For the week ending 29 October 2011 / 30 Tishri 5772

Pushy Prayer

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Reuven

Dear Rabbi,

If a man wants to marry a particular woman, even if she is dating someone else, is he is allowed to pray to marry her instead? My assumption is that a person can always ask for G-d’s mercy for anything, regardless of what that is. Thank you for your thoughts and feedback.

Dear Reuven,

The Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 18b) records a teaching of Shmuel saying that one may engage a woman on Chol Hamo’ed in order that another not precede him by engaging her first. The question arises, How can another precede him since the zivug, or soul mate matches, are from G-d? The Talmud suggests that he may precede him in prayer. This implies that one may pray to marry a woman “designated” for another man and that such prayer can work.

The Talmud continues to relate how Rava heard a man praying that a certain woman be designated for him. The Rabbi reprimanded, “Don’t pray like that! If she’s for you she won’t slip away; if she’s not for you, your prayer will cause you to deny G-d”. Later, after the man’s prayers were not answered and he lost hope, Rava heard him praying that either he or the woman should die before her marriage to another. Rava reprimanded him, “I told you not to pray about this!”

The commentators differ as to Rava’s objection. Rashi explains that Rova was concerned that the woman would die, from which we see that nothing can be done to change a zivug.

One of the Tosafot (a talmid of Rabbi Yechiel of Paris, in Nimukei Yosef) posits that prayer can alter the zivug but it will eventually end in disaster in order that the true zivug take place.

Ritva is of the opinion that prayer and extraordinary deeds can change one’s zivug without harm and the reason that Rava discouraged him was because he saw that it would not be a good match.

All would agree, however, and this is the accepted approach, that one could pray that if a particular woman is his zivug, that G-d enable the match to take place at the best time and in the best way possible. Therefore, even though the above-mentioned cases are dealing with a man praying to marry an available woman, it seems to me that theoretically, if a man felt that a particular woman is his zivug and that she is “mistakenly” dating someone else, he could pray that, if in fact she is his zivug, that the zivug be realized when and in a way that G-d sees fit.

The Zohar (Vayechi 229a) states, “According to one’s deeds G-d matches couples. If a man perverted his ways, his zivug is given to another, until he rectifies his ways. When he rectifies his ways and his time has come, the other man is pushed aside and he comes to takes what is his. This is the most difficult task for the Holy One, blessed be He, to banish one man because of another”. This suggests that in a case of what seems to be a “mistaken” match, one’s primary effort should be expended in teshuva and making oneself righteous while waiting for G-d to decide if he is in fact the right one and whether he is meritorious enough to deserve the woman he thinks is his zivug.

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