On Monday evening, February 14, Emet Outreach featured Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel in a virtual shiur on true love. Rebbetzin Kigel greeted everyone and shared that February 14 is not a Jewish holiday, but it happened that this year, Purim Katan came out on this date.
She began by stating that, every week, her husband buys her flowers and serenades her. It isn’t a once-a-year thing, like the non-Jews have on February 14; rather, for Jewish women its weekly. He sings Eishes Chayil and brings her red roses for Shabbos. She pointed out that the messages in Disney movies and Hollywood have seeped into our consciousness and they do not depict true love or the Jewish view of love and marriage. Their basic premise is that you are destined for someone, and you don’t even have to have a conversation, and you just sail off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Plotlines in soap operas include infidelity.
In contrast, the Torah says that stolen waters are sweeter, and that is the idea behind the laws of Jewish family purity. Half of the month, the husband and wife cannot have a physical relationship and that strengthens the bond in marriage, making those times when they can be together sweeter. Hollywood confuses lust with love. The secular message is we fall in love and it’s not a conscious decision. We could fall in love with someone abusive. Judaism, on the other hand, teaches us that we step into a relationship and we are in control. We make the choice to have a relationship with someone based on common values and character traits.
The secular view views love as an accidental occurrence based on physical chemistry primarily, as opposed to the Jewish view, which is that it’s a decision based on important traits and values, and of course including physical attraction. The secular view says, I couldn’t help myself. I don’t have control. The Hollywood view is that we could be so wrong for each other in important ways, but the chemistry is so right!
Judaism teaches us that we all possess a soul that helps us to make moral choices. “True freedom is the ability to refrain from what I (my body) want to do.” In Judaism we have the concepts of being shomer n’giah and of yichud, and that a man shouldn’t look at forbidden things. Pirkei Avos teaches us that the person who conquers his yeitzer is the person who is strong. He has self-mastery.
Judaism stresses common respect. Rebbetzin Kigel noted that sometimes girls look for the wrong type of man. They want a guy with tons of swag who is “cool.” She advised single women to look for the guy in the corner who isn’t so curated and well-spoken necessarily, but he has a good heart and shares your values. Looks and money are not the criteria for long-term happiness. These are conditional and they can fade. You need to look for the inner core and what is your dealbreaker list. “Look for a quality guy who will treat you well.”
There is a secular belief that physical intimacy will lead to marriage and that is not true. The Jewish way is to determine if he is compatible spiritually and then invest yourself emotionally. In the beginning of a relationship, it is important to talk about goals and values. Also, the Hollywood idea that the click or the electricity happens right away is not true. It’s very rare. Most women found that the attraction grew over time, as they saw more and more good things in the persons they were dating.
Rebbetzin Kigel advised that “we date with our head and then bring our heart along.” She acknowledged that marriage takes work. “Hard is good according to Judaism. It means you are working on something of value. Marriage is happily ever after… with a lot of work!”
She shared that we are subconsciously influenced by Hollywood’s view of love. When she interviews a client and the young woman says she is looking for someone cool, this clues her in that she was exposed to media and the secular view of love. Cool is not a Jewish vocabulary word. Cool means he is putting an image out there and it doesn’t have a connection to inner character. The image of fantasy love undermines the Jewish idea of a deep, meaningful relationship. Hollywood doesn’t promote real love of real people.
The foundation of a Jewish marriage is friendship. I wouldn’t say that romance is “icing on the cake,” but it is definitely secondary to the important qualities we’re looking for, including friendship. The couple needs to have mutual respect and to view themselves as a team. They need to commit to holiness in their physical relationship. Both people need to know that G-d is watching. She added that this is a big deterrent to infidelity, knowing that G-d is watching you all the time.
With marriage, you need to know that there is commitment and hard work involved. Hollywood is a detriment to singles. It overprioritizes work, money, and being cool. Attraction is necessary in a marriage, but it can’t be the main show. It has to be a part of the picture. Character traits, common goals and values, mutual respect, and being growth-oriented are all the important things to look for in a spouse. Will he humble himself by talking with a mentor or rebbe? She taught, that a single woman should make sure that her potential spouse is growth-oriented and he has someone in his life like a rebbe to whom he will humble himself. Also, see if he treats you with dignity and respects your boundaries.
If you compare someone to a fake image, this will cause disappointment with reality and this causes marital problems. The Hebrew word for love, ahavah, has the root hav, which means to give. To increase love in marriage, you need to give to your husband. Giving is contagious. “You can effect a lot of change in marriage by doing something different.”
She shared ideas from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Love wants to give, and lust wants to take. Love is reciprocal and identifies wants and needs of others. The Jewish concept of love in marriage is the idea from the Torah that states, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Rebbetzin Kigel pointed out that the only person we actually choose in our family is our spouse. We want the cleaving and connection that comes from choosing to love. “Marriage is a day-by-day choice of coming closer.” Your spouse’s happiness should be as important to you as your own. When both spouses develop the quality of giving, their life is filled with happiness.
She shared that man and woman were originally one being. On a soul level, we remember being one, and that is the reason we are drawn to our husband.
Rabbi Dovid Fohrman wrote that we are connecting to someone so deeply that we try to anticipate that person’s needs and desires. True chesed is anticipating others’ needs.
Yir’as Shamayim means I value my relationship so much that I wouldn’t want to put distance in it. It’s the same with our spouse. “Marriage is the best Petri dish to work on becoming a giver. The Jewish definition of marriage is in the Hebrew word for marriage, nisuin, which has the root nasa (to carry). Nisuin means to carry a burden of another person.
Rebbetzin Kigel taught that “true love challenges us to overcome selfishness.”
Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel has coached, bli ayin ha’ra, 192 young women and helped them to go to the chupah. Her upcoming book on dating will be a true gift to klal Yisrael along with her series on dating. If you are interested in helping to contribute to publishing her dating book, you can reach out on her website, www.devorahkigel.com.
By Susie Garber