Question: I met a girl who I thought was my beshert and the relationship seemed to be going well until suddenly she ended it. It's left me devastated and I still don't know what I did wrong. I don't believe I am a bad person but it's left me questioning why God has allowed this to happen to me (Question)
Rabbi Naftali Brawer
Naftali Brawer is the CEO of the Spiritual Capital Foundation.
Firstly, you must not assign blame either to yourself or to the girl. There is no objective right or wrong when it comes to matters of the heart. Choosing to spend the rest of one's life with another person is a monumental decision that should not be taken unless it makes sense logically, and more importantly it has to feel right.
The pain you are experiencing is the result of the match feeling right for you but not for her. Unrequited love hurts. There is no denying it. But you cannot make someone feel what they can't feel. It is natural for you to feel hurt but you mustn't let the pain paralyse your efforts to eventually move on and seek a soulmate who will reciprocate your feelings and with whom you can build a meaningful life.
Since you brought God into the picture, there appears to be contradictory rabbinic sources as to what extent God intervenes in such life choices as selecting a bride. There is the famous talmudic passage (Sotah 2a) that imagines a heavenly voice declaring 40 days before a child's birth who the child will marry. This implies that there is only one soulmate for each individual.
However, besides numerous rabbinic sources that indicate otherwise, such determinism is simply untenable. All that is required to throw the system out of whack is for one person to marry the wrong spouse. That would leave not just one unmatched couple but an infinitude of unmatched couples. Imagine the following three beshert couples A+B, C+D, E+F. As soon as A abandons B for D, C is now without a beshert and must marry F, which then leaves E to take someone else's beshert and the whole system collapses.
I prefer to interpret the concept of beshert and the rabbinic passages that support it in a non-literal, and more poetic, sense. Who we marry is ultimately our own choice (Maimonides asserts this much in chapter eight of his Shemoneh Perakim). We can make wise choices or foolish choices. And sometimes what was a wise choice at the time can turn out to be the wrong choice in the long term. No one has a crystal ball and our choices are ours alone to make. What beshert means is that if we genuinely treat our chosen spouse as our predestined soulmate, we are in a better position to love and cherish them as though they really are.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain
Jonathan Romain is rabbi at Maidenhead (Reform) Synagogue.
It is worth asking why you were mistaken in your judgment that the relationship was so perfect. Perhaps because she was not enjoying it as much as you were and you misread the signals. Or perhaps she did enjoy it initially, but then found it less meaningful for some reason.
Or perhaps because she never saw it as a long-term commitment and so always intended to move on at some point. Whatever the cause, analysing it may help you better navigate subsequent encounters, be more sensitive to the other person's feelings and more aware of your own needs.
What is crucial is that just because a relationship ends, it does not indicate you are bad or guilty. It simply means that, whatever its appearance, it did not actually have a future and even though it is very hurtful when feelings are not reciprocated, it is no reflection on your value as a person.
Moreover, it may well be that a relationship which you enter at a later date turns out to be the truly lasting one and you look back on this one as either a great escape or as an important stage in your emotional development.
But how does God fit into all this? Personally, I am not sure that God does, for you are assuming God is actively involved in our everyday life, micro-managing what we do, what happens to us and sometimes with punitive intent.
It is the same mistaken concept that leads other people to ask questions such as "why did God let a drunken driver run over my son", when the fault lies entirely with the driver for being drunk and it is ridiculous to expect God either to confiscate the bottle from him or to whisk the son away from the path of the car.
Judaism does not believe in pre-ordained lives, whereby we act out a divine script without any control. God may know what we choose to do, but it is we who choose it. As Akiva put it: "Everything is foreseen, but freedom is given" (Ethics of the Fathers 3.16).
My image of God is not the puppet-master who dictates our every move (in which case, God could be blamed) but the parent who creates life and who then watches it act independently, sometimes magnificently, sometimes appallingly. What counts is what we do with our life and how we respond to forces beyond our control.