During my years working with converts and newly religious known as the “Baal Teshuva”, there came a time that they were ready to begin dating as observant Jews. It was clear that marriage was clearly the goal in meeting people of the opposite sex. In the beginning of this process, it was awkward and these students would seek guidance as to how to go about looking for a spouse.
Initially, I taught my students a simple formula of things to look for to see if it was worth pursuing a particular relationship. Later I realized that not only is this good advice during courtship, but it is also sound advice regarding who it is that we choose to let into our lives as friends or part of our households.
When one makes a choice that he wants to intensify his commitment to his heritage, it is not only a choice of more fervent observance of Jewish practices, but it is a decision that one wants to live a more meaningful life. This includes a definite awareness that he wants things to be better than they were before by looking at life through different lenses. This is a big step and in order to reach one’s goal, one must surround himself with positive influences.
The formula for choosing a spouse or a friend has three parts to it. The first condition is that because you have made it your lifelong goal of self improvement, you want to be around others who are also working on themselves. This is a basic principle of Judaism called, “Tikun Hanefesh”, or correcting the soul, where as long as there is breath within a person, he strives to reach greater spiritual heights. The task becomes much easier when one has a spouse or friend striving for the same thing where they encourage one another towards achieving this goal.
The second ingredient to our formula is the need to associate with people who have an appreciation of Jewish teachings and the importance of regularly studying traditional Jewish texts. If someone is on a date and wishes to share something interesting he learned, and the other person shows no interest in hearing it, that already is a warning that they are probably not compatible. The same holds true in a friendship. How are people to grow, if they don’t study?
The final part of our formula is that we need to distance ourselves from people who demonstrate that they possess a jealous nature. Jealousy is a terribly negative personality trait and if a spouse has jealous tendencies, it will be impossible to ever make them happy. They will always feel they need more. A so called friend who shows jealousy, will not really want you to succeed. Therefore, there cannot be a more clear sign of who to keep away from, than a jealous person.
This sounds fairly simple and straightforward but the feedback that I’ve received over the years has proven highly effective. Stick with friends and a potential marriage partner that has these three traits. They understand how essential it is to work at becoming a better person. They appreciate knowledge and Torah study. And they have removed from their nature all jealous tendencies. If this formula becomes the foundation of one’s personal view on life, he will acquire true friends and will create a potential marriage that will be filled with love and mutual respect, and most importantly, it will succeed and bring great joy and contentment.