2007 Nachamu – The Mourning After
Chananya Weissman
August 3, 2007, The Jewish Star

The days following Tisha B’Av are a joyous time for the Jewish people. First we are permitted to eat hamburgers again, and a few days later comes Tu B’Av, a day we celebrate only because we don’t say tachanun and thus get out of shul two minutes early (extra time that we will surely dedicate to learning Torah and performing good deeds).

The greatest occasion following our weeks of mourning is Shabbos Nachamu. This is the one time in the entire year when the shackles are loosened from frum singles and they are allowed to socialize in only semi-controlled environments, without even the handiwork of a shadchan. It is uncertain where this leniency comes from — perhaps in time this breach of modesty in the otherwise iron wall that separates single men and women in many of our communities will be summarily banned — but it is a leniency that is embraced by many hundreds of singles who flock to hotels and resorts for a Nachamu singles weekend.

Indeed, this is a time of great anticipation and, dare I say, hope among the thousands of eligible young men and women in our midst. All year long they sit by the phone and wait for that magical phone call from a shadchan informing them that someone perfect for them has been discovered. After several weeks of negotiations, research, and phone tag they might even go out on a date with this person.

These infrequent bursts of activity almost invariably end in disappointment leading to burn out, a common phenomenon in which singles take weeks or months off from trying to fulfill the foundational mitzvah of getting married so that they may recover somewhat from their emotional wounds. (Did our parents and grandparents ever suffer from dating burn out?)

In between this activity our singles will peddle themselves from shadchan to shadchan, update their online personal ads, seek blessings, pray in cemeteries, field criticism and off-the-cuff advice from family and stranger alike, complain to friends about the opposite gender, quietly wonder if there is something terribly wrong with them, and in general try to figure out why God seems to dislike them so much. It’s not easy to be single in today’s frum world.

Hence Shabbos Nachamu provides an opportunity for singles to get away from it all, meet other singles face to face without the direct involvement of puppeteers, and that faint, flickering hope that they will meet the right person and be done with it. All this and chassidishe shechita for a mere $500, give or take.

Shabbos Nachamu is indeed a very lucrative time of year, but, unfortunately, not for singles. Virtually no one actually meets a match this time of year. The handful of shidduchim that we do hear about only gives false hope to the overwhelming majority of singles, while feeding their sense of inadequacy and anxiety that the lucky winner is never them. The organizers will loudly proclaim their success and the community will allow itself to believe that things aren’t really so bad; after all, if two, or four, or even ten couples could find one another among the throngs, then everyone else must simply be too picky for not accomplishing the same.

What everyone fails to realize is that 99% of singles who are herded into a hotel for a weekend experience the following: intense pressure, extreme discomfort, humiliation, demoralization, frustration, disillusionment, and a marked lack of joy. Some of them save money, borrow money, or accept charity just to attend, which only heightens the pain of “failure”. Some may claim that they are going simply to have a good time, but if they knew in advance they wouldn’t meet their future spouse of course they wouldn’t go.

There are still a few singles among us who have not fled to the protective environs of the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, and Kew Gardens Hills, where the presence of scores of other singles who understand serves as a sort of support group. Chances are these singles paid a few hundred dollars to spin the wheel of fortune on Nachamu weekend.

Look at them closely when they return (but don’t be obvious about it). Listen carefully. If you really know how to listen, you will hear the collective thought of nearly everyone who attended a Nachamu singles event: “NOW what?”

Now what? This one event of the year when that small flicker of hope could almost rise to the surface has come and gone. They hoped this year would be different than all other years, but it was not, and next year isn’t looking too much better.

If you look closely you will see that their faces are just a little more drawn. Their gait is just a little more downtrodden. Their demeanor has a new layer of negativity, bitterness, and frustration just beneath the thin veneer of confidence and politically correct bitachon. The singles among us know that time is not on their side, the married community remains blissfully oblivious to the depths of their plight, and the self-righteous Da’as Torahniks among us are more afraid of a single person having a sexual thought than thousands of singles despairing, never getting married, and being lost to us forever.

Nachamu is a time of consolation for the Jewish people. For Jewish singles, however, this one chance to socialize in poorly constructed venues is only a consolation prize, one that for 99% of them is to be followed only by mourning.

But cheer up, singles. Early bird registration for next year’s weekend starts immediately.

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness (www.endthemadness.org). His collection of original divrei Torah, "Sefer Keser Chananya," can be obtained by contacting him at admin@endthemadness.org.