Sunday, July 18, 2010

As Difficult As Splitting The Sea And Self Improvement

Ever since I first learned the Gemara in Sotah (2A) that describes the process of HaShem's making shidduchim (the task the Gemara says He is most involved with since He created the world), I've always wondered exactly how to make sense of it. The explanation my bekiyus rebbe gave me all those years ago was that it was a "difficult" decision for HaShem to alter the pre-set course of nature in such a blatant way when He normally relegated it to a specific set of operational principles.

As any avid reader may know, I tend to read a lot of dating/marriage books, a habit I picked up while in Israel (and as a side note, anyone not married would benefit from reading the good ones that are out there). Most recently, I began reading Together We Are One by Rabbi Eliezer Medwed. On pages 12-13 of the first chapter titled "Marriage," Rabbi Medwed gives a very good explanation of this splitting the sea idea found in the Gemara (which he footnotes as coming from the Zohar for some reason - why not just cite the Gemara?):

Of course, we know the familiar statement of Chazal, "Making shidduchim is as difficult for Hashem as splitting the Red Sea." But what does that mean? What is the connection between the two? The Aruch l'Ner offers an enlightening explanation. Since creation, Hashem has His manner of dealing with the world. Generally, everything in the world runs according to the laws of nature. These laws too are an essential part of creation. Everything has its own cycle. Part of Hashem's desire is to allow nature to operate freely within its natural bounds. Thus, part of the plan is not to reveal the future.

At the sea, just prior to its splitting, an awesome trial ensued. Angels representing the evil Egyptians testified before the Heavenly Court: "Master of the World, why should the Children of Israel merit a miracle of the sea splitting apart? They are no better than the Egyptians. These worshipped idols and these worshipped idols..."

In order to appease the angels, Hashem not only revealed past events - that Egypt served idols willingly while Bnei Yisrael did so only under duress - but He went even further, revealing the future [something He doesn't often do]. Hashem showed the accusing angels how Yisrael would become a holy Nation, worthy of receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Therefore they are indeed worthy of such a miracle, one that goes against the natural order of the world.

And likewise, when Hashem makes a shidduch in Heaven, He looks into the future. Hashem contemplates all that may confront the couple, every situation and problem throughout all their years together, etc. Hashem then makes a shidduch based upon complete knowledge of not only the present, but also their entire future. A mate that is our bashert - predestined - under the chupah is just as bashert ten, twenty, and fifty years later. We know this to be true, for we know this shidduch was made in Heaven, by Hashem Himself!

Granted, this doesn't quite explain the notion that has been recently discussed regarding more than one potential soul mate that the Gemara in Sotah also talks about, but I think the concept presented here is worth contemplation.

Leaving aside my thoughts that I expressed in the above mentioned post and the ensuing responses, I want to extend the idea further for our those of us still in shidduchim. The exact moment and place when we are supposed to meet our heaven ordained spouse is already determined. Granted, we may be frustrated with where we are now, with the unproductive serial dating or drought we are forced to endure or perhaps even our dissatisfaction with our personal growth and observance at any given point in time. Despite our sometimes jaded attitude, we need to take to heart that there is definitely a greater picture of what our lives are meant to be like, and the reason why we don't get the results we expect now is because we aren't meant to have them just yet.

We need the period of being single to foster personal growth, work out our baggage - be it emotional, psychological, familial or spiritual - and make ourselves into the best person we can possible be. No one is problem free when they go into marriage, but that doesn't mean you or your future husband/wife have to suffer from issues not dealt with because of complacency or laziness. Marriage, as everyone says, is hard work - and being single is too! That doesn't mean we can't find the process of dating enjoyable, rather we should also keep a serious perspective on who we are, what we're about, and what we need/want in our lives.

So all of us still not yet engaged or married realize that there is no reason to give up just yet. The time you have been given as a single person, even if it is longer than you planned or wanted, is very valuable and should not be wasted. As much as we all need to learn about proper dating etiquette and how to treat our suitor/date, we also need to turn inward and improve ourselves, for our own sakes as well as those we date and will eventually marry. Wallowing in self pity for extended periods of time because of dating woes helps no one, least of all, you.

And just because you've got one, or two rings on your finger (or have given those rings) doesn't mean you shouldn't ever think about perpetual self improvement, either (hence the book, Together We Are One, among others).

May we all take to heart the lesson of self-improvement (and everyone has something to work on) and become the best future husband/wife we can be! Your spouse, may you meet him/her soon, will be ever grateful.


  1. Interesting excerpt. I always thought that the statement "Making shidduchim is as difficult for Hashem as splitting the Red Sea" referred to the fact that although shidduchim seems like a natural process and Kriat Yam Suf is a miraculous one, in fact nothing is "difficult" for Hashem at all, even if it seems like a miracle to us. I forget who says it, but nature is just hidden miracles. The same way Kriat Yam Suf seems to us like it is hard to do, since it defies the regular laws of nature, but really it is easy for Hashem, shidduchim also may be difficult for us to understand how it all works out, but it's really simple to Hashem.

    I liked the answer the book gave, but doesn't Hashem look into the future when He makes all of His decisions? Of course Hashem is beyond time, but even ignoring that point, before Hashem decides to do anything at all, for example, before blessing a person with wealth, doesn't Hashem take into account what the person will do with that money in the future? I don't think that is unique to shidduchim and Kriat Yam Suf.

    I know when Avraham sent out Hagar and Yishmael and Yishmael was dying the angels didn't want to save him based on who he would become, Hashem told them that He was deciding whether to save Yishmael based on who he was at the moment and so he deserved to be saved. But that was a matter of Bechira. Hashem always considers the what the future will be when He makes decisions.

  2. My principal always said that the only reason shidduchimn were as hard as Krias Yam Suf was because people keep getting in the way..

  3. aminspiration - haha

    Shades of Grey - speaking of dating & marriage books...
    as per your suggestion, I read (actually, purchased and read) The Art Of The Date. It was a pretty good suggestion, but my favorite is still The Committed Life by Rebbetzin Jungreis.

  4. You wrote:
    Rabbi Medwed gives a very good explanation of this splitting the sea idea found in the Gemara (which he footnotes as coming from the Zohar for some reason - why not just cite the Gemara?)

    The Gemara (Sota 2a) states "Kashin l'zivugan k'krias yam suf" – "as difficult making shidduchim as splitting the Red Sea", while the Zohar states "Kashin zivugin ka'mei Kudsha Briech Hu k'krias yam suf" – "Making shidduchim is as difficult for Hashem as splitting the Red Sea." (free translations)

    Assuming not every reader to be familiar with the Gemara, I preferred quoting the Zohar's fuller, more informative sentence explaining for whom the difficulty.

    Eliezer Medwed

  5. Actually, that gemara is one of the most misquoted gemaras around, because the "as difficult as splitting the sea" deal refers to second marriages, not first ones.


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