For a number of weeks now I have been discussing the crisis among singles. I hope the columns have provided some clarity and a better understanding of this dilemma.
In this concluding column I would like to focus on the big question so many have asked: Since our faith teaches that every person has a soul mate – bashert – designated by Heaven, how is it that so many cannot find their partners?
Searching for your soul mate becomes easier when you have faith. It is written that forty days before our creation G-d selects a match for us. That knowledge is very fortifying, for if a potential match doesn’t work out, there is no sense of personal rejection. We find consolation in the thought his person was probably not the one G-d chose for us. So although we must do our part in pursuing a match, if in the process we encounter disappointments, we don’t despair. We put it down to its not having been bashert.
At a singles gathering, an attractive woman in her thirties approached me. “Rebbetzin,” she said, “I’ve been on more dates than I care to count. I’m suffering from date burnout, and frankly, I’m tired. If everyone has a bashert, why is it taking me so long to find mine?”
I answered her with two stories – one from our ancient past and one from today. “It is written in the Midrash that King Solomon had an exquisite daughter and, like all fathers, wanted a very special husband for her – someone who would be truly worthy of a princess. But the king foresaw his beautiful daughter was destined to marry an impoverished young man from a totally unsuitable family. To ensure this would never happen, he built a palace on an island and sent his daughter there. He stationed armed guards all around the perimeter and felt quite secure that these precautions would protect the princess from an inappropriate marriage.
“One day it happened that despite all the guards and protective walls, a young pauper, barefoot and dressed in rags, miraculously found his way into the well-guarded gardens of the palace. The next morning, when the princess took her daily walk, she came upon the pauper. ‘I am a traveler from the holy city of Acco,’ he explained.
“The princess had compassion for him and secretly arranged for his care. As she came to know him, she discovered he was a man of great depth and sensitivity – an outstanding Torah scholar and a gifted scribe. Soon the young man proposed marriage, which the princess readily accepted. In no time at all, the secret was out, and with great trepidation the guards informed King Solomon. But to everyone’s relief, when King Solomon heard the news he proclaimed, ‘Blessed be Almighty G-d who forever brings together the husband and wife who are destined for each other.’ ”
I paused for a moment and told the young woman, “You see, G-d has many wondrous ways of uniting those who are meant for each other. So, yes, everyone has a bashert, and G-d helps you to find him or her even under the strangest and most inexplicable circumstances.”
I then told her another story. “Many years ago, my daughter Slovie went to Israel on a mission for our Hineni organization, and while she was there, her future husband, who was visiting from Brazil, caught a glimpse of her and the rest is history. So G-d does bring together souls that are meant for each other even if they are separated by oceans and live in different parts of the world.”
I added, however, that it doesn’t end there. “G-d endows each and every person with free will, and since we live in a world in which values have become blurred, in which Hollywood rather than Torah values shapes our expectations, it is easy to make wrong decisions and reject our soul mates when we meet them. We tend to look for fluff rather than substance, good looks rather than a kind heart; deep pockets rather than a profound mind, so its little wonder our soul mates sometimes slip by.
“There is a well known story about a bachelor in his forties who traveled to the Holy Land to consult a great sage about this very same problem. He asked, ‘If everyone has a bashert why haven’t I found mine?’
The rabbi gazed at him with piercing eyes, “You did find her, but when you met her you thought her nose was too long.”
The young woman nodded. “What’s the answer, then?” she asked me. “What measures can we take to ensure we choose the person destined for us?”
“It’s not easy,” I replied, “but since it all comes from G-d, first and foremost we have to pray that when we meet him or her, He will open our eyes so we may know this is the “right” one and, moreover, that our ‘other half’ should recognize us. When my own children were ready to consider marriage, my father would caution us not to beseech G-d for any one specific person. The one you might consider to be absolutely perfect could turn out to be a disaster, so place your trust in Hashem and ask that He guide each child to his or her bashert.”