The foundation of the Jewish people is the Jewish family. With this mitzvah in mind, Emet Outreach Rebbetzin Devorah Kigel is helping and guiding young women from all backgrounds of Judaism to find their soulmates and to build a bayis ne’eman filled with shalom bayis.
The fifth class of her five-class series on “Finding Your Soulmate” and on dating took place on Wednesday evening, June 26, to a packed audience at the Emet Outreach Center in Fresh Meadows.
With warmth and sincerity, Rebbetzin Kigel shared her own personal anecdotes and loads of empathy and understanding as she taught the Torah perspective on dating and on shalom bayis. Her audience was mesmerized and drank in her every word. She kindly offered her services as a dating coach and mentor for women, as well as a counselor for help with shalom bayis. It was a tremendous z’chus to see her in action as she taught these ideas with so much love and passion.
She listed many vital Torah ideas for dating and marriage. They resonate for the newlywed, the engaged girl, the woman still searching for her bashert, and even for the woman married many years.
The first idea is that marriage is not a constant state of bliss. Even after finding your bashert, there is still a tremendous amount of work to do. She elaborated that when you are dating, you need to find someone with whom you have a great time even when you aren’t doing anything special. She stated, “How do you know if you’re dating your future husband? You just enjoy being in his presence. There should be a calm, serene sense of joy. You have a feeling that you miss him when you’re not together.”
She went on to explain that we are here on this planet to fix our midos. Marriage and motherhood are the best way to help you fix your character traits. You need to find someone whose character and personality complements you, so that as a team you can each work on yourselves in a healthy way to grow spiritually and to refine your character traits. She shared the mashal of a hermit crab. Every time its shell becomes too tight and uncomfortable, it leaves behind the smaller shell and grows a bigger shell. After 40 years, at the end of its life, the hermit crab is carrying a gigantic shell only because of the previous ones that it shed. “Growth comes with discomfort.”
She shared another analogy. When you work with a personal trainer, if you don’t feel any discomfort after the workout, then you aren’t exercising your muscles and improving your physical strength. If there is pain, that is good because it means that you are growing stronger. The spiritual world mirrors the physical world. Hashem is in a sense our personal trainer. He knows the character traits that we need to strengthen. She added a side note that some couples end up doing a lot of work while dating, or during engagement, or during marriage, and this doesn’t mean that you married the wrong person. Don’t be afraid if dating is difficult. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is the wrong one for you.
The second vital idea is to maximize and enjoy each stage of life. The first year of marriage is a special time for you and your husband to build a strong foundation and bond. Don’t invite guests. Use this time to grow your relationship and spend a lot of time together. Before children come, it is a good time to build up your shalom bayis account, so to speak. Pregnancy, stress, and constructive criticism all make withdrawals on this account. She added, “An empty cup cannot pour. Build your marriage before giving to others.”
The third vital point was to train yourself to do chesed so that it comes naturally. Marriage and motherhood are all about putting other people’s needs before yours. There are millions of chesed opportunities in Queens. Train that muscle now. Look for places to be helpful.
Connected to this point is that you should not keep score. You have to be giving without keeping track of how much each person did.
Vital point number four is to “express desires in a direct, assertive way with a smile. We need to speak things out.” She mentioned how important it is to read the book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This will help you target each other’s way of communicating love. She added that your husband is your best friend, but he is not your best girlfriend. Two things a woman needs outside of her home are a hobby or passion – and girlfriends. A husband cannot fill every emotional need. You still have others who will fill those emotional needs. When you wish to discuss a problem with him, tell him in advance if you don’t want him to start fixing the problem. Tell him, “I just need validation.”
The fifth vital point is: Do not think of marriage as a trip to Costco where you can just return items. We are here to work, and barring an abusive situation, divorce is a last resort. In an average marriage, there are two imperfect people trying to make things work. The two main character traits to look for in a husband are: someone who is growth-oriented and that he has a good heart. Our society has become a disposable society. This is not a Jewish value. Never discuss the “D” word. “Barring an abusive relationship, marriage is a forever project.”
The sixth vital point involves intimacy. The Torah way is that intimacy is only within the context of the sanctity of marriage. Intimacy is in the context of a trusting, loving relationship. She spoke about the various issues for newly observant women or women taking on the Jewish way of dating. She stressed, “You can know if you are attracted to someone without physical intimacy.” She taught that you have to be attracted to this person and drawn to him. “You are dating platonically with the thought that we could be more.” She shared that she is a kallah teacher and helps with intimacy. Having children can be a stress in this area, and it’s a husband’s job to help his wife get rid of stress and to help her to let go of her day.
The seventh vital idea is that while you are dating you must keep both eyes wide open. Ask Hashem: “Help me see everything I need to see or know.” When newly married, we need to keep our focus to be on the reasons why we married him. We want to see his flaws in the same way we want him to see our flaws. “Don’t make the mistake of being too critical. We need to have a good eye when we judge everyone, especially our husband.”
She shared a strategy that can be helpful when you feel too critical. Remember United 93, one of the airplanes that was attacked on 9/11. The people on that plane spoke to their spouses for the last time, and they didn’t talk about petty matters or criticisms. They had the focus on their love for the other person and their relationship. “Think United 93, when you get too much into silly annoyances.”
Vital point number eight is to remember that good midos is the most important trait to look for in a husband. Money and jobs come and go. “A growth-oriented, devoted mentch is everything.” She taught the women to train themselves to be attracted to the nice guy, not the bad boy. “You want a man who will take care of you in your most vulnerable moments.”
Vital point number nine is that you should allow yourself to depend on someone. This is an adjustment, but your spouse wants you to depend on him. He wants to be your knight in shining armor. This is important in small ways as well as in big ways. “It is not a nullification of self. You become a bigger person when you rely on another.”
Vital point number ten is that values are so important. Early in the dating process you need to have a conversation about shared values and hashkafah. You need to have a shared vision, as well as shared goals and values. “The picture of the life you both want should be aligned.” You need to see this in his actions. She advised, “Generally err on marrying someone a little more observant than you.” She connected this to the fact that a man’s primary need is to be respected, and if he is more observant, you will be able to respect him more easily. A wife’s primary need is to feel loved and cherished by her husband.
She concluded the lecture with the following point: “Find the good man who will treat you well and take care of you.”
She offered a heartfelt brachah to all the women in the class to find their bashert, or if married, to have beautiful shalom bayis.
To reach Rebbetzin Kigel: www.devorahkigel.com.
By Susie Garber