Rabbis of LA | Rabbi David Toledano: He Has Answers for Couples with Questions

The Valley-based Orthodox rabbi calls himself a relationship architect.
October 12, 2023
Rabbi David Toledano

For some people, it takes years until they know what their life’s work will be. Rabbi David Toledano, the founder of the Toledano Academy, was lucky. “I knew from a young age what I was going to do with my life,” the Haifa native told the Journal. “I remember the day, the place, the moment, the smell. I was seven years old.” How did he know? “I can’t tell you more,” he said. “It’s personal.” 

These days, the Valley-based Orthodox rabbi — who moved to America with his wife and four children (“they’re our best friends,” he said) in 1996 — calls himself a relationship architect. “I don’t do this as a job,” he said. “This is my life’s mission. If I became a multi-billionaire tomorrow, I would continue to do this for free. I am different from 33 years ago. I am much deeper. My understanding of my calling, being in service to people, grows every single day.”

Toledano specializes in clarity. “In the coaching business, you don’t tell anybody what to do. I believe people have every answer to every question they have about their lives. My support is in navigating them toward the answers they already have.” (It probably helps that physically he is hugely imposing — and is as gentle as he is large.) 

Over the years he has discovered numerous commonalities among the couples he works with: They share a lack of knowledge, a lack of preparation and the lack of an idea. “We are paying an enormous price for following our hearts and all kinds of Hollywood beliefs,” he said. “We believe marriage will work simply because ‘I love you.’”

But love isn’t nearly enough. Marriage, he said, is a profession, and “For God’s sakes, you’ve got to know what you are doing, just like every other profession in the world.”

Toledano divides the couples who come to him for a 15-week course in finding correction and fulfillment into three groups:

• Ninety-nine percent have no idea what they are doing.

• The second group is experiencing challenges “that have nothing to do with marriage. They have to do with us, being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.”

• The third (and smallest) group is suffering for all kinds of reasons, including mental illnesses, “which … they never share that with the other person. That’s not my territory.”

Zeroing in on a central shortcoming, Rabbi Toledano tells all couples: “If I were President of the United States for 24 hours and could only pass one bill, I would prohibit marriages — no joke — unless you go to school first. I would tell people you are not allowed to get married unless you take the education course first.”

Toledano divides the couples he works with into three categories: Pre-marrieds, marrieds and marrieds in crisis. “Pre-marrieds will gain the most from my work,” he said. “Instead of spending time to fix problems, they can just prevent them – if they only know how the system works.” But business-wise, pre-marrieds are the most difficult clients. “At the stage of love they are in, what are you going to tell them? This love might not last? They don’t believe you.”

The rabbi is firm about where his responsibility stops with all couples. “I am not a partner in crime,” he said. “If you don’t know what you are doing, chances for a marriage to survive are extremely low.” 

Rabbi Toledano works with: American Jews, non-Jews, and Israelis. He will work, he said, “with any human being who has the desire to celebrate the gift of life.” Each, naturally, is different. “Non-Jews, he said, “are the most respectful people to my religion.  They see my kippah as an advantage … They respect the ancient wisdom, as they call it, and I would say they are really humble.”  The Americans who come to him range in age from 35 and 55, are mostly educated and sophisticated, but are somewhat hesitant. “They want to make sure they can trust you, that you know what you are doing, that you have experience in their field,” Toledano said.

Then there are the Israelis. “They are coming with a very simple attitude: ‘My life doesn’t work. I am suffering. I brought the problem with me. How long and how much do you want to fix it?’” The rabbi says they know the solution. “But they just want you to do it. It takes a few sessions to bring them back to reality.”

“They benefit if they do the work and listen to me. Agreeing with me is meaningless — unless you put it into practice.”
– Rabbi David Toledano

At the end, there is a commonality among the three types. “People get the hope that with a little knowledge, they can transform their lives,” the rabbi said. “They benefit if they do the work and listen to me. Agreeing with me is meaningless — unless you put it into practice.”

Marriage has nothing to do with hard work. The key, Toledano said, is do you know how it works? “I firmly believe a healthy marriage is one of the easiest, most pleasurable spaces to live in – with one condition: Do you know what you are doing?” The rabbi offers a brief, uncomplicated response when pre-marrieds ask how to avoid matching up with the wrong partner. It’s probably not so different from your mother’s counsel when you were a teen: “Let your mind lead and your heart follow,” Rabbi Toledano says. 

The Toledano Academy also devotes an entire coaching program for dating. “Dating right is closing your heart until you give it permission to wake up,” the rabbi said. “Before asking ‘who am I going to date,’ I ask, ‘who am I? What are my needs?’”

Fast Takes with Rabbi Toledano

Jewish Journal: What is the most important ingredient in your life?

Rabbi Toledano: Love. I breathe it like oxygen. I adore love. I care for love. I love to love. I love to be loved.

J.J.:  What is your favorite Jewish food?

Rabbi Toledano: Whatever my wife cooks.

J.J.: What is the most memorable book you have read?

Rabbi Toledano: “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill.

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