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How Do Religious Jews Get Engaged so Soon?

How Do Religious Jews Get Engaged so Soon?



I have a question about shidduch dating. How is it possible that within the space of a few weeks and only a few dates a couple can get engaged? In modern secular dating couples may live together for a year or two before deciding to marry, and yet in traditional Jewish dating they never even live together and get married within months of meeting! From personal experience and anecdotal evidence, it seems to work. But how?


Boy meets girl at a party. They like each other. He makes her laugh. She makes him feel good about himself. They hit it off.

As the guy is about to get her a drink, she says, "Can I just ask you a question? Are you interested in marriage, or just something casual. Because I am looking to settle down and have children in the near future."

After an uncomfortable silence, the guy says, "I was just going to ask if you want Diet Coke or regular . . . "

In the world of secular dating, there is no way you can bring up such heavy topics the first time you meet. In fact, it might be six months or more into a relationship when you can start to even mention marriage and family and the future. But, by then, you are emotionally entangled. If his priorities don't match hers, but they are in love, they are in trouble.

He might not want to settle down for another five years, or not have children altogether. She will then be faced with an excruciating choice: give up her dreams, or give up her love. And she will very likely choose love, with sometimes tragic results.

On the other hand, he knows nothing about her and her background. For all he knows, she is an axe murderer on parole. That might also lead to problems later on.

The traditional Jewish dating system helps avoid these issues. Before you even meet prospective partners, you find out about them. What are his values and beliefs? What does she want to do with their life? How was he shaped by his family and upbringing?

And most importantly, you only date for keeps. You will either get married or go your separate ways. No casual relationships.

If all that sounds good, and both parties are interested, the actual dating is about seeing if you click, if you can communicate, if you grow on each other. The big questions have already been answered. You know you match on paper, so let's see if you match in real life. That doesn't take too long to tell.

In secular dating, the heart leads, and that can be very messy. In shidduch dating, the mind leads the heart. First, it has to make sense, then it has to feel right. Because when we have feelings for someone, our emotions cloud our judgment, and can make us overlook problems. That is great in marriage, but a disaster in dating.

The shidduch system is not foolproof. But when followed correctly, it can save a lot of time and a lot of heartache. Because love is blind, you need to enter a relationship with eyes wide open.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Helen Dudden United Kingdom January 8, 2018

Alexander Allison. It is nice to be kind and compassionate to someone you care for. Reply

Alexander Allison Nigeria January 8, 2018

This is a nice tradition. It will save many from emotional heartache if it is applied Reply

Helen Dudden United Kingdom December 23, 2017

I would also like to add, it's important within the Jewish faith, to comply with tradition. We do what we say, and say what we do.
I like successful relationships, not failures much easier on the emotions. Reply

Deborah Greenfield December 22, 2017

What we "modern" Yiddishe maidelehs of the "hip" 1960's gave away . . . Reply

Helen Dudden United Kingdom December 21, 2017

It makes sense. If you want marriage and a home that I think most of us want. The so called falling in love, and relying on that alone is not that reliable. Reply

Alexander Pym Allison Nigeria December 20, 2017

shidduch This helps to eliminate future problems. It makes sense. Reply

Ave Massachusetts December 20, 2017

Although I am Catholic, not Jewish, I very much like the way you describe the process. I was brought up to think in a similar way. I do not think the modern secular way has any advantages, although young people would argue the point. Commitment seems a very necessary ingredient in order to weather the storms of a really serious loving relationship in which to raise children. Reply

Judy Freedman Hashmonaim, Israel December 20, 2017

very well defined! Reply

Anonymous Canada December 19, 2017

Just a question... How does a Jewish guy actually propose to the girl? Do they first ask each other if it's going to work or what? I know that secular proposals go with the guy kneeling down, holding up a ring and says, " Will you marry me?"

But what is the Jewish way? Reply

Anonymous December 20, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Hi Anonymous from Canada!
Every Jewish community has different customs and traditions regarding proposals. The question usually comes after a number of dates (anywhere from 3-10) during which the couple has examined their own feelings towards their prospective spouse, as well as having consulted with parents/mentors/matchmakers. The question should come as no surprise at this point.
Most people go with the standard "will you marry me?" accompanied by flowers, champagne, etc. In Chassidic communites, Chabad-Lubavitch specifically, the tradition is not to present a ring (since this is one of the biblical conditions for actual marriage) but both the bride and groom will head to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's gravesite along with their parents where each will pray for their needs in this matter, before it becoming "official" and announcing it to the public.

Hope this helps! Reply

Myrna Solganick Middleton December 19, 2017

In today's secular world, we are pitifully ignorant of what it takes to build a lasting marriage. For most, it is mostly about attraction, and having "fun". It is not about values, and it should be - but who is teaching this to young people? not their parents, who may have a troubled marriage of their own. They look at TV or movies and see people getting together for all the wrong reasons, and for the most unlikely. Young people need to be educated about values; that their life partner needs to share their values and a similar vision. And, I believe it is a very fair question for young people to ask one another "What kind of relationship are you looking for?" in order to avoid an unlikely pairing of differing priorities. Reply

Deborah Greenfield December 22, 2017
in response to Myrna Solganick:

Indeed, Myra; raised "Reform" modern, Baby-Boomer when everything Traditional was tossed and sadly, movies & TV became our role models. 6 decades later, I yearn for what I missed. Reply

Helen Dudden United Kingdom December 23, 2017
in response to Myrna Solganick:

I agree, I write on divorce and child access. Not enough conversation and communication. How can you resolve a problem without it? How can you build a lasting relationship? That's why I believe that a relationship built only on attraction, can be fragile. Respect, is a big issue. I respect the Jewish ideals, relationships, good personal relationships grow, but you have to feed them with commitment and caring. Reply

Myrna Solganick Madison wi December 22, 2017
in response to Deborah Greenfield:

And I was raised conservative. It does not's popular culture, it is the secular way, to marry for love without any apparent notion that love is not enough to build a life with someone. We need to define this for young people, who marry because they have "fun" together, and for love. Marriage is not "fun" and love also is not enough. Reply

Ron Rosenthal December 19, 2017

The day after I met my future wife, I proposed, she accepted, an we had 47 wonderful years together. That doesn't mean there were some difficult times, but we worked through them, together. I miss her so very much... Miss having a soulmate... Someone to love. Reply

Kris wisconsin December 20, 2017
in response to Ron Rosenthal:

Add a comment...Sorry for your loss. Hard to bear the pain! But where there is great pain, means there was great love. And love is always a blessing. Sounds like you were both very special. Congratulations on recognizing, daring and accomplishing a wonderful marriage. Reply

Anonymous December 22, 2017
in response to Ron Rosenthal:

A most beautiful book for both women and men to read: Total Immersion A Mikvah Anthology, © 2006, 1996, Rivkah Slonim. Of this collection of 50 essays, I cried sweetest tears over those 5 written by men: Loving Husbands in expressions of such joy, honor, devotion. Again, we "modern" Jews missed G-d's greatest gift. Reply

Kris wisconsin December 19, 2017

Add a comment...I loved this article. Makes so much sense. And I have seen it work. My mom and dad met on a blind date arranged by well respected friends. They were engaged within 6 weeks. They had similar interests, goals and ideals. They were married over 70 years, with love and welcome in the heart of their home. They used the principles from the article above. Reply

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