Heaven may provide your soul mate, but it remains our responsibility to make the marriage work.
A reader asks:
I have a question about beshert -- one's soul mate. I always assumed that the person I should be looking for should have many things in common with me, with a few areas that I could strengthen myself in to be the opposite.
However, I have heard recently that one's beshert is opposite of you in every way so you constantly struggle with one another. What do you think on the matter? Is there a point in which there is too much opposition?
I'm am asking in the context of someone I have known for years, and dated while in high school. I have recently felt a strange intuition that perhaps we are destined for each other, for indeed we connect on a very deep level in many ways.
However, in almost everything surface, we are exactly the opposite. The way we think, the way we love and need love, our strengths and weaknesses, our talents. I approach the world more from the perspective of fearing God, whereas he focuses on loving God. He is more physical whereas I am emotional....
There is definitely chemistry and we share a deep love for wisdom, communication, and Torah, but I wonder if there would be too much conflict, or if it's supposed to be this way.
Rebbetzin Twerski responds:
The identity of the "beshert"-- perhaps best translated as "soul mate" -- is not as clearly defined as we might like.
"Beshert" is understood to be the precept that all that occurs in every aspect of our lives is orchestrated by a Divine hand. Relating to marriage specifically, the saying "a match made in heaven" is consistent with the Talmudic dictum that 40 days before a child is born, a heavenly proclamation declares, "the daughter of so-and-so is destined for this person." It would seem from this statement that whomever we marry is our predestined mate.
This, however, begs the question. Can it be that no matter how poorly we choose that we will still marry our preordained partner? The conclusion of necessity must be that if we choose with integrity -- selecting a spouse for the right reasons -- we are assured that we will access our destined counterpart.
Likewise, misguided choices that cater to the frivolous and lesser part of ourselves, remain just that, and do not plug into the "beshert" opportunity.
Marriage, if it is to be fulfilling, requires consistent attention and hard work. "Beshert" does not effortlessly deliver everlasting bliss.
"Beshert" does not effortlessly deliver everlasting bliss. Marriage, if it is to be fulfilling, requires consistent attention and hard work. Invariably, you get out of it what you put into it.
Compelling arguments can be made for either finding a mate that is similar or for one that is different. It is somewhat reminiscent of the humorous anecdote alleged to the great philosopher Socrates. It was common knowledge that Socrates had a shrew for a wife that made his life miserable. On one occasion, a disciple of Socrates inquired of his master whether he would recommend that he got married.
Socrates reflected for a minute and said, "I think it’s a good thing." By way of explanation, he commented, "If you find a good match you will be very happy, and that’s a good thing. If not," he concluded, "you can always become a philosopher, and that’s a good thing, too."
A basic premise that one must recognize is that every marriage requires accommodations. After all, marriage is a union between two people of different families of origin and background. In addition, as the popular book suggests, men come from Mars and women from Venus.
Some contend that the merger is not only one of two parties coming from two different planets, but from totally disparate solar systems. Add to that the inevitable stresses of day-to-day living, the crunch and grind of pushing through the day, i.e. the socks left on the floor instead of tossed into the hamper, the toothpaste left uncovered, dishes in the sink, books not replaced on the shelf, the thermostat up, the thermostat down, etc., etc. These may appear to be of no great consequence, but in reality they can be very stressful to the relationship. At the very minimum they demand adjustments and compromises on each partner's part.
It would stand to reason that given the above stated realities, one should at least seek a mate of similar temperament, thinking, and perspective that would mitigate against the need for changes that might totally overwhelm the relationship.
On the other hand, it is argued that the "opposites attract" dictum is based on the quest for balance. If one partner is more uptight, rigid and exacting, an embracing, more laid-back affect would made for a good synthesis, generating a state of equilibrium. If one partner, for instance, is spacey or off into lofty spiritual realms, a grounded practical orientation in the other would be a welcome counter-balance.
Appreciating differences and making them work in harmony requires great effort and willingness to compromise and/or concede. Someone remarked that "the objective of marriage is not compatibility but how to deal with incompatibility." Many valuable lessons can be learned in the process -- to defer, to set aside one’s ego, to be less self-absorbed, to focus on another. The challenges of the marriage relationship can and should be the most fertile ground for personal growth.
While the merits of "likeness" or "opposite" as a possible mate can be debated, there must be, in any case, a firm foundation of two non-negotiable components. The first is best expressed by the comment that "it's not the gazing into each others eyes that counts, but the two gazing in the same direction."
Sharing transcendent goals and objectives and striving towards a common purpose are the essential requirements for building a life together.
Sharing transcendent goals and objectives and striving towards a common purpose are the essential requirements for building a life together. This creates a common bond that reaches above and beyond the couple’s individual pursuits for personal happiness and fulfillment. This common striving gives them the energy and strength to ride out the stresses, pressures, trials and tribulations in the more challenging seasons of their relationship.
The second, equally essential component is the capacity of reciprocal giving. A couple must have the wherewithal to create a joint "emotional bank account" with daily deposits of acts of caring, gentleness, mutual affirmation, support, and nurturance. No marriage can endure the wear and tear of daily existence without investing in each other’s well being.
You, my dear reader, have a true dilemma. Intuition and chemistry weigh in favorably in your situation, as does a mutual abiding love and interest in Torah. Yet, you and the fellow you are dating differ in the manner in which they think and process emotion. Since there are no generic answers to the "beshert" question and no "one size fits all" approach, I would recommend that you seek out a third party (therapist, rabbi, or wise friend):
- Who knows both parties well, their strengths, weaknesses, and needs,
- Who shares their value system,
- Who has a working knowledge of the dynamics of marriage.
Present your case the pros and cons and the benefits of that will:
- Clarify your own thinking.
- Give you the benefit of the third party’s objective reading of the situation.
I would also advise that you pray daily for clarity, insight, and heavenly assistance. King David in Psalms says "Please God, lead me in paths that will be right for me."
In conclusion, I see the concept of "beshert" as similar to the partnership of man and God at the time of creation. The Almighty said, "Let us make man." The commentaries on the Torah all struggle with the question of whom God was addressing with the word "us." No one existed as yet at that time. The most cogent explanation is that God was speaking to man himself, the human being about to be created, advising him that this was to be a joint effort. God would provide the raw materials, the potential, but it was up to man to bring them to fruition, to actualize them.
Similarly, it seems to me, "beshert" invokes the same partnership. Heaven provides the opportunities, the challenges, and the circumstances, but it remains our responsibility here on earth to see it through and to make it work.
I wish you the best of luck.