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Jewish Soul Mates: Is this Marriage Made in Heaven?
By Amy Lederman
The night I met my husband was a warm evening in April and the smell of orange blossoms permeated the air. The date was "arranged" by mutual friends but I had lots of doubts about meeting their old college friend, a nice Jewish doctor from Los Angeles.
" If he's such a great guy, why is he 31 years old and not married?" I asked myself as I pulled into the parking lot, totally missing the irony of my own unmarried situation.
I knew, even before the chips and salsa arrived, that my children would have his eyes. Deep, calm, caring eyes that had me convinced in less than a minute that I had come home to the place I had been traveling 27 years to find.
I didn't know what it was called at the time but according to Jewish tradition, I had found my bashert, my true soul mate.
What is a soul mate? Is it a New Age concept to define true love? Is it a catchy phrase used by Romance novelists and publishers to sell books? Or does is mean something deeper and more essential, a spiritual bond between two people that is essential to fulfilling our heart's destiny?
The Bible gives us a glimpse of the origins of a soul mate in Genesis when God said: "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding to him." Loneliness is God's first concern about us as human beings. There is a sense that we will not be happy alone; that we need to be connected to another human being to experience companionship, support and the struggles inherent in a relationship if we are to achieve personal fulfillment and reach our highest potential. Adam, the first man, may have been complete in his physical being but without someone to love, without a partner with whom to relate, he was spiritually and emotionally incomplete.
In the story of Isaac and Rebekkah, we watch as Divine guidance directs the meeting of two people destined for one another when Abraham's servant Eliazar prays to God for a sign. Eliazar barely finishes his entreaty when Rebekkah appears and provides the exact sign that Eliazar had prayed for: she offers him and his camels water to drink. This is seen as more than a lucky coincidence; it is viewed as an act of Divine providence guiding Isaac to his true love.
The idea that heaven plays a part in the destiny of our hearts also appears in the Talmud, which describes a soul mate as someone who is chosen for us even before we are born. "Forty days before a child is born, a voice from heaven announces: 'The daughter of this person is destined for so-and-so.'" (Sotah 2a)
How does one find their soul mate? Jewish history provides us with several answers. Abraham's servant Eliazar is our first example of a Jewish matchmaker, a man on a mission to find the right wife for Isaac. During the twelfth century in Europe and Asia, it became customary to hire an intermediary (called a Shadchan in Hebrew) to find a suitable marriage partner. While this custom is no longer widely practiced, it is still followed in traditional Orthodox Jewish communities today.
Another answer has emerged from the world of technology. Jewish matchmaking in cyberspace is now a vibrant industry consisting of numerous websites offering successful matchmaking services for Jewish singles.
Not finding one's soul mate does not mean that one will live a loveless life. There are many forms of love and many types of loving relationships which nourish the heart and elevate the soul. Although different from a soul mate, a soulful relationship is one born out of true knowledge, caring, respect and love for another person which imbues life with emotional and spiritual meaning and purpose. Soulful relationships can occur throughout our lives with friends, co-workers, respected teachers, and family members as well as in our efforts to know and love God. In all cases, it is through our search for love and the belief and faith that we will find it, that we open ourselves up to finding soulful relationships as well as our true bashert.
My husband and I will celebrate our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary this year. While some may view ours as a 'marriage made in heaven', we both know how hard we have struggled, worked, negotiated and compromised to make it a strong and loving relationship here on earth. When I look into his face and see the light reflected in the eyes that so closely resemble those of my children, I am reminded of a wonderful Jewish saying from the Hasidic Rabbi, the Ba'al Shem Tov:
" From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being."
from the April/May 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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