On Sunday evening, July 14, a crowd gathered at the Beth Gavriel Center for an eye-opening shiur on dating with purpose, given by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, renowned speaker, on behalf of Chazaq. Rabbi Rietti involved the audience as he began by asking people to share qualities they hope to find in their future spouse.

The audience suggested the following: good midos, yir’as Shamayim, giving, generous heart, caring, sensitive, selfless, responsible, trustworthy, honest, pleasant, faithful, patient, financially responsible, healthy emotionally and physically, chemistry.

Rabbi Rietti then asked the audience, “If the person you date scores ten out of ten for each of the qualities you are looking for, would you get engaged? What will hold you back from becoming engaged? When people suggested answers like consistency or they added other qualities, he advised them to add those things to their list. If the person had ten out of ten for everything and still wasn’t ready to become engaged, then he needs to identify what is missing.

He shared, “You can’t know the future.” He agreed that ten out of ten on both sides doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage. Circumstances change and what you are looking for may change. He shared a few true stories that illustrated this idea. There was a man who fell in love with a woman in her early 20s. What impressed him was that she built a life for herself despite having been abused and rejected by her father at a very young age. She built a successful business and demonstrated the quality of resilience despite her difficult childhood. Less than a year into her marriage, her father died, and she fell into a depression. She had held out hope of her father apologizing to her, and now that couldn’t happen.

Rabbi Rietti shared: You see from this example that “you could check off everything, but you can’t guarantee what will happen in the future or how your spouse will respond.”

“It’s not whom you marry,” he emphasized. “It’s never whom you marry. It’s who you think they are. “The person you marry is not his or her body; you marry a sharing of minds.” He asked, “Are you the same as you were five years ago? We all grow and mature in different ways. Whomever you marry will not be the same in five years, and you will not be the same either. People change based on lots of variables.”

In marriage, what makes us happy is how we deal with the differences in each other. “It’s not the differences. It’s how well we get along with the differences.” It’s not realistic to want your spouse to become like you. He added, “People get divorced because they think they can’t handle the differences.”

He went on to elaborate. “It’s not whom you marry that is important. The only person you control is yourself.” He suggested that we ask ourselves, “How confident am I that, entering marriage, I will be loving, respectful, sensitive, etc., even when there are differences?”

“It’s not whom we marry that we should be afraid of; it’s who am I?”

He taught that the purpose of dating is about becoming a better me. Ask myself how I will be respectful when differences come between us. “It’s never the differences. It’s how you deal with the differences.”

He shared a story about the Chofetz Chaim, whose mother was a widow and she remarried. In those days, a widow had to marry someone who was not necessarily the same caliber as she was. This man was coarser than her, and he was set on his daughter marrying the Chofetz Chaim who was only 17 at the time. The Chofetz Chaim agreed to marry her because he understood that it’s not whom you marry; it’s who you are, when entering marriage, that is important.

Rabbi Rietti suggested that you ask yourself guided questions before you start to date, such as: I wonder what I will learn about myself during this date? What will I learn about my midos in my list.

He taught that G-d wired us to be people of reciprocation, as it states in the famous quote from Mishlei: Just as water reflects your facial expression, so are the mind and heart reflected between people. (Proverbs 27:10 – “As water reflects a face back to a face, so one’s heart is reflected by to him by another.”)

He taught that this pasuk in Mishlei is a mashal: “Everything you feel is a reflection of what you are thinking.” He added that the Hebrew word for heart, lev, means mind. People reflect what one thinks of them.

He continued: As I am dating, I need to ask myself how I am improving in kindness, consideration, and understanding. How am I taking interest in you?

He added that to show interest in another person, you find out what he or she likes the most, and you get interested in it even if it does not interest you.

He emphasized the idea that you can’t change another person. We need to ask ourselves how we can become more of the qualities we are looking for in our future spouse.

He suggested some ways to engage the date in conversation and to build a rapport in relationship. “Rapport is everything in relationships. It means sincere interest in the other person.”

Find out what they enjoy most about life. What are their outstanding memories of childhood?

He advised that we are here to fix ourselves, and we should invest ourselves in every date, even if we are not marrying this person. Try to be more empathetic and respectful.

He shared some practical things to think about before going on a date. What insights will I have about myself in how I can improve my midos from going on this date? I wonder what I’ll be impressed by in this other person. He stressed that upfront we should expect to find good in this person.

He shared that shalom bayis, according to Rav Nachman of Breslov, is joining two opposites. Two people have differences and come together. Shalom comes from the Hebrew word shaleim, which means “complete.”

Hashem should bring the zivug b’karov to all the singles in klal Yisrael.

By Susie Garber