Friday, June 29, 2012

A Zivug or Bashert?

When we go through life looking for that other half, the piece of ourselves that was incomplete at birth (what Kabbalah calls plag nishmasa – half souls), we often say that we're searching for our bashert -- our soul mate. But what about your zivug

In search of my bashert, a Yiddish word meaning destiny, I've run into the term zivug quite a bit, and I'll be honest in saying that I was unfamiliar and unaware of the terminology. From what I can muster up online, zivug is your preordained mate or match. In the Talmud (Sotah 2) Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak says in the name of Reish Lakish that a man's zivug is made only according to his deeds. The gemara then challenges Reish Lakish by citing Rav Yehudah in the name of Rav, who says that it's about mazal as forty days before creation of the embryo a bat kol issues forth and pronounces his zivug.

We've all heard this before, right? That before we're even born HaShem has already played the part of shadchan (matchmaker). But the gemara goes on in this deeds versus mazal (luck, aka Rav Yehudah's take) to say that in truth they are both right, because there actually are two matches: zivug rishon is based on mazal and zivug sheni is based on deeds. 

Wait, what? Are we being set up to fail!?

According to Rashi, the reason why the zivug is determined according to one's deeds is that if a person's deeds are meritorious, he is given a better zivug. The thought process is that if you're some crazy tzaddik whose deeds go above and beyond what mazal provided, then chances are there's a better zivug out there for him. So his wife dies, he gets a more meritorious bride, and everyone lives happily ever after. The Mekubalim explain that this second matching only happens if one deserves it because of his good words. If he doesn't merit to receive his intended match, he ends up with another woman.  [Note: This whole concept seems to only apply to widows and widowers! (According to Rabbenu Tam.)]

But it makes me wonder if maybe my first marriage didn't work because some tzaddik out there has merited me as a wife. (Oh geez, seriously Chaviva, come on, really?) Wishful thinking never hurt anyone, right? But there's a lot more weight on that second zivug. After all, it's based on our merits. "Under Pressure" doesn't even begin to describe the heft resting on the shoulders of someone searching for their zivug sheni. 

I guess you could say that because of the idea that man and women are created as one that and that because their neshama is as one, that you can have options with zivug, but that only one of them is your bashert. In a way, it's a contingency plan that HaShem has put into place.

I know, I know. I'm providing a very simplified version of the zivug rishon and sheni issue. Read all of the insights here. There's also a great article here that explains things a little bit further, including some of Rambam's approaches to this issue.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled flashbacks of Chaviva performing as the mother of Mottel in Fiddler on the Roof in 2000 in Lincoln, Nebraska.