it. They were glad to see the back of such a rude boy.

One of the rules, at least for native New Yorkers, is that the parents don’t tell the girl what’s happening until it’s practically settled. Out-of-towners, who often have to search up their own dates, are obviously subject to the entire ugly process from start to finish. But for the rest of us, it’s a surprise, like a second birthday.

OK, maybe not quite like a second birthday. At this point, we’re trying to keep our age down, so extraneous birthdays are not all that wonderful.

But it’s most annoying when, not only do you find out that there’s a gentleman (you hope) in the offing, but that he’s been there for several weeks and you’re the only one in the house who didn’t know that.

Here’s how I learned about my first date. Disclaimer: my parents were utterly clueless, because my older siblings did all their dating in Israel without much help.

I’m finished supper, dropping my fork and plate in the sink on my way upstairs.

“Bad4, do you have a minute?” my father asks.

Figuring I’m going to be asked to do the dishes, I answer, “A minute? Are you kidding? With four term papers each requiring me to read a 300-page book? I can’t believe I just spared a minute to eat, that’s how few minutes I have.” And I try to make a quick getaway.

“Bad4! Get back here!” my father calls after me. I slide back into the kitchen. “Is this going to be unpleasant? Because I have some soothing logarithms upstairs…”

“Very unpleasant. We want to talk to you so please come sit down.”

We? Want to talk? Now if that isn’t a bad sign I don’t know what is. I slink over to a chair while my mother informs my younger sister that her presence is redundant. She smirks and brushes past, whispering in my ear, “He sounds really good.”

What?” I squawk. She turns and sticks one hand on her hip and does that little wrist-flip with the other. “What—you mean you didn’t know? It was like, sooo obvious.”

My parents look at each other. “It was?”

Younger Sister rolls her eyes, wiggles her ears, and makes a grand exit.

That was more than enough for me. “In the future, can I hear about these things firsthand before it arrives through the grapevine?”

And that’s how that halacha came to be disregarded in the Shidduchim household.

18 thoughts on “Hilchos Dating – Kavanah

  1. Oh my gosh, you think that’s bad?

    My parents said YES to my first guy before I even KNEW about him. They called me home from my friends house, said, “MN, you have a date tomorrow night.” I was SO ANGRY. He was totally, 100% not at ALL what I wanted, but I’m the oldest and my parents never went through shidduchim, so they didn’t really know what to do with me.

    The date was horrible.

    And that never happened again.

  2. would you rather dress in white on yom kippur and go dance for all the unmarried boys to ogle you? (last mishna in taanis)

    (never mind that most people would find that completely contradictory to the way they think things aught to be but whatever.)

  3. Yoni: heaven forfend. I’d rather stay single.

    I’m not, but that’s beside the point. Or maybe it is the point?

    Seeing as ‘halacha’ dictates that the guy has to pick up the girl (at least in the USA), dating out of the Caribbean could get pretty pricey.

  4. then on, nothing is easier in judaism than eloping with someone…

    all it takes is a ring and a couple of words by the boy in a public place after getting their attention.

    after that what else could they do but help you get a kesuba and everything else?

  5. Funny you feel that way. I very often wish i didn’t have to be quite so involved in every detail. i’m always so jealous when my friends tell me their parents do all the dirty work before it even reaches them.

  6. 😀 What a sneaky, brilliant idea…

    To a certain extent, it’s nice to sit back and not have to make the phone calls and whatnot. But if you don’t get a word it before it becomes final, you’re at the mercy of your parents’ comprehension of you and the extent of their research. Not always terribly reliable.

  7. it’s taken a while, but little by little, my parents are finally realizing that i should know about guys before all my sibs do. though they still have a while to go…

  8. I like your point about that because Judaism is codified, we think that we have to codify everything else that goes with it. It’s also because our society can’t think for itself and thus has to have rules to follow.

  9. I don’t get it. What dirty work? Maybe I got lucky and was always set up by friends (or at least people who knew me somewhat at the time) but how much work is there really? The girl gets suggested, you ask a few questions, and make the decision. I was willing to “waste” the few hours by going out with the person, rather than call everyone from her best friend to her hairdresser’s uncle’s cousin’s brother. There would be a lot less work if people simply just went out and saw the what the person was about for themselves.

  10. bad for shidduchim:

    like abusive tendancies, or other kinds of character conflicts, which either have to be known because you know how the person interacts, or because you have interacted extensively with the person.

    Problem is by the time you do that, half the time you’re so emotionaly involved that its hard to pull out.

    do you seriously think that someone who’s killed a dog is going to just tell you that on a date? Thats usualy a serious indicator of an abusive personality (at least these days). or any of a number of other problems.

    unfortunately accurately assesing this with the current shidduch model which uses deception and misrepresentation as a primary tool are also difficult.

  11. Pingback: Reposts: Hilchos Dating Series | Bad for Shidduchim

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