Rabbi Ritchie Moss finds love in under four weeks

September 25, 2012 by Odile Faludi
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Odile Faludi interviews charismatic Rabbi Ritchie Moss…

Rebbetzin Nechama Dina and Rabbi Ritchie Moss

As I sat in Rabbi Ritchie Moss’s Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs office, I am aware this is going to be a thought-provoking interview. His office is surrounded by bookshelves filled with hundreds of interesting books. Some written well over 200 years ago. This highly intelligent, well-read man insists, “There was no single thing that drove me to become more religious.” He attended Cranbrook school along with his brother, just like his Dad did.  Whilst, his sister followed his mother’s steps and attended Kambala.

He came from a traditional family, but it was not religious by any stretch of the imagination. The big change in his attitude was around his Barmitzvah when his parents took him to Israel to celebrate his special day at the Western Wall.  But a small incident had even greater influence on him. When he was 13, he met Velvel and Nechama Lederman and was welcomed into their family. One day he bought a kosher bag of lollies for their four year old son to enjoy. Rabbi Moss recalls, “The child did the weirdest thing. He ran to his Mum showed her the packet of lollies and asked her if they were Kosher. He then proceeded to bless them. I remember being 13 at the time and thinking WOW, this child has presence of mind to ask his mother before eating these lollies to see if they are Kosher and to bless them to thank g-d. I thought that was incredible. That simple moment affected me very much. I felt this was a child who was being brought up in an environment which promoted not only great discipline but a life full of meaning. He displayed enormous self-control and was able to delay gratification and he was only four.” Rabbi Moss decided at 15 he wanted to be a Rabbi and followed the process which takes seven years of study.

Rabbi Moss’s mission is “Nefesh” – which means Shul with soul. This organisation is predominantly targeted at the 25-45 age group and designed to make people feel more comfortable in Shul. He said, “I found when I was trying to learn more about the religion it was so complicated. No-one wants to feel left out and that is what this congregation is all about – inclusiveness. A lot of people attend Shul but they don’t know when to sit, when to stand, what page to be on, what’s going on, you try to follow someone who knows what they are doing and you are left absolutely up the creek when they dash to the bathroom.” His aim is for Nefesh to be user friendly, approachable and welcoming.

When we discuss love, a sparkle appears in his eyes and a charming grin. After 13 years of marriage with their seventh child on the way, he is comfortable to share his story. “I was 25 and living in New York. I embraced the New York religious Jewish dating system and confess the religious community is very well organised. People set you up. Some of these people are full time matchmakers. This is their profession and they get paid on success.  It is Jewish law and an obligation to pay the matchmaker on success.” He even takes it one step further to say, “It can negatively affect your relationship if you don’t.”

Rabbi Moss explains, “The dating system ensures that before you meet anybody you find out about them first. No pictures are viewed. You have been referred by a third party but that’s still not enough. You need to go to other sources to find out more about the person. Therefore, you talk to teachers, friends, employers to get a fuller picture of this person. This avoids wasting time meeting someone who is not interested in getting married or who has different religious or social values.” For Rabbi Moss he couldn’t take the chance of not being correctly aligned with someone. As he says, “Emotions cloud decisions. It’s not that you need a long list of things that are important to you. But, you should have a short definite list that you are not willing to change. You need to know that the person is moving in the same direction as you. I knew I wanted to be a Rabbi so it was imperative that the girl I was dating was keen to have that type of life.”

By the time he met his wife, Nechama Dina, he knew she ticked all those crucial boxes. “She was going in the same direction. She came from a religious background and is one of nine children and has the same belief system. We had a lot in common before we even laid eyes on each other.”

The matchmaking process is very business-like and participants tend not to start with emotions.  They start very intellectually and rationally, and then let things start to take off emotionally. That way they are making clear decisions and emotions are growing naturally. Rather than having someone knock your socks off and then hoping to actually make sense of it; their method is to know upfront what they are getting into and to do their homework prior to the first meeting. There is no touching, the dating process is all about conversation.

Rabbi Moss says, “I only got to touch Nechama Dina for the first time on our wedding night in private. The physical relationship in a Jewish marriage is a holy sanctified thing. Once you introduce touch, a certain level of objectivity is lost. For us, the physical relationship is an expression of our emotional, intellectual and spiritual level of our relationship and so it is considered extremely holy and powerful. The physical is not treated in isolation as a separate part of our relationship it’s an expression of everything else. From the Jewish perspective, the sexual relationship is seen as the central part of a marriage. In other words, it can’t be anyway belittled. It’s one of the deepest expressions of love and connection. Jewish law says that sexual relationships between a husband and wife are the wife’s right. One of the obligations of a husband is to please their wife and it is actually written in the ketubah, the wedding contract. The focus should be to love the other and not self-gratification.”

So how did this romance blossom in three and a half weeks with no touching? Well their first date was at a place in a Manhattan Hotel called, “The Library.” It’s like a bar and they chatted for well over four hours. It was a comfortable setting and a genuine ice-breaker. Rabbi Moss confesses, “The date felt so easy, I just knew she was the one. It had never happened to me before this feeling. There was no awkwardness. She was so graceful in her manner, I really sensed her inner beauty.”

Their matchmaker was a Rabbi in Israel who knew they both lived in New York. He was a wonderful mediator but truthfully soon after they met they needed no mediator. Rabbi Moss says, “I broke the golden rule, after the first date I was supposed to revert back to the matchmaker to organise the next date. But after the first date I broke protocol. Not sure what got into me…my only excuse is… must be love… I said, ‘So when’s our next date?’ I made the second date on the first date. Four days later we met again and we continued to meet twice a week in public places that were quiet enough to have a private conversation, and often we would just walk on the boardwalk.” By the time they had seven dates in three and half weeks it was time to pop the question. The proposal is a secret; Rabbi Moss isn’t sharing that but his demeanour tells me it must have been very special. Two and a half months later they married in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in a big hall and invited everyone from the community to come and join in their happiness. Of course, the Rabbi matchmaker received a generous donation for his efforts.

For Rabbi Moss, the matchmaker represents the “divine hand,” who made the story have a happy ending. Looking at this accomplished 37 year old Rabbi you know he couldn’t be in a better place. He says, “People may not believe in matchmakers but personalised introductions brings the best results, especially in a big city.”

As I heard the pitter patter of tiny feet running up the hallway and a little baby girl calling out Papa; I knew we were at the end of our interview. The smile on Rabbi Moss’s face said it all. Life is good and being happy is all about finding purpose and having a sense of who you are. Finally, he said, “Happiness is a natural by-product of living a life full of meaning. The momentum of knowing where you are going will always bring you happiness!”


2 Responses to “Rabbi Ritchie Moss finds love in under four weeks”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    I wonder if children born within other religious denomiations, follow their fathers spiritual vein and become priests who have been denied their right to a Rescript of their Vow to legitimize their child.
    I believe in Halakah Law, any bastard can become a Rabbi yet one of the points in the Confidential Questionnaire for a Episcopal Candidate in Australia” to become a bishop at least, is ” was he born in lawful wedlock.
    This marriage appears to be made in heaven with the help of a “divine hand”.

  2. Halina says:

    Thank you for this most romantic story full of light and happiness. In five weeks my granddaughter is going to marry her beloved in the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. The couple have met at the university without being matched, but the young man wanted to be married by the same Rabbi that have married his parents. To prove that my granddaughter is a descendant of the truly orthodox family was for me, the only survivor of the family exterminated through the Holocaust a very difficult task. My daughter was trying to make me to stop breaking my head, saying that if the two youngsters are in love they could be married even by a celebrant. I am so thankful to Shem. By a pure coincidence of meeting the Chief Rabbi of Poland during his visit in Sydney I am now due to his help invited to the first in five generations in my family such a religious nuptials. Marriage is a very serious thing and has to be commenced exactly as the two people want. I am full of the most happy expectations and was realy moved reading about the happy couple you were writing about.

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