Today wasn’t a great day.  I overslept, felt very dizzy on waking, did even less davening (praying) than usual, had to catch the bus to the station instead of walking to save time, discovered that, due to someone else’s error, I had wasted a day and a half’s work and then got a migraine.  That isn’t why I’m writing, though.

My sister sent me the link for another Jewish dating site, but this one looks interesting.  It was founded by Rabbi Naftali Brawer, who I’ve briefly met (well, stood within a few metres of – he officiated at my great-aunt’s funeral and tombstone consecration) and whose answers to the Ask the Rabbi column in the Jewish Chronicle I admire for their thoughtfulness and sensitivity.  I say this to prove that I know he’s not just some crazy crank with a weird idea.

Basically, the idea is that they match you with someone based on shared values rather than interests or personality.  I think that shared values are really important in a relationship, and my only previous relationship floundered because of a lack of them, but I find it hard to talk about them on dates or to observe them in my date’s actions, so it would be good to meet someone who is likely to share my values from the start.

My concern – aside from the fear that, like lots of other shadchanim (matchmakers), they will run a mile as soon as I say the magic words “mental health issues” – is that Rabbi Brawer is considered to be on the ‘left’ of Orthodoxy (we use ‘left’ and ‘right’ for less or more traditional/strict.  It doesn’t strictly speaking correspond to politically left and right, although there is often an overlap).  I wonder if this would make it less likely for me to meet someone on my level – if I even know where my level is!  People can slice the Orthodox community into very fine strips, which probably isn’t terribly helpful.  So I worry about only meeting women to my ‘left’ who won’t approve of my shul or conversely of being shunned by my current community if they find out I’m using this service[1].  To be honest, I would rather find my wife even if it means a few people shun me.  I guess this is all grist to the mill of the conversation I’m supposed to have with the assistant rabbi from shul (synagogue) on Thursday about feeling I don’t fit in,a conversation I’m already very nervous about.

That said, lately I find that I’m a bit happier about not fitting in.  I’ve started singing in public again.  Not aloud, but mouthing the words along with my music.  I don’t really care who sees, at least until I get self-conscious and stop.  I know I like things that most people consider trivial, stupid or kitsch, but which I see value in, from Doctor Who and other classic television science fiction to Orthodox Judaism.  I call myself ‘eccentric’ because it sounds nicer than ‘weirdo’ or ‘freak’ or even ‘autistic.’  In the eighteenth century, eccentrics were known as “originals,” (as a noun rather than an adjective) meaning ‘unique, a one-off.’  People would say, “Do you know Sir Thomas Winstanley?  He’s a great original.”  Which could mean anything from, “He’s slightly unconventional” to “He’s mad as a hatter.”  But it had a more positive sense than ‘freak’ or even ‘eccentric.’  A great original was someone to be treasured, if not necessarily imitated.  Maybe that’s what I should aim for.  I just need a wife who can appreciate my originality.

[1] I imagine a gameshow called How Frum Are You? (or maybe Have I Got Jews for You?) where contestants have to compete to prove their religiosity.  “Do you have a TV?  Do you have any secular educational qualifications?  Do you say tachanun on Yom Ha’atzmaut?”  The winner gets to become the godol hador (leading Torah scholar/religious leader of the generation).  But if you lose, you get put in herem (excommunicated, although the term means something rather different for Jews than for Christians) and your children will never get married.

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