Dear Dating Coach,
I am new to dating and recently met with a few shadchanim. I am a Bais Yaakov-type of girl and want a guy who will learn for a while, but every shadchan wants me to commit to a timeline. They threw numbers at me like auctioneers – 1-3, 3-5, 5-7, 10 or more… I have no idea what the right answer is! What do I tell them?
When was the last time you went to an arcade? Today, I secretly believe that arcades are the vacation destination of choice for streptococcus and the like, but when I was younger the arcade was a place filled with excitement and opportunity.
I considered each token like a hedge fund manager plotting her biggest account, and I carefully chose the games I would play, hoping to yield the greatest return on my investment. I knew that every ticket you earned got you closer to the coveted Oriental Trading offerings guarded behind glass-enclosed counters (think Chinese yo-yos, plastic tops, and rubber stamps – oh my!). My game of choice was always Skee Ball, where the objective was simple: You needed to throw those little wooden balls so they would land in the slots with the highest point values. Sometimes you hit the 100-point slot, and sometimes you hit zero after zero.
Welcome to the world of dating, and I commend you for going to meet with shadchanim right away. Some may be baffled by the need to commit to a number of years spent learning before a first date, but for a girl looking for a boy who will learn, this question has become quite commonplace. Unfortunately, the push for a timeline often sounds more like a prison sentence than a beautiful commitment to Torah learning. Moreover, unless the girl or boy is independently wealthy, this discussion may need to involve their parents, who may or may not be willing to offer the future couple financial support.
Unless your crystal ball works better than mine, no one can predict the future of any couple or knows what life may bring. Perhaps a girl will be happy to work in a career that she loves indefinitely, allowing her husband to learn until his beard turns gray. Or perhaps a girl who initially thought she wanted a husband who would learn long-term will conclude that working full-time with five under five is simply too much for her. Unless a boy is specifically looking for a girl whose family will generously support a life of learning, it would be nearly impossible to definitively commit to learning for a specific number of years.
Therefore, I would like to believe that the shadchanim are really trying to gauge your commitment level to full-time learning. Are you a girl who is flexible and aware that life is unpredictable? You may hope to begin your married life with learning as its foundation, but are willing to reevaluate as your family grows and circumstances change. Or are you a girl who is looking for a boy who is seriously committed to long-term learning and will happily eat Ramen noodles every night in order to continue to do so? I believe that the commitment is key here, not the actual number of years. Therefore, there isn’t any right answer, just a need for an honest look at what you envision for your future.
So either tell the shadchan, “I hope to start my married life with a husband who will learn, but I am open to new possibilities as time goes on,” or say, “I am looking for a boy seriously committed to long-term study, and I am willing to make sacrifices to make sure that we are able to maintain his learning.”
Either way, a home filled with learning and Torah is the privilege of any couple, regardless of a kollel membership. Whether your husband learns for an hour after a day at the office, or studies Gemara for 12 hours daily, your home can still be imbued with Torah and learning, as long as you make it so. Unlike in Skee Ball, that’s how you score 100-point shots, every single day.