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Why I Ended Things With My Date

Why I Ended Things With My Date

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We walk timidly. Then with confidence. Our conversation gains pace. My reserve starts to beat a retreat, and his guard begins to drop. Our talk moves from the straightforward to the obscure, shifting from the concrete to the esoteric. Then, without warning, it happens, pitching me into dangerous waters. In the streetlights, I notice a man begging in the shadowed netherworld, sitting low down on his blanket stoop. The face looks up at us, hopeful; the mouth mutters something beseechingly. My date strides pastMy date strides past without hesitation without hesitation. I sense my pulse quicken as he continues to talk to me about the beauty of the Second Holy Temple.

And then the self-talk starts. He didn’t see the man. He is focused on what he is talking about. But small voices inside me begin to gain force. Tiny figures join together in my head and begin to murmur. The Second Holy Temple?! What about seeing other people’s pain! I shake my head to silence them. Don’t jump to conclusions, I tell them with some intensity. The buzz lowers. I tune back in to our conversation.

He is so earnest, so knowledgeable, I notice admiringly. I am pleased I am able to quiet the doubts. We wait to cross the road, the red light giving us cause to pause as a unit on the street corner. United in a common goal, I breathe, relieved. We move forward together on the instruction of a small green man. Absurdly, I imagine I see the green man take a threatening step towards my companion, two angry lines creasing his emerald forehead. I shake my head to clear it. I nearly laugh out loud. I feel lighter. Closer.

But then it happens again. We pass not one, not two, but three gray-clad figures who plead with us softly for a penny. Once more, without missing a beat, he walks on with a peaceful lack of awareness. I exhale and my eyes water. I see the people in my head clustering around each other, their disappointment clear. They band together, almost mob-like. Ask him! they demand in unison, some brandishing fists. Uncover his flaws! Strip away the illusion! They gain force. I’ll ask him, but only to give him a chance, to hear his side, I concede.

And so I do. I ask about why he did not stop, why he did not consider the plight of the people we had passed. He tells me, eloquently. Charity begins at home. Who knows where the money really goes—drugs, alcohol. He does not want to feed their addictions; this is not really helping them. I listen, but I don’t hear. I understand, but I do not want to comprehend. I give him counterarguments. I am not sure if I say them out loud or whether they take form only in my head. What of compassion? Cultivating sensitivity? Becoming a more merciful person? Not ignoring others’ plight? The seed of disappointment mushrooms within me, distancing me from him. In my head, it’s over.

Two months later I walk down a different street, on a new date. This time the talk meanders through tales of our past, gently picking up speed. I begin to tense as I notice the streetlights illuminating a silhouette, hand poised to ask us for help. I remember the other encounter. I see the figures in my head taking position. I am a pace ahead before I realize that he has stopped. I turn back and almost miss the exchange of a coin and the dip of the head, a ghost of a smile. We walk on as if nothing had occurred to break the rhythm.

I am silenced. The people in my head seem unsure of how to react. They shrug, and only one stage whisper can be heard in the silence. He’s trying to make a good impression! But the others glare at him. He is shouted down.

We walk on down the street, heavy with sounds and suddenly bright with lights. I do not immediately notice the mother and son propping their cardboard sign against their legs. Again, like sleight of hand, he dispenses a coin with a shadow of a smile, without missing his turn in our conversation. I begin to glow in the light of his good nature.

But the voices give no rest. Their hum of dissent gets louder. He gives indiscriminately; he has no standards! Where are his values? Does he know what habits he might be encouraging? He is doing a disservice to this city, to humanity! Shoulders squared, faces set, the figures line up as if to embark on a military foray. Ask him! Confront him! they mandate.

I agree, for their arguments have begun to take root, and I too want to hear him justify himself. I bring it up. I express curiosity. I wonder if he can explain. He does. He tells me about the need to breed sensitivity, to show compassion. He tells me that where the money goes is not his concern; he does not want to pass judgement—it is not his place. I respond, devil’s advocate taking hold of me. I mention charity beginning at home; I champion the cause of helping people help themselves. He goes quiet. In his head, it is over.He has no standards!

A long time passes before I notice the irony. I see the steps of what appears to be an intricate dance, positioning myself and repositioning myself in relation to the other. I think long and hard and I wonder why. A natural tendency to represent the underdog? A need to feel that the other person will accept me, even when I do not agree? A symbol of the fact that I see the two sides of a situation and I want its complexity, or perhaps my own, to be represented? I have not yet found the answer, but I am strikingly aware of the paradox.

I have also begun to notice something else. There are times when I pass people soliciting on the street without a second glance. And there are times when I reach out with a coin, to brighten their eyes. Interesting. I wonder what the figures in my head would say about that. But for now, I keep my mind’s eye firmly shut. For I want to make sense of this myself, without the tumult of other voices making themselves heard.

Rachel Glass lives in Jerusalem. She works with families and schools, supporting children's social, emotional and communication skills. Her writing explores the interpersonal and offers insight into the meaning within everyday life.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Pnina New York March 14, 2016

The Grey Areas in Dating As a single woman dating for years, I found the article refreshing in its real to life description of the complexities involved in the dating experience in the Orthodox world. The writer gives voice to the inner struggle of a woman eager to settle down with the right man, the hope she allows in as she feels this might be the one, the concern raised by the conduct of the man,the disappointment at the very thought that this ray of hope might extinguish like so many others and the last attempt to hold onto it by confronting the issue.
The right way to treat beggars is a side point in the essay, in my opinion, just one of so many other grey areas that throw the dating partners into a turmoil. You can easily replace the moral questions sparked by the passing beggars with any other spiritual or ethical issue that comes up unexpectedly and cannot be easily dismissed. The attempt to get to know a person in a limited period of time is at the core of the weight given to every comment or gesture. Reply

Gary W. Harper Saylorsburg, PA March 14, 2016

In my mind, you are achieving a perfected vision. Your heart and your mind are opening up, to receive all that Hashem has to offer to the world.

It is true, that money alone, can be an evil within itself. But stopping to ask, "How are you doing today?" That is a step in the right direction. Perhaps that is more important to them, than is any amount of money? The coin tossed, can still be a shunning...The easy way out.

When it is unsafe, you do not stop. When it is safe, and you have the time, you stop.

And when you have the money, perhaps a meal purchased, and some time together, and some conversation, will make all of the difference in their lives, and in yours, too?

This is home...And this is where helping begins. It is all right in front of you.

Talk is cheap...

Action, speaks louder than do any words.

Hashem watches; Mashiach waits. So, what will you do?

Be careful of how you treat those whom you meet...

For you never know, who is the Angel of the Lord.
Reply

N Woodmere March 9, 2016

The point of the article I think the point of the article is to highlight how our thoughts can be so confusing while we are out on a date.
It's not about whether to give charity or not- it's about the author being honest about her inner dialogue, and about her being aware that she is having conflicting thoughts in her head about what she is experiencing, and how this is affecting how she views her date.
I think the reason that the author wrote this article, is to remind us to be honest and aware of what is going on in our heads when we date- and how, if we don't catch ourselves we can let our thoughts and voices in our head run away with us. It is really important to understand why we are thinking what we are thinking... and to catch ourselves, and be honest with ourselves when we are inconsistent. Reply

Anonymous March 6, 2016

Chana from Jerusalem is absolutely right. Reply

Anonymous March 5, 2016

Inspiring This was a wonderful, thought-provoking article. Reply

Anonymous Israel March 4, 2016

Well written; the tension the writer is experiencing is palpable. Something that I learned about charity from my mashpia: When giving charity, you're giving something that already belonged to the other person. It should be given as if the receiver is coming to the bank to make a withdrawal from their own account, and you are the bank teller. Reply

chana Jerusalem March 4, 2016

sorry, but the point of this article is not whether to give or not.What i see, as a shidduch coach, is someone using her intellect to argue her way out of any commitment with any young man. And THAT needs to be taken care of. the argument about giving can take place between single friends or married couples., Reply

DJ Denver March 3, 2016

I'm a Dude Yet here I am with tears in my eye's, rembering all those who gave to me over the years, and those who I didn't notice in return. Thank you! Reply

Frank Truth NY, NY March 3, 2016

Sometimes it pays not to judge others too quickly. I used to give money to panhandlers before a spent a large part of my life trying to help them. Most panhandlers do not just use the money to buy drugs and/or alcohol, most are hustlers, crooks and sociopaths. Some of these people have middle-class homes and loving families but prefer to live their life as parasites. Helping these people you become an enabler. You reward them for bad behavior.
Even when I used to give money to panhandlers, I would not give money when I was on a date, because I only gave tzedaka in secret when no one was looking. I only gave money when I could engage the panhandler and see how else I could help them. And I would not give money on a date because during that time I would focus all my attention on the person I was, not some stranger. Reply

Jeremy Stack Everett September 24, 2017
in response to Frank Truth:

Frank Truth, spot on. Reply

Alan S. Long Island March 3, 2016

Interesting article from several perspectives. As a New Yorker that passes beggars every day, on almost every street corner and in the subway, it is difficult to give to everyone, or truthfully, to anyone. It is true that we become desensitized to the constant din of people with their hand out. Every story and every beggar's sign is heart wrenching, but where does one draw a line, if a line is to be drawn, between giving all the time and giving sometimes?
While it is fair to judge a person by how s/he treats others within their purview, I also think it is unfair to judge a date based on his interaction, or lack of interaction with a person that is begging. How many fine people do we 'throw away' on a date because of impossible to meet criteria? Specifically, you're damned if you do interact, or damned if you don't. Reply

Susan Levitsky March 3, 2016

You can't give to everyone It's a mystery why you give to one person and not another. It depends on how you feel at the moment. When we were in Rome where there were lots of beggars, I gave my niece and nephew some coins to have available for giving. It was interesting that they gave to different kinds of people Those who were disabled got more from my niece and those who played an instrument got more from my nephew. In Barcelona, they both gave to those who had a dog with them.
In this story it was clear that her first date didn't want to give to street beggars, which is his right, and her subsequent date did stop to give. That actually does not mean that her first date was uncharitable. Maybe he donates to worthy causes that help people so they don't have to beg. Giving charity is a very complicated thing. You have to do what your heart tells you. Reply

Confused in NY NY March 2, 2016

Why only him? Just curious, if this actually took place, why didn't Rachel give? Reply

Chani Israel March 2, 2016

Thank you for a very thought provoking and well written article! Please keep them coming! Reply

Avaraham brooklyn March 1, 2016

Rachel Glass's article,"why i ended things with my date"? is quite touching. If i was on a date with Rachel, i would have certainly given charity to the beggar. It is of utmost importance to give charity and do a mitzvah whenever you can. I am sure certain people feel like Rachel's first date: " If i give money to the beggar he might spend it on drugs, alcohol, etc? It is logical, but it appears that the date was a skinflint, and does not like to give. My point it to give when ever an opportunity arises. Rachel's next date should only go better. Reply

Sarah ny March 1, 2016

Really well written - enjoyed very much the insight. Yashar Koach! Reply

Anonymous Mesa, AZ March 1, 2016

Ending Things With A Date Beautifully expressed. The feelings, the emotions...It happens sometimes with a friend, neighbor, whom one wants to help seeing the pittyful condition of living, self hatred. Our mind wonders, in solitude, why?Is there something I can do? We might try, but all efforts seem fruitles, the feeling left is of failure. We did what we could, now it is placed in G-d's hand. Pray for next time success in our efforts, what else is there? G-d knows all things, nothing is hidden from Him. Reply

Tsivya Cedarhurst, NY March 1, 2016

Food for Thought I love reading the inner dialogue that we all have in our heads while we are on dates.
So on point! Reply

Bracha Goetz Baltimore February 29, 2016

Wow - this is a groundbreaking piece! Reply

Chava M February 29, 2016

brilliant Brilliant piece of writing, from all angles.

Thank you for sharing. Reply

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