Perhaps the most neglected holiday on the Jewish calendar is Tu B’Av. We commemorate the day for several reasons, but the most famous among them, with the most enduring significance, is that Tu B’Av featured one of two annual “marriage festivals” in which single men and women went out and met one another. The other such gathering was on Yom Kippur itself after the service in the Beit Hamikdash, when the Jewish people celebrated their atonement by building new homes.
Making a “Seder” of dried fruit on Tu B’shvat has become a “thing,” a Simchat Beit Hasho’eiva on Succos – which has no religious significance outside the Beit Hamikdash – is a mainstay in the Orthodox world, and even the Ethiopian holiday of Sigd is more likely to receive interest from the broader community. Tu B’av, however, remains largely ignored. Secular Jews make raunchy parties to celebrate the “Holiday of Love”, while religious Jews are happy just to skip tachanun.
I have long championed the revival of Tu B’av not just as an opportunity for singles to meet, but for the holiday’s traditional lessons to be incorporated into the community in favor of the corrupt monstrosity that is known as the shidduch world.
One of the first events I organized eighteen years ago was on Tu B’av, specifically for this reason. It was an arts festival at Lincoln Square Synagogue, where talented amateurs and semi-professionals could showcase their work. There was poetry, creative writing, music, comedy, and more, in a relaxed environment – unlike typical singles events. Among the many new connections that were made was one between a young man and a young woman who came to another event several weeks later as a couple, and they later married. It was pleasant and normal, the way it used to be, and the way it is supposed to be. Tu B’av at its finest.
I shared a Tisha B’av wish list to bring us closer to building Hashem’s house. Here is my Tu B’av wish to help build homes for singles.
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I wish… that it were possible and normal for Orthodox singles to meet on their own, in real life, as it was for our parents and grandparents. Singles should not have to rely on other people to get dates. They should be able to take matters into their own hands to meet potential matches, and the process should be pleasant and exciting – two adjectives that are never associated with the shidduch process.
I wish… that Orthodox singles wanted opportunities to meet people on their own and availed themselves of such opportunities. Unfortunately, it has become ingrained in most of the community that religious singles cannot be trusted to conduct themselves appropriately or to choose a partner wisely. The entire dating process is tightly controlled and supervised, and everyone has to keep to their script. This has not achieved its intended purpose, to put it mildly. Younger singles are becoming older singles, older singles are more likely to get disgusted and leave the community, and from all the misery around us it seems that those who do get married are often not choosing wisely anyway. Yet, in spite of all this, most Orthodox singles shun the rare opportunities to meet naturally, when they should be embracing them, demanding more of them, and creating them for themselves. They take the easy way out, which is really the harder way in the grand scheme of things.
I wish… that there were more events like the one I described above, where people can meet naturally doing things they enjoy – events that singles would want to attend even if they knew they wouldn’t meet a special someone. Such events would bring out the best sides of people’s personalities. Pretending to be positive while you force small talk at a meat market doesn’t bring out the best side of anyone.
I wish… that meeting people naturally would not continue to be replaced by a potpourri of artificial, contrived substitutes. Swiping on dating apps is not real life. Singles events are not real life settings. Speed dating is a humiliating abomination. All of the above are artificial and contrived, and that’s why they have woeful success rates.
I wish… everyone would realize that shidduch resumes and dating profiles are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They exist solely to “save time”, help singles present themselves, and help matchmakers find suitable matches. In actuality singles hide behind boilerplate, worthless non-descriptions, matchmakers use them as an excuse to avoid getting to know singles as real people, and they aren’t saving any time. They are just helping keep people single longer.
I wish… that singles wouldn’t be afraid to be real people. They seem to believe that if they pretend to be like everyone else, while somehow standing out as more desirable, this will increase their chances of finding that special someone just for them. There is no logic behind this, and the ongoing deterioration of the shidduch world bears that out.
I wish… that those who suggest matches would appreciate the responsibility of trying to help someone get married. It’s the sort of thing they might want to fast and go to the mikva before doing, just to make sure they approach it with the proper level of seriousness. Giving someone a name and telling them to investigate the person for themselves is not an effort worthy of a medal of honor, let alone payment or a share in the world to come. Simple rule of thumb: if this is not the way you would go about fixing up someone you care deeply about, like your own child or even yourself, don’t do it to someone else. Don’t expect people to thank you for trying if you don’t actually try.
I wish… that everyone cut out the overdone pre-date investigations. They are a serious Halachic tightrope to begin with, and they don’t even work. If they did, people who engage in these investigations wouldn’t get burned as often as they do. A system like this just begs people to work the system (how romantic), work it they are, and the system isn’t working. Here’s a better idea: be normal, be real, and hope to attract people who like the real you. If “normal” is too subjective a word for some people, at least stop being fake, and we’ll take it from there.
I wish… that singles made getting married and having a family top priorities. This is a far-reaching mentality, but it manifests itself in small ways. For example: getting back to people quickly; not being “too busy” or otherwise unavailable to go out; leading with a positive attitude; looking for reasons to say yes instead of pouncing on any reason to say no; trying to make it work; making yourself vulnerable to the extent that you can be disappointed and even hurt; getting over it when you’re disappointed and even hurt and not letting a bad experience ruin it for the next candidate. There’s more, lots more, but this is a great start.
I wish… that people prioritized what really matters in a relationship, which can be boiled down to the following: sharing core values and spiritual goals; enjoying each other’s company; physical attraction; working well together and supporting one another. If you find that, don’t be a fool and throw it away. All the other stuff is largely irrelevant and distracting. Strangely enough, people’s profiles and shopping lists are full of the other stuff, while what matters is ignored or taken for granted. Narcissists and empty shells don’t make good husbands and wives, even if they have a great education, a great career, and a great social life. So stop looking for that…and stop being that.
I wish… that the Orthodox world predicated its shidduch system on actual Torah values, instead of paying lip service to these values while trampling all over them. Even worse, the Orthodox world just makes things up and claims it’s the Torah way, or the way it’s always been. At least be honest. The only thing more detestable than someone who tramples on Torah values is someone who does so while proclaiming he is a paragon of virtue. When an entire community predicates a shidduch system on such shenanigans, it shouldn’t be surprised when the result is all manner of “crises”. The shidduch system is detestable on every level.
I wish… that everyone who can relate to the previous paragraph would stop playing the game. If everyone who believes that the system is against Torah values would quit the system, there would hardly be anyone left still doing it that way. Unfortunately, it’s a game of chicken. Everyone is hoping they can get married, or get their kids married, and then get out, instead of being different, which is a death sentence in the shidduch world. The shidduch system could not exist without this foundation of fear. That’s really all you need to know about it. Addressing the ills of our society gives way to self-preservation. True belief in God is absent from the equation.
I wish… that after nearly twenty years of writing about the shidduch world and working hard to improve it, I wasn’t still almost completely alone in this effort. The Orthodox community largely censors me and ignores me while their “experts” continue to recycle the same commentary and failed ideas, and their organizations are as innovative as stale bread. The breakthrough will not come from them. It will come from ordinary people like me and you who “get it”, who care, and are willing to take responsibility.
As with the Tisha B’av wish list, there is a lot more that I wish for, but this is enough for now. Next Tu B’av, let’s see a shidduch world in which dating is pleasant, exciting, and leads to the building of happy, beautiful homes.