Years ago, while talking to a good friend, an epiphany burst into my head like an unexpected eureka moment. Curious designs surge into people’s minds all the time – like new business ideas, thoughts on new career directions, or a must-make phone call. Many of these thoughts enter cul-de-sacs and alas often leave tenuous traces behind. To me this was a distinct moment, though. I felt a shudder down my spine, the kind of emotion, I thought, an artist might feel after completing an awe-inspiring work of art. It abruptly dawned on me that I had identified the woman my friend would marry – and I told him so. He smiled and cheerily hugged me, somewhat skeptical. He had been unhappily contemplating a chain of failed relationships with women who were not his intellectual equals and, being the man he was, this preoccupied him greatly. Dynamic, spontaneous, highly intelligent, multiethnic, my friend said to me: “I want to meet her right away.” He trusted me, I noticed, and this pleased me. And so it was, that shortly thereafter, he met his intellectual equal, the energetic, spunky, intelligent and cosmopolitan woman I introduced him to. No later than 6 months, I had the pleasure of dancing at their wedding and toasting to what felt like a little work of art I had created. They are happily married and have two children, one of whom is headed to a sensational career as a concert violinist.
That was in fact the first of four couples I have actively matched over the last few decades!
The sages affirm that a person who has successfully matched three couples has a reserved seat in the highest stage of the heavens. Searching the origins of this traditional aphorism, it followed that in the first chapter of the Bible the Creator joins Adam and Eve, thus crafting the beginning of human life on earth, the uppermost level of creative power. Additional sources point out that the rabbis in their writings underscore that a man without a soulmate possesses only half a soul. One becomes whole by finding his or her soulmate, the beshert. I suppose the act of matchmaking is a bit like playing a holy role, that of bonding two individuals by helping them meet their other half, and so reuniting the souls which will become one. The sages framed the mitzvah of active matching a man and a woman in the following light: The reuniting of two souls benefits the whole of mankind. Children’s souls are out there in heaven waiting to come to the physical world, accordingly the matching of two individuals facilitates the entrance of those children into the physical world, making the process of matchmaking a holy one. The rabbis go further in suggesting that even if the individuals one introduces to one another don’t succeed, the act of matchmaking, the shiduchim, is still valuable. No harm is done. Apparently it is the effort that matters.
As I look back on my own matchmaking history – four couples happily married and their respective offspring, a grand total of 12 children – I can’t help but also think of two additional aspects.
One has to do with the upcoming Passover celebration. It is customary to invite guests – even strangers – to the Seder, hoping that the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt can be retold and its values propagated. Passover has always been about inviting friends and newcomers to the Seder. This is a sort of matchmaking as well, the mitzvah of matching the newcomer to the family, anticipating a long friendship. Years ago, as a medical student in Atlanta, I had the fortune to be hosted by a local family, eventually adopting me as their fourth son. Thirty years later we remain close friends and reminisce on the day we were introduced to each other at shul proceeding to enjoy many a Passover dinner together over the years.
However, there is another mitzvah that the topic of shiduchim prompts me to mention with greater alacrity and gratitude, and which hinges directly on the special reward a shatchan might also eventually enjoy. Having been the instrument facilitating four couples to enjoy the happy-ever-after, I had occasionally wondered if I would one day be on the receiving end of such a blessing. As destiny would have it, so it occurred. The very editor of this newspaper, Steve Rosenberg, has become my own shatchan, as he himself only a year ago, wrote to me and suggested I meet a friend of his. His suggestion – framed most modestly and without any obvious undertones of matchmaking – led me to infer the hidden intent. A few weeks later his email inbox contained a photo sporting two smiling faces, cheek to cheek, with an alpine backdrop behind: his friend and me. It has been one year since we met. Steve introduced me to the woman who a year later would become the big love of my life and with whom I intend to spend the rest of my life. What a wonderful gift.
Misha Pless, formerly of Marblehead, is a neurologist in Lucerne, Switzerland.