"DATING SECRETS OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS"
By Shmuley Boteach
$21, 285 pages
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wants us all paired off, and he wants us to start working on it now.
He tells women: "Don't be offended that he is not sweeping you off your feet and getting down on one knee. . . . Getting married is like any other significant decision: we are not happy about doing it, but once it's done, we are very happy."
And, guys, listen up. "A woman roots a man," Boteach advises. "She grounds him and brings him focus and he is able to get on with other important things in life. One woman is all he requires to satisfy all of his needs." Unmarried men, Boteach adds, "live in a state of permanent vacillation and end up appearing highly unimpressive."
In some ways, "Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments," Boteach's ecumenical new guide to finding romance, is like somebody's parent talking.
But it's better, because he can quote the Torah for emphasis. Boteach's words are backed up by theology and its more potent cousin, tradition. Only he could see the words of Deuteronomy as pertaining to TGIFriday's.
Boteach has branched out since his best-selling book "Kosher Sex," which landed him on talk shows all over the country. (Not as provocative as its title, it gave couples no-nonsense advice on how to stay together.) He now has a matchmaking Web site, www.loveprophet.com -- a sort of electronic yenta. Furthermore, he has loosened up. In "Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments," he can't seem to fight the urge to cross into stand-up comedy.
"Not everyone enjoys listening to the entire sound track of "West Side Story' just to leave a message," he lectures women. "Leave a message that is warm and welcoming, stating your name clearly, and . . . saying that you are sure to get back to them, especially if they are wealthy and available."
Beware the blasphemous bore
"Take the two tablets and find your soul mate," Boteach's new book promises. Chapter by chapter, he takes the Commandments and runs with them.
Take, for instance, the Third Commandment, about not taking the Lord's name in vain. How would that apply to an evening at the Marriott? No profanity, most of us would guess. No blurting, "God damn it."
That's good advice, echoed by Boteach (who, happily, also slams the ubiquitous, annoying "I swear to God"). But Boteach finds larger applications. "Rashi, an 11th-century Jewish scholar and one of the greatest rabbis of all time, maintains that the Third Commandment is really about not making false commitments that we do not really intend to fulfill," he writes.
Translation: Don't stretch the truth about yourself. Don't use dumb pickup lines. (Boteach flaunts a list he collected while rabbi-in-residence at Oxford University, gems such as "Is it hot in here or is it just you?") And don't name drop. Unable to resist a joke, Boteach throws us an example: "Loretta, I know you've said that you would prefer to drown at sea than go on a date with me. But will you change your mind when I tell you that I once used the same urinal as Harrison Ford?"
What Commandment No. 3 does ask of us, Boteach says, is to be interesting and sincere. He makes a wonderful statement: "Being a dullard is blasphemy."
"God made you a unique individual," he explains. "I often hear from people that although they went out with three different people in one week, it appeared to them that they had been out with the same person every night."
Much of the book is old advice in new clothing. Still, it's jazzy new clothing, with advice packaged in chapters like "Don't Harm Your Own Reputation," "Bearing False Witness Against Yourself" and "How to Use Coveting to Your Advantage."
Illusions of perfection
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's date: Be on guard, Boteach warns, about thinking any romance is perfect: "You are merely projecting your standards of happiness onto them, and envying that illusion."
"Thou shalt not steal" leads into discussions about stealing someone's heart. And "Thou shalt not commit adultery" shouldn't be merely taken literally. Adultery, Boteach writes, is "really about how we misuse our intimacy, our sexuality, by handing over the most intimate part of ourselves to someone who is neither appropriate nor worthy."
Which leads us to "the dreaded 007 complex," about people who are too mysterious. (For those who aren't mysterious enough, Boteach presents a list of handy tips for preserving your mystique -- such as dress modestly, and at least early in a romance, don't stay on the phone too long.)
Because he opposes sex before marriage, Boteach deplores the word "relationship," which seeks to lend legitimacy to uncemented unions. He also dismisses the words "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" as being too vague, substituting the more impersonal and condescending "date."
Sometimes that term sounds funny -- as in, "Some telltale signs of an unfaithful date." How can a mere date be unfaithful?
Many might call Boteach old-fashioned. As if he knows his tenets will strike many as an uphill battle in this liberal day and age, he offers frequent encouragement. "We are not all Moses," he writes.
Sometimes the rabbi -- who married very young and now lives in New York with his wife and six kids -- shores us up by sharing stories of his own immaturities and failings. He tells little secrets from his own past, always relying, hilariously, on the premise that his wife would never read it. "She doesn't understand how I ever got published," he jokes.
His own life is a lesson to us: Don't look for perfection. Find a person, settle down, make it work. "In dating, you should only look for the guy or girl who meets your needs, or in other words, who brings out the best in you. No one will ever be perfect. But there will come a time in your dating life when you will just feel attracted, comfortable and happy with one man or woman," he confides.
"I am not advocating that you lower your standards in dating. I am advocating that you raise your appreciation and sense of thankfulness that you have found someone who uniquely suits you."
Singles, let the search begin. Ancient Israel is as good a place to start as any.