I am a recent convert to Judaism and I was wondering about my prospects for finding my zivug soul-mate. I’m not asking from a social point of view, but rather based on the teaching that
G-ddecrees matching souls at conception. According to this teaching, the soul of a non-Jew who later converts would not have been decreed for a Jew since at that time the soul of the convert was not Jewish. Does this mean that from a spiritual point of view converts may only marry fellow-converts?
This is a fascinating question.
You are correct. The Sages taught (Sota 2b): Forty days before the formation of the fetus (i.e., at conception) a voice from Heaven proclaims, “The daughter of so-and-so is destined for so-and-so”. And it makes sense that for Jews, this proclamation is relevant only for other Jews whom they’re permitted to marry. This would seem to exclude those born as non-Jews who later convert.
However, even if converts do often marry each other, that’s not always the case. Converts also marry people born Jewish. Indeed, your namesake, the righteous convert Ruth, united with Boaz, the leader of Israel at that time, who thus became the ancestor of none other than King David.
But how does this fit into the Divine decree of who’s for whom?
One possible explanation is based on the idea of reincarnation where, for certain reasons, a Jewish soul may be reincarnated into a non-Jewish body. While the soul is Jewish, from a halachic point of view the person is not. It is the inner yearning of the Jewish soul which compels this non-Jew to convert. Perhaps
Another possibility is that while every person has free-will,
A third possibility is based on the idea that although one has a primary soul-mate, for several reasons (such as wrong decisions, death, etc.) one may miss his or her predestined soul-mate. In such cases, in His infinite wisdom,
This would seem to be the dynamic at work behind a particularly interesting story related to your question:
There was a young man who was an accomplished Torah scholar, of goodly appearance and from an upstanding, well-to-do family. Yet for many years he could not find his soul-mate. In despair, he finally consulted one of the greatest rabbis of recent times, “the Steipler”, who told him that his soul-mate had not been born yet, but refused to provide further explanation. Initially expecting to wait another twenty years for his lagging soul-mate, he actually found her within a year!
He married a convert, about whom the Sages taught (Yevamot 62a), “A non-Jew who converts is like a newborn child”. Since a convert receives a new soul at the time of conversion, it is as if he is born anew as a Jew at that time. Thus, when the young man consulted the rabbi, this woman had not yet converted, and had thus not yet been “born”. Only after several months when she converted was she “born” as a Jew, and proclaimed by a Heavenly voice to be the soul-mate of this available, exceptional young man!