A Valentine’s Tribute: Online Dating, Rooted in Judaism

It was a humid Monday evening, typical for the month of July in Israel.  I had sought refuge in an air-conditioned lounge inside a hotel in the heart of Jerusalem.  It was 7:30pm and most of the tables were unoccupied.  I recall thinking that this dimly lit lounge, serving martinis and lattes, would be an ideal spot to bring a date and spend a quiet evening.  I likely spoke too soon!  Sure enough, with each passing moment, young couples kept walking in and, within no time, every table in the lounge was taken.

I called the waitress over and asked her whether this 8:00pm rush was characteristic of a regular evening and also wondered why the clientele seemed limited to nervous-looking young men and very elegantly-dressed, yet timid, young women.  The waitress leaned over and whispered the following: “shiduchim”.  Shiduchim is the Hebrew term used to describe the matchmaking process.  Indeed, this once quiet lounge was now filled with people on blind dates.

Curiosity peaked, so I seized the opportunity – no, not to acquire a last minute date of my own; mind you, maybe I should have – and started gathering some information.  I discovered that many of them met through online dating services.  I was fascinated and, admittedly, jealous.  Had I known that this online dating craze had become just as mainstream in Israel as in North America, both in secular and religious circles, perhaps I too would have leaped, feet first, into the action.  I could even have pre-arranged my dates before arriving in Israel.   What a concept: book your airline dates and your romantic dates at the same time (what an idea for a mileage points program!).

It makes sense.  Some say that Israel is second only to Silicon Valley in software and high-tech development.  Whereas we once had to search through volumes of Talmudic tractates to find a quote, today all we have to do is slide in a CD with the entire Talmud just a click away.   You can find sermons online, Torah online, Jewish learning online, and so on.   It only makes sense that dating inevitably followed suit.  Matchmakers were once the way to go, and now those same matchmaking skills are found in online dating services.

Throw away the phrase ‘a match made in Heaven’.  The more fitting term should now be ‘a match made in cyberspace’.

So, on this 14th of February, will I take the plunge into the endless pool of online dating options?  Time will tell, but I just might!  After all, the concept is inherently Jewish.  How will my journey end?  I leave that in the hands of God – who hopefully owns a Macbook.

About the Author
Ari Isenberg was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and currently serves as rabbi of Shaar Shalom Congregation in Halifax, Canada.
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