2016-06-30
Article courtesy of Am Echad Resources. They advertise their services through names ranging from utilitarian (americansingles.org) to wishful (2ofakind.com) to earnestly purposeful (singleswithscruples.com) to hopelessly cutesy (cupid.com, currently being redesigned). The ubiquitous "dot com" may give their endeavor a hyper-connected, cutting edge, millennial facade, but this is very venerable wine, no matter how new the barrels. It was an August 26, 1999 New York Times story that shouted the good news from the rooftops. The e-shadchan, the term for a Jewish matchmaker, had come of age. In "You've Got Romance! Seeking Love on Line," Bonnie Rothman Morris described the various Internet dating services that have sprung up around an ancient need that has preoccupied the human race ever since G-d told Adam that it was not good for man to be alone. Most of us, however, lacking Adam's connections, have to make somewhat more of an effort than simply agreeing to a rib donation under anesthesia.
The article abounded with happy tales of now-blissfully-wedded couples who had met through the anonymity of Internet dating service sites, of which over 2,500 exist, catering to every preference from nonsmoking Mozart lovers to follicularly-impaired Dalmatian-owners. One paragraph in particular sent my SQ (Smugness Quotient) flying into the stratosphere. "Relationships that begin online may have a better chance of succeeding because they start from the inside, from communication, and work their way out. For many people, this does seem to work well in the sense of focusing more on the thought processes and common interests before they have appearance to distract them from how they feel about the person." It took the Age of Internet for this seemingly simple bit of wisdom to reach large numbers of people. The absence of any taboos and barriers in situations of face-to-face contact, save those of contemporary social convention, has spawned an era of confusion and often heartbreak in male-female relationships. Initial communication on a verbal-only level allows for exploration of intellectual and emotional compatibility and shared ideals, and provides the distance necessary for levelheaded assessment. Reading a contemporary acknowledgment of the fact made me feel deeply grateful and proud to be part of a community and a tradition that had been in on this secret for a few thousand years. I have often marveled at the incredible brilliance and sensitivity of the
Jewish religious tradition's laws of tzniut, or modesty. Growing up Orthodox, I took it for granted that mothers and fathers loved and respected each other; that girls and boys were not educated together and did not mingle in casual social contact; and that as a result of this ethos of distance and modesty, I could expect to marry someone with whom I would recreate the atmosphere I witnessed growing up, not only between my own parents but in all (bar none) the homes of my classmates. The rules governing male-female relationships were, and are, deceptively simple: Modest dress, no physical contact, and no seclusion in private areas. Under these conditions, which allow for the presentation of an integrated, attractive person as opposed to a sexual object, dating in the traditional Jewish world is undertaken in a spirit of seriousness, purpose, and respect for the humanity and spirituality of the other, an attitude grounded in the bedrock belief that all humans carry within them a spark of the Divine. Thus, it was especially rewarding to read of signs of Divine reciprocity, as it were; there is probably no area of human endeavor in which the hand of Providence is as obvious as in the successful culmination of the search for a mate. Morris writes of Diana, who spotted guitarist Greg at an outdoor concert. Plans to see the band again the following week, with the hope of meeting him, fell through. A month later, Diana logged on to Match.com to
inform her fellow cyber-searchers that she was thinking of relocating to a new town. One response, asking her to delay her move, caught her attention, and several e-mails later, the gentleman invited her to a local concert to watch his performance. Fast forward several months, and mazel tov! Diana has a new last name. The tale instantly brought to mind the story of my friend Aviva, who was smart, beautiful, single, and sick of the search. For a change of scenery, she took a vacation to Israel. Waiting in line at the airport on the way back, she noticed, standing a few feet in front of her, a well-dressed and friendly-looking yeshiva student. She found herself thinking, "Why can't anyone ever set me up with a guy like that?" Putting the subversive thoughts firmly in the Wishful Thinking department, she strode purposefully onto the plane, and made it safely back home. Several weeks later, a phone call from a shadchan (the stone-age equivalent of Match.com's Online Dating Coach) suggested a particular candidate. He arrived at her home at the agreed-upon time. As she entered the living room, where the candidate was chatting with her father, he turned to greet her--and her jaw dropped. It was Mr. Wishful Thinking! Who has, at this point (need I say?) smoothly segued into Prince Charming. Whether or not the Internet will seriously impact American courtship is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain. Jewish tradition has been responsible for a consistently high level of happily-ever-aftering over the centuries, well before the advent of americansingles or 2ofakind.

It's probably because it's always been the Oneandonly.

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