By Rabbi Daniel Schneierson
Question: Why is it that many younger guys and girls think that there should be “chemistry” by the second or third date in order to continue?
Answer: The word “Chemistry” strikes a mixed cord in my heart. When I took Chemistry in 10th Grade, our teacher was trying to teach us College Level Chemistry. I wasn’t doing too well most of the year, but as they say “Hakol Hoilech Achar Hachasimah”- so when the Regents came around, the other kids in the class predicted I would score one of the lowest grades, I said “Enough is enough – I am not going to take this lightly!”
Then great Siyata Dishmaya took place. It was delivered through a Shliach who told me: “Just use the Barron’s book and take practice tests.” That was the first time I ever stayed up until 3am studying for a test. It was a case of Magbiah Shefalim and I got a 95! I was just as surprised as everyone else, including my teacher. So the word “Chemistry” even though it had a difficult start, has a warm place in my heart.
Now, let us answer this excellent question, what about chemistry in dating?
The answer is that our Hashkafos are molded by what we observe. The notion that Chemistry is a necessary ingredient to justify going out on a 3rd date, came into the world sometime after World War 2. This idea seems to have had a snowball effect exacerbated by the bombardment of romantic tales courtesy of Hollywood’s TV and non-heimishe novels. So basically it goes like this: if Society has convinced most people that the end game is “Romance,” then it certainly makes sense to search for that magical feeling of Chemistry. Based on this view, if the Chemistry ain’t there by Date # 3, it’s time to head for the hills – or the next shidduch that awaits. Why waste any more of precious time if there could be some magical person soon to appear in my shidduch view mirror? However that is where the mistake lies – this reasoning is all based on the False notion that the end game is Romance and that Romance is what makes a marriage solid/stable/happy.
Every family and each individual has to look at themselves in the mirror and ask, “Do we want to live a life with Hollywood Hashkafos or do we want our lives to be guided by the Emes? Of course we ditch Hollywood for Emes! As our Gemarah states: “Chosamo Shel Hakodosh Baruch Emes.” So too we find in Pirkei Avos: “Al Shlosheh Devarim Haolam Kaiyam…Al Ha’emes.”
Let us look at our roots, our Avos and Imahos. In Klal Yisroel’s founding relationships, the Torah doesn’t mention romance once! In fact almost the exact opposite – Avrohom Aveinu said “Hinai naw yadati ki isha yifas mareh at.” (Now I know Sarah that you are a beautiful woman). Rashi asks the bomb question: Avrohom has been married to Sarah for decades; Is this the first time that he notices she is pretty. One answer that Rashi says is: Due to Sarah’s immense tznius, even her own husband didn’t totally recognize her beauty. Yet the Torah mentions Sarah, Rivka and Rochel Imainu were beautiful looking. Why?
This may lead one to the misconception that the ikar to look for in a wife is beautiful looks. However if you look at the whole picture you see Sarah was a big tzadekes alst tznius (she was very modest). She really worked on herself to make sure to focus her life goals, on building up her Pinimiyus, and didn’t focus on her Gashmius. Also, a famous Chassidish Rebbe said when the Torah says at the beginning of Parshah Chaya Sarah: “Vayihiyu Chayei Sarah Meah Shana V’esrim Shana V’sheva Shanim Shnai Chayai Sarah” and Rashi asks why Shana had to be said 3 times? Rashi answers: Bas Meah K’bas Chof L’chait and bas Chof (20 years old) K’bas Zayin (7 years old) L’yofee which seems to indicate that a 7 year old is more attractive than a 20 year old. However practically this is not true. So the Rebbe answered: “The following is Rashi’s kavanah: to indicate that Sarah Imainu at the peak of her beauty at 20 years old acted like a 7 year old. Just like a 7 year old girl does not try to attract attention from men, so too Sarah Imainu didn’t seek such attention even at 20 years old.
Rachel Imainu was a big Tzakekes as she basically gave away her husband so her sister Leah would not be embarrassed. Many meforshim say that when Rachel let Leah take her place under the chuppah to marry Yaakov, that Rachel Imainu was not aware that she herself would still marry Yaakov.
Rivka Imainu’s great maalos were her immense chesed and thoughtfulness/kind eye. The test Eliezer put her through was to see if she had an Ayin Tova (a kind eye) and if she was superior in the middah of Chesed. As we know she passed the test, or more accurately, she scored 100 on the test.
In contrast to these beautiful middos tovos, “Romance” comes from the root word “roman.” As in the Roman people, the nation that destroyed our Heiligeh Bais Hamikdash and put us into Galus. Amongst non-Jews, with their emphasis on romance, the divorce rate is approaching 60%, showing that the Hollywood emphasis over the last fifty plus years has been sheker and has ruined marriages much more often than helping them. So should we follow this secular thinking? Lichorah Bichukosaihem Lo Salaichu.
This rejection of romance should not be confused with attraction, which Chazal fully support. A man shouldn’t be repulsed but should be attracted to his own wife- (Gemarah in Kiddushin 41A) Sefer Hachinuch in explaining the reason behind the Mitzvah of “Viseemach Es Ishto Asher Lakach”- Shanah Rishonah- says: A man should establish such a strong bond with his wife by the end of the first year of marriage that others should look like strangers to him – and not be attractive- but rather his wife should look like the most beautiful woman in the world to him. Ha-shem gave us this as a Brachah- otherwise almost every man would want to marry the one absolute prettiest woman in his town and the world wouldn’t function btznius, in an ehrlich manner.
So the Answer is that when many younger guys and girls think that there needs to be “chemistry” by the second or third date in order to continue, they are WRONG. Instead, follow our Chazal, who state repeatedly that when looking for a spouse a person should look for Middos, Middos, Middos, Torah, Yiras Shamayim and similar. Singles in shidduchim should remember that the root cause of Ahavah is giving. In Aramaic the middle of the word Ahavah “hav” means to give. True Ahavah can only be attained by giving and giving and giving to another person. That is why parents love their children more than anyone else in the world – because the parents give so much to their children over their lifetime.
Sorry to the Romantics out there, but true Ahavah can only be achieved after marriage! So when dating, couples do not need to reach chemistry by the 2nd or 3rd date – unless they want to work in a Medical Lab together! Rather those in Shidduchim should focus on getting to know the other person and his/her middos and try to give to the other person in a permissible way.
I’m involved a great deal with out of town shidduchim. It’s interesting to note that often the person who traveled about 4 hours to get to the date wants to go out a second time, while the person who did not travel is often not interested to continue. This demonstrates that the giver (who traveled 4 hours) feels more connected to the other person (the one who didn’t give). Giving, Giving, and Giving is what establishes true lasting bonds/marriages. So don’t let ‘chemistry’ short circuit what could be an amazing shidduch, possibly your true Bashert!
Rabbi Daniel Schneierson is Shoel Umaishiv in Yeshiva PTI in Passaic NJ (www.ptiweb.org) and has been working the majority of his time in the past year crafting different Shidduch entities/initiatives. Daniel has been involved in setting up Shidduchim for approximately 20 years and is currently President of Shidduchim Yeshorim.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.