Dear Matchmaker Rabbi:
I have some questions about what is appropriate for meeting women interested in marriage in Jewish culture. I have a feeling I might be a little out of touch, due to being a convert to Judaism and not having been raised in a Jewish community.
I guess what I have been looking for is someone whom I can spiritually grow with, and who is possibly into Kabbalah, as that is a main passion of mine; it is what brought me into Judaism. However, I have been getting a sense that Kabbalah is considered a Neanderthal belief system. Is this considered a turn off to women in the Jewish community?
I am asking because I really have no idea. Thanks for taking the time to read.
I wouldn’t call Kabbalah “Neanderthal” or a “turn off” — but it is a somewhat obscure aspect of Jewish history. It was a school of thought that developed in southern France in the 11th – 13th centuries and was popularized in brief periods later in history (16th century Ottoman Palestine and 18th century Hasidim in Eastern Europe).
More recently Madonna made Kabbalah popular again in certain Hollywood circles. I’ve even seen People magazine refer to it as its own “religion” (which is totally inaccurate). But hey, if she finds something meaningful in it, who am I to criticize?
As far as how Jewish women might respond to this interest, well, I think they’d mostly respond the way I just did. They’d think of it as an esoteric topic, which really doesn’t have much to do with modern Jewish life. Our religious life revolves around celebrating holidays like Hanukkah, Passover and Purim; lighting Shabbat candles on Friday night; and, if you are more serious about it, intentionally trying to embody Jewish values (humility, giving love, kindness, etc.)
Here’s another way of measuring just how obscure Kabbalah is. In my rabbinic training program, I will take approximately 72 courses over six years of study. Guess how many of those courses are in Kabbalah itself? One!
Like I said, Kabbalah is esoteric. It might be interesting and meaningful to you, which is great, but to most people, it will just draw a blank expression. They’ve heard the word, but they have no clue what it is about.
It sounds to me like you are a spiritual-seeker. You need to find someone who also loves to delve into the deeper, more philosophical aspects of the human experience. You need someone who loves the abstract over the concrete, the mystical over the mundane.
Seek out retreats on Kabbalah or other aspects of religious spiritualism; that might be a good place to meet a likeminded seeker. The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center often holds retreats on spiritual topics. The Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles holds retreats specifically on Kabbalah worldwide.
As for online dating, look for someone who describes herself as interested in mystical or spiritual avenues of learning. Maybe your bashert isn’t into Kabbalah right now, but she will be after meeting you!
— The Matchmaker Rabbi
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