Finding a bashert (soulmate) is a decisive part of a Jewish single’s life. While dating is taken lightly in so many cultures, Jewish dating is a matter of respecting oneself, one’s future partner, one’s family, and Jewish tradition as a whole.
Especially in Orthodox Jewish communities, dating isn’t supposed to be a mere pastime. From the beginning of the Shidduch (a system in which Jewish singles are introduced to each other for marriage purposes), Jewish couples are already seen as prospective bride and groom.
“Judaism views marriage as the basis of human companionship and the cornerstone of Jewish community,” according to Jewish educational hub My Jewish Learning. “As the venue for fulfillment of the biblical commandment of p’ru u’rvu, be fruitful and multiply, Jewish marriage is also the basis of Jewish survival.”
Orthodox Jews need to follow many specific dating rules towards a single goal: to build a loving, stable, and long-lasting marriage.
Here are some Jewish dating rules and traditions and how they apply to modern dating.
The Role of Parents and Matchmakers in Jewish Dating
Ultra-Orthodox Jews meet potential partners through matchmakers called shadchans. The shadchans will typically work with both partners’ parents for a successful, family-approved match.
According to Chabad.org, “Today’s shadchan discreetly offers a valuable service, and many have a high success rate. The shadchan gathers information about eligible singles – either through interviewing them, or by speaking to their friends – and has a knack for matching people together.”
It’s common for some Orthodox Jewish people to date without the help of a matchmaker, although the parents’ take is still considered for the ultimate decision. After all, Orthodox Jews are strict about one of the Ten Commandments of Judaism, “honor thy father and thy mother.”
Prefer to Date Within Your Community
Some Jews are willing to marry non-Jews and commit to interfaith dating. Jewish people may face criticism from their own community if they marry non-Jews, especially in tight-knit ultra-orthodox communities. This is the reason why you’re unlikely to see Orthodox Jews sway from traditional dating principles.
There are plenty of opportunities to meet other Jewish singles in the local community, especially in bustling entertainment events offered by the synagogue. For the forward-thinking and more introverted Jews out there, apps like JDate and JSwipe present a great modern alternative to in-person dating.
If You’re Dating, Date to Marry
What is dating to Jewish people? A precursor to marriage, of course.
As the primary source of Jewish theology, the Talmud forbids marriage between a man and a woman until both of them fully consent to the match. If both parties aren’t mature enough to make that choice, or if they aren’t fully comfortable with each other, the marriage is unlikely to thrive.
Dating is reserved for a well-meaning man and a strong woman who have reached marriageable age and are seeking a soulmate to call theirs. Which is why if somebody hasn’t shown the potential to be a life partner, Orthodox Jews are allowed to move on and explore other promising options.
Date in Public
Public places make lovely dating spots. According to Jewish law, public places are not only primary location choices, but they’re also mandatory.
If a man and a woman are unmarried but willing to date, they shouldn’t meet in private places. According to online Jewish newspaper Hareetz, “the dates take place at sites where there is no chance that the couple will be alone – in a hotel lobby, perhaps, or in a café, where they usually order something to drink.”
Due to shomer negiah in Orthodox Judaism, a law which prohibits physical intimacy with people of the opposite sex before marriage, couples shouldn’t meet in secluded rooms when first getting to know a date.
Limit Physical Touch
While not all Jews follow the shomer negiah law, those who are should avoid all kinds of physical touch before marriage. Yes, even kissing, passionate hugging, and hand-holding.
Some Jews don’t see an issue with engaging in some sort of physical contact before marriage, as long as sex isn’t one of them. On the other hand, a few Orthodox Jews allow themselves to engage in sexual activity before finding a life partner. Due to a wide variety of perspectives, a potential couple should discuss their boundaries when it comes to physical intimacy before marriage.
In preserving the purity of sexuality and marriage, couples can connect on a much deeper level. The more devoted a Jewish single is to guarding physical touch for their spouse, the happier and healthier their relationship is likely to be.
“If dating is limited to conversation, then each successive date can bring new and more stimulating conversation, and a greater interplay of personality,” writes Rabbi Pinchas Stolper for Simple to Remember.
Avoid Breaking People’s Hearts
The obligation to not inflict any sort of pain, hurt, or embarrassment to another person applies to all Jewish men and women. It’s essential to avoid intentionally breaking a potential date’s heart or making them feel hurt in any way.
“As Jews, we take relationships between people much more seriously than does ‘society.’ Jewish society cannot tolerate a situation where a young woman, or a young man lets her or himself be used, taken advantage of, or hurt,” says Rabbi Pinchas Stolper.
The following tips could ensure that you have a stellar first date; even if that person ends up not being a match:
- Be interested in what your date is telling you. Allow them to ask you questions, but don’t hesitate to ask questions about them.
- It’s okay if you don’t “click” instantly. It often takes more than just one date for the chemistry to bubble up. Unless your gut is telling you that this isn’t the right person, don’t think twice about giving this person a second chance.
- Avoid blaming yourself if the date doesn’t go as expected. You should avoid hurting people’s feelings, including your own.
- Don’t leave anyone hanging! Be kind and brave enough to tell the person that things didn’t work out. While it doesn’t necessarily have to do with them, you have the freedom to keep looking for the person of your dreams.
Plan a Future Together
For Orthodox Jews, a date is seen as an opportunity to look at the bigger picture for both people involved. That’s why dates should mostly be focused in deep, engaging conversation.
The dates should be prepared to talk freely about their goals, values, family, and career paths. All of those details will be imperative for the purposes of finding a compatible life partner that shares a similar vision and is likely to stick around forever.
Speaking of Matchmaking…
Dating isn’t something you should do alone – especially if you’re looking for long-term commitment with a like-minded person.
There must be mutual dedication to find common goals, to learn about each other, and to cater to each other’s needs. Otherwise, finding one’s lifelong partner could take longer than expected.
For those willing to venture outside of Jewish singles events, matchmaking services like Tawkify are meant to help people find their soulmates. Having a matchmaker is like being set up by a mutual friend who knows both of you really well.
If you’ve always dreamed of finding your life partner but don’t know where to start, our expert matchmakers are your best bet. They will study your relationship history, preferences, and personality in detail. This way, you can have a better chance of finding (and keeping!) the bashert you wouldn’t have found anywhere else.