The night I met my husband was a warm April evening, and the smell of orange blossoms permeated the Tucson air. The date was “arranged” by mutual friends, but I had a lot 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 found the man I had traveled 27 years to find.
I didn’t know at the time but according to Jewish tradition, I had found my beshert, 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 reality TV show writers to market a product? Or does it mean something deeper and more vital, 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, love and support 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 and create, he was spiritually and emotionally incomplete.
In the story of Isaac and Rebecca, we watch as God becomes the first matchmaker. Abraham’s servant, Eliazar, prays to God for a sign. He barely finishes his entreaty when Rebecca appears and fulfills the exact hope he had prayed for: she offers him and his camels water. 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.’”
How do we find our soul mate? Jewish history provides us with several answers. Eliazar is our first example of God working as a matchmaker. During the 12th century in Europe and Asia, it was customary to hire an intermediary (a shadchan in Hebrew) to find a suitable marriage partner (think of Yente in “Fiddler on the Roof !”). While this custom is no longer widely practiced, it is still followed in Orthodox Jewish communities today.
The internet has given us another vehicle to find true love. And while it may not be as romantic as a picnic in the park or as practical as a shadchan arranging marriages, there are countless stories of couples today finding their partners online. JDate.com and SawYouatSinai.com are just two websites that offer matchmaking services for Jewish singles whose observance may vary greatly, but who desire the same thing: finding true love.
Most of us yearn for love in our lives. But not finding our soul mate does not mean that we are destined to live a love-
less life. Love takes many forms and there are many types of loving relationships that nourish the heart and elevate the
soul. Although different from a soul mate, a soulful, loving relationship is born from a deep sense of caring, respect and love for another human being that imbues life with meaning and purpose. Soulful relationships can occur throughout our lives with friends, coworkers, respected teachers and family members as well as in our efforts to know and love God.
My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. Some may view ours as a “marriage made in heaven.” But we know how hard we have worked to share and communicate, and how important negotiation and compromise are in order to create a strong and loving relationship here on Earth. When I look into his face and see the tenderness reflected in the eyes that so closely resemble those of my children, I am reminded of a wonderful 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.”
That light is the one that guides us in our search for love and intimacy. It is the light that keeps us on track as we journey through life together.