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When It Comes To Dating, Chats Beat Apps Every Time

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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…

 

Millennials and Religion: A New Perspective

Young Jewish woman prays at Amuka on the MJE Israel Trip

 

Research indicates that significant numbers of Millennials reject or are at best indifferent to religion. A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2015 concluded that 35% of Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) identified themselves as religious “nones” and that number appears to be growing. Young people seem to have a general resistance to organized religion or to any system that tends to be formulaic, authoritative and restrict their decisions or lifestyle. Many Millennials have adopted the prevailing attitude that religion is out of tune with the times and irrelevant to their life. Apart from those enrolled in religious institutions of higher learning, most college and graduate students and young professionals simply lack the interest to engage in any formal involvement in religious practices.

At the same time, studies also indicate that Millennials treasure meaning and purpose in much of what they do, especially in their work and in relationships, along with positive “do-good” mission trips. They are less motivated by money and professional advancement than previous generations. However, because today’s Millennials are also the products of moral relativism, religiously taught on many college campuses, their relationships are becoming more unsustainable since relationship-building requires the very values that are being called into question. In addition, they wrestle, as we all do, with the seeming randomness of life where bad things seem to happen for apparently no reason.

At the very least, faith-based communities can offer Millennials some solace and comfort by offering a warm and accepting community during difficult moments. One of my students, a woman in her mid-20’s who recently lost her father, was blown away by how comforting her faith-based community was, in this case the Jewish community. Not a religious person per se, she nonetheless found the Shiva, the week-long period of mourning Jewish tradition mandates, very comforting. During the week, her home was filled with streams of visitors offering comfort, prayers and mountains of food. She felt the embrace of the community when she most needed it and it got her to see the value in some of the other Jewish rituals and traditions.

But that’s just one advantage religion has for Millennials. Perhaps even more importantly, religion offers a moral compass, a value system so desperately needed to navigate the turbulent waters of morality and ethical issues with which we are all confronted. Ethical relativism and value neutrality make today’s world a confusing place with little definition of where the lines for right and wrong are drawn. Even more reason for organized religion to share its teachings that have been developed over millennia. The cohort of 18-29-year-olds are frequently unmoored by the shifts in what is and isn’t acceptable with regards to ethics in the workplace and morality in social relationships. It’s time for the clergy to step up, reach out and help young people find guidelines that will resonate and provide a haven. Religious leaders have become convinced that young people simply don’t care about what we have to say and that is just not the case. Young people arelooking for guidance. We just must make a compelling case for how a core teaching of our faith can make a difference.

One example where religion can provide guidance is by helping to provide values and guidelines for healthy relationships. One Millennial student of mine (let’s call him Josh) had been dating a young woman and was about to move in with her. He was conflicted by the pressure to get married on one hand and a few red flags signaling caution, on the other. Seeking some breathing room to reflect, Josh decided to join us on our weeklong trip to Israel which also included classes on religious values and ethics. In his own words Josh said, “While dating, particularly in a secular context, I didn’t apply any kind of religious values. Upon reflection, I realized those values could help guide me in making my decision. The classes and readings made me acutely aware of the value of family and among other things, the woman I was dating was disrespectful to my parents, a core Jewish value.”

Josh continued, “Were it not for these values, I would have walked into a dead-end marriage.”

The spiritual void many Millennials feel in their lives has also been filled to some degree with technology. Not successfully of course. No one really believes an electronic device can speak to the deeper existential part of who are but we have done a pretty good job at distracting ourselves with technology. Like anything else though “it comes out in the wash”. There will be those moments when Millennials feel so unfulfilled, so empty because they’ve spent hours online, ‘connecting’ with others, yet feeling so disconnected.

I have felt that way often after “spending time” with my kids while we’re all on our devices. The time goes by and there’s this emptiness, like we were with each other but we weren’t. This void can be filled by religions that offer a “time-out” or some version of a Sabbath. In Jewish tradition, as my kids know, Friday night through Saturday we go into a “no phone zone” for 24 hours, detoxing from the rest of the week. It is a day of being “unplugged”. The freedom from technology allows us to hit “pause” so we can seek the higher purpose of our lives that eludes us during the week. That “pause” may include many different activities, ranging from study and prayer to communal rituals, socializing and even board games which force us to connect in a way we usually do not all week. Unplugging is one of the great ways religion can help Millennials truly feel more connected, both to each other and to something that approaches the spiritual.

Another major benefit religion can offer Millennials is to show how greater levels of happiness can be achieved by being more aware of the blessings we already have. We constantly yearn for what we don’t have while we overlook the blessings we do possess: health, a roof over our head, family, the company of good friends. Judaism and other faith systems compel us to acknowledge those gifts through the simple recitation of a blessing. Whether the blessing is made over food or the discharge of bodily waste (there is in fact such a blessing in Judaism), uttering a few words helps focus us on what we do have and that makes us into more grateful people. Studies show the more grateful the person, the happier and more content he or she is.

These are but a few of the advantages religion can offer Millennials and really all of us. We all yearn for something deeper which will give us greater meaning and purpose. The click of the keyboard and the tap of a phone app may give us access to the world but only religion can provide a portal to the sublime.

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.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR

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.

LOSING THE ABILITY TO LOVE?

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 LOVING

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.

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