Due to the coronavirus social distancing restrictions, should dates take place via Skype, Zoom, or even by phone? If dating already started, is there any benefit in continuing remotely?
Any other advice for dating during these uncertain times?
Over the past few weeks, and along with myriad Klal matters being attended to at this juncture, countless communications have been exchanged in an effort to understand the impact of coronavirus on shidduchim. Correspondingly, there are those who feel that dating should come to a complete halt, and others who feel that creative solutions should be identified to allow for dating to continue safely, either in-person or remotely. And while these options all have merit in the interim, they may also carry adverse consequences, both in the immediate present, and for the future.
In terms of constructing definitive protocol, in speaking with a number of rabbonim, it is my understanding that it is just not possible to issue a definitive p’sak that would cover the whole of shidduchim. There are too many variables, and crafting a clear and concrete set of dating rules applicable to all is infeasible. Thus, insofar as a blanket statement cannot be issued, the guidance I have been given is for each person to approach dating with hadracha, sechel hayashar, and strict care, whatever their chosen method may be. And with that in mind, I would like to share some general thoughts on the topic.
For those considering in-person dating, it should be abundantly clear from the outset that health and safety must be our foremost collective concern. The necessity to obey proper social distancing obligations throughout cannot be overstated. Not only for the sake of those in shidduchim, but for all whom daters may then be in contact with, and especially those who are at increased risk. Each and every point of contact has the inherent potential to spread the virus exponentially, and with the number of confirmed cases, and petirahs, tragically and constantly on the rise, there can be no disputing the quickness and aggressiveness with which this infection spreads, and the harm it presents to us all.
Furthermore, the matter of Kiddush Hashem must be equally emphasized. At a time when governments have put strict limitations on all public activities, we must be vigilant to uphold the dignity of our nation, and not to be seen as a demographic that flaunts the rules or plays fast and loose with human wellbeing and life itself. Both of these concerns have been reiterated by gedolim and rabbonim across the globe, and have been stated unequivocally regarding the restrictions that now apply to so many aspects of life, despite the pain we are all feeling at the loss of our cherished and sacred yiddishe infrastructure in countless realms.
For those broaching remote dating, it is also no simple proposition. To begin with, given that we are yet to grasp the duration of our isolation, and remote dating to the point of engagement seems highly unlikely, couples will have to meet in person eventually. And as should be plainly evident, that may not be possible in short order. As such, many couples may then be left stagnant and in the lurch for weeks or months to come.
Additionally, while online and phone dates have certainly taken place for many years now, to the best my knowledge, the vast majority of these endeavors have been meant for temporary purposes, and only to ascertain baseline compatibility before commencing in-person dating. That being the case, and for reasons too sensitive and lengthy to detail in this space, I would personally be quite wary of setting a precedent for sustained and long-term remote dating, as it might be irreversible and unproductive, or even damaging, to those in shidduchim. With our shuls and schools, once these institutions cease offering remote options, that will be the end of that. Conversely, if the door to remote dating for thousands of daters across the globe is opened and deemed fully acceptable, it will be much harder to close.
All told, whether one is already in the middle of a shidduch, or contemplating starting something anew, it is critical that everything one does is in conjunction with counsel from the couples’ respective rabbonim and physicians, and is in compliance with all governmental mandates. Each situation is different, and should be approached as a unique case, rather than basing activity on assumptions, or even on parameters that were established as befitting for a previous couple. I urge everyone to address this matter with the deserved gravitas, and to be sure that all dating activity at this time is undertaken under the auspices herein.
It is a challenging time for all, and no one has escaped the pressure and sudden alteration of the very fabric of our lives. It is my tefilah that we are all able to maintain shalom, patience, and understanding with one another as we navigate this unprecedented challenge that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has seen fit to introduce to us. May the Rofei Chol Bassar remove this challenge from our midst as swiftly as it arrived, and may we all find ways to grow and elevate from amidst the confusion and uncertainty that surrounds us.