Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Is it appropriate for young men and women from
more sheltered backgrounds to attend singles events if they
haven’t met their bashert after three or four years of dating?

 

Rabbi Marc D. Angel
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I would like to frame this question in a different way. We are discussing a decision to be made by young men and women who are of marriageable age – who will be trusted to establish their own households, deal with their own finances, have children, etc. So the question is: Why shouldn’t such individuals have the right – and responsibility – to decide for themselves whether to attend whatever event they deem relevant? They are adults!

Even if they have been raised in “more sheltered backgrounds,” doesn’t a time arrive when they must take responsibility for their own lives? And isn’t approaching marriage such a time?

It seems to me that religious young men and women should have wholesome occasions to meet each other and socialize within a group of like-minded individuals. Opportunities should be created where young women and men can meet in a natural, respectful, and religiously-appropriate context. “Singles events” of this nature can be valuable for participants.

While attending “singles events,” even those of a religiously-appropriate nature, can be a source of anxiety for “sheltered” young men and women, they have to grow up some time. They must develop the social skills of responsible adults and not see themselves – or be seen by others – as infantilized individuals.

The late United States Supreme Court Justice, Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, once observed: “Three mysteries there are in the lives of mortal beings: the mystery of birth at the beginning; the mystery of death at the end; and, greater than either, the mystery of love. Everything that is most precious in life is a form of love.”

We pray that men and women who are looking for their bashert will experience the mystery and preciousness of love in the near future.

— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of
the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

* * * * *

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

The question presupposes that someone from a “sheltered” background is going to somehow struggle to find their bashert more so than someone from a more “open” background might. In this regard, the question is self-contradictory because if [one’s mate] is bashert as indeed it is – why does the individual concerned need to start considering options that they would not have previously entertained rather than rely on the Divine Hand to ultimately guide them to their intended one?

One might argue that people have a responsibility to apply themselves in facilitating the process, but then the question to consider is: Does attending “singles events” constitute a compromise of their standards? If not, why didn’t they attend these events beforehand? If yes, why does doing so become acceptable now?

Is there a “three or four years of dating” deadline after which dropping standards becomes acceptable? If that doesn’t work after another few years, are there more standards up for concession?

Ultimately, the singles events in the first instance must be halachically acceptable. Even so, if the individual concerned feels it constitutes a yeridah, he or she needs to weigh that up in balance. More than anything, singles must strengthen their emunah in the belief that their bashert is out there, and they need to persist steadfastly and uncompromisingly in their quest.

— Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, popular Lubavitch lecturer,
rabbi of London’s Mill Hill Synagogue

* * * * *

Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier

I think it’s a wonderful idea as long as things are done respectfully and appropriately.

Many times, a regular date is over within a few minutes of it starting because it’s very clear that the young man and woman are not suited for each other. So a lot of time can be saved if a couple has a chance to meet for a few minutes at an event. Also, in a more relaxed atmosphere, it’s easier to discern who the person is and get a sense if the person is appropriate for you.

The big caveat is that there has to be enough people around to help guide the process so that it remains efficient and appropriate and to ensure that both sides share a level of interest.

— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier, founder of The Shmuz

* * * * *

Rabbi Yosef Blau

I am uncomfortable recommending for a community that has a different standard of what is appropriate and what modesty requires. In general, whenever a person suggests a change, he should respond on an individual basis. There are many factors that play a role in the lack of success that a young man or woman has had in finding a shidduch.

The goal has to be to help the person find an appropriate mate. If he or she will move out of a sheltered environment to one that doesn’t fit him or her out of a feeling of desperation, there is a serious risk. But clearly there are specific individuals for whom this will be helpful.

To be successful on a broad scale, this kind of initiative would have to come from the religious leadership of the particular sheltered community.

— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at
YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

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