For the week ending 3 July 2004 / 14 Tammuz 5764

The True Soul Mate

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Name Withheld

Dear Rabbi,

I have a question. I have been shomer Shabbat (Sabbath observant) for 6 years, keep kosher, taharat haMishpacha (family purity), and every day I pray, recite tehillim (Psalms) and study Torah. Im 40 years old, have two teenage children, a good husband, and until 2 months ago this was enough. But I met a young man, who could be my son, and there is a special feeling I get, not physical attraction its like being complete, or at home. When I see him, there is like a special energy I gain. And then when we talk, this is over there is no distress, only peace. It is no secret that my husband and I are not soul mates; weve talked about it. Now, I feel I have met my soul mate. Could I be wrong?

This distresses me very much because, as you can see, I'm on a spiritual journey to G-d, and these feelings are not helping a lot. But I don't know what to do with these feelings. He has a girlfriend, so I know his attraction to me isn't physical either. He just comes to talk with me a lot and I think I have to see this person sometimes in order to help him. If not, why would G-d place him in my life like that? Since this happened, I've lost some of my overweight, and seem to be more inspired to do my job well. On the other hand, the strong feelings I'm developing scare me. What should I do? Thank you.

Dear Name Withheld,

I am so sorry to read your letter. Your uncertainty and anguish are plainly apparent and I sympathize with your predicament.

However, you must realize that it is quite common that after many years of marriage, one may lose perspective on why one married who he did. Surely if you search deep in your memory and past, you will recall the wonderful attributes which made you feel so good about your husband before and after you married. Share these memories with your husband, and together, rekindle the love of your youth and enrich it with the depth of your mature years.

And even if now you feel that your husband wouldnt be your first choice, you must appreciate that there will always be exceptional individuals who are "better" than ones spouse. (By the same token, there will always be those better than us as well.) But that doesnt mean that they are better for us, or that we deserve them, or that is right to abandon a marriage and children in search of the expectation for "better". After all, the initial excitement is fleeting, which is usually the reason why people eventually feel dissatisfied. Why should this "choice" be any different?

Having said that, I want to suggest that perhaps you have a misconception about what a soul mate really is. In Jewish tradition there is a concept of a "first soul mate" (zivug rishon), a "second soul mate" (zivug sheini) and a third one, etc. The Sages teach that if a person merits finding their "first soul mate", the relationship will need little effort to provide contentment. The further away a person's soul mate is from the magical #1, the harder the couple will have to work to achieve fulfillment and happiness.

The Sages teach that the only couple in the Torah who married as "first soul mates" was Jacob and Rachel. This teaches us that it is extremely unlikely that we will find our "first soul mates". However, this does not mean that we should not look for the best or not marry. It just alerts us to the fact that in married life it is essential that we take into account the fact that our partners have different personalities than ours, and that we must always strive to make our marriages work by being loving, giving, sensitive and considerate.

This means that your relationship with your husband is one that contains all the ingredients for a wholesome, nourishing and mutually rewarding marriage if you will only allow it to. Seeing this person and talking to him undermines your ability to make your marriage work. If you think, for whatever reason, that your relationship will not become physical, you are either being naive or deceiving yourself, both possibilities are very dangerous and thats something to be scared about. And while you say that you need to see him sometimes in order to help him, I think if you really delve into yourself, youll find that what you really feel is that its you who needs him.

The fact that you have made this young man part of your life does not mean its good for you, or from G-d. One of the great commentators on the Talmud (Rif, Berachot 16a) writes that we should beseech G-d to grant us only those desires that are really beneficial for us. If we truly ask G-d for something, He grants us our wish. Life is not a soap opera (and if youre watching them, stop)! Rather, use the wisdom of the Torah to find inspiration in your marriage and as an incentive to improve who you are, what you do and how you look. May you be blessed that you and your husband grow in Torah, happiness and love, and that your children be a constant source of Jewish pride and joy to you both.

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