2023 How do you know it's the right one?
Chananya Weissman

March 6


How much should you find out about someone before agreeing to meet them? How long should you date someone before getting married? How do you know it's the right one?

These are some of the fundamental questions everyone has to grapple with. Many people choose to avoid grappling with these questions and let someone else decide for them, but my target audience is thinking people who believe the Torah expects them to take responsibility for their own lives, even while seeking guidance from those with wisdom. We are not talking about whether the chicken is kosher or treif; we are dealing with personal matters in which there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The concept of a psak, an authoritative legal ruling that must be followed by anyone or everyone, simply does not apply.

There are two main schools of thought (if we can call it thought) in the Orthodox world today when it comes to the aforementioned questions. The first, which has become known as “the Torah way” by revisionist historians with a superiority complex, is essentially as follows:

1. You should investigate someone as much as possible before agreeing to meet them. This includes thoroughly researching the person's educational and work history, their financial assets, their medical history, their immediate and extended family, and more. If everything “checks out”, the young man and woman might agree to meet (any picayune matter can torpedo the idea at any time), in which case a date will be arranged for them. The pressure on this meeting, after clearing the obstacle course and minefield of the investigation process, will be enormous.

The primary reasons given for this process are modesty, saving time, and protecting people's feelings. The irony should be self-evident, for one can hardly imagine a pre-date ritual that is more personally invasive, needlessly time-consuming, and dismissive of the feelings of those involved, to the point of cruelty.

However, this observation will be entirely lost on proponents of this process, for they have consecrated it, like so many other pseudo-religious social inventions, as “the Torah way”, and thus it must be staunchly defended (or at least quietly obeyed).

2. One is expected to get married after a small number of meetings, the exact number of which varies slightly between communities. In some Chassidic communities it can be as little as a single meeting, which is primarily to take the “eye test” and see if conversation between the two strangers is passable. In so-called Yeshivish circles a relationship might be considered “serious” after a whopping three meetings, all of which follow a preordained script. (Strict conformity to pseudo-religious norms is more important than actual religious integrity to these people, who also believe that homogenizing everyone is the best way to produce gedolim, who by definition do not fit a mold. We're a meshugga people.)

If a young man and woman meet five times and have still not decided to make a lifetime commitment, it is borderline scandalous. If someone is indecisive at this point, it is grounds to question his religious commitment, his maturity, his character, his very worthiness to get married.

3. You know it's the right one because that's the person you wound up marrying. It is taken as a religious truth that the person one married – after however few or many dates preceded it – was necessarily their bashert, their soulmate whom they were destined to marry.

The circular logic here goes unnoticed. After all, if people truly believed this, they would dispense with the FBI-like investigations and all the other tricks and games that define the shidduch world. Moreover, they would marry the first reasonable candidate who came along, perhaps even someone entirely at random, because whoever they wind up marrying was ordained from heaven. Why sweat it?

Ah, but we must put in hishtadlus. We must put in a tremendous amount of hishtadlus, so much that our behavior is virtually indistinguishable from those who don't believe Hashem is involved at all. We must account for every remote possibility and concern well into the future, all while paying sanctimonious lip service to bitachon.

After all, admitting one doesn't really have much trust in Hashem – not enough to influence his actual behavior – would be very bad for shidduchim.

So we must pretend to have bitachon while trying to control everything ourselves and leave nothing to chance, let alone the judgment of single adults who are supposedly ready to assume the responsibilities of marriage. We must micro-manage the shidduch process, believing we are saving people from sins and poor decisions, all while sinning and making poor decisions, and making a mess of the shidduch world like never before.

But we have to maintain the lie that this is all a good thing, the right way, the best way, the TORAH WAY. It is very important for the masses to believe this lie, for the stability of this society (and preeminence of its authority figures) depends on it. A great many of these marriages end in divorce, or continue only because ending the marriage is considered the lesser of two evils. Because hard numbers are difficult to come by, and those who are burned by “the system” but wish to remain in the community can't publicly speak out, it is easy for people to downplay and deny the harsh reality. It is virtually certain that you or someone close to you has been burned by this. No family has been spared. And, no, it's not the fault of “the outside world”; we did it to ourselves.

So we tell the many married people who are suffering enormously, who played the game and lost, who learned the hard way that real life doesn't follow a script, that this is exactly the way Hashem intended it to be. Either it's your fault that you married your bashert and it's not working out, or you were meant to suffer this way all along for some exalted purpose. It's never the fault of the people who inflicted this upon you, who stand behind this way of doing things. After all, it worked fine for others who were more fortunate, and, of course, it's the Torah way. So lump it.

The second school of thought is primarily a reaction to the first school of thought. It is favored by those who want to live like the goyim but in a kosher way. They answer the three questions as follows:

1. Since the dating process is far less serious in these circles, it is not required to investigate people before meeting them. This is not to suggest that these circles are less petty, superficial, and narcissistic than their counterparts, but they don't need a spy service to help them reject people based on shtick. They know right away, the moment they see someone in person or even on some dating app.

Women are especially adept at knowing right away. Whereas a man will reject a woman instantly based on looks alone, a woman will reject a man instantly if she doesn't feel magic. Some women claim that they knew the moment they first saw their husband that this was the person they were going to marry, so this must be a thing, and every woman must have this cosmic experience. She deserves it!

Some women are more magnanimous about feeling sparks, connection, energy, and the like, and will allow a man to treat her to an expensive dinner a few times before explaining that she isn't feeling it, whatever “it” even is. (There is much more to write about this, but I've already done that in my two books on the subject. You can buy both for less than the cost of a few minutes of therapy-lite with a “dating coach”.)

2. Since this school of thought is a reaction to the pseudo-Torah way, and the supposedly more rational goyim are the role models, there is no time limit for how long people date before getting married. It could be many months, or even years. Granted, if we are talking about people who take halacha seriously, they will not live together before marriage, but they will date indefinitely until the time is “right”.

It's difficult to imagine what critical information people expect to glean from date 45 that they didn't get from the first 44, or why it is necessary or proper to date for years without making the only commitment that counts. I understand, they know of terrible stories, and they want to be “sure”. But one can never be sure. One can only live sensibly, make a reasonable effort, and trust in Hashem. That is the Torah way.

There is no magic number of dates after which people should get married, nor must one date indefinitely until they account for every remote fear and concern. Some people might know immediately, and some people might need a little more time. The process should neither be rushed nor unreasonably delayed. Those who are mature and serious about getting married should be trusted to figure this out, with education, encouragement, and personalized guidance, without being forced onto an assembly line.

3. They know it's the right one when they both feel the magic.

God help them the moment the magic wears off.


Rav Moshe Feinstein's response to a question in Igros Moshe Yoreh De'ah 1:90 provides sanity and a true Torah perspective. He writes as follows:

Regarding an unmarried man and woman who want to get to know each other for purposes of marriage, to see if they will find favor [in each other's eyes], whether they are permitted to rent two bedrooms in a single house in which the landlord and his wife are also living: If they inform the landlord and his wife that they are not a married couple, there is room to be lenient. However, if they don't inform them, so that they might think they are a married couple, it's not good enough, and it is forbidden, even though they rented separate rooms, for they [the landlord and his wife] will not guard them [from inappropriate behavior] and they will not be ashamed from them to be alone together...

...And this is as far as the strict letter of the law, but in practice this is not appropriate to do, because one should not be overly contriving. The woman who finds favor with her appearance, and her family, and her good reputation that she is religiously observant, one should rely on that and marry her with the hope that she is the one that was arranged for him from heaven, and there is no need to test her from the outset, nor will this even help, for these tests are worthless, and it is written, “Go in innocence with Hashem”.

We don't need to obsess over who is our bashert or what it means on a metaphysical level. We don't need to know everything and account for every eventuality.

The first person you meet who gives you a strong impression that you can have a happy, successful life together, and they feel the same about you, is the person you should marry. Stop the merry-go-round right there and go for it. That's the right one. Don't let this person get away because you think you might be able to do a little better, whatever that means.

If we educated people to follow Rav Moshe's words, there would be no “shidduch crisis”. All the rest is commentary.



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