By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Recently, a young man asked this author whether it was permitted to date during the Nine Days. The answer is not only may one date, but one can even get engaged during the Nine Days. And not only during the Nine Days, but one can even get engaged on Tisha B’Av itself (See SA OC 551:2)!
Showering for a Date
The Shaivet HaLevi zt”l (Vol. IX 131:4) permits wearing freshly laundered clothing during the Nine Days for the purposes of dating if it might improve the chances of a shidduch going through. If he has no nice weekday clothing, he may even wear Shabbos clothing (see Halichos Shlomo Chapter 14 DH 15 as cited by R. Simcha Bunim Cohen).
That being the case, it would seem that showering in warmish water would also be permitted for the same reasoning.
Why Is Dating Permitted
There is a fascinating Maharsha in tractate Moed Kotton (18b) that discusses why it is permitted to get engaged during Chol HaMoed. The Gemorah explains that one may get engaged to a girl because “shema yakdimena acher – perhaps someone else will beat him to the punch and betroth her first.”
The question arises: How can this be? The Talmud tells us (in tractate Sotah), “Forty days before the formation of the fetus – a Heavenly voice proclaims, “Bas Ploni l’Ploni! – the daughter of so and so will marry so and so!” If that is the case, then how can another person ever beat him to the punch and betroth her first?
The Maharsha answers that the statement in tractate Sotah is indeed correct, but it does not mean that it will necessarily happen first. Thus, the couple will eventually get together, but not necessarily on the first round. [The Bach, by the way, understands this passage in Moed Kotton entirely differently – unlike the Maharsha].
The Gemorah in Sanhedrin 107a gives us an example of this. Batsheva, Dovid HaMelech’s wife, was originally destined from the six days of creation to marry Dovid HaMelech. How then did Uriah HaChitti beat him to the punch? He prayed for the Shidduch.
Rashi’s explanation of the Gemorah in Moed Kotton is that the “beat him to the punch” refers to Tefillah – prayer. He understands that the person will stop their prayer when the young woman becomes engaged. A prayer can change a plan that was created in Shamayim – even that of the King of Israel!
Hint From the Torah
Why did Eliezer have Kvitzas HaDerech, quick travel, (by the way, the first mention of hyperspace in history) when he was seeking a wife for Yitzchok? The Torah is alluding to us what the future halacha will be, that it would be permitted even to get engaged during Chol HaMoed or during the Nine Days.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org