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Jun 26, 2012

Questions I Hate (and Suggestions for Replacements)

I get all kinds of questions in dating, and people seem to answer specific questions in particular ways (regardless of how they are asked). Here are some of the more common ones and a few ideas I have and use in answering them.

1) What is your "look"?
     My Answer: I don't have a "look." I have some preferences, but hair color, eye color, height, age... are not as important to me as wanting to be around her, being proud of having her at my side. A woman with great character -and who wants me -is far more attractive than a picture perfect smile from a magazine. How many women do you know that would elicit those feelings?

2) What kind of personality are you looking for? 
     My Answer: I'm not picky about personality, per se. A little more outgoing or less outgoing isn't the biggest deal. A little more homey or outdoorsy doesn't make or break a marriage. I care about character -how does she handle differences between herself and others? Is she kind to herself and the people closest to her? How does she experience and interact with the world around her? What are her relationships with family and friends like? How does she act under tremendous stress and pressure? How does she handle anger (both her own and that of others)? How does she handle her own flaws, how does she feel about herself? I'm not looking for perfection, heaven knows my list of flaws is longer than my own new roll of toilet paper, but it's about how we handle them -individually and together. Admittedly, I do believe a little playfulness and laughter go a long way. Openness and receptivity are, I think, really important for all good relationships.

3) Do you want a woman who will cover her hair? (Alternatively: How do you want her to cover her hair?)
    My Answer: Tell me, do you know what covering hair means to her? Does she struggle with it? What does Halachah mean to her? Those are the important questions. We all struggle and have our own challenges, I want to know her values. Whether she covers one way or another isn't my greatest concern, it's engaging in the Halachah, struggling and working through it that I value more.

4) How many hours do you learn?
     My Answer: Let me tell you what learning means to me...

I'm going to stop here and ask -do you see a theme? Maybe it's just me (though I certainly hope not), but I think we need to start encouraging a different kind of question asking and answering process for dating. Instead of asking about details like how often someone goes to minyan or learns or whether she knows how to put on make-up, how about asking questions of values and meaning.

We all have a tough time with certain things, but instead of categorizing based on how many years the guy/gal went to HASC, how about asking what the experience of chessed is, what it means to the person? Because after 25 years of being married, the number of years in HASC matter a lot less than the value or perspective a person has in doing acts of loving kindness, or how they handle frustration -especially with their closest friends/family.

I certainly don't answer the questions that are asked of me much of the time, and I think that we have opportunities as single daters to change the questions that are being asked, if only we would answer the questions we want, and encourage our friends, family, matchmakers and websites to begin asking a different type of question.

I'll acknowledge that we often implicitly assume that something like one's kippah choice or time spent engaging in organized chessed represent something, but we have replaced seeking values with seeking culturally/communally determined outward expressions of those values instead. I don't think it's working very well. In fact, I think it's getting in the way of having the important conversations and focusing on the important values in dating, relationships and marriage. 


  1. I really like the way you offer constructive suggestions and not just criticism.

    As far as the other questions go - I agree that the way the other person feels about all these things is important- but what good is just feeling? Don't you need to act also?

  2. i also think that it is important to know the intention of a person in regards to level of frumkeit. its more definitive of frumkeit level than the actual actions

    1. Why do you think intention is more important than actions?

      For an example, let's take davening and two different people.
      If one said, "I'm passionate about davening, I've read all the commentaries about it and understand the significance of all the words, but, oh, I can't really find the time to do it."
      If the other said, "I daven three times a day, and I'm usually one of the first people on the shul, but I just don't understand all the words."

      Who do you think cares more about davening?

    2. Each cares, in their own way. And each struggles, in their own way. Who is to say one cares more? Why do we make such judgments or decide one cares more?

  3. I think both are important. Without action, a feeling, belief or thought may never come to fruition. Without the thought, belief or feeling, an action may be empty. That can be traced to the Talmudic question of whether Mitzvot/Commandments require Kavanah/Intent. Is it better to do the act consistently without intent or to do it less often with intent?

    Both are ways that we can express and know a person's values. While we can divide people into one side or another, I don't think most would simply fit into a category. It's rarely a simple trade-off (I believe the Talmud says that the intent is necessary, though doing the action will eventually lead to having the value/intent).

    We're complex, and express our values in many ways. I just think there is a current overemphasis on actions without understanding the way people think or what the act means to them.

  4. Actually, Judaism is a religion of action. Ideally, with a huge dose of emotion too.

  5. I just feel like I keep hearing people promote one or another side of this, and that, ideally, you should be able to integrate your feelings and emotions. As you said, Ish Yehudi, both are important and people are too complicated to be boxed in like that.

    Ruchi Koval, if Judaism is a religion of action, then why do the Aseret Hadibrot open up with a statement of belief and end with an action? Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can't Judaism be a way of combining emotion and action?