Bashert Doesn’t Mean That It Has to Be

Imagine it’s Rosh Hashanah. I’m standing in shul when suddenly a loud voice booms: “RABBI!”
“Yes…” I meekly respond.
“Yes, yes. Tell me. Please tell me. What is it?”
“Oh my goodness! A million dollars! Wow! Wow! Thank you.”
Now that I know my fate for the year, I say to myself, “This is great. I’m guaranteed to make a fortune. All I have to do is sit back and wait for it to unfold. What could be better?”
So I take the year off. Why work? Why exert myself? I quit my day job. I don’t even look at the newspapers. I know what’s going to be. I lay back and wait for the money to come rolling in.
What do you think is going to happen?
Most likely, what’s going to happen is that I am going to go hungry that year. Because when a decree is set on Rosh Hashanah, it doesn’t mean that it has to happen. It means it is available, and I have to do my part to bring it about.
Many life situations are decided on Rosh Hashanah. Will I live or die? Will I enjoy health and well-being or not? Will I have success or not? Will I find my bashert this year? Will I have children? Each issue is weighed and measured, and then the decree is set. Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, has determined what is best for me and He has made it accessible to me. Now I have to do my part and act in the “ways of the world” and go and take it.
To earn a living, I have to get a job. To remain healthy, I need to eat properly and exercise. To get married, I must go out and find my bashert. If I put in the effort, then Hashem will arrange that the right thing will happen—in the right way and at the right time. But if I don’t put in that effort, then all bets are off. Possibly Hashem may arrange for it to happen anyway, but more likely, it won’t come about. Then, what would have been best for me and what has been set for me is lost—because I didn’t do my part.
The point is that Hashem doesn’t handcuff a person to a given decree. I still have free will. And just because something was decreed, doesn’t mean that it has to come about. Bashert means it has been made available. And it’s my job to go out and take what Hashem has arranged for me.

Which brings us to one of the tragedies of our day.
Too Smart to get Married
One day, I got a call from a fellow who said, “Rebbe, you have to help me.”
“Sure, sure. What’s up?” I replied.
“Well, I was set up with this girl, and I think that I’m going to fall for her.”
“That’s great. So what’s the problem?”
“What’s the problem? That’s the problem. She’s not what I’m looking for! I want a girl who…” and he went on to list the qualities that he needed to be happy.
It took me almost an hour to help him see what he was doing. He had a clear image of the kind of girl he was going to marry, and this young woman did not fit that picture. But that was the problem—he wasn’t looking for his bashert. He was out looking for his choice—the woman that he fashioned in the image that he formed—and he was convinced that nothing but that would bring him lasting happiness. He wasn’t focused on the fact that it’s Hashem’s job to create people. And it’s Hashem’s job to find matches for those people.
And while this sort of thing may sound unusual, it is only too common.

The proper way to go out is to forget all the criteria, skip the laundry lists, drop all the “I needs” and “I wants,” and search for your bashert—the one that was predestined for you.

The way you do that is by first making sure that you are looking for the same things in life. And then you go out. But when you go out, you ask only one question: how do you feel about this person. Not, is she the best girl you can get? Not even, is she the best one for you? Or, do you see myself in twenty years being happy with her?
You ask yourself how do you feel now. Is there a certain comfort level? Does it just seem to be right? If on paper the two of you are looking for the same things in life, and the answer to this question is yes, then that is the sign that she is the right person. She is the person who was predetermined by Hashem for you. You’ve done your proper hishtadlus. Now you move forward with confidence and assurance that Hashem has predetermined the one that is right for you and brought her to you.

Thirty-Two Reasons to Drop Someone

Unfortunately, it happens that a person has the feeling that this is the right one, but they won’t allow themselves to feel it. “I need someone smarter, or taller, or richer, or funnier, or more easygoing, or more driven,” or whatever imaginable attribute that people can think up. So they say no. They say no after they go out, or they don’t even entertain the possibility. “Not what I’m looking for.”

Because this happens so often, I hope you’ll excuse me for listing some of the more common “reasons” for saying no.
“He’s not smart enough.”
“He’s too smart.”
“He’s very smart, but not the kind of smart I’m looking for.”

“His family isn’t good enough.”
“His family is too good.”
“His family is perfect, but I need a ba’al teshuvah.”

“I don’t like her looks.”
“She looks too good.”
“Her looks are great, but it’s not the look I’m looking for.”

Too tall. Too short. Too smart. Too dumb. Too worldly. Too sheltered. Too narrow. Too broad. Too plain. Too fancy. The list goes on and on.

Now you may ask, aren’t these things important? Good family, smart, and attractive? Aren’t they huge contributors to the success of a marriage? The answer is they are incredibly important, and if you were putting together your ideal woman, I think you should grab a whole big bunch of all of them. But that is the point. You aren’t creating your bashert; you are searching for her. And you don’t know whether she is smart, or pretty, or comes from a good family or not. There is only one thing that you will know about her—that she is the one that Hashem picked for you. The way you tell that is by allowing your heart to tell you.

Doesn’t Attraction Matter?

You may ask, but don’t I have to think she’s pretty? How can I marry a woman if I don’t feel that she’s attractive?
The answer is yes, you should be attracted, and if you aren’t and that bothers you, it might be an indicator that she isn’t the right one for you.
But it might not be, and here is where things get tricky. If you like her but don’t feel attracted, or you enjoy the dates but it just seems kind of flat, this means you have a question and you should speak to someone older and wiser for advice. The fact that you aren’t attracted to her may be a sign that she isn’t right for you.
But only too often what happens is that she is pretty enough for you. But… she’s not pretty enough for your sisters, your mother, your buddies, or your Hollywood notion of what a wife should look like.
And so you won’t allow yourself to feel that attraction.

The Other Side of the Fence

And this doesn’t only apply to men. A woman might be going out with someone, and she’ll say, “It’s going well, but…” And there is something blocking her from moving forward—but she can’t quite put her finger on it.
It may well be that he isn’t the right person for her. However, there are many times that she is stopping herself from feeling that it’s a good fit because (and now fill in the blank):
She doesn’t think he will be successful; she doesn’t like the family he comes from; she doesn’t feel that her brothers will respect him. Or what will her friends think? Or her aunt? Or her dorm counselor? Or a whole host of other reasons that only she knows.
That is when she needs help sorting out her feelings, and she should speak to someone older and wiser for direction.

Most often, that guidance is to help you sort out what is realistic, what you should be looking for, and more than anything, what you are feeling. At the end of the day, the decision is yours. Hashem gave you an inner guidance system: the superb set of emotions, understandings, and intuitions that we call your heart. Sometimes, however, you need help sorting through exactly what you’re feeling. And that’s where it’s invaluable to have someone older and wiser to guide you.
But the guidance isn’t to make the decision for you. It’s to help you focus on how you feel. Your heart may know, but cutting through the static and asking yourself, “What do I honestly feel?”

When you have that feeling, then you have to accept that Hashem has chosen the right person for you. You need to trust Him and remember that HASHEM knows better than you what is for your best.