May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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‘The Water Gets Cold’

Every Friday night, Jewish men and women ask Hashem: “Taher lebenu leavdecha be-emet”—Purify my heart to serve you with sincerity.” During prayer, this powerful line prompts me to undergo spiritual introspection: Hashem, why do I care more about getting into graduate school than my grandpa’s health? Hashem, why do I deem the acquisition of a pretty wife more important than learning Torah? Help me understand what really matters and what’s shtus—nonsense.

Genuine servants of Hashem act yashar across every life domain. At the office, they speak honestly to clients and co-workers. At home, they show siblings and parents extreme amounts of patience. During shidduch dating, they search high and low for a prospective partner’s internal beauty. Last week, this non-genuine author performed romantic introspection on shidduch dating’s most sensitive topic.

It happened on Thursday. Door closed, lights off, cell phone set to silent, I pondered the yichud room fiasco. What is the yichud room fiasco? Close your eyes and imagine the following scene: You and the woman you love stand underneath a white colored marriage chuppah. Ten feet away, close friends and family sit atop 500 white folding chairs. Simcha Leiner sings the song “Im Eshkachech, Yerushalyim.” Following a memorable Leiner encore, you use your right shoe to smash a piece of glass.

After the glass shatters, guests between the ages of 19 and 27 begin to jump and clap simultaneously. A soft, unfamiliar palm squeezes against your hand. For the first time, your hand has touched your wife’s hand. Goosebumps spread across your suit pant-covered knees. Fast-paced notes of the song “Od Yishama” play out loud.

Hands together, you and your wife skip and dance to the yichud room. During this trek, friends and family jump up and down to scream “Od Yishama, beAryeh Yehudah. Uh Bechutzat Yerushalayim.”

The yichud room doors close. Alone, you pull in your wife to kiss her for the first time. A song from your childhood begins to play in your head: “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. A snapshot of fireworks from the Disney castle display in your mind.

Your lips connect.

Several seconds later, the following thoughts enter your mind: That’s it? Where’s the fireworks? Where’s that awesome feeling Bruno Mars sings about? I pushed away tons of awesome, fun, frum, amazing girls. For what? A kiss with this girl? The physical experience did not live up to my hype. What now?

Often, single guys make good looks a major priority for their prospective spouse. Thinking out loud, I wonder why I deem good looks super-essential for a marriage. Perhaps the following hedonistic romantic thought process influences my brain: Life’s about having fun and getting pleasure. Marrying a pretty girl will create more pleasurable moments of hugs and hand-holding than marrying an average looking girl.

Four weeks ago, a Midwestern missionary on the A train provided a counterargument to this romantic hypothesis: The act of physically embracing your spouse is like a hot bath. The first few years, the water feels really nice. However, nine, 10 years later, the water gets cold. You gotta do other stuff to keep a marriage going. You know, talk out ideas together, raise children; eventually, the water gets cold. A marriage based on purely physical attraction will lose its spark.

Last week, on the way to a wedding, my Uber driver and I shared a similar conversation. Ten minutes away from Marina del Rey, I unleashed a question from the backseat of Gerald’s Toyota Highlander. “Do you have any advice about marriage? My rabbi says there are always available girls out there, but most people overlook them for the wrong reasons. I know nobody’s perfect. My desires tell me to marry a super-attractive person. But my heart wants to marry a giver. What do you think?”

Eyes unblinking and road focused, Gerald provided a memorable reply. “Before I got married, I dated a beautiful girl. She was this and that. But one time, I covered my eyes and saw her for what she was. She always asked for money to keep up her looks. She never wanted to hear my challenges. Her education was not strong.”

A hard exhale emanated from the West African Uber driver. “My wife now isn’t as pretty as this other girlfriend. But you know what? She’s so much better. She likes to hear about my challenges. She has a master’s degree. She cares about our children. It’s about the girl’s values and beliefs.”

Gerald’s words echo music singer John Legend’s famous song lyrics. “All of me loves all of you.” The song does not say, “All of me loves her looks,” or “All of me loves her high-paying job.” It says all of me loves everything about her. Not just one feature.

Coincidentally, the lyrics in “All of Me” mimic a mishnah in Pirkei Avot. “Kol Ahavah Shetulah Bedavar, Baylah Davar, Batlah, ahava—Any love that is dependent on one factor, if that factor disappears, so does the love.”

Fellow humans, listen to our rabbis’ advice. Pursue a girl or guy for the right reasons. Don’t let fantasies of short-term physical pleasure dictate life’s most important decision. The water gets cold.

To quote my rebbe: “Doing the right thing is not easy, but it’s always worthwhile, even though it sometimes takes a while to appreciate that decision.”

To quote an old friend: “If you’re going to be picky with girls, they’re going to be picky right back. Midah kineged midah.”

To quote a mentor: We live in a fake world that values fake things. Swim against the tide.

To quote a YU rabbi: “Caring a ton about looks is borderline harlotry.

To quote a YU Rosh Yeshiva: See yourself as important, but don’t exaggerate your own importance,

To quote the rabbi of a Manhattan shul: If you’re holding for a girl that checks off all your boxes on paper, you’ll have one date a year.

To quote a friend from Riverdale: “The invention of makeup was a horrible idea.”

To quote a rabbi from Silver Spring: Every Jewish girl is beautiful.

To quote a veteran YU rabbi: “I don’t care if five girls in a row say no, a Jew never gives up hope.”

To quote a shadchan from New York: “Everyone has something. The right person just won’t care.”

The water gets cold.

Name Withheld Upon Request


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