(Charedi, for those who don’t know, literally means fearful but the term refers to “ultra-Orthodox” Jews. You know, black clothes, black hat, people dressed more modestly and in general they are more stringent when it comes to keeping the Torah’s laws.)
Over Shabbat I was talking to my charedi brother in law (BIL). We were discussing dating, of course (when will people start getting sick of me bringing up this topic?), and I found that the way he spoke about dating in the more charedi world seemed so much more appealing to me, suddenly. I am not becoming charedi but I’m definitely willing to learn from them.
But before we see what he said, it’s important to realize that of course we won’t be able to directly implement what they do in our communities because the way they do things is based on how their communities are structured. So, for example, when it comes to dating, Mr. BIL was telling me how when he went out with a girl, he purposely didn’t talk about serious things like religion or topics connected to marriage. He just wanted to see if he enjoyed his time with the girl. They went out for around an hour the first time and then decided if they wanted to go out again a different time.
It’s genius, if you ask me. I have been very worried (admittedly, on a personal level as well as a communal one) about the focus that is given in the dati leumi/modern Orthodox/traditional communities to religion in dating. I feel like too much focus is put on things like sleeve length, head covering intentions, number of times of learning per week, “hashkafa,” etc. etc.
But there is a big difference between us and the charedi community. For the most part, they date within a relatively very small group, sticking to their specific chasidut. So on a date, you know how the girl dresses and her religious intentions, etc., before you even go out with her. In our community, since there is a pretty wide range of religious observance, you could theoretically be part of the same community but be quite different from each other as far as your observance.
That being said, I still think that letting go of having such a specific idea of how much your spouse is going to keep or not keep, might be one of the best things that ever happened to us. (Am I exaggerating?)
I spoke to some people about this over Shabbat, after my conversation with my BIL. I heard some very interesting comments. One guy and girl were both saying how over the years they’ve loosened up a lot about what they expect their spouse to be like religiously. They are open to a wider range of religious observances now. The guy said that anyhow, people are changing all the time and who says that if you marry someone exactly like you religiously, that in five years from now you’ll still match?
Later I spoke to another woman who said that she defines the characteristics that we’re looking for in a partner into two: the external ones, and core ones. When we’re younger we think that certain traits are core ones but once we get older we realize they aren’t. For example, we might think that specific religious observance or wanting to move to Israel are core. But, in fact, she was saying, this would mean the love is אהבה התלויה בדבר. That means, a love that is dependant on something, a thing. And, according to the source for that term, Pirkei Avot 5, mishna 20 (man, do I know how to google!), a love that is based on a “thing,” when the thing disappears, the love disappears.
A very silly example would be if two people “loved” each other because they both are into the same music or books.
On the other hand, once we get older, maybe we start understanding better what is a core part of ourselves and what is more external. That goes along with what the guy and girl had said earlier in the day, that they were more open to a wider range of religiosities (I’m quite sure that isn’t a word). To me it didn’t sound like they’re forcing themselves to give up on something that is still very important to them. Sounds more like, even though they are still religious and serious about being religious, they have more perspective on what is important in a life partner.
It still is complicated, of course. Where do you draw the line? How much do you push yourself? What if you really are very uncomfortable with the idea of being with a girl who only wears skirts or a girl who sometimes wears pants? Is that a problem or is that just your personal comfort level? We definitely need to take a good look at our list of criteria and see where we can loosen up in order to allow our besherts into our lives but the question is, where do we draw the line?
All that being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke to these people today. I thought people are being very rigid about who they’re willing to go out with religiously but, based on my extremely thorough scientific research this Shabbat (being facetious), maybe it’s not as bad as I thought. And maybe we really are all charedi afterall. : )
Photo by pasotrasposo at flickr.