For the week ending 5 September 2015 / 21 Elul 5775

Prenuptial Prayer

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Darren

Dear Rabbi,

My question is about praying to find one’s soul-mate. What I’m wondering is, if it’s the soul-mate why should we pray for it? Since it’s Divinely ordained it should happen whether we pray or not. And if it’s something that we should pray for, wouldn’t that imply that it might not happen otherwise? But how can that be since it’s already determined from before birth?

Dear Darren,

This is a very engaging question!

It is true that the Talmud (Sota 2a) teaches that forty days before the formation of the fetus (i.e., at conception) a Heavenly voice proclaims, “The daughter of so-and-so is designated for so-and-so”.

The Zohar (Lech Lecha 91b) explains that this couple-to-be is actually two halves of one soul that is separated by a specific angel appointed for this purpose, and whose reunification is the match referred to as zivug or soul-mates.

This would seem to indicate that the union between soul-mates is Divinely ordained and therefore not subject to change.

However, many sources nevertheless discuss the role prayer in finding one’s zivug.

One such source (Mo’ed Katan 18b) permits getting engaged during a festival in order to avoid someone else preceding him. The Talmud raises a challenge that since the zivug is from G-d this should not happen, but it concludes that the power of his rival’s prayer may intercede. Another Talmudic source (Berachot 8a) enjoins one to pray in order that he should find a righteous wife.

This implies that the union between pre-ordained souls does not necessarily occur, and that prayer can affect the whether the zivug is realized or not.

There are several resolutions to this seeming contradiction in the sources, but one commonly accepted explanation is that while soul-mates are Divinely-ordained, factors involving free-will can override the pre-arranged zivug.

This would be akin to G-d’s intention that people abide by His Will but nevertheless empowering them with the free-will to do otherwise. Thus, a person may mistakenly choose to marry someone other than the soul-mate. Similarly, a person may, through free-will, choose to transgress, thereby forfeiting his merit to find the soul-mate.

It would be for reasons such as these that a person is encouraged to pray to find the soul-mate – either for extra Divine providence to help lead him to make the right choice, or to ask for Divine forgiveness from sin or to ask for guidance in gaining merit, in order to find the soul-mate.

Of course, another way prayer is relevant to otherwise pre-ordained soul-mates involves asking G-d to help bring about the union in the easiest and most opportune way and time in order to spare each soul the anguish of prolonged solitude and unrealized potential, enabling them to unite as easily and as soon as possible in order to help each half work together toward perfecting their whole.

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