I recently came across an article on Din Online which discusses various issues relating to mixed gender zoom mingling. The answer mention a number of violations of Torah law that are relevant. Most notable for me were: ושמרתם מכל דבר רע. As well as ואל אשה בנדת טומאת לט תקרבו לגלות ערוה. And now for my question. I have been dating a Jewish girl for a little over two years, and in that time we have both grown spiritually and have eventually over a long period of time come to observe the laws of Shomer Negiah (physical contact), Yichud, and anything else that we would think would not be allowed between us. It would seem obvious to me that if a mixed gender zoom meeting is a violation of a number of laws, how much more so, most interactions with my girlfriend such as talking on the phone, hanging out (in public), going to a restaurant together, would all be in violation of a number of Torah laws. If this is so (which is also part of my question), How or what is allowed for kosher shidduch dating, or any potential couple getting to know each other? In my case does it make a difference that I have intention to get married to this girl? Is the time period significant? It may be worthwhile to note that due to being a student at the moment part-time University study and part-time Torah study, I am not in a position where I am able to get married for at least 1.5 years from the time of writing. I understand this is a sensitive issue, but I believe I truly am looking for the emet of the Torah, because I sincerely believe that the more of Hashem’s Torah I follow the more meritorious I will be for Hashem to put the appropriate zivug in my life and I do not want to ruin that by violating Torah prohibitions. Do you have any advice for a person in my position?
Firstly, allow me to admire your quest for truth and idealism, in observing even the most difficult of mitzvot, for young people! It is this type of self-discipline, where the Torah builds our character to be Godly, spiritual and successful people, on all accounts! I understand that if you are in university, you are of marriageable age. Even if you are delaying that holy and special day, it is very worthy (!) in your situation, living among non-Jews or the non-observant, to have a religious girlfriend, where you strengthen and support each other from outside influences. The separation of genders which you heard and ask about, is the halachic formula if you were raised that way from a young age (and as I raise my children) and accordingly, it would be wrong, at the age of 16, to start hanging out with girls, which would not add to your spirituality. Or alternatively, if you were to be attending a full-time yeshiva with no distractions whatsoever, then going out with girls would be counter-productive, but this is not your situation. It seems that your relationship with your girlfriend clearly strengthens your religiosity, and not the opposite, and the fact is, as you say, that you are observing the laws of modesty. Nevertheless, experience has shown that if in fact, you have met your eternal soul-mate, in the end you probably won't or can't wait another year and a half, and maybe you should begin considering moving up the date. The Torah is a Living Torah, and although demanding, it also has flexibility, which takes into account various scenarios and situations. Your asking a rabbi is exactly what should be done, but it must be a rabbi who understands your background and situation. All the best!