This week, our very own Jewish Jedi master, Shlomo, gave us a class in the theme of the holiday of love, Tu B’av. It was titled, Self Defense for the First Date. He began speaking to us as Shabbat was sadly fading away and our third meal was about to begin. He said that every time in the Jewish year has its own special spiritual energy. Just like Passover is a spiritual time for freedom, redemption, and an end to the ways we enslave ourselves or how Tisha B’av is a dangerous time, the end of Shabbat is a good time to learn deep things and to tap into our true desires.
Shlomo outlined a few ways to spiritually and emotionally “defend” yourself in any first encounters, whether is it sparking up a conversation with the guy on the bus or the first time you meet a potential life partner. The first idea was to zoom out of the situation, create a metaphor or abstract replica of the experience and then work out any issues there. Or you can use that metaphor as a more abstract way to make decisions about the person. The idea is that when we are too close to someone emotionally it can be hard to be objective. So if the guy you are out with is really cute but he yells at the person selling popcorn at the movie theatre, that is a good time to zoom out, take a step back and try to reassess.
The next spiritual karate chop is to really implement the maxim of putting your best foot forward. The parsha Shelach talks about the sin of the spies, who were men sent to check out the land of Canaan before the Israelites entered it, and it writes that part of their sin was that they said, “in our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” When they saw the inhabitants of the land who were big and strong, perhaps even giants, it did not happen that the people saw the Israelites as grasshoppers. Only when they saw themselves as such did the inhabitants form their perceptions of them. So too can we change other people’s perception of ourselves for the good by presenting the sides of ourselves that we most cherish and value.
The final piece of advice came from our sages. In the Talmud in Tractate Erovin, it says, “The nature of a person is recognized through three things – his Kos (cup, i.e. how he acts after drinking), his Kis (wallet, i.e. business integrity), and his Ka’as (sword, i.e. anger).” Sholom described the three personality barometers as follows. The wallet is not just seeing how a person spends his or her money. Although this is an important thing to gauge about a partner, it is really tapping into the idea of where does a person invest his or her time and resources. The cup is a bit more clear. What are they like when they have had a glass of wine or two or three? The sages also say, wine enters, secrets leave. The gematria, the numerical value, of eiyn, wine, and sod, secret, is the same. Do they become aggressive or depressed or do gems of their soul fall from their lips? Finally, seeing a person’s anger means pushing them out of their comfort zone. How do they react when plans change or things go ary? Do they respond with anger or with calm?
With all of this good advice under our (black) belt, we were ready to conquer the dating world! Or just eat some yummy challah and sing songs. But in all seriousness these lessons will stick with me as I continue to meet many more people this year in Israel. By keeping a clear head on my shoulders, presenting my best self and investigating a person’s character, hopefully I’ll find the one!
By Vera Hinsey