July 13, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 13, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In Parshat Vayigash we read how Yosef tried to mollify his brothers once he announced himself and revealed his true identity. In effect, he told them not to be fearful or anxious that he would retaliate against them because they had sold him into slavery in the past. This was all part of the Divine plan, orchestrated by God, to ensure that he would be in the right place so as to help his family survive the famine (45:5). In other words, it was all “bashert,” predestined fate.

The term “bashert” is often used in conjunction with matchmaking. We believe that the choice of our future spouse has already been preordained. The Gemara (Moed Katan 18b) teaches us that 40 days before a child is formed a Divine voice issues forth and says: The daughter of so-and-so is destined to be the wife of so-and-so. The Chazon Ish once said that in our day and time, when the Divine providence of God is so often hidden, there is still one area of life where we can see the direct involvement of Hashem. That is in marriage matches. We see that indeed “marriages are made in heaven.”

The first instance where we see that Divine intervention played a role in a wedding match was when Eliezer, Avraham’s servant, was sent on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. He asked Hashem to carry out an omen so that he might know who the correct bride might be. The omen was fulfilled when Rivka, the bride to be, not only provided Eliezer with water at the well but also offered to water his team of camels (24:14). Interestingly, in that instance, we read that Yitzchak first brings Rivka into his home (today symbolized by bringing the bride under the chuppah), marries her and later learns to love her (24:67). Love was historically not a prerequisite to marriage.

R’ Jonathan Sacks points out that the word love, ahavah, is mentioned 15 times in the book of Bereishit. Many times when love is mentioned conflict ensues. Yitzchak loved Eisav, for example, while Rivka loved Yaakov. Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah. Yaakov loved Yosef more than his other sons. While the Beatles may have sung the song, “All You Need Is Love,” sometimes love is not enough. It has to be coupled with justice, compassion and respect.

The Talmud (Yevamot 63a) encourages a husband to love his wife at least as much as he loves himself and to honor her more than himself. R’ Elazar elaborated on the verse, “It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper against him” (Bereishit 2:18). He asked, how can she be a helper and be against him at the same time? The answer is that if he merits it, she is a help to him. However, if he does not merit it, she will oppose him.

The Gemara continues by describing the importance of honoring one’s wife even when the relationship is less than ideal. R’ Chiya’s wife used to nag and pester him relentlessly. Yet, whenever he found a suitable present he would buy it for her, wrap it up and bring it home for her. He felt that he still owed her this level of honor simply for the sake of her having raised his children and having provided him with a good home.

His contemporary, Rav, had a wife who tormented him constantly. For example, if he told her to prepare fish for dinner she would do the opposite and prepare meat. If he asked her to prepare meat she would prepare fish. His son caught on to this and deliberately switched the father’s instructions so that the wife would end up preparing exactly what Rav wanted. Nevertheless, when Rav learned that this was taking place, he asked his son to distance himself from speaking falsehoods and simply be honest, despite the consequences that might ensue.

Pirkei Avot (5:19) teaches us that any love that is dependent on something, when the “something” ceases, the love ceases. Any love that is not dependent on anything will never cease. Love based upon external factors, whether simply physical attraction, money or prestige, is ultimately selfish rather than selfless. “I love this person because I feel I will get something from him or her.” This is not necessarily love, it is self-interest.

At the “sheva brachot” that we typically recite at the conclusion of a wedding meal we bless the new couple with joy, gladness, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace and companionship. In the third blessing we invoke the prayer that their union may be “a building for eternity.” What is it that is eternal in our lives? It can only be the perpetuation of our faith, heritage and traditions. That ensures the unbroken chain that now continues on throughout future generations.

May we be reminded by Yosef’s story to look for and appreciate the Divine destiny (“hashgacha pratit”) that takes place in our own lives. May we learn to realize that marriages may be “bashert,” made in Heaven, but that we need love, respect and honor to make that marriage work. Finally, may we be given the capacity to experience and promote true, selfless love, advancing ahavat Yisrael, ahavat Torah and ahavat Hashem.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist in private practice. He is president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a member of the International Rabbinical Society. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles