Monday, November 12, 2012

Parshat Chaya Sara

        I apologize for the belated post on the weekly Parsha. I had a spontaneous weekend getaway—very spur of the moment. I was considering in forgoing writing about the Parsha (since Shabbat already passed), but then I realized that it’s Parshat Chaya Sara and the biblical character I am named after (Rivka/Rebecca) is introduced and wedded in this Torah portion. How can I possibly spring past this personally meaningful Parsha and meander into trivialities?
       Aside from that, this Parsha is especially relevant to singles because it deliberates upon the union of marriage. Commonly referred to as the “Shidduch Parsha,” Chaya Sara often draws lectures concerning dating and matrimony from Rabbis’ and teachers’ lips.
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        Do I have any sermons about courtship and walking down the aisle? Hmm…let’s see…Well, I’ve seen the most genuinely kind and noble-hearted individuals (who are educated professionals and good-looking to boot!) being suctioned into a quicksand of loneliness and jaded dating experiences. I’ve also seen infantile and flighty individuals bask in the spell of fresh love and find their intended sooner than you can pop champagne and holler “Mazal Tov!” So, no, I clearly don’t have any sermons about this confounding labyrinth we like to call dating. I’m still as bewildered as the next single person. With very few exceptions, the whole notion of dating and marriage has left me scratching my head more than any other subject.

       I will neither be using this “dating post” as a sort of cynical monologue, mocking my various dating stories or analyzing the “Shidduch System” (maybe that will appear later), nor will I offer any Rebbetzin-like critiques or whispers of solace. After all how can I? Do I dare be presumptuous and offer advice when I have none of the answers myself?
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(This is how I look like when I ponder life's many questions)
All I can say is the following:
       It’s true that Jason Mraz croons in his famous “I’m Yours” song that “it’s our G-d forsaken right to be loved, loved, loved!” (and I definitely agree with that)  but are we obligated to pin our lives down until Mr. Right saunters down Love Lane with a bouquet of lilies and a tiffany-blue box?
        I say nay. Our matriarch Rivka found her soul mate during the most unexpected of times. She was drawing up water for her malicious father and equally malicious brother—did she expect salvation to arrive in the form of a humble servant and a flock of parched camels? Our patriarch Yitzchak also partook in the “unexpected” by marrying a woman from an idolatrous household.  
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(Ottavio Vannini, Rebecca and Eliezer at the Well, 1626-27)
       I strongly believe that singles (definitely including myself over here!) should be consistently reminded of the following principle: “Stop identifying yourself as a cliché and start treating yourself as an individual. Constantly checking your life against a prewritten narrative or story of how things “should” be is a bought-into way of life. It’s sort of like renting your identity. It isn’t you. You are more nuanced than the narrative you try to fit yourself into, more complex than the story that "should" be happening"(Holden Desalles from the Thought Catalogue).
Here's my "prewritten narrative"
I lock a stare with a tall young man who has kind eyes and preferably resembles Johnny Depp (Ryan Gosling would be alright too I suppose).

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Together we embark on many adventures
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We then have an unconventional wedding in a wheat field (I skip the puffy princess gown and he forgoes a tux) and ride off into oblivion.
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We end up living on the wheat field we married in. My husband is a witty scholar/muscled farmer and we have an adorable son.
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         All joking aside, when we “constantly check our life against a prewritten narrative” (like the one visually depicted above), it’s as if we’re filling up a glass of disappointment and setting it aside to gulp later. As the Bard stated “expectation is the root of all heartache” and it doesn’t help if you’re evaluating your life against the clichéd check-off list of “Seminary/College for Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Occupational Therapy/ screeching in the halls about your engagement/marriage/Israel or Lakewood for two years/ children/etc., etc.,”
       Live NOW (once again I am preaching to myself). Utilize this time to go out on a limb, surprise yourself, learn who you are, take an Irish dance class, master Thai cooking or the violin, because as fulfilling as marriage is, it isn’t always a guarantee for habitual and unparalleled joy. In other words, waiting for life to “start” is a common error and it won’t necessarily lead one to the path of happiness.
       I say we take a cue from Rivka and Yitzchak and allow life to surprise us a bit. I’m not saying we should abandon our efforts to meet our predestined match, but we should be able to say “G-d, I’m off to live it up a bit--do you think you can arrange a humble servant and pack of thirsty camels to be there—so that he can set me up with his very holy and very handsome master?” I don’t know if it’ll come true, but if does, then it’s a heck of a lot more thrilling than getting engaged after a couple of hotel lobby dates.
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Photo Credit:


  1. Very well put. If we have any issues nowadays, it is that we have removed the Divine from our dating. We think we can micromanage our futures, when, as you said, one day Rivkah went to the well as usual and her life was irrevocably changed.

    My viewpoint is, "God, I'm going to let you handle this." With that comes great satisfaction and peace as well.

  2. Spot on. Yes, I'm glad you agree with me. It's a challenge to establish that mindset...but well worth it. Thank you for following my blog :)