I had sworn long ago I would never step foot inside another Friday night Oneg Shabbat event at Congregation Ohav Zedek on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. But there I was last Friday at the annual “Young Professionals Chulent Cook-Off.”  As I tasted each home-made chulent, each one improbably more unpalatable than the next, I quickly resolved to leave as soon as I could. Unfortunately, a friend whom I promised to walk home was making her way through the crowd both introducing others and being introduced.

            Therefore, I had no choice but to remain in this literal and figurative meat market. This is what I saw: Arrayed around the periphery of the Bais Medrash on a single row of chairs were generally older singles. They spoke to no one and no one spoke to them. They were there as a harsh reminder of what might be the Onegs of Friday nights’ future.  Not that I am a spring chicken, mind you. The presence at the Oneg of those singles in their early 20’s, just out of college and into the work or graduate school world quickly reminds me that I am growing older with each passing  Oneg Shabbat.

Ah, but the vision of Friday nights’ past soon arose. I spotted former girlfriends and almost-girlfriends among the pressing crowd. I ran into one girl who once balked at the idea of me accompanying her to visit the apartments of the elderly and/or  infirm on a Shabbat afternoon. I had never met this girl before that day, so I do not know how to explain her reticence. Perhaps she thought I would make a move on her in the presence of a senior with poor eyesight and/or dementia. Perhaps, I figured, this had happened to her before. Perhaps she was suspicious of any guy who would volunteer his time. Why else would a handsome, successful Jewish bachelor freely surrender his Saturday afternoon to visit an elderly and/or sick stranger from whom he would (probably) not inherit money?  Surely, this was a ploy to meet a girl, she must have thought. As at stood at the Oneg, I decided I would give this girl the benefit of the doubt and assume she strictly adhered to the laws of Yichud, according to which a guy and a girl cannot be alone together in the same apartment, albeit an apartment also occupied by an elderly, blind, sick woman with Alzheimer’s Disease.

            I do not profess to understand the opposite gender. Certainly, not having married by now, I have no license to dispense with advice, nor attempt to offer up a possible solution to the “singles crisis.”  My Friday night at OZ, however, reminded me of how I spent my Wednesday night last week. Bari Lyman, the author of “Meet to Marry: A Dating Revelation for the Marriage Minded” spoke at the Chabad Loft in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. To a full house of women and men, she described how singles must “be the one to find the one.”  Lyman is not a matchmaker. Rather, through her book, available on Amazon.com, and her marriage coaching website, she teaches singles how to break old dating habits and stop attracting the wrong type of  people and entering into the wrong type of relationships. Lyman spoke for an hour to an enraptured audience. She spoke of how singles must become “clear” by eliminating the “blockages” and “blind spots” in their dating lives.

There was no chulent in sight.