Marriage and Meeting Your Mate – Shidduchs and Mazel
By Avi Lazerson
It is said that marriages are made in heaven, but just exactly how do shidduchs (the marriage ) come to be? How do people meet, fall in love and get married? What part does heaven have and what part does mazel (the astrological horoscope of the person) have in it all?
The Talmud (Sotah 2a) speaks about this:
Rav Shmuel, the son of of Rav Yitzhak, said that when Resh Lakish (a nickname for Rabbi Shimon, the close friend and study partner of Rabbi Yochanan) would begin to speak about the Sotah, (the woman who is suspected of acting unfaithfully towards her husband,) he would begin saying that a man receives a wife in accordance to his deeds (as it is stated in Psalms 125:3): “For the rod of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous...” Rashi, the classic commentator and guide through the Talmud, explains that this means that a modest woman is mated to a righteous man, while a immoral woman is given to an evil man and that wife which is destined to be given to an evil man would not be given to a righteous man.
Rabba, the grandson of Chona, reported that Rabbi Yochanan said that making marriages is for G-d as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea, and quotes Psalms 68:7 as his proof: “God makes the individuals to dwell in a house; He brings out the prisoners into prosperity...” Rashi explains that for G-d's making marriages, (“makes the individuals to dwell in a house”) is compared to the splitting of the Red Sea when G-d took the Jews who were captives in Egypt out from their captivity ( “He brings out the prisoners into prosperity”).
The Talmud asks a question of the above:
Is this indeed correct? Is that which was stated above really the case? We have a contradictory statement of Rav Yehuda who quotes Rav who stated that forty days before the male is formed (in his mother's womb) a heavenly voice declares: “The daughter of a particular man will be given to this (as of yet unborn) man, the property of of a particular man to this (as of yet unborn) man, the field of a particular man to this (as of yet unborn) man.” So we see that the deeds are of a person do not matter when marriages are declared in heaven! Since free choice is given to every person that he may be righteous or evil, and since his mate is declared in heaven even before he is born, it should therefore be possible for a person who becomes evil to marry a modest woman. This is strong question on the statements of Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan!
The Talmud continues by stating that it is not a question at all and explains that here are two mating processes, one is according to the mazel, as Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yochanan spoke about, and that is called the first mating (Hebrew: zivug rishon). This is the person's destined mate. The other mating process goes according to the person's deeds and this is the mating process that is as difficult for G-d as the splitting of the Red Sea since this is not the man's real destined mate, but one that must be found for him in accordance to his deeds. This is call the second mating (Hebrew: zivug shani).
The Toshphos (the school of logical thinking started by the grandsons of Rashi) comment that in another tractate there is a law that during one of the short periods of time when marriages are not performed such as on a festival, still it is permissible to conclude and finalize an engagement since, if the man does not make the engagement now, perhaps another man will come along and take the girl's heart away from this first man and engage the girl for marriage and thus the first man will lose his prospective spouse. The question is asked by the Toshphos: how could this be since the heavenly voice has decreed forty days before the marriage that she will be his wife? Tosphos asks why did the Talmud not answer that it depends if it were the first mating or second mating as stated in this tractate? Thereby taking away the credence of the Talmud.
One of the many rabbis who saw this passage was Rabbi Yaakov Emden (1697-1777), know as the Yavetz. He made an interesting explanation in his commentary. We normally think of the first mate as the first marriage and the second mating as the second marriage. This is problematic because according to Torah law, a man is permitted to marry more than one wife (even though for many generations we do not do this, yet the Torah permits it. If so, how can one think that the first marriage is the first mating (which is that which is decreed from heaven) and the second marriage is one that is dependent on the deeds of the individuals. Since a man can marry one wife and a week later marry a second wife (according to Torah law). He most likely is the same person deed-wise in the first marriage as he is in the second marriage. Therefore the first mating, second mating answer needs some other understanding.
Rather he explains that when the soul enters this world, it is as a joint male-female and is split into two, a male and a female. This is the female that the male is destined to marry and that is on condition that his deeds are in proper proportion to his soul. However if instead of being a righteous man he should be, instead with his free choice he chooses to be evil, then he will marry someone other than the woman destined in heaven to be his wife. It will be a woman whose level of immoral life matches his level of bad deeds; this is his second mating or perhaps we can now say more correctly his second-class mate. His real mate is given to someone else who deserves her. If however he improves and changes his life and stops his evil actions and becomes the righteous person that he was created to be, then G-d must 'change the world' for him that he get his first mate or as we understand his first class mate. This is like splitting the Red Sea since G-d must now change the nature of the world.
What comes out of this is that his intended mate as decreed from heaven is the first mate, one that G-d must supply if he does not meet the standard is the second mate.
Now that we understand this, perhaps we can see why there is such high divorce rates, why it is difficult to find the 'soul' mate that a person really needs and why so many marriages have such problems. Perhaps we are not what we should be?
It is well worth knowing that those good deeds and mitzvot that we do are the 'enabler' that enables us to find our correct mate. That is the secret of a good shidduch, that is the secret of a happy marriage.
from the June 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine