For the week ending 26 July 2003 / 26 Tammuz 5763


by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Jennifer in Boulder, CO

Dear Rabbi,

My friend told me that everyone is born with a predestined husband or wife. I’m really curious about this idea. What determines who my match is? Can one miss his or her match or change it? I have lots of questions about this, but I’ll hold back for now….Thanks!

Dear Jennifer,

Throughout the Torah, we find G-d acting as matchmaker between a specific man and woman. G-d officiated the marriage of Adam and Eve; when Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to choose a wife for Isaac, Rebecca’s family admitted, "the match comes from G-d"; even the match between Samson and Delilah is attributed to G-d. Furthermore, our Sages taught, "40 days before the formation of the fetus it is decreed in Heaven ‘the daughter of so-and-so is to be matched with so-and-so’." Matching is not an easy job, however, and is best left up to G-d, as the following story illustrates:

A Roman noblewoman once asked Rabbi Yosi ben Chalafta, "Since your G-d has finished creating the universe, what has He been doing?" He answered, "Making matches." She said, "Is that all? I have many male and female slaves and I can pair them off in an hour." That night she paired off a thousand male and female slaves. The next morning one’s head was split and another’s eye was gouged. One’s arm was injured and another’s knee was broken. One complained "I don’t want her" and another demanded, "I don’t want him."

Regarding your question of what determines one’s soul mate, one opinion maintains that although G-d determines the match, it occurs under the influence of mazal. In general, mazal refers to the configuration of planets, stars and constellations at the time of one’s birth. As in other areas affected by mazal, G-d decrees when a particular soul should be born, such that the "match-mazal" will dictate the character traits and opportunities needed to guide one to his or her match.

One may ask (as you did), if the soul mate is predestined by G-d, can one miss or change the match? Yes, one may miss the match by being impatient or overly choosy. When older people who had not yet married would ask the Steipler Rav, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky, what happened to their Heavenly appointed match, he would say that surely it was sent but the person rejected it. Still, there is hope for one who has missed the match. Our Sages note that Samson "rebelled with his eyes" in marrying the Philistine woman, yet the verse says that the marriage was from G-d. They resolve this apparent contradiction by teaching that although Samson lost his soul mate by undue focus on good looks (a sin for his high spiritual level), G-d saw to it that his choice would result in some good — in this case, to save Israel from the Philistines.

Regarding "upgrading" the soul mate, most commentators maintain that prayer and good deeds can help. The Midrash relates that Leah was destined for Esav, and Rachel for Jacob. Leah "cried her eyes out" and beseeched G-d that she not fall in the hands of such a wicked person. Eventually, not only did she marry Jacob, she married him before Rachel did. It’s worth noting that Eliezer and Leah only prayed in a general way for the best match, not for a specific person. Therefore when requesting an "upgrade," one should only pray for better match-mazal, not for a specific person, who may not be a proper soul mate.

While we’ve explained that one’s match is influenced by mazal, many commentators assert that it depends only on one’s good or bad deeds. They argue that unlike other factors influenced by mazal like looks, health, and intelligence that are relevant even in childhood, a match is only relevant later in life and is determined by what a person has made of himself.

The Kabbalists reconcile the opinions by saying that a match is a combination of both Heavenly decree and a person’s merit. According to the Zohar, a soul is comprised of male and female parts that are united in the soul world but are placed in different bodies. If their deeds are meritorious, G-d who knows the whereabouts of each part, combines them as they originally were. The "click" or "chemistry" felt between soul mates, then, is the joy both halves feel in finally becoming whole.


  • Shidduchim and Zivugim, Rabbi Yehuda Lebovitz; Genesis 24:50; Judges 14:4; Sota 2a; Vayikra Rabba 8:1; Rashi, Sota 2a; Sota 9b, Maharsha; Moed Katan 18b, Ritva, Tosafot HaRosh; Bereishet Rabba 70:15; Rambam Shemone Perakim ch. 8, Meiri Sota 2a, Tosafot Ta’anit 4a; Rabbi Menashe ben Israel, Nishmat Chaim, part 2 ch. 8 and Rabbi Yaakov Emden on Sota 2a; Zohar, Lech Lecha 91b, Vayechi 229a; Ramban, Emunah V’bitachon ch.24.

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