Playing with Matches

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Chayei Sarah 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: When a boy and girl go out many times, sometimes they are interested in going out with another couple to see how the prospective spouse interacts in company. Obviously, the aim is not to create a social gathering in which they “have a ball”, but to allow their relationship to develop and flow from a different direction. Is this permissible?
Answer: Absolutely not, for three reasons, any one of which would provide enough reason to reject it.
1. It’s going too far. 2. It won’t help. 3. It’s forbidden.
1. It’s going too far. What do you care how the girl functions in company? The main thing is how she functions with you. Is she in line to be a public relations man?! And if we say that she doesn’t behave properly to others, then that means she has a fault, but you’re not looking for an angel without shortcomings. And even if you look for that, you won’t find it. And even if you find it, she won’t marry you, because you, yourself, are no
angel. After all, you’ve got a shortcoming that you’re examining her too closely.
This brings to mind Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein’s response regarding a boy who wanted his prospective match to cook for him to make sure that she didn’t burn her food. Rav Feinstein rejected this (Shut Igrot Moshe). One has to hope that with G-d’s help the couple will come to an equitable agreement in the kitchen.
Likewise, even if it becomes clear that she does not behave properly towards others, one must hope that with the help of your blessed influence she will improve. After all, couples continue to advance ethically through mutual assistance and mutual love.
2. It won’t help. You can’t put someone under a microscope using a chance, fleeting test. One has to keep an ongoing watch, and especially to check on his or her behavior in situations of tension and crisis. After all, in most situations we are all sweetness and light. The test comes in crisis. Will you initiate a crisis?!
Yet there’s a much better, alternate solution. That is to ask others who know the candidate inside-out, like teachers or dormitory friends.
That constitutes an immeasurably more objective gauge than what you will see in some joint activity. And anyway, one shouldn’t go out with a girl before first finding out all one can from those who know her. Will you go out with a girl, and after you start to like her, suddenly remember to check out several points and then decide that it’s out of the question? Why cause senseless pain? Why do something wicked?
3. It’s forbidden. True, the intent is not to have fun, but going out with a girl for fun is forbidden, even if that is not the intent. True, Rambam wrote that one should not marry a woman until he sees her, to ensure that he likes her. Yet one cannot go beyond that for the purpose of having pleasure. And even Rambam’s permitting one to see her did not make Ra’avad particularly happy. True, the couple have to talk together to get to know one another and to resolve disagreements, and sometimes long talks are necessary.
But there’s a limit! Dating is not a halachic excuse for having fun.
Moreover, we’re talking here about one unmarried couple going out with another. What license is there to having fun with your friend’s wife or date? That’s already too much!
As far as wanting things to “flow freely”, that’s part of a plague that began recently, i.e., 250-300 years ago, that people became slaves of “flowing freely”.
One is reminded of the story of the philosopher Schopenhauer about the man who went to a masked ball and met a very interesting woman with whom he talked until the middle of the night. Afterwards he said to himself, “Finally I’ve met a woman with whom I can flow freely, a woman with whom I can have deep, personal conversations – not like the morose sourpuss I’m married to.” Yet at midnight, when everyone took their masks off, he saw that it was his wife…
In other words, it’s easy to flow freely. Marriage is about something else.
Responsibility, seriousness, morality, self-sacrifice.