Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ki Teizei—Love Stories

I always thought the concept of a “tefila kodem tefila” was a little bit over the top. If anything could lead to a, “ein ladavar sof”, that would be one: when can someone stop asking that one’s upcoming tefila be accepted? What is there was insufficient kavana during the tefila kodem tefila? Would it be appropriate to institute a tefila kodem tefila kodem…etc.?

A friend recently pointed out me that when people date nowadays, they are really dating to see if they want to date, so first dates—or the first series of dates—aren’t necessarily “dates” in that sense, but more along the lines of “dating to date”. The aforementioned concept of “tefila kodem tefila” came immediately to mind.

As may have been previously noted in these pages, the religious and moral authorities who are trying to turn back the clock to a more modest time and arrangements in dating—aside from the schools and yeshivas and seminaries that carp loudly about tznius [Rabbi Manis Friedman and Wendy Shalit come to mind]—may be taking the wrong approach using the fire and brimstone or the “kol kevuda d’bas melech penimah” tacks. All they should rally have to do is tell us how much WORK dating and interacting with the opposite sex is.

Though, to be fair to both R’ Friedman and Shalit, they do cite evidence that shows that even adolescents are experiencing a certain amount of mental taxation in their social pursuits. It is rather that the educational policy seems to be to talk about negiah and mixed dancing 24-6 [or 7] and ignore all of the actual tzaros that go along with even all that.

I would almost suggest that educators read Laura Kipnis’ Against Love, a polemic text that takes the approach that love—especially the illicit, ostensibly more “fun” kind--is just too much work to be worth it. If educators are looking to create more chaste environs without necessarily completely separating the sexes, the “too much work” tack might be a better bet.

In any case, as previously noted in these pages, the halachos of both kiddushin and gittin are learned from this weeks parsha. But even the beginning of the parsha—a completely Torah-sanctioned, but ultimately completely inappropriate, relationship which starts in war, leads to discord and the ultimate bad seed, the ben sorer u’moreh, at least according to Rashi.   I’ve heard the that the word “marriage” derives from “Mars”, known to be the [false] deity in charge of war; maybe the Torah was onto something.

But even leaving that out, just add in all the trouble with love stories: Yaakov and Rachel, Yitzchak and Rivka [nightmare in laws?], David and Bathsheba [muchan misheshes yemei bereishis, but probably not in the execution], and Yehuda and Tamar [from which Mashiach will issue, but otherwise not the best way to arrange a shidduch].

And take the ultimate expression of PDA being “inappropriate” [if not proscribed]: the gemara Baba Basra 58b, on our foreparents in the Mearas haHamachpela: “What is Abraham doing? He replied: He is sleeping in the arms of Sarah, and she is looking fondly at his head.” Is that when we can look forward to a relationship reaching its pinnacle? Now we know why there’s a joke that marriage and funeral differ only in that one has a band. [In the time of the mishna and gemara—and possibly later—funerals had bands too.]

Ki Tetzei—other than warning us that marriage isn’t always bliss—may also be warning us how much work dating is and why that relations between the sexes are so warlike; in that case, who wants to do the work?

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