Who should travel for a first date? Should it be the young man, or the young woman? Lately, this has become one of the most frequently asked questions by those who are in the shidduch parsha. Parents, young women, and bachurim are all asking this question and wondering what is the appropriate, right, and fair thing to do when deciding who should be the one to shoulder the burden of traveling for a first date.
To begin with, I would like to say that it is not my goal to definitively answer this question one way or the other, because the real answer is – it depends. As no two situations are exactly the same and no two people are exactly the same, there is no one answer that will fit every situation and every couple. Therefore, what I hope to accomplish is to lay out some of the various concerns and considerations on both sides of this matter. The more that each side can appreciate where the other is coming from, the better equipped everyone will be to make a fully informed decision and, more importantly, b’ezras Hashem, for each side to feel respected and appreciated when this question arises.
To understand a little bit more about the root of the issue, let us first take a look at the seminary and yeshiva norms of today, because it is this reality that causes many communities to struggle with various areas related to shidduchim. When young women finish seminary, they generally return home. Be it Miami, Baltimore, Denver, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, or LA, when young women begin to entertain shidduchim, they have, by and large, returned to their home cities. However, by the time the vast majority of bachurim are ready to enter shidduchim, they have settled in yeshivas in the New York and New Jersey areas.
To be clear, this is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with this reality, nor am I positing that every city must establish a number of post high-school yeshivos so that all young men may return home and learn at these new yeshivos solely for the sake of bettering the shidduch opportunities of the young women in their home towns. While such a construct might be nice, it is not a fair or reasonable expectation, and it is not realistic to think that every young man will marry a young woman from his home town and that will solve all of our shidduch woes.
Additionally, this is not meant to claim, in any way at all, that for those in New York or New Jersey shidduchim are an easy task. This is just a statement of one of the realities of today’s frum world. Most young women of marriageable age have returned home, and are living from coast to coast, and most young men of marriageable age, from YU to BMG, and everywhere in between, have become centralized in one relatively small area, at least for the time being. And it is primarily for this reason that it has become extremely common for a date to necessitate travel by one side or the other. As a result, the question of who should travel for the first date has become one which is being asked with significantly increased frequency.
Let us then look at the various vantage points from which we can approach the original question.
From the young woman’s point of view, it is rather straightforward to appreciate why she would expect that the young man be the one to travel for the date. Chazal tell us, derech ha’ish leilech achar ha’isha, it is the way of the man to pursue and find a wife. It is the responsibility of the young man to seek out a wife, regarding time, energy, and also money. Consequently, when a young man asks that the young woman be the one to travel for a first date, it begs the question: Does he not respect her enough and think highly enough of her to make the trip himself to go out on a date with her?
He has heard about her from the shadchan and the references whom he and/or his parents have contacted, he has seen what her profile says about her, and he feels it likely enough that she might be his bashert to agree to say yes to a date with her. Why, then, would he not travel to meet her? Is he unaware of what our chazal tell us? Is he not concerned enough with how it might affect the young woman’s feelings to be asked to do the traveling?
It can take a significant toll on a young woman’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth to feel that she is not worth the trip to date her. Wouldn’t a bachur who is a mentsch make that effort to meet her? These are feelings that I do not believe most young men experience. There is no shame in a bachur traveling for a date, because the derech haTorah asks him to do so. As Rabbi Shraga Neuberger stated at a recent shiur for bachurim in shidduchim: “Although the world has changed, the derech haTorah and the derech hayashar say that the bachur is the one who really should travel for a first date.”
Simple, and perfectly understandable.
Now let us look at the young man’s point of view, which requires a little more detailing, as it seems that there are some misconceptions about why young men will, at times, ask that the young woman be the one to travel for the first date.
In most of these cases, the young man has been presented with the profiles of many young women whom he is being recommended to date, from shadchanim, friends, and family alike. Each time, he is told that the wonderful bas Yisrael being redt to him is perfect for him and is going to be his wife. Given that he has yet to meet any of these young women in person, and they are all being presented in more or less the same fashion, namely, through word of mouth, followed by a sheet of paper with a small bio, it is quite impossible for any young man to know which, if any, of the young women he is being recommended to date will in fact, be his zivug.
On top of that, he has been taught, almost since the day he was born, the importance of limud Torah. He has been told that if he truly wants to be a ben Torah, he must dedicate himself to learning with the utmost diligence, and the importance of keeping his sedarim has been stressed countless times. Not to mention that so many of the young women in shidduchim and their parents unequivocally state that they want a bachur who is truly and wholly dedicated to his learning.
Returning to the profiles of the young women that have been redt to him, invariably, some will be right nearby or perhaps a drive of an hour. Others will be a three- to five-hour drive, and yet others will require a trip by airplane. Of course, if a young woman across the globe was redt to him and he felt that she stood out – based on the information he was given – as the one who was most likely to be his wife, he would head right over, but that is generally not the case. It is usually unclear from the snapshot of information being presented to him, a snapshot that is supposed to encapsulate an entire human being, which young woman is truly best suited for him and most likely to be his wife.
It is only natural that when a young man is considering whom he should date, he takes into account the exhausting nature of travel, the monetary cost, and how it can negatively affect his ability to get back to learning in between dates. Is it not understandable, then, why a young man might choose to start by dating the young women who are close by?
Each bachur is trying to ascertain what is his proper hishtadlus, based on the various considerations surrounding him and the many people pointing him in different directions, so he can make the best decision possible. He is not in any way suggesting that the young women in Chicago, Detroit, or Baltimore are any less wonderful than the young women in New York or New Jersey. He is not saying that the young women living farther away are not worth his while to travel and meet, nor is he saying that it is bitul Torah for him to travel for a date. All he is saying is that he is being presented with a number of equally excellent ideas and that he must begin somewhere. And sometimes, when there is nothing obviously striking about any one idea over all of the others, it is most reasonable for him to start with whoever is nearest.
With that in mind, a young man might say to the shadchan, “This sounds like a very nice shidduch, but it really only makes sense for me to say yes to this date at present if the young woman will travel. I understand that this might not be possible or comfortable for her, and I would not want to make her go out of her way or feel bad, so I fully understand if it is not possible for the young woman to travel. In the meantime, I will date locally, and if it turns out that those ideas do not work, I will get back to you and might consider traveling to date this wonderful young woman you have redt to me.”
Fully considering all of the vantage points, it is a very tough call, and each side presents a very fair and reasonable point of view. As previously mentioned, Rabbi Neuberger stated that the derech haTorah is for the man to travel, and if the only options were either for the young man to travel, the young woman to travel, or for neither of them to travel and for no dates to take place at all, there would be no question. The young man would be obligated to travel. But that is not the case today. Because so many young men are located in one general area, and because there are young women being redt to them in that very same area, the other option is that the young man will date young women who are located closer to him until such time that it feels clearer to him that a young woman living farther away stands out from the crowd as being the most suited for him.
This does not mean that every young man can, or should, insist on the young woman traveling, since he has other local shidduchim being redt to him. He must consider how positive each opportunity sounds, what he is able to do, what is consistent with his lifestyle and hashkafos, and overall, what is most appropriate for him to do in each situation he faces.
Nor does this mean that it falls to every young woman to travel, no matter what, when a yes for a date is contingent upon her doing so. Every young woman must consider the opportunity value alongside the opportunity cost. She must consider what shidduchim are being redt to her locally, as well as if there are shidduchim being redt to her with other young men who are willing and able to travel, and she must consider the emotional toll it may have on her if she is the one who travels. Given all of the opportunities each young woman has, and given the “cost” of each opportunity, she must decide which opportunity sounds the best and what she needs to do to take advantage of it.
Every young man and woman must decide what is right for them, and understand that each situation they encounter will be different. They must also decide what they are comfortable with, in order to increase their opportunities in the world of shidduchim.
One final point I would like to close on is to share a thought from Rabbi Shraga Neuberger’s sefer on shalom bayis, Sefer Yoi’atzei Shalom. In speaking about the middah of vatranus, of forgoing one’s opinions, wants, or needs, Rabbi Neuberger quotes a beautiful idea from Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, zt”l: “If one considers that the ultimate purpose is to build a bayis which is ne’eman to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, with peace and tranquility, they will realize that triumph is not measured by how often one succeeds in getting what they want in any one specific area, even when they are holding on to a point that they truly believe to be of value and leshem Shamayim. Rather, true triumph is to succeed in reaching one’s ultimate purpose. Therefore, many times, forgoing one’s needs or wants is in fact their greatest triumph, as that is what will lead to one’s reaching their ultimate purpose, building a beautiful and peaceful home that is pleasing to Hashem.”
It cannot be said definitively that either the young man or the young woman should be the one to travel for the first date. There are fair and reasonable considerations on each side. However, what we can say definitively is that in looking to reach one’s ultimate purpose, which in this case is finding one’s bashert, both sides should consider that perhaps forgoing their needs or wants in any one specific area will bring them closer to their ultimate purpose.
May Hashem help all the young men and women in shidduchim and their parents to make the right decisions, for the right reasons, and may their decisions lead them to finding their zivugim and building batim ne’emanim b’Yisrael, bekarov ubenachas.
May all of Klal Yisrael be zocheh to a ksiva vechasima tova, and a year which is malei simcha uvracha!