Jewish, Jewish, Everywhere, & not a drop to drink
Friday, June 20, 2003
END THE MADNESS
(FOR JEWISH SINGLES ON THE DATING SCENE)
Check out notes from the second symposium!
EndTheMadness.org is an ambitious and unique effort to combat the angst and hardships associated with dating in the religious Jewish community.
This website is dedicated to the memory of Tova Sara bas Eliyahu, who at the age of twenty was considered “over the hill” by her society. She was denied suitable shidduchim, and suffered terribly all her days as a result. She died on Pesach 5762 in her fifties, leaving behind neither husband nor child to mourn her. May her unswerving devotion to Hashem and the Jewish people bring merit to those similarly abandoned.
2.)Why Is This Project Necessary?
All prior efforts to end the so-called “Shidduch Crisis” have failed. This fact, which is evidenced by the ever-burgeoning number of religious singles and the rising percentage of failed marriages, must be recognized.
Here is a brief but rather complete list of current attempts to address the “Shidduch Crisis”:
1. Matchmaking (“professional” or otherwise)
2. Singles events and activities (Shabbatonim, NCSY, Shiurim, etc.)
3. Wholesale introductions (mass socializing, Speed Dating, online dating)
What do these have in common? They are all designed to help singles meet one another. Different methods cater to different personalities and religious idiosyncrasies (that’s all they generally are), but the bottom line is always the same: bring singles together in some fashion and hope for the best. There are success stories, but not nearly often enough to consider any of these attempts an actual solution.
If helping singles meet was all that was needed, there wouldn’t be any “Shidduch Crisis”. Difficulty in meeting is not the problem, but one of the symptoms. All efforts to solve the problem by concentrating on a symptom are doomed, and serve only to confuse people.
3.) The Problem
The symptoms are many, and a lengthy analysis would be counterproductive in this venue. The intended audience is primarily interested in a solution, not a rehash of what is already well known. Besides, the various symptoms will be evident from the solution.
The root of the problem is social pressure. Our culture is dominated by an unwritten code of conduct and standards, a perverse sort of oral “Torah”. Conformance to this code often supersedes observance of fundamental principles of the actual Torah. For example, wearing a yarmulke has gone from a Jewish custom to an indicator of one’s political and religious views – and, by extension, one’s suitability for marriage. Hats and jackets (not to mention their colors and styles) have assumed more spiritual meaning than tallis and tefillin. The Yeshiva one attends or attended somehow speaks volumes about the essence of the person. All sorts of arbitrary external practices have become divisive “standards” by which the Jewish nation has splintered, each tiny faction holy unto itself.
The dating “scene” is replete with this insanity. Potential mates are judged on conformance to one’s culture, like an actor trying out for a part. The dating process has become a script that must be followed down to the slightest detail. The search for a spiritual partner has been reduced to matching résumés.
Worst of all, those who recognize the sickness of this culture feel compelled to perpetuate it, lest they be denied shidduchim. The courage to confront and defy social injustice makes one an outcast.
More social events will not help, certainly not if the participants are treated like rats in a laboratory, allowed to mingle only in a controlled, sterile environment. This conveys the notion that interaction with the opposite sex, even dating itself, is somehow illicit, a necessary evil. As a result, religious singles are never comfortable around one another, and natural affinities that might develop are inhibited by pressure to perform.
“Setting people up” at every opportunity often leads to frustration, and takes all the joy and excitement out of dating. These attempted solutions only perpetuate the problem.
4.) The Solution
The “Shidduch Crisis” can only be solved by a massive shift in attitudes, a social revolution. This can be accomplished – with great ease, in fact. All it takes is courage and commitment by those who desire it.
A tremendous number of people go along with the system because they feel there is no other way, or because they are scared to resist. If these people committed themselves to breaking the cycle of insanity, everything would change. For example, if enough people stopped tolerating thorough pre-date investigations, such things would become socially unacceptable. If enough people opposed the social canonization of fabricated “minhagim”, these things would no longer be viewed as religious “standards” or indicators of one’s values and hashkafa.
Social insanity itself can become socially unacceptable. The system is built on a foundation of ignorance and arrogance, of fear and confusion. This is not what we want, and it certainly is not what God wants. So let’s do something real about it.
5.) The Goal
Those Jews who feel that the current system is ideal will not heed our call to change it. Our goal is not to change their minds, not now, not ever. You can offer medicine to a sick person, but you can’t force him to take it.
Our goal is to give chizzuk to those who are revolted by the system but are dragged into it, intimidated by the threat of social exclusion. Let these people know that there are many thousands of serious, committed Jews all around the world who support them. Let them feel increasingly secure in discarding the chains of social pressure. Let them know that instead of perpetuating the sickness, they can perpetuate the cure.
May God remove the heart of stone from within us, and may this effort help bring everlasting blessing to the Jewish people.
6.) The Covenant
I recognize that the dating problems of today are rooted in ignorance of Jewish law and ideals, which leads to pettiness and faulty judgment. By attaching my name to this covenant, I affirm belief in the following principles:
1. It is fundamentally wrong to judge someone based on non-Halachic externalities. Doing so is an act of sinas chinam, the primary cause of our continued exile and national suffering. Reciting tehillim will not save us as long as the reason for our punishment continues in such force. People who scorn marriage with others based upon non-Halachic externalities are in violation of sinas chinam. This is true even if they are friends, even if they eat in each other’s homes, even if they learn Torah together, etc. The ultimate sign of true acceptance between people and families – or lack thereof – is marriage. The students of Hillel and Shamai had far greater issues to work out between one another than we do today, yet their families intermarried.
2. If one feels that certain personal customs enhance his religious observance, he is wise to adopt them. However, such customs are entirely optional. There is no special merit in adopting them or lack thereof in choosing not to. Putting any kind of pressure on others to adopt such customs is an invasion of one’s religious freedom (which exists within the bounds of the Torah), and confuses the ignorant.
3. Social pressure in all its forms (to date, not to date, to further a relationship, to terminate a relationship, etc.) is morally wrong and frequently in violation of the Torah. If people are mature enough to date, they should be considered mature enough to make the proper decisions. Advice and guidance should be offered with the greatest care and sensitivity, with full realization of the severity of offering inappropriate advice. Rabbis should be especially cautious.
4. The only true shadchan is Hashem. Consequently, while people should be proactive in finding their respective mates, one should not lose sight of Who runs the show. Availing oneself of human assistance is a choice, not a necessity. Perverting one’s actions to score points with a potential shadchan is a lack of faith in Hashem and a severe personal disservice.
5. It is a sin beyond description to belittle ba’alei teshuva. Since Biblical times our leaders have seen them as perfectly viable marriage candidates. Those who think otherwise are ignorant and cruel.
6. It is not bittul Torah to date. Period.
7. It is intrusive and degrading to ask petty questions about potential dates before agreeing to meet them. This is a form of narcissism, and should be strongly criticized whenever it is encountered.
8. If God created an ideal mate for every person (a “bashert”), there is no assurance that this person comes complete with wealthy parents.
9. One should search for what he truly needs in a marriage partner, not demand a person custom-made to the slightest details. Allowing room for individuality is healthy, not a “compromise”. People should search for their spiritual mates, not their “equals”.
10. Singles should feel comfortable talking to one another without intermediaries. Singles should not be embarrassed to be seen talking to one another, whether on a date or not. Interaction between religious singles is emotionally sound and Halachically permissible, and does not require supervision. It should become normal again for people to arrange dates on their own.
I agree . . .
. . . Not to undermine religious Jews for petty, non-Halachic reasons.
. . . Not to judge a person based on his family or his background.
. . . To educate friends and relatives about these principles, and to constructively criticize their inappropriate “shtick”. This is the best way you can help them and spread the positive messages.
. . . To familiarize myself with the pertinent Halachos (lashon hara, hochacha, etc.)
. . . To give chizzuk to those who would prefer not to perpetuate the current dating system.
. . . To emphasize the positive reasons for dating, not the societal expectations.
. . . To become an active part of the solution, not a passive part of the problem.
EndTheMadness.org will not share your contact information with anyone, ever, no matter how much they offer to pay us. We will contact individuals by e-mail to verify their existence and intent to sign up. Your information will be used for no other purpose, nor will we spam you. That's just wrong.
Click to sign up
Questions? Concerns? Feedback? Success Stories?
If you feel it is necessary to obtain permission from a Rabbi or anyone else before signing this covenant (as opposed to just discussing it with them), please do not sign it. We desire only those whose minds are internal, not external.
If you believe that signing this covenant will impair your chances of finding a shidduch, please do not sign it. You are, perhaps unknowingly, part of the problem.
If whether or not you decide to sign the covenant depends on who has or has not signed before you, see above.
Please do not judge people by their willingness or lack thereof to sign the covenant.
If you disagree with minor nuances but agree with the essential messages, please do sign the covenant. This is a sensitive area, and there is room for variance of opinion. We need not all think exactly alike to join together in this holy effort.
If you are already married, please sign the covenant anyway (this it not a dating site, after all). Married people play a continued role in the dating world, and have a great ability to educate and influence.
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