Rab­bi Lawrence Hajioffs new book, Will Jew Mar­ry Me? is a great selec­tion with the Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tion of Tu B’Av on the hori­zon. Rab­bi Hajioff is guest blog­ging for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil asa part as the Vis­it­ing Scribe series here on The ProsenPeo­ple.

Dat­ing has become a real chal­lenge for many young Jew­ish men and women. Most peo­ple have tak­en to online dat­ing in order to find their soul mate. Web­sites like JDate and Saw You at Sinai as well as apps like JSwipe have become most people’s first choice in find­ing their oth­er half. For some, these avenues have proven suc­cess­ful, but for many oth­ers online dat­ing has­n’t deliv­ered in its promise of find­ing, as JDate puts it, Peo­ple who share your love of bagels and lox.” 

Some are call­ing the sur­plus of young and eli­gi­ble Jew­ish men and women a sin­gles cri­sis”. Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t, but either way, this isn’t the first time in Jew­ish his­to­ry we’ve seen a large group of Jew­ish men and women try­ing to find love relationships. 

In Taan­it 30b, the Tal­mud speaks about one of the hap­pi­est days in the Jew­ish cal­en­dar, the Fif­teenth of Av, or Tu B’Av, as the date spells out in Hebrew. A num­ber of events are attrib­uted to this fes­tive day in Jew­ish his­to­ry. One of them involved a cer­tain cus­tom of pair­ing up young sin­gle men and women for mar­riage. The women of Jerusalem would dress up in white bor­rowed gar­ments and go dance in the vine­yards. The young sin­gle men would go and watch them, and the women would say, Young men, raise up your eyes and see what you choose for your­self, do not pay atten­tion to beau­ty, pay atten­tion to fam­i­ly.” This was the suc­cess­ful method they used in stem­ming the tide of sin­gles in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. And, accord­ing to the Tal­mud, it worked.

Is there a secret here which may help us match up Jew­ish sin­gles today?

Well the first thing that struck me about this Tu B’Av rit­u­al was how our ances­tors con­sid­ered the match­ing up of young men and women for poten­tial mar­riage as the hap­pi­est day of the year! It was­n’t seen as an incon­ve­nience, or a piti­ful event to offload the remain­ing sin­gles; on the con­trary, match­ing sin­gles was seen as a very spir­i­tu­al and holy duty, that the Tal­mud even com­pared to the spir­i­tu­al effort that was put into Yom Kippur. 

Anoth­er aspect to this ancient ver­sion of JDate I find inter­est­ing is how young men and women were not left to their own devices in find­ing a mar­riage part­ner. It was­n’t a case of go to col­lege, get a job, and go find a spouse: instead the entire com­mu­ni­ty took respon­si­bil­i­ty for all the sin­gles, help­ing them find their poten­tial soul mates. In my new book, Will Jew Mar­ry Me? A Guide to Dat­ing, Rela­tion­ships, Love, and Mar­riage, I write that of all the mitzvot in the Torah, get­ting mar­ried is con­sid­ered a Jew’s first pri­or­i­ty. As a com­mu­ni­ty we do a num­ber of actions to take care of oth­ers. We assist oth­ers in find­ing work, we give char­i­ty to the needy, we build hos­pi­tals and libraries and per­form many oth­er won­der­ful char­i­ta­ble acts. I believe just like our ances­tors, match­ing sin­gles should be a com­mu­nal project we all join in to perform.

What was the pur­pose of the women bor­row­ing white gar­ments — why did­n’t they just wear their own? The rea­son is so that no woman would be embar­rassed by those who had more. The king’s daugh­ter, who was pre­sum­ably very rich, wore the same attire as the daugh­ter of the daugh­ter of the High Priest, who may not have been so well off. This extend­ed to all of soci­ety, in which rich and poor, irre­spec­tive of what they pos­sessed, would look the same on Tu B’Av, to be val­ued for who they were, not what they had.

I’m not sure mak­ing women wear one another’s cloth­ing would work today, but the mes­sage is a good one. Giv­ing advice to sin­gle men and women in their dat­ing efforts and assist­ing them with sound and hon­est coun­cil, so they don’t make the mis­take of judg­ing poten­tial mates pure­ly by what they have, but rather by who they tru­ly are, could do much in help­ing them find their way under the chup­pah.

Final­ly, and I real­ize that this is a stretch in dat­ing today, the amount of time young men and women date for, needs to be cur­tailed some­what. I’m not sug­gest­ing one night dat­ing like the orig­i­nal Tu B’Av is at all prac­ti­cal today, how­ev­er the young men and women I meet who date for three, four and some­times many more years before they become engaged (or in many cas­es break up) can be reduced in order not to waste each other’s time.

So maybe danc­ing in vine­yards like our ances­tors isn’t real­ly viable in today’s day and age, how­ev­er cre­at­ing com­mu­nal events, hav­ing mar­ried cou­ples take respon­si­bil­i­ty for set­ting up their sin­gle friends, and struc­tur­ing our com­mu­ni­ties as a source of advice and sup­port for dat­ing cou­ples cer­tain­ly is.

Rab­bi Lawrence Hajioff is the author of Jews Got Ques­tions? and Will Jew Mar­ry Me?: A Guide to Dat­ing, Rela­tion­ships, Love, and Mar­riage.

Relat­ed Content:

Lawrence Hajioff | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil Vis­it­ing Scribe

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lon­don, Eng­land, Rab­bi Lawrence Hajioff grad­u­at­ed with hon­ors in polit­i­cal sci­ence from Man­ches­ter Uni­ver­si­ty. After work­ing for MTV in news pro­duc­tion, and win­ning the nation­al com­pe­ti­tion Jew­ish Stand-Up Come­di­an’ of the Year, Rab­bi Hajioff trav­eled to study in Israel and then Mon­sey to receive his rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion. Rab­bi Hajioff is the edu­ca­tion­al direc­tor of Birthright Israel Alum­ni in Man­hat­tan, New York.

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