Is dating allowed in Judaism?
Jews worldwide have a substantially different approach to how they view their faith and observe religious laws and rituals. There are various religious denominations of Judaism, namely Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist. Each of these streams has its own beliefs and values about love, dating, and relationship. With changing times, the thought process has changed, and so has the attitude of Jews towards dating.
Dating in Judaism isn't frowned upon. However, they approach dating as a means to an end. In the orthodox Jewish community, parents, relatives, friends, and singles themselves are involved in the dating process. This process of finding a prospective partner is called Shidduch. As per Torah (Jewish laws), matchmaking is considered a mitzvah (commandment). The families seek the help of a professional matchmaker, who is called a Shadchan.
The process of Shidduch is mandated by Jewish law and is taken very earnestly. It allows men and women a chance to meet and be familiar with each other before they give their consent to the match.
The Talmud prevents a man from marrying a woman until he meets her and finds favor in her eyes for him. Similarly, it contains a woman to marry a man until she is ready for the proposed match. The Talmud beholds dating paramount for the holy matrimony, but it prohibits any physical intimacy or promiscuity before being bound lawfully in wedlock.
The tradition of Shidduch is similar to modern-day dating. It aims to ascertain if the person they are meeting matches their idea of a life partner. It is imperative to know the person and assess their qualities and values to have a harmonious and happy life with your partner.
Dating allows them to have candid private conversations, share their life goals and vision, express their emotions and feelings. Simply put, dating in Judaism is aimed at marriage, while it isn't the same as modern-day dating.
The Jewish way of dating is more intense and mindful. They put forth rationality before emotions, head before heart, and compatibility before attachment. It is a more prudent and healthy approach to dating.
In Judaism, dating is no game to be played for pleasure. Torah forbids dating for entertainment. An understanding of Kabbala states that dating without intending marriage is frivolous and ruins the sanctity of marriage or the relationship. Negiah (Jewish law about touch or physical contact between opposite sex) rules out any physical intimacy outside the marriage framework. Any intimacy or cohabitating before marriage violates the texts and teaching of Tanakh.
What does Judaism say about love?
Love is a confusing concept in the world today. The notions of love ingrained in our psyche and society are too superficial; it does not lead to a happy, healthy relationship. Love based on physical or sexual attraction is an expression of the body, not of the soul. It isn't love at all. It's infatuation.
Love is the foundation of Judaism. However, Judaism does not treat love as a paragon, a belief, a principle, or a concept. According to Judaism, love is an obligation, a duty, a responsibility, or a requirement.
The Torah defines love as the feeling of profoundly appreciating the virtues in someone, generated by giving yourself to them. Love is a deep appreciation of who someone is. The Torah describes Adam and Eve's love as “knowledge” – the basis of their love was understanding and appreciation of their inner being, not merely their physical looks.
The word for Love in Hebrew is “Ahava.” The middle two letters spell “hav,” which means “to give” in Aramaic. The more you give to a person, the more you love the person, and the more you appreciate the good virtues within them. It is about appreciating the other, giving to the other, and about moving beyond your wants.
Torah's core idea is to find love for other people. True love emerges from dedication. We often misunderstand our desires as love. But it is your dedication towards someone that takes you to a state of transcendence. That is why the Torah says that Issac got married, and then he loved her – in that order. Loving someone is in our hands; it isn't just a feeling; it is a choice we make. Through choosing to invest effort in giving to the other, the love grows. Love can thrive and grow. But without effort, it stays still and eventually declines.
Jewish Marriage Facts
Judaism states,” it is not suitable for man to be alone.” Therefore, God created the first human couple, Adam and Eve, to propagate and survive humanity.
In Judaism, marriage is the union of two souls becoming one. It is a divine union sanctified by God.
Jewish marriages are the Jewish community's foundation, a link between the past and the future generations. A Jewish wedding is a momentous event for the community as it fructifies and multiplies Jewish survival.
The wedding is the most significant event in the life of the couple. On the day of the wedding, the bride and groom are freed of all transgressions and wrongdoings. They achieve a divine status on this auspicious day. Family and friends attend the wedding to honor the spiritual union and bestow their blessings and good wishes on the couple.
The dating process starts with the Shidduch. The dating concludes to the wedding if the prospective matches find favor in each other's eyes. Once they agree to the match, they are engaged to marry. As per Jewish culture and tradition, the wedding ceremony has many rituals that symbolize spiritual connection.
Tena'im: The couple gets engaged in a ceremony called tena'im. The mother of the bride and groom breaks a glass plate to celebrate the engagement. It symbolizes the destruction of temples in Jerusalem, reminiscing the loss and the suffering of their people.
Wedding Day: A Jewish wedding can be held on any day of the week except during the Sabbath (Friday sunset till Saturday sunset). The wedding is also not held on traditional holidays such as Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Shavuot, and first and last days of Sukkot.
Wedding Dress: The bridal dress is generally white with a veil overhead to signify purity. The groom wears a Yarmulke and Tallit (a prayer shawl gifted by the bride) over a black morning suit.
Participation of Rabbi: A friend or family member with the permission of Rabbi can solemnize a Jewish wedding. However, most Jewish couples prefer a Rabbi to conduct a wedding as they are familiar with the wedding's laws and customs.
Personal Yom Kippur: Wedding is as important as Yom Kippur, the holiest and most auspicious day in the Jewish faith. This day is considered as one's personal Yom Kippur when all sins are forgiven. The couple observes fast on their wedding day to cleanse themselves of their past sins and purify their souls for the future union.
A week before the wedding
Uruf: Uruf is arranged for the groom in a synagogue, where he actively participates in the service and announces his wedding to the congregation. The members of the community celebrate the wedding announcement with sweets, food, and wine.
Mikveh: The bride visits the Mikveh. It is a ritual bath taken by the bride a week before the wedding to cleanse her soul and attain purity physically, mentally, and spiritually. With a supervisor's assistance, the bride immerses herself fully in the water while reciting a special prayer.
A Jewish wedding isn't a prolonged ceremony. It consists of two traditions and takes 30 minutes to officiate the wedding.
The two parts of the wedding ceremony include:
- The Kiddushin (betrothal ceremony)
- The Nisuin (wedding ceremony)
Traditionally, the two ceremonies were held a year apart, but they do it together in modern weddings.
Kabbalat Panim—The Pre-Wedding Reception
Before the wedding, a special reception is organized in honor of the bride and groom. The reception is held in two different rooms for the bride and groom. Traditionally, the couple cannot see each other a week before the wedding until badekan (veiling ceremony). The bride is congratulated and blessed with good wishes by her friends and family. While at the groom's reception, they sing songs and deliver words of Torah.
Ketubah: Before the wedding ceremony starts, a traditional marriage contract/ pre-nuptial agreement (ketubah) consented by both the parties is drawn up and signed by the couple and four witnesses in the officiator's presence. The contract enlists the obligations (emotional, physical, marital, and material) a husband must fulfill towards his wife during marriage, condition of inheritance on his death, support to his wife and children in events of separation or divorce.
The Kiddushin (Betrothal Ceremony): The first part of the Jewish wedding ceremony is called Kiddushin (sanctification). Kiddushin signifies the betrothal of the bride-to-be. Kiddushin starts with Badeken.
Badeken (Veiling ceremony): The Badeken ceremony takes place after the pre-wedding reception. The groom and his friends and family proceed to the bridal reception room to cover the bride's face with a veil. It symbolizes the greatness of inner beauty over the bride's external beauty. After the veiling ceremony, the groom's entourage proceeds towards the Chuppah.
The wedding processions
After Badeken, the parents of the bride and groom escort them to the Chuppah. The escorts lock elbows with the bride and groom while accompanying them to the Chuppah. All the escorts hold candles (symbolizing light and joy) during this wedding procession.
Chuppah: The wedding ceremony takes place outdoors in a canopy called Chuppah. The Chuppah symbolizes the home and the family the couple is going to build together.
The groom arrives at the Chuppah first, where he awaits his bride. As the bride comes to the Chuppah, she encircles the groom several times before they stand side by side. The cantor welcomes everyone on behalf of the couple and graces the occasion by singing hymns and songs and chanting prayers.
The betrothal: The groom gives the bride a simple gold ring (a full circular gold band without a break or ornamentation) and declares: “Behold, you are betrothed to me by this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel.” It is the most memorable moment of the Jewish wedding ceremony. The blessing precedes the ring ceremony over wine.
It is customary to read aloud the signed ketubah under Chuppah to the guests at the wedding. Mazel tov!!! With this, it is the end of the betrothal part of the ceremony.
The ketubah is handed over to the bride, and it is rightfully hers throughout their marriage.
The Nisu’in (Wedding ceremony): The concluding part of the ceremony is called the nisu'in. It takes place in the Chuppah.
Sheva Brachot—the “Seven Benedictions”: The Rabbi who officiates the wedding holds a cup of wine and recites the blessing over the wine and the betrothal blessing for the newlywed couple. These seven blessings are recited by the Rabbi and selected guests while holding a cup of wine. The bride and groom take a sip from the cup of wine.
Smashing the glass of wine
The wedding ceremony ends with the groom breaking the glass with his foot. The cup of wine is wrapped up in a cloth and placed under the groom's feet to be smashed by him. It is done in the memory of the ruined holy temple. It denotes how the couple, family, and friends haven't forgotten the past's struggles and sufferings even in their joyous moments.
As the groom smashes the glass, everyone is jubilant and congratulates the couple with celebratory Mazel Tovs.
Yichud (seclusion): After all the rituals and ceremonies, the couple retires to Yichud room to spend some alone time. It symbolizes the consummation of marriage. The couple breaks the wedding day fast in the yichud room and exchange gifts.
The Wedding Party
The couple returns to the wedding party after spending some time alone in the private room. Wedding guests welcome them with cheers of Mazel tov!!!
The wedding party is a merry and joyous event. It is all about celebratory music, singing, dancing, and festive meal. Traditionally, the feast begins when the groom recites the hamotzie blessing on challah (an oversized traditional bread), which is sliced and shared with the guests.
The couple spends the next few days celebrating the union with friends and family. The new couple is supposed to eat meals with a minyan and recite the seven blessings.
Jewish Dating Culture and Traditions
The Jewish community has always been open to the culture of dating. However, it differs from our understanding of conventional dating. There is no swiping right or left on what you see on the screen of your phones.
Traditional Jewish dating has a very restricted approach to dating. Dating (A shidduch) is limited to finding the bashert. One cannot take it casually. The whole dating process is done prudently and rationally to reach the ultimate goal of finding a suitable life partner.
A person's character, intellect, financial stability, family background, physical attributes, and religious observance level are considered during the dating process. Moreover, family, friends, relatives, and a shadchan are involved in the process of marriage.
The prospective matches meet several times in public places or in the presence of family and friends to get to know each other before taking the giant leap of marriage. The number of dates before they announce their decision varies. Some may continue dating for several months, while others can decide within few dates. According to Tzniut, the traditional Judaism outlook prohibits any kind of physical intimacy between prospective marriage partners.
Suppose one of the people isn't convinced about the potential match; in that case, the shadchan is intimated. Similarly, if both men and women feel they have found the right match, they can announce it to their families, who will reward Shadchan for their services and plan the engagement and wedding celebration.
As per the Jewish tradition, matchmaking is a noble task done by Shadchan (a Jewish matchmaker), but with the changing times and needs and advent of technology, traditional matchmaking has taken a backseat. Simultaneously, online dating sites serve as a one-stop solution to find love that lasts every day.
Jewish singles have taken over the reins of finding bashert in their own hands. It has changed the dating scene significantly. The shadchan is no longer the only means of finding a suitable love match for single Jewish men and women. While the shadchan still offers a valuable service to devout Jews, most single Jews prefer to rely on contemporary way meeting matches.
They have started exploring other avenues. Meeting people at synagogue, participating in programs and classes, attending events and retreats, signing up on Jewish and mainstream dating sites facilitating matches based on religion. It manifests how finding a suitable match within one's faith is paramount in the Jewish community. Specialist dating sites offer a convenient way to connect with a mate of the same faith looking for a serious connection.
Jewish dating can range from dating a secular person within the religion to someone who is highly devoted. In today's time and date, dating a Jewish man or woman has no absolutes at all. They believe in diversity, which makes a Jewish dating experience exciting and meaningful.
Many Jews have adopted a new custom termed Jewish Speed dating. Under this arrangement, individuals are paired with different potential matches for around ten minutes to see sparks and chemistry between them. During the brief meeting, the prospective partners share information about hobbies, interests, religion, and family. Speed dating has given traditional Jewish dating a complete makeover and has proven very successful.