Finding Mr. Right: A Journey Through Orthodox Datingby Rachel Eden December 4, 2017
I heard the knock at 8:04 p.m., a cold evening in December 2006, and I gave myself one final glance in the hallway mirror before flipping my head and tousling my hair. I opened the front door with what I hoped was a smile that impossibly crossed angelic with mischievous. He stood in the doorway in a dark coat and black hat looking very much the part of a polished yeshiva bachur (fellow in Talmudic seminary). We had spoken on the phone for 20 minutes a few days earlier and I instantly liked his laid back tone and silly jokes. I giggled and flirted (yes, orthodox Jews can flirt!) through most of the conversation until he cut it short so we’d “still have stuff to talk about” once we actually met in person.
Full disclosure: that first date contained objectively awkward moments. We walked into a Brooklyn cafe on a particularly freezing winter night and my date, Daniel, chose a table in a dim corner. I remarked that it was a telling choice for someone to choose a corner table (I was being insightful and witty!) and he responded that he wasn’t a fan of psychoanalysis (one of the few times I was rendered speechless). There was also the incident when he couldn’t find his car keys at the end of that first date and was practically running in and around the cafe in desperate search. Still, the date went okay and while I didn’t have high hopes for our relationship to work out, I agreed to a second date.
That same weekend, our second date easily outperformed our first. Daniel was more relaxed, confident and even goofy. I actually had fun! He made me laugh! Sense of humor tops many wish lists but was never on mine. I just didn’t understand why it was a big deal. Almost 11 years after that date I am very grateful to still be laughing as we navigate through the twists and turns of life. Note to my younger self: Do marry the one who makes you laugh loudly.
For our third date, I took a train to Baltimore where he was studying. He picked me up along with a stranger who needed a ride. We ate out at the local kosher Chinese restaurant where I traded him my orange chicken for his kung pao after deciding I had made a poor choice. He still reminds me of the kung pao sacrifice he made that night! The date went well enough for another.
We had a great time on a few more dates and then, just like that, Daniel brought up marriage. We had dated three and a half weeks total. Seven dates. I’ve had longer relationships with a king size Cadbury’s bar. Let’s face it, choosing a marriage partner is arguably the single most important decision a person can face. On dates with other guys, I had always analyzed whether or not they were Mr. Right but with this guy, with Daniel, I just lived in the moment and took pleasure in being around him. But was I ready to marry him?
During our short time together (once we had done the extensive research that a first shidduch (set up) date is predicated on), we had two goals: first, to establish chemistry and second, to clarify what our visions for the future were. Shidduch dates like ours are focused on these two aspects because dating is very much a means to an end. We want to commit our lives to another person and the question is just… who?
I watch less religious friends who date the same person for years, but still live in doubt about their future together or one party’s commitment for the other. It is an enormous gift to have the opportunity to intellectually explore sharing a life together and only then choose to invest in one another emotionally and connect physically.
I didn’t love my husband when he asked me to marry him and he didn’t love me. But, we were committed to loving one another for the rest of our lives. We shared two core Jewish values fundamental to a stable marriage. One, to continuously work on having a healthy marriage and peaceful home and two, to understand that our role in marriage is to give. We don’t look for a 50-50 marriage of give and take but rather a marriage of 100 percent giving. While these principles are not the stuff of fairytales, we do live happily ever after thanks to them. They have supported us with stability over the years and, I pray, for many years to come.Α