When It Comes To Dating, Chats Beat Apps Every Time



Despite the ease with which men and women connect using phones, social media and the Internet, lasting relationships seem to be harder than ever to obtain. When it comes to Millennials, there are serious obstacles in finding compatible members of the opposite sex online or in person. The popularity of reality TV shows like “The Bachelor” seems to reinforce this challenge.

The irony is that connecting has never been easier. Yet those online connections are often unsatisfying because they take place in an artificial environment. Many of my Millennial students tell me that meeting on a dating site can be stressful, what with having to find the most flattering photos and choose the right lines to make the best impressions…


Why Date Night is Critical – in Judaism and Relationships

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Years ago a man by the name of Andrew Burian spoke to MJE participants about his experience during the Holocaust. After finishing his incredible account of survival of many concentration camps, an audience member asked “Why did you stay religious after enduring and witnessing all those horrors?”.

I’ll never forget his answer: 

“Because I loved it,” he sighed. “I missed it”.

What does love have to do with religion? For so many Jews, especially in America, the answer is, regretfully, nothing. For many, the idea of practicing Judaism is wrapped up in a sense of obligation and fear – a responsibility to not let something so old die out, fear of disappointing our parents, or maybe even God. But love? Certainly not.

It makes sense. What is the most popular day in synagogue for American Jews? You guessed it – Yom Kippur. And rightfully so – it is the holiest of holy days when we have the greatest opportunity to transform and work on ourselves. It is the “Day of Awe,” in which we proclaim over and over God’s ultimate power and awesomeness. It is critical.

And so synagogues throughout America fill their pews for one or two days, and the people come, and fast and atone, and afterwards most resume their ordinary lives, with the most “Jewish” thing being eating bagels and lox on Sundays and going out for Chinese food on Christmas.

Too few Jews are exposed to what comes right after Yom Kippur – “zman zimchaseinu” – the time of our rejoicing as the Torah describes the holiday of Sukkot, and the next week Simchat Torah. During this time we gather with friends and family, we build a Sukkah, we eat, we drink, give presents to our children, feed the needy, sing and dance. We celebrate and bask in the energy of abundance and joy. We are actually commanded to enjoy ourselves. The Torah says: vsamachta bchagecha: “thou shalt be happy on the holidays.”

It’s a real shame that so many of us weren’t raised to celebrate these holidays, because a Yom-Kippur-only Jewish life reinforces the perception that so many have of Judaism as a sin and guilt oriented faith, and leaves no room for practice out of love.

But why is love in terms of our connection to Judaism and God important in the first place? Like in any relationship between two people there needs to be a balance between what we feel obligated to do and what we truly want to do – what we do because we respect the other person and what we do because we love them. A relationship with one and not the other is doomed to failure and so striking that balance is key.

Looking at my own marriage, I take out the trash, pay 1348265404350_7581514the bills, and schlep to events I don’t always want to go to because I have the utmost respect for my wife and ultimately I want to make the relationship work. At the same time, we enjoy a romantic dinner, kick back and watch a movie and share our innermost thoughts and feelings because I want to – because I love her.

Respect and love – a marriage needs both. Our relationship with God is no different and so Judaism needs both.

Survivor Andrew Burian didn’t just wake up one morning in love. His life was filled with daily actions which ultimately resulted in these feelings. This is why any two people are really in love – the initial chemistry is just infatuation, the real love comes from years of giving and extending oneself for the other – from years of respect. The holiday rituals year after year are meant to eventually get us to a place where we do the mitzvot not just because of what will happen to us if we don’t, and not even because we realize God’s awesomeness – but because we just can’t help ourselves. We’re in love.

We need Yom Kippur. We need to cultivate reverence and awe for God. Love without respect and obligation is transient. But like in any relationship, we need to celebrate the love or it will atrophy. We need to create space to just be with our partner, to enjoy each other. We need a date night! If not, then we’re left in a loveless marriage – best case scenario married to a platonic best friend/ roommate, and worst case scenario – running for the hills and looking for any opportunity to get away. 

simchat torah

Simchat Torah Celebration

Sukkot and Simchat Torah are “date night”. It is our chance to simply enjoy our relationship with God and our beautiful faith.

My blessing to us all is that we take the Yirah – the reverence we experienced on Yom Kippur, and that together we move up to the Ahava – to the joy and love expressed on Sukkot and Simchat Torah. In doing so may we achieve that delicate balance and the highest levels of connection, both in our relationship with God, with our Judaism, and with each other.

Dedicated to the memory of Eitam and Na’amah Henkin, the Jewish couple killed this past week in Israel. They truly loved their Judaism.

Day 3: What is Kabbalah Anyway?

Avraham Lowenthal in his store in Tzfat
REFLECTION OF THE DAY – “What is Kabbalah anyway?”
Yesterday we spent the day in the holy city of Tzfat. Besides being an important part of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, it is considered the center of Kabbalah due to the many great Rabbis and Kabbalists who emigrated there in the late 1400’s/early 1500’s following the expulsion of Jews from Spain.

But what is Kabbalah, really? In our generation Kabbalah has been presented as something new and even separate from classical Judaism. Nothing could be further from the truth: Kabbalah is as old as Judaism and its teachings are as central to Torah as anything else we may have learned in Jewish school.

There is a strong Jewish tradition that when the Torah was revealed to the Jewish people at Sinai, an oral explanation or way of understanding the Torah was also revealed and passed from generation to generation – what we call, the Oral Torah. That Oral Torah contained both a revealed and more rational part as well as a more spiritual and hidden aspect. Much of the revealed part is today found in the Talmud while the hidden and more metaphysical parts make up what we call the Kabbalah. So Kabbalah has been around at least as long as the Torah itself and is an integral way of understanding our Judaism, a way that resonates with more and more young people today.

What is it about this ancient wisdom that speaks to some many young people today? Our generation today craves spirituality more than ever before. Our grandparents’ generation, consisting primarily of immigrants and second generation Americans, was focused on surviving and making it financially in a new world. They really didn’t have the luxury or time to ask the big questions and pursue a life of spirituality and inner meaning. Of course there were many important exceptions, but for the most part the kind of Judaism they bequeathed to their children was lacking in meaning and inner depth. Their children, living a more comfortable life in the suburbs of America began searching for more. Since the Judaism available to them seemed cold and ritualistic, Jews looking for contentment and fulfillment either looked to professional advancement or towards the Eastern religions for a spiritual path. They simply didn’t think Judaism contained a real path of enlightenment and spirituality or that could provide inner happiness.

In Tzfat we met Avraham Lowenthal, a Kabbalistic artist who shared with us that growing up In California he felt Judaism offered nothing in the way of real spirituality. However, as a college student at the University of Michigan, he was introduced to the works of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a noted author on Kabbalah, and his life was changed forever. He ultimately learned that Judaism did indeed contain great depth and spirituality. With his beard and peyos (sidelocks), dressed in all white and in his very chill West Coast cadence Avraham remarked: ”Guys…this wisdom of Torah is just so deep and awesome. You need to study the inner parts of Torah to see how powerful and spiritual Judaism really is”.


Julie & Camel

Name: Julie Stein

Profession: personal injury attorney for a small plaintiff’s firm

# trips to Israel (including this): 3

Jewish Background/ affiliation: Grew up in a conservative household with Shabbat dinner on Friday. She has become a regular at MJE downtown and really loves the people and the events/activities.

In her words…

How do you get on this trip?
The last time I went to Israel was almost 10 years ago. I have been anxious to return and this trip was the perfect opportunity. It’s so important to support Israel at all times!

What are your brief reflections on the day (or the trip overall)?
Yesterday was amazing-I specifically loved Amuka. When I was praying for my friends and myself I felt a strong spiritual connection and felt very connected to the land.

Fun fact about yourself…
When I was 4 years old a car crashed in my bedroom.

Julie Praying at the grave of Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel in Amuka. Amuka means “depths” and this site is known to help find one’s soulmate.

DRINK OF THE DAY – Israeli Craft Beer!?

Just a few years ago, there were pretty much two options for beer drinkers in Israel: Goldstar and Maccabee (bad and worse). To the delight of many of the participants on the trip, we learned in Tzfat that Israel has a very up and coming craft beer scene. While traveling abroad in the U.S., many Israelis apparently picked up on the success of the microbrewery scene and noticed a business opportunity. Following their natural entrepreneurial inclinations, many have been able to successfully launch holy land home brewed craft beer brands. Great news for Jews who enjoy their brews! 

How to Love the Jewish Way

When we think of a happy, ideal couple, we tend to think of something like the image above. Two people, lost in one other, basking in each other’s positive energy. Anyone who has been in love knows this feeling, and this pose.

As an alternative, the ideal couple looks more like this:

Two people, facing the same direction. Side by side, partners. What are they facing? God, the universe, a mission – they serve something higher than themselves.

The first situation is a kind of intoxicating love, but the ultimate goal is happiness alone and is simply not sustainable. The second type represents the kind of love that can last a lifetime because it involves happiness directed not only inward for the couple but for something greater than themselves. This concept is beautifully symbolized in the Chupah (Jewish wedding canope) which is always open on all sides, representing the home of the first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah, whose home was open to all.


Today is a special, almost mysterious day – the holiday Tu B’av (the 15th of Av), or as some call it “Jewish Valentine’s Day.”  Unlike most Jewish holidays, there are not many specific mitzvot or rituals to perform. However, the great Sage Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted in the Mishnah as saying:


“There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards.”


For Tu B’av to be spoken of together with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, is a pretty big deal. Why compare this day to Yom Kippur? Because in Judaism, for a man and woman to unite and do great things for the world, is as holy as it gets. It’s a holiness like Yom Kippur.


Judaism understands the concept of soul mates as a man and woman, who together can fulfill their purpose on earth better than they could alone. A soul mate, or what some call their “beshert”, is someone who enhances one’s ability to achieve full spiritual potential. It also means having a partner in carrying out the Divine mandate to make the world a better place. A soul mate is nothing less than our missing other-half necessary for our completion and perfection.


There was a great article in Elite Daily earlier this year called “10 Reasons Why This Generation Is Losing The Ability To Be In Love”, which seemed at first like a fluff piece, but actually offered real insight into a problem I personally have observed in many 20’s/30’s with whom I am privileged to interact and teach. The author offers the following explanations as to our generation’s challenge with loving: an unwillingness to make compromises, egocentricity, addiction to instant gratification, a fear of giving up freedom and making decisions, and general confusion about how to love. “Love is so incredibly complex,” the author says, “that most people simply haven’t been able to get a grasp of it.”


I think the author makes a lot of great points, though I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to Millennials. I especially agree with the idea that most of us don’t really know how to love. If it came naturally at one point, our society has so twisted the idea that we’ve un-learned it.


The key to being good at love goes back to what we consider an ideal couple. If we are simply looking for someone to GIVE us that feeling, to share that magical energy, to make us happy, then it is no wonder relationships today are so short lived. They are simply too insular – a dynamic that is really quite difficult to maintain.

Relationships, like healthy bodies of water, need to be fed by an external source. In searching for our soul mates maybe we’re only asking part of the question we should be asking. Maybe instead of just wondering “Is he or she right for me?”, we should also be asking “are we right together for the world?”. The Hebrew word for love, “ahava”, has its two letter root as “hav” which means “to give”. Love, and the happiness which comes from loving, only results from giving to others. Love becomes much more doable when you focus less on what the relationship gives to you and more on what it allows you and your partner to give. This higher purpose of giving is where we get that needed energy – this is the river that replenishes and sustains.

And so my unsolicited advice is to look for someone who you are not only attracted to and enjoy being with but with whom you can also see yourself doing great things for other people. Whether it’s building a family or helping those less fortunate, remember happiness and love can only be achieved through giving. Find the one who will stand next to you, facing the same direction.