Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to reflect back on the holiday of Simchat Torah and I’ve come to the conclusion that the Chag is important for two reasons: 1) it’s the celebration of the completion of the Torah and 2) it’s the kickoff event for a brand new dating season! Summer vacation is over, the Chagim have finally come to an end, and for singles it means that it is finally time to hop back on the Shidduch Dating train, and what better way to welcome in a new Shidduch Dating season than by having a holiday where tons of single guys and girls come to shul looking for a mate? Most people tend to focus on the first aspect of the holiday, however, I believe that for the majority of singles, from elementary school and beyond, Simchat Torah is about meeting people of the opposite gender and the fact that we have just completed The Five Books of Moses is really just a side point. Regardless of your level of religious observance or regularity of synagogue attendance, EVERYBODY who is single makes an appearance in shul on Simchat Torah. It is the prime time for bashert hunting, but the problem is that many people don’t come out with any dates. After celebrating Simchat Torah 24x in cities and universities that span the country, I have finally determined the appropriate steps that a modern orthodox yid must take in order to have a successful holiday. The key is to have a strategy and a game plan!
Before I jump into the specifics as to the strategy one should employ, I’d first like to describe the typical Simchat Torah. The Chag begins for most people when they walk into Temple sometime in the middle of services. I think it’s fair to say that many people don’t actually make it inside the actual sanctuary since all of the good schmoozing takes place outside in the social hall. Feeling slightly nervous and anxious, most singles search for familiar faces to talk to. Throughout hakafot, more and more people pile into shul. After a fair amount of schmoozing with friends, hakafot wind down and people go party hopping. Often, party hopping consists of going into someone’s apartment, standing there, watching people get drunk or getting drunk yourself, watching people puke or puking yourself, and talking to people you already know (who you’ve also been speaking with in shul for the past 2 hours). The following day consists of more of the same: Schmoozing with people you know, consuming alcohol, and occasionally warding off sketchy weirdoes. Two years ago, after an extremely eventful Simchat Torah on the Upper West Side, a bachur approaches me and told me proudly: “Dude, I got like 20 new Facebook friends this year and was soooo wasted last night! Coming here was totally worth it!” This line got me thinking that if we have begun measuring the level of success of our Simchat Torah experience based on the number of Facebook friends we have accumulated and our level of alcohol consumption, then we have really forgotten what the essence of the holiday is about.
The essence of the chag, if you are single, is to find someone to date. It’s as simple as that. In order to make this happen it is imperative that you go into the holiday with some type of game plan. Below I have outlined the 4 prong approach to having a successful Simchat Torah:
1) Do your research: Most people go into the Simchat Torah totally blind. They don’t know who will be there, so they have no plan as to who they want to schmooze with. Bad move! This will just lead to you hocking with the same individuals who you see on a daily basis. In the 21st century it is very easy to do some research in order to figure out who will be where for Simchat Torah and who might be a potential target to pursue. Utilize Facebook, AIM, Gchat, and old fashion networking to get a sense of eligible prospects at your Simchat Torah location. People might be asking themselves several questions right now:
Question: Well, isn’t this like stalking people?”
Answer: No. This is EXCACTLY like stalking people! Everybody does it anyway. Whether you spend hours on your own Facebook account or your “frum” and use your friend’s account, the difference is this is for tachlis reasons so it’s completely muttur!
Question: Isn’t this a bit nebby?
Answer: No. Spending a whole holiday schmoozing with the opposite gender and not getting a single date can be viewed as nebby. Doing some research and having a strategy that increases your chances of getting a date shows that you are marriage minded and want to make the most of your time.
Question: Shouldn’t I be researching dvrei Torah instead of researching for potential dates?
Answer: Let’s be honest! You are going to be looking over the mechitza the whole time anyway. You might as well be true to yourself and focus on what you’re really interested in. When next year comes around, you will be married (iy’h) or have a gf/bf so you will be able to focus all your kavana on preparing beautiful dvrei Torah.
Question: Doesn’t researching/strategizing like this take away from the real essence of the holiday?
Answer: The real essence of the holiday is to be happy and to find your bashert. Doing research and having a strategy will allow you to accomplish both goals.
Now that we understand the importance of doing research and having a strategy in place, let’s focus on the next step.
2) Have a wingman/woman: This is so important during any type of social gathering. At a business networking event it is great to have someone that you can play off of and who can get you out of dead end conversations. During a singles event (i.e. Simchat Torah) having a wingman/woman is essential to help you get out of sticky situations and to give you support when hocking with a potential date.
It is inevitable that through the course of Simchat Torah you will be approached by someone you really do not want to be speaking with. These type of people range from the super confident individuals who see something they want and go after it in an aggressive and often rude manner, to the socially challenged person who approaches a potential girl/guy with nothing really to say, which can make the entire encounter awkward for everyone involved. These types of situations are when the wingman/woman comes in handy. You need to flash a sign (which should be determined prior to the event) to your wing to come rescue you from this individual. A wing is as imperative to a single on Simchat Torah, as a Sherpa is to a climber of Mount Everest. If you don’ have one to give you support, you are asking for trouble!
3) Shrink the Social Scene: Very few people thrive in a large social atmosphere. It is very difficult to approach people, and it is even more difficult to actually meet someone and establish a connection with them. This is why I highly recommend you “shrink the social scene.” How does one do that? The best way is by hosting a meal or oneg type of shindig where you invite your friends and tell them each to invite someone that YOU DO NOT KNOW to the event. This greatly increases your chances of branching out into different circles and possibly meeting somebody new. If you have done your research before hand and know specifically which meideluch/bachrim you’d like to have in attendance, then you can invite them to what will be a low pressured atmosphere without any of the sketch balls or drunkards getting in your way. It is very important not to publicize this type of event to the olum or it will defeat the purpose of your shindig.
4) Follow up: Whether it’s by phone call or Facebook friendship, you have to step up and follow up with any potentials that you meet. Expecting things to just “work out” because it is “bashert” is not a recommended way of going through life. Several weeks ago a bachur mentioned a girl to me that he had a conversation with and told me he was very interested in her. I said I would be happy to set him up because I happened to be friendly with the girl. He responded by saying “Nah, maybe end up at a meal together hopefully!” Wow, talk about a man with a plan! Divine intervention brought the two of them together once and now this bachur’s strategy is to just pray to Hashem to make them magically end up at a meal together! Seems a bit chutzpadik! One needs to put in their own effort, and if things work out then great, but if they don’t at least you will be able to sleep at night knowing that you gave it your all. Following up is a crucial part to any networking event. If you don’t plan on following up, then don’t bother showing up. Both of those things are of equal importance.
Over the course of Simchat Torah you are bound to see a lot of interesting things. Whether its excessive drunkenness, a guy handing out business cards with his contact information (yes, this actually happened), being hit on by someone that is 15 years your senior, and various other things, all in an effort to attract the opposite gender. However, after years of Simchat Torah experience, I have finally come to the conclusion that the best technique is to have a plan. This will make things less overwhelming and more focused on what you are trying to accomplish. As the famous saying goes: “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”
One of my senior shidduch advisors, Perel Sara, once explained to me, that the way you can determine if you had a successful Simchat Torah is if you get just ONE date by the end of yuntif. No matter how many appealing individuals you see in shul, and regardless of how good your social skills may be, it can still be very challenging to get a date at such a large social gathering. However, if you do your research, have a wingman/woman, shrink the social scene, and follow up with any singles that you have met, and end up with just ONE date because of it, than you have achieved the ultimate Simchat Torah experience!