Just not (ir)religious

Secular Pam, modern Orthodox Tzippi and haredi Danit answer your questions on percolating issues in Israel’s complicated social and religious fabric.

November 10, 2016 17:01
4 minute read.
A couple

A couple. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

I have a single, secular daughter in Jerusalem who is 33 years old and longing to get married. I recently met a lovely religious woman with a single, 37-year-old son who is also very keen to settle down and start a family. He does not want to even meet a secular woman, and she refuses to have a cup of coffee with a religious man. Is this acceptable?

– God Help Us All, Jerusalem

Tzippi Sha-ked:
I run an active closed Facebook group (Points of Contact) for religious Anglos in Israel who’d love to meet their bashert.

Some findings: For older, less observant singles, prospects are more attractive – especially when they’re broad-minded about religious practices.

For younger dati singles there’s a problem. Many attractive, smart, capable religious women (cognizant of the guy drought) still turn down men who don’t pray or learn regularly.

These women sit at home, dateless with limited options, waiting for the perfect national religious guy.

Dati men, conversely, are ‘showered’ with offers by friends, neighbors and yentas at the bus stop. Entitlement affords overweight men to reject girls carrying a few extra pounds; others shun all but blue-eyed gals or demand Sephardi looks or women from Jerusalem.

This guy shortage has enabled a generation of religious men to become indulgently picky.

Not blaming men. From the ladies I hear: “Make him a pious scholar, accomplished and tall… wait – willing to nix the tall – maybe!” In my family, my father was secular and my mother religious. A meeting of the minds can follow a meeting of the hearts. The spiritual reins of the house can be negotiated. I’ve seen secular men and women agree on kosher kitchens, Shabbat, mikve and shul-going.

Ideal? No.

But I’d rather see older singles marry someone less observant than face the disillusionment of being alone. It’s time for a different approach. Fed up with your status quo? – Go for that cup of Joe with someone less religious – it may lead to a lehaim!

Pam Peled:
The first question my prospective mother-in-law asked me was: “Do you drive on Shabbat?” I did; my husband-to-be didn’t. His mother was terrified I’d corrupt her son.

I was so in love with Martin that I’d have agreed never to drive again, ever, if he’d asked me to. We worked it out: for the first few years I more-or-less kept Shabbat with him, and then it was less-than-more; eventually we drove together. I hated staying home on my day of rest: I missed the out-of-walking-distance family Seders and Friday nights from which we were excluded, I longed for Shabbat strolls on the beach. We compromised: I kept a kosher home, we “changed” for Passover, we did the whole Friday night shebang: washing the hands, candles, blessings, woman of worth, the lot.

We were both happy.

Martin and I came from similar backgrounds, although his family was more stringent than mine. Religion was never an issue; we discussed, we found a modus vivendi, we enjoyed.

Unfortunately, things have become so much more extreme. Today, and I say this with pain, I would think twice about dating someone religious. Today observance seems to go hand-in-hand (not always, of course not always, but more-than sometimes) with political leanings: pro-Bennett, pro-settlements, sometimes even sympathy for extremism. That’s harder to negotiate than not driving to the beach.

I’d like to say from personal experience that living together with varying levels of observance is viable, and it is. But I’m not sure it’s so easy anymore.

Danit Shemesh:
What does God do all day? Some say He matchmakes, ensuring that different parts of the same neshama meet.

It is up to the single person to be attentive and clear in order to recognize their missing piece. We look for a partner with similar social status, personality, goals of building a home. If one half of the couple is secular and the other keeps Shabbat, then an abyss of difference separates them. If one thinks the world is the result of a cosmic accident and the other believes God directs the world to a specific goal, can they ever merge successfully? Marriage functions on a basic wavelength of mutuality. Even a ba’al teshuva will feel more comfortable with a newly religious partner who is familiar with the way of life they both rejected. Marriage becomes lonely when one is misunderstood.

I would go as far as to say that an ex-haredi should marry a kindred soul rather than a secular person who cannot understand the intricate inner workings of their partner’s psyche.

So, from the perspective of natural order, I understand the couple’s refusal to meet each other. However, the true Divine dimension entails being open to what God has in mind for us. If He plans a match of opposites, perhaps we can expand ourselves enough to contain otherness.

God does not only make matches. He re-creates the world every moment. If He gives creation a chance to grow and improve, we can do the same. Our greatest potential for growth is in the context of marriage.

Comments and questions: 3ladies3lattes@gmail.com

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