Monday, September 03, 2007

The Danger of Bashert

We read in Kohelet 7:
כז רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי, אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת; אַחַת לְאַחַת, לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן. 27 Behold, this have I found, saith Koheleth, adding one thing to another, to find out the account;
כח אֲשֶׁר עוֹד-בִּקְשָׁה נַפְשִׁי, וְלֹא מָצָאתִי: אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף, מָצָאתִי--וְאִשָּׁה בְכָל-אֵלֶּה, לֹא מָצָאתִי. 28 which yet my soul sought, but I found not; one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
I would darshen this as follows: If you try to only find one woman among these, you will not find. And finding one man among a thousand is also quite difficult. But that is because you are trying to find the one in a thousand, rather than the one who will complement you.

The fact of the matter is that bashert is a matter of dispute among Chazal, whether 40 days before birth it is set, or whether it is according to one's actions, and whether someone else can preempt. The gemara resolves a lot of this with a harmonization about first match and second match, but I do not really buy into that. (I think it is really a machloket.)

Even if one accepts bashert as a phenomenon, this is a phenomenon which is in the hands of Heaven, and not in the hands of man, to find this one bashert or else miss out. If one tries to find אַחַת לְאַחַת לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן, he may very well not be successful.

Rather, a man and a woman each try to find an appropriate person to marry. Look for a person who is kind, who complements you, who will be an ally in life, who you are attracted to, who you can or do love. Then, while dating and then within the marriage, work to make the relationship work. Do chessed for the other person. Figure out what you can do to help and support the other person. That is man's role. Since it is fated to be, this person is your bashert, who God, in his role, sent to you.

In past generations, there were often arranged marriages. Yet those people ended up together. Thus, it was who they were bashert to marry.

Focusing on bashert can drive you nuts. Should I marry this person? He/she has all these positive qualities, but is he/she the best possible match? After all, maybe the one who was "meant-to-be" will come by later. Let us see the next one, and decide. The next person is also nice, but in retrospect, the person I was dating three times ago was nicer in various respects, so why should I "settle" for this one? This is the danger on focusing on bashert.

Perhaps a better attitude would be not to find the "best" one, but to find someone who you really like/love, who is a good person, and with whom you can make a nice Jewish home and a wonderful Jewish life with. Then, if bashert is a real phenomenon, this is your bashert, but it is God's assignment, not your own.

This is of course my own opinion, and what do I know?

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