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Divine Matchmaking

Jul 6, 2023

Jewish man leads a donkey in Bat Ayin

אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ מ֘וֹשִׁ֤יב יְחִידִ֨ים ׀ בַּ֗יְתָה מוֹצִ֣יא אֲ֭סִירִים בַּכּוֹשָׁר֑וֹת אַ֥ךְ ס֝וֹרְרִ֗ים שָׁכְנ֥וּ צְחִיחָֽה׃

Hashem restores the lonely to their homes, sets free the imprisoned, safe and sound, while the rebellious must live in a parched land.

E-lo-HIM mo-SHEEV ye-KHEE-DEEM ba-YE-ta MO-tzee a-SEE-REEM ba-ko-SHA-ROT akh so-re-REEM shakh-NU tze-khee-KHAH

Psalms 68:7

It is hard to count the number of times the following scenario occurred to me:

I am waiting for a bus, just sitting and minding my business. An older woman sits beside me and asks where I am going. This is followed by other questions like where I am from, if I have family in Israel, and who my rabbi is. I know where this is going so I don’t mind answering. She finally gets around to the real reason she sat down.

“Are you single?’

It is almost impossible to remain unmarried in Israel, especially if you are religious. Every person you meet has a friend or cousin that would be perfect for you.

In the US, out of my hundred or so friends, there were two married couples. While we all had parents, my generation seemed to have lost the ability or the will to continue that longstanding tradition. When I moved to Israel at the age of 30, I discovered for the first time in my life that I was lonely. So dating took on a new dimension. And Israel was the perfect place for that.

One of God’s major concerns is healing the lonely heart, and David knew that curing loneliness is very important to God. He acknowledged God’s role in finding a suitable match in Psalm 68 when he wrote, “Hashem restores the lonely to their homes” (Psalm 68:7). In the context of the Psalm, this is a reference to the Jews in Egypt who started off as isolated and scattered and were gathered by God into a unified nation. But the sages understood this homiletically as a reference to the Divine art of matchmaking (Sotah 2a).

The Midrash (Genesis Rabba 66) tells the story of a Roman woman who approached Rabbi Yossi son of Halafta.

“If God created the world in six days, as your Torah claims, then what has he been doing since then?” she asked.

“He sits and makes matches,” Rabbi Yossi replied.

She said to him, “Is that so difficult? I can do it myself. I have many slaves and maidservants and I can match them up easily.” And she matched them all in one night.

The next day they came to her. One had an injured head, another had a black eye, and yet another had a broken leg. She said to them, “What happened to you?”

The men and woman each complained that the mate she had chosen was entirely unsuited for them.

Immediately she sent for Rabbi Yossi. She said to him, “There is no God like your God. It is true, your Torah is indeed beautiful and praiseworthy and you spoke the truth.”

He explained to her, “Did I not tell you that what seemed so simple to you at first, is actually very difficult and even for God, is as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea?”

The comparison between making matches and the splitting of the sea is intentional. According to one opinion of the sages, each tribe passed through the sea in its own separate tunnel of water. But the same midrash explains that they exited the sea on the same shore that they entered. Their pathways turned back on themselves, forming a large ‘U’ shape. If that is the case, and each tribe had its own pathway, then the tribe on the outside had a much longer path to travel through the sea than the tribe on the inside track.

This is also true of finding a soulmate. While each couple is the result of divine intervention, for some couples this miracle requires a long and convoluted path, while for others it is shorter and more direct.

There is another analogy that can be drawn between matchmaking to the splitting of the sea. In the first chapter of Genesis (1:27), the Torah states that God created both man and woman. In the next chapter, the Torah describes God creating Man and then removing a rib to create woman. The sages explain that the first account describes God’s creation of an androgynous creature with one body, two heads (facing away from each other), four arms, and four legs. The second account describes the divine surgery that separated the body into two beings, man and woman.

I would like to relate this to a midrash about the splitting of the sea. When God came to split the sea, the water refused, saying, “We are water. We don’t do that.”

God answered, “I created you. And when I did, I did so with the intention that at this moment you would serve me by splitting for the Children of Israel to pass through.”

So the waters split. But when it came time for the waters to return to one sea, they were so enthusiastic about serving God that they refused. God had to force the waters to return.

Man was created as one creature; man and woman united, neither recognizing the other because we were created facing away from each other. Our separation is an illusion. And, like the sea, we are sometimes reluctant to join with our other half.

Being lonely is the feeling of being in an unnatural state of being alone. Coming together, whether it is as a nation or as a couple, requires divine intervention. When a couple is joined by God, their relationship is deemed fitting and holds the promise of happiness. Staying together, however, requires a superhuman effort and the combined will of both husband and wife. Connecting with God can help that happen. If we acknowledge and value the wisdom behind God’s selection, we will be more willing to put in the requisite effort to make the union last. If not, the results can be disastrous.

King David knew that.

Related Names and Places:

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 68

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