April 19, 2024
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It’s All Bashert! Sotah, Daf 2

A middle-aged bachelor once came to the Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, and complained, “I thought everybody has a bashert, the other half of his soul. If that’s true, whatever happened to mine?” The Steipler replied, “My dear child, indeed, even you had a bashert. You met her many years ago. She was quite interested in getting married. But you decided that you didn’t like the look of her nose and you let her go.”

Upon hearing these sage words, the man was devastated. He went back home but every step he took was painful. He remembered the young lady well. He knew that she was the one, but he had let his ego get in the way of marrying his bashert.

Three months later, he decided that he must find out whatever happened to her. He tracked her down and, lo and behold, she was still living in his hometown. Sure enough, she had moved on after they had parted ways. She married a wonderful fellow and had four children. But tragically, she had been widowed for the past year and a half and was struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table for her little orphans.

The end of the story saw the man marrying his bashert. They went on to have another three children and lived the rest of their lives in happiness together.

* * *

The daf in Sotah discusses the concept of bashert. Is it already predestined who you will marry? Or do you get to choose your spouse?

אָמַר רַב שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר רַב יִצְחָק כִּי הֲוָה פָּתַח רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ בְּסוֹטָה אָמַר הָכִי אֵין מְזַוְּוגִין לוֹ לְאָדָם אִשָּׁה אֶלָּא לְפִי מַעֲשָׂיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כִּי לֹא יָנוּחַ שֵׁבֶט הָרֶשַׁע עַל גּוֹרַל הַצַּדִּיקִים אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן וְקָשִׁין לְזַוְּוגָן כִּקְרִיעַת יַם סוּף שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר אֱלֹקִים מוֹשִׁיב יְחִידִים בַּיְתָה מוֹצִיא אֲסִירִים בַּכּוֹשָׁרוֹת אִינִי וְהָא אָמַר רַב יְהוּדָה אָמַר רַב אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם קוֹדֶם יְצִירַת הַוָּלָד בַּת קוֹל יוֹצֵאת וְאוֹמֶרֶת בַּת פְּלוֹנִי לִפְלוֹנִי בֵּית פְּלוֹנִי לִפְלוֹנִי שְׂדֵה פְלוֹנִי לִפְלוֹנִי לָא קַשְׁיָא הָא בְּזוּג רִאשׁוֹן הָא בְּזוּג שֵׁנִי

Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak says: When Reish Lakish would introduce “Sotah,” he would say this: Heaven matches a woman to a man only according to his actions, as it is stated: “For the rod of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous.” Rabba bar bar Chana quoted Rabbi Yochanan: And it is as difficult to match a couple together as was the splitting of the Red Sea, as it is stated: “God makes the solitary individuals dwell in a house; He brings out prisoners into prosperity.” Is that so? But Rav Yehuda quoted Rav: Forty days before an embryo is formed, a Divine Voice issues forth and says: The daughter of so-and-so is destined to marry so-and-so; such and such a house is destined to be inhabited by so-and-so; such and such a field is destined to belong to so-and-so. This is not difficult. One statement refers to a first match, while the other refers to a second match.

While the Gemara resolves the apparent contradiction with one approach, the Steipler seems to suggest an alternative resolution. According to the Steipler, while your bashert is predestined, you still have free choice whether to marry that person. Based on your thoughts, speech and actions, you could miss the opportunity to marry your bashert. That’s what’s meant by getting the spouse you deserve.

How do you miss out on your bashert due to the choices you make with your thoughts? Well, maybe you don’t think he’s suave enough or handsome enough. How about your speech? Maybe you’re rude to her on the date. Actions? Maybe you fail to do the gentlemanly things like opening the car door. Maybe her thought failing is to let him go because he didn’t open the car door every time or walk on the outside of the sidewalk—no doubt important aspects of chivalry, but not necessarily deal breakers.

The good news is that according to the Gemara, you always get a second chance. Even if you don’t marry the one who was originally chosen for you, there is a pool of other potential marriage partners. Half of them are there by no fault of their own—on the contrary, it was their original bashert who made the wrong decision. Whether you’re there because of your own undoing or someone else’s, never give up. As the old saying goes, “Every pot has a lid!”

Have you ever noticed that while every pot might have a lid, not every pan has a lid? Why not? The difference between a pot and a pan is that pots are deep, and pans are shallow. If you want to marry your bashert, you can’t afford to be shallow. The fellow who met with the Steipler was looking for a wife who could grace a magazine cover. Meanwhile, he overlooked his bashert. While you certainly should be physically attracted to your potential spouse, external beauty should not be the primary criterion for choosing whom to marry.

Another thing about pots is that their depth demonstrates that they have so much more to offer than a pan that hardly contains anything. When Reish Lakish teaches that you get the spouse you deserve, his point is that you must prepare yourself to be a bashert. You must be brimming with ingredients to bring into the marriage and give to your spouse, in the way of love, care and good midos. If you’re empty and have nothing to offer, you’re more of a pan than a pot and will have a hard time finding your lid.

Every pot has a lid, but first you need to become a pot. Only then will you find your lid and never let that lid get away. May you merit finding your bashert and spending the rest of your life in happiness with that person!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf series and the founder of the Center for Torah Values. www.transformativedaf.com 

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