Yisrael New, Jerusalem, Israel
MyLife Essay Contest 2018
The layout of this essay is simple. First, I will concisely present the issue I wish to address. Next, I will loosely translate a Ma’amar from the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe and, following each segment, suggest an application. To conclude, I will extract from the material a focused approach to address the issue presented.
We are currently in the midst of a major “marital crisis” not exclusive to the Orthodox and even Jewish communities. More than ever now, vibrant young men enter their twenties equipped with the energy and support to raise beautiful upstanding families, only to find dating painful, aimless, and frustratingly unproductive. What is inhibiting so many men from converting date into engagement?
The decline in younger people getting married is a complex issue, involving many different factors, beyond the scope of this essay. The particular issue I wish to address is the lack of direction rampant among many men of marriageable age. Applying the Chassidic exploration of what was the primary reason for creation, the possible crux of the issue is exposed, namely, that what many men seek out of dating can be achieved without getting married, and in order to date properly it is crucial that the goal of the date be one that necessitates marriage. Using this insight I will introduce a model I have dubbed ACT, to arm any man with a solid game-plan for optimal dating.
Creation = Marriage
Creation, in the context of this essay, is the transition from “G-d in solitude,” to “G-d the creator of created beings.” Prior to creation G-d was alone, following creation, entities who perceive themselves as separate came into existence. Thus, G-d’s transition from solitude to creator strongly resembles marriage—when one leaves a state of solitude and enters into marital union.
It is well-known, that Man is created in the image of G-d. The implications of being created in the image of G-d, is that we are similar and so we function, as it were, in a very similar way. To add emphasis to the latter point, not only do we function similarly to G-d, by aligning ourselves with the way G-d chooses to function, we uncover our true mode of functioning. Thus, by analyzing any aspect of G-d we can learn much about the genuine function of the corresponding aspect within us. This provides us with a crystal clear map with which to align ourselves to.
Thus, the compelling question beginning Hemshech Samach Vov, “What drove G-d to create the world?” can be fairly substituted into, “What drives men to marry woman?” And the Rebbe Rashab’s conclusion, as well as the logic he employs to reach it, can be borrowed to clarify how dating should ideally be approached.
From solitude to union
Ma’amar: Prior to creation, G-d’s infinite light filled all of space. At this stage the light was too intense and overwhelming for creation to take place. So, G-d contracted His infinite light, leaving over a vacuum of some sort, void of any light (in a nonliteral sense). Then, G-d shone into the vacuum a measured beam of light which could fill (and also create) vessels/worlds without overwhelming them. Following many subsequent contractions and veils (various forms of diminishment) the physical world came into existence. Now, although a supremely diminished light was revealed below at the outset of creation, through our fulfillment of His commandments and Study of the Torah we will transform this lowly world into a vessel capable of containing G-d’s infinite light.
Application: The fashion in which G-d created the world clearly mirrors the transition from being a single man to being married. Prior to marriage, a young-man’s attention is centered almost entirely on themselves. This hyper-attentiveness brings a certain sense of comfort. Once married however, his attention must dramatically shift to others. A young-man may find this shift extremely constricting—suddenly it’s not all about you. Yet once married, he and his wife can develop their relationship, and even surpass the point of comfort they were when fully attentive to themselves.
Work in Progress
A good example of this process is a children’s math teacher who wishes to teach his students algebra. The teacher will not begin by teaching them algebra, for doing so would surely overwhelm his students. Rather, he will first teach them basic arithmetic followed by subtraction and so on, until the students’ capacity has matured to the desired level. Only then, will the teacher teach his students Algebra. Similarly, in the beginning of creation an extremely diminished form of light shone in this physical world yet through steady maturation by fulfilling Torah and mitzvot we gain the capacity for G-d to dwell below without us being overwhelmed. The same applies to the beginning of any relationship, where a man must be careful to not overwhelm his spouse by sharing himself entirely on the first date. Rather, he must put himself aside and gradually, as their relationship grows, give himself over more and more.
Ma’amar: But why does G-d go through the “trouble” of creating such an elaborate and sophisticated system? If G-d’s Infinite Light filled all of space prior to the original contraction, and ultimately G-d’s Infinite Light will be revealed within creation, it seems to be of no consequence if there are worlds, or not!
Application: Why should a young-man be driven to accept upon himself all the constrictions of marriage? If he feels quite comfortable when single and the goal of marriage is to reach a similar level of comfort within a marriage, why bother, and definitely why rush?!
Ma’amar: One of the three reasons for creation brought by the Rebbe Rashab comes from the writings of the Arizal, where it says that G-d created the world in order to complete Himself by actualizing His potential. This means that, although G-d is surely beyond potential, and necessitates all, on a lower level however, it is appropriate to say G-d has potential for kindness, judgment, and so on. And it was these potentials that G-d wished to actualize through creation, and thereby complete Himself.
Application: A young-man may look to date because he feels incomplete. All humans are filled with the potential to be sensitive, dominant affectionate and so on, and actualizing, i.e., expressing these potentials is a deep need. Thus, one reason a single man may pursue marriage is to find a special somebody and complete himself by expressing his latent potential.
Ma’amar: While G-d’s potential was surely actualized as a result of creation, we cannot say that this was the primary reason for creation. Why not? Unlike by a human, whose potential to think and his actual thought are sequentially separate, with G-d, potential and actualization happen simultaneously. Therefore, the purpose of actualizing G-d’s potential would have been accomplished at spiritual levels entirely beyond our physical universe and as a result, there would have been no need for its creation. The fact that this physical world exists, proves that there is a deeper reason compelling creation.
Application: Although the desire to express one’s latent potentials can be satisfied through marriage, on a superficial level, they can be satisfied far easier without tying the knot. Technically, a man with a girlfriend can express sensitivity, dominance, affection and the like. In many ways he can express himself far more effectively then he would be able to under the restraints and pressures of marriage, why than should he feel compelled to constrict himself by getting married?!
“To be Known”
Application: Another way a young-man may approach dating is to meet somebody who “gets” him. Humans are complex. Each one has gone through numerous experiences variably different from anybody else’s. This complexity can lead to feelings of isolation, and evoke a deep need to be understood. Thus, another reason a young-man may pursue marriage is to meet someone who “gets him.”
Ma’amar: While this purpose was certainly achieved through creation, we cannot say that this was the absolute purpose. The reason is for this is because G-d is known far better in the higher more spiritual worlds, so there would be no necessity for the creation of our physical world. It turns out that Divine consciousness in our physical world is at the lowest possible level. Knowledge of G-d can be divided into two categories: knowledge of His essence (a higher form of knowledge) and knowledge of His existence (a lower form). In our physical world, not only can we not fathom what G-d essentially is, G-ds existence itself is cloaked
Application: While this need can and definitely will be met throughout marriage, it cannot be adopted as the ultimate approach. The reason for this is that women are fundamentally different than men, and while they may be sympathetic to a man’s experience, naturally they experience life quite differently. This shift makes it very difficult for a woman to “get” a man, and vice versa. If you are looking for your date to “get you” as does your psychologist or childhood friend, more often than not, you will be disappointed. Just as G-d is barely known in our physical world, a young-man may find it challenging to communicate to his date how he experiences life.
Ma’amar: The reason for creation brought in the Midrash Tanchumah, is that G-d, as He is, desired to permanently dwell, through our fulfillment and study of Torah, in the spiritually lowest possible realm, i.e., our physical universe.Why did G-d have such a desire? The answer is we simply do not know. By a human, desire comes from such a deep place in the soul, it simply cannot be rationalized. Is it fitting to ask why a person enjoys listening to classical music? Surely not! An explanation can be provided why he likes classical music more than jazz, but not for why he finds classical music itself pleasurable. The same is true about G-d’s desire to dwell in our physical world—it is beyond rational; it’s just how it is.
Application: Another reason a young-man would get married is because man possesses a deep, super-rational desire to build a home specifically in a different setting then the home he grew up in. Why is this man’s deepest desire? This question cannot be answered. As G-d’s desire for creation completely transcends reason, so too our true desire to build a home completely transcends our consciousness—it’s just how it is.
You may wonder, if it is indeed man’s deepest desire to build a home, why there are so many unhappily married men. The answer in short is that there are several levels in pleasure. The highest level being un-sensed pleasure, meaning that the pleasure is so deep it cannot be sensed. An example of un-sensed pleasure is respiration. While a person is breathing the pleasure he feels is hardly noticeable, only once his breath is inhibited does it come readily apparent how all other pleasures are meaningless relative to even one breath. The same is true for marriage. The pleasure derived from marriage is so deep it simply cannot be sensed, and the extent of the pleasure only reveals itself once the marriage is terminated.
Ma’amar: G-d’s desire to dwell in our physical world can justifiably be called the primary reason for creation since the only way that desire can be fulfilled is through physical creation.
Application: The desire to build a home can justifiably be considered the primary approach to dating since the only way to build a home is by getting married.
The application of the ma’amar leads to the following conclusion: It is man’s deepest desire to build a well-founded home. To fulfill this desire is the optimal approach to dating since it can only be satisfied by getting married. Additionally, Man has other deep needs, namely, to express himself, or to be known. However, while these needs may be met throughout marriage, they cannot be considered the optimal approach to dating, since they can also be met outside of marriage.
I will now present the ACT model, demonstrating how the aforementioned insight can guide a man through three crucial steps in dating:
- Accelerate – Once you reach a marriageable age, reflect how beyond marriage lies a pleasure so deep that it renders all other physical pleasures meaningless in comparison. If registered properly your attitude to dating will shift from, I’ll date when I’m ready, when I find the “right one,” when I’ve saved up enough money for my children’s college fund to, under the right circumstances, I would like to date now. In short, the knowledge that what you really want is beyond marriage, will dramatically accelerate the pace in which it will unfold—you will act.
- Concentrate – Once you have reached a stage where you are proactively dating, concentrate on what qualities are integral to home-building and assess your dates accordingly. For example, “are my date and I suitable partners for home building? Would my date be a kind mother, a loyal wife and so on? That is not to say that dating should be stripped of the “little things” that make dating exciting, only that having home-building in mind provides a focused context for all the exciting “small things” to play out.
- Tolerate – If you experience discomfort while dating, before terminating the relationship, be sure to reflect on the nature of that which bothers you. If you discover that the source of your discomfort is your inability to fully express yourself, because your date doesn’t get you, or any other issue non-integral to home building, you will not feel compelled to stop dating! The knowledge that these are not the primary reasons for marriage, and that they will be realized over time will temper your feelings of discomfort.
In conclusion, a man who is actively dating must acknowledge that they are getting married to fulfill their deepest desire, namely, to build a home with a person fundamentally different than themselves—a woman. This knowledge should propel a man to date with urgency and gauge the qualities of his date in the context of how compatible he and she are to successfully build a home together. Furthermore, a young-man should acknowledge that in the beginning there may be dissonance between he and his date. But he should know, that not only is this not a bad thing (for over time it will surely improve), it is a good thing for it indicates that he is indeed dating somebody who can justifiably be termed “different.” This understanding will enable anybody to move forward even if he feels he cannot express himself entirely, or feels like his date does not “get him.” It is specifically with this approach that a man can smoothly tie the knot and eventually fulfill the important but secondary needs to “express themselves,” and “be known,” in the context of a healthy marriage and a beautiful, well-founded home.
. Genesis 1:27
. Tanya begin. Ch. 3
. Sefer Hama’amarim 5666, pp. 3 – 8.
. Ibid p. 3.
. Ibid p. 4.
. Ibid p. 4.
. Etz Chaim Sha’ar Aleph, Drush Aleph.
. Ibid p. 4.
. Ibid p. 5.
. Zohar section 2, p. 42b.
. Ibid p. 4.
. Ibid p. 6.
 Midrash Tanchumah, Bechukotai ch. 3, and Nasso ch. 16.
 Ibid p. 7.
. Ibid pp. 7-8
. Sefer Hama’amarim Meluket Aleph p. 44.