Tuesday, September 21st | 15 Tishri 5782

May 18, 2020 6:17 am

Coronavirus Dating Demands Everyone Become a Matchmaker

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


Medical workers at the coronavirus unit in Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak, Israel, prepare a return to other types of procedures as cases of new infection are decreasing, April 27, 2020. Photo: Nati Shohat / Flash90.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a vast landscape of loneliness across the world, where so many singles are either quarantining alone or even with parents or friends but without a romantic partner. In my near nightly Zoom broadcasts with my daughter Chana, who created the Kosher.Sex company, modeled on my book of the same name, we encounter singles from around the world who lament the impossibility of dating in this painful time. Their personal lives have been put on hold and with the lockdowns extending indefinitely, they don’t know when they’ll be able to go out and find their soulmate.

The virus’ evisceration of the singles scene has only put the nail in the coffin of a troubled and antiquated dating scene that was already on life-support. Singles in the modern age have one of two options. If they are more secular, they go to a party or a nightclub where they hope to flirt and meet someone, knowing that many people there are not serious about relationships and only want a hookup. Then there is the degrading spectacle of watching grown men and women walking around a bar hoping to be noticed, or speaking to a member of the opposite sex while scanning distractedly to see if there is anyone “better” to connect with. If they are more traditional and religious, they may rely on a matchmaker — in our Jewish religious circles, a shadchan — almost always someone who is not a professional at making matches and whose time commitment, therefore, is far from optimal. As a Chabad family we have encountered this numerous times, relying on the goodwill of volunteers who mean well but whose matchmaking efforts are usually in addition to a full-time job.

Even Zoom dating during the virus, which many have embraced, reinforces the typical scenario of physically attractive men and women getting all the attention while those with less visual virtues are ignored.

Curing the singles scene is one of the foremost priorities especially for the Jewish community whose greatest challenge today is not intermarriage but lack of marriage. There are precious few Jewish babies being born as Jewish men and women in jaded singles fortresses like New York continue the never-ending search for “the best.” As a religion that relies for our numbers not on conversion but birthrate, the lack of or significant delay of marriage spells an existential crisis for Jewish continuity.

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How is a young woman who wants to find a man who is husband material supposed to date today?

Some have offered Zoom speed-dating with 10 men in one night. But surely this is not a solution for a generation of commitment-phobic young people who are already dating addicts and love anorexics. Why cater to their obsession for variety by having them video date 10 people at once! And how is this preparation for monogamy?

And even before the coronavirus, internet dating suffered from a surfeit of variety with millions of people offering their profiles. On the one hand, that means one heck of a lot of choice. On the other hand, the endless number of people whom you can either swipe left or swipe right for has stunted countless others who have become addicted to the search itself. Furthermore, on Internet dating sites it’s still the picture that comes before the personality.

Is the solution to be found with fancy professional matchmakers whom you pay to do the searching for you? I was once an advocate of professional matchmaking. But witnessing today’s matchmakers cater to the male addiction to sex objects and the female addiction to success objects leaves me cold. Shallow values have penetrated even the very religious dating scene, where stick-thin women are paired up with young men with lucrative professions, and where character is subordinated to pedigree. And too many matchmakers are influenced by shallow values as they pair up men and women based on the most peripheral considerations. Matchmaking was once directed at bringing two lonely souls together. Today it’s about elite services charging a fortune as it promises successful women introductions to men with Lamborghinis.

I want my daughters to find young men of character and values, who carry themselves humbly, have force of personality, and whose dream is to enrich the world around them while prioritizing the woman at their side. Men who will love God, put family first, be devoted to community, and confer dignity on others. But without going on the actual dates for my daughters (which they are mysteriously opposed to) how will they meet quality men?

And with the coronavirus confining us to our homes, young men and women are losing months of soul-mate searching while being further depressed by the awful news that the coronavirus brings.

How will we break this stranglehold of lovelessness?

There is a solution: we can deputize all the Earth’s inhabitants to become matchmakers. Every man and every woman should take it upon themselves to introduce single friends to someone of character in their personal network. We all believe in acts of loving-kindness. During the coronavirus, many of us are making the effort to call people we know are alone or reach out to relatives or friends we have not communicated with in a while.

Now, is there any higher act of kindness than permanently curing someone else’s loneliness? I’m not asking to pity singles. They are not desperate and every unmarried person is still a complete universe unto themselves. But marriage makes them even more whole, just as friendship enriches our lives much more than if we existed alone. If there is one lesson we have learned from the isolation imposed by the coronavirus, it is that we are social creatures, just as the Bible says in reference to Adam – “It is not good for man to be alone” – when he inhabited the earth without a companion.

I am suggesting that all of us take upon ourselves the obligation of increasing love in the world. An hour a week devoted to thinking through possible connections, sending out some texts and emails to friends and acquaintances, and trying to responsibly make some connections, is all it takes.

In the United States 80 million American women live without a man. They are productive, they have careers, and they contribute immeasurably to the world around them. But as we Jews, who have wandered the earth through persecution and torment, have learned, there is no substitute for family, and being loved unconditionally by a spouse is one of life’s greatest gifts.

We can make this blessing a reality. When the cursed virus dissipates, we can invite two single friends to our homes for Sabbath dinner in the hope that a casual introduction might lead to something romantic and permanent. If God could play matchmaker to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, surely we can follow suit in our own living rooms and dining rooms.

But until that time when we are reunited as a community, we can use all the modern technological tools — through social media and our cell phones — to work on ending people’s loneliness and empower all the earth’s inhabitants to become matchmakers.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s memoir Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell will be published later this year. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.

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