My question is probably not a simple one but it's been nagging at me for a long
time, and at the moment it's quite relevant and urgent (!).
I know that love is about much more than physical attraction, and I know that "sheker
ha'hein v'hevel hayofi." On the other hand I know that Chazal said that a man is
not allowed to marry a women before he sees her so as to make sure that she finds
favor in his eyes (such that one who is "machmir" with trying to make the relationship
work even if she doesn't find favor in his eyes is essentially being "meikil" vis-a-vis
the din of "v'ahavta l'reiacha kamocha").
So basically what's the proper balance? I'll to illustrate the question:
If a meet a girl with a great personality and lots of good qualities, but after
meeting a few times I don't find myself attracted to her physically, should I end
the relationship or keep on investing in it and hope things turn around?
Or I'll ask the question a different way - should I break up a relationship with
a girl if she has the qualities I'm looking for, but I can't see myself being able
to look her in the eye and tell her she looks beautiful?
Or a different variation - if I meet a girl for the first time and right away say
to myself that she doesn't look attractive, should I continue or just end it there
before anyone gets hurt?
Or yet another variation - should a normal man expect himself to be able to develop
a loving, intimate relationship with a woman to whom he doesn't feel a strong physical
Thank you in advance!
I will quote you a teshuva of Rav Moshe, and some commentary which we published
in an article, which sheds some light on the issue:
"One should not be too clever [in searching for a mate, rather look for] a woman
who you find attractive both in her appearance and in [the qualities] of her family,
and who has a positive reputation that she follows our traditions. With regard to
such a person, you should rely on the above evidence and marry her in the hopes
she is the one designated for you by Heaven. It is not necessary to excessively
inspect her and such efforts will not accomplish anything...one should relate to
Hashem with simple trust (Devarim 18:13)." (Igros Moshe, Y.D. Vol. 1:90)
Rav Moshe alerts us to a number of points that are worth studying carefully. In
general, we see from here a glimpse of Rav Moshe's emotionally uncomplicated and
psychologically healthy approach to faith and human effort. Although one should
look for a mate who is both physically attractive and comes from a good family,
Rav Moshe cautions against trying "too hard" and being "too clever". Evidently,
Rav Moshe was of the opinion that we need to make only reasonable efforts in order
to merit G-d's providence. Furthermore, if one overly scrutinizes a situation, aside
from causing needless worry, Rav Moshe is of the opinion that "it will not accomplish
anything." This also seemed to be Rav Moshe's approach to faith and life in other
areas as well. Rav Moshe only worried about that which he could control or still
change, but regarding matters he felt were beyond his control he trusted in Hashem.
Thus for example, when his doctors suspected he had a heart attack, he was of the
opinion that it was incorrect to take a blood test that would verify if he did or
did not actually have this heart attack. This is because the event occurred in the
past and his current medical situation was already stabilized. Being of no relevance
at the moment, and beyond his control, he preferred to trust in providence. (See
the biographical introduction to Igros Moshe, Y.D. Volume 5, where this is explained
The psychological benefits of Rav Moshe's approach are obvious. This idea is also
reflected in the serenity prayer (used as a source of inspiration for recovering
addicts), which goes as follows: "G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the
Another important point to consider is that no matter how much research we do, and
how much we feel we know our intended spouse, that person is essentially a stranger.
You don't really know a person until you have both been up for several evenings
with one child who has a temperature of 104, another who threw up all over the new
carpet, and numerous bills to pay. When the chips are down and people are under
great stress, they will likely revert to their old and earliest behaviors and patterns
of relating, so a person's upbringing is an important factor to consider. Therefore,
Rav Moshe's advice about looking at the qualities of a potential mate's family should
However, here is where it gets tricky: Yes, one should not marry someone for whom
he has no feelings attraction. But, no, it should not take hundreds of dates over
many years to find such a person. So, something to consider is, if it is taking
an unusual amount of time to find that person, or if one is always attracted to
people who don't seem to be attracted to him, then there may be unconscious avoidance
mechanisms at work.
Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, CSW co-authors a weekly column in the Jewish Press on religion,
relationships and parenting, along with his wife Chaya Feuerman, CSW. The Feuermans
also have authored a book, titled "How to Have Fun Without Getting into Trouble:
Essays on Relationships, Parenting and the Self" available through Rowman and Littlefield,
inc. In addition, Simcha serves as Director of Community Services at Ohel Children’s
Home and Family Services. He received training in family therapy from the Philadelphia
Child Guidance Center and maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Queens,
New York, where he provides individual therapy, family therapy and couples counseling.
To email a question to Simcha please click
(Please note: All questions asked to Simcha will be published on the site with
the pseudo names.)
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