Jewish tradition teaches that every Jew has a ZIVUG, a specific, destined mate. Heaven identifies this soulmate for every individual forty days before the individual is formed (Talmud Sota 2a). The man and woman are brought together at the sha'a tova umutzlachas, the good and propitious time, so that they may unite and share life together and help each other fulfill their potential and life mission. They are matched so as to fit, complement and complete each other. They are to bond together and build a lifelong relationship which grows, deepens and solidifies over time.
One may pass up his or her zivug by
* rejecting the zivug for marriage,
* destroying a relationship with one's zivug or
* staying altogether isolated (e.g. being a "hermit;" being bashful, socially unskilled, insecure; refusal to take on responsibility, etc.).
This applies whether one never marries one's zivug or sabotaged marriage and then divorced one's zivug. Also, people could marry someone other than one's zivug and wind up divorced. Sometimes Heaven sends a disastrous relationship or a divorce to repair faults in a person that the person would not "wake up to" or work on otherwise. A rocky, painful or catastrophic relationship is a deep-cutting and inescapable message that the person is doing something that doesn't work or doesn't meet with G-d's approval.
What is important is to be a "marriageable entity" as much as is possible. One thing that I stressed in my address at Brown's is the utter lack of preparation for marriage and for successful long-term relating skill development in Jewish society.
Children are raised to see people of the opposite gender as parents, grandparents, siblings and teachers. Where, in this, is
* training in understanding the differences in male and female nature,
* training to effectively and warmly communicate,
* relating skills, and
* facing harmoniously the pressures and vicissitudes of adult life?
How can one increase his or her chances of
1. coming to the chupa,
2. entering with a "one-way ticket" (not a "round-trip ticket"),
3. having a "married-person mind-set" (not a "single-person mind set" - a "married-ring-finger mind set" is not enough), AND
4. having the attitude that marriage is for keeps - not that "if it doesn't work out I can always get a divorce (marriage dissolution is not a light thing).
Let me stress: 1, 2, 3, AND 4. Not "or." ALL four.
My experience goes back to '77. I have specialized in the fields of human relations, personality, male-female compatibility and personal development. My Torah learning has concentrated in these subjects. I have training in two kinds of therapy (psychodynamic and expressive), have done counseling for individuals and couples, have been teaching and speaking in front of large audiences, have been running relationship and personal growth workshops, co-consulting with rabonim and psychologists, have been recording and distributing tapes of lectures, have been writing articles and books, interchanging with audience-members after public lectures and teaching, and I receive questions from people who have fears or pain or troubles over a relationship (or lack thereof). I have worked with single, married, divorced and widowed people, all with their respective issues and vantage points. Among singles; never-married, divorced and widowed conditions can bring their own complex sets of conditions. When I've run support groups for singles, I have typically striven, whenever possible, to structure them each to cater to 1. never-married, 2. divorced or 3. widowed populations separately because each population has problems or conditions unique to each.
I have seen numerous causes for the practical blocking of finding, choosing, inaugurating, developing and/or maintaining of a serious, enduring, successful man-woman relationship. Some examples of causes can be psychological (e.g. instability; fear of intimacy, of commitment, of loss of self or of privacy, or of rejection; lack of self-esteem or self-awareness; emotional disorders), sociological (e.g. being a child of a divorced, dysfunctional, violent, controlling or indifferent parent or parents), spiritual (e.g. selfish; immature; superficial; absence of meaningful or enduring life values or principles; disruptive character flaws; blindness to another person's feelings, dignity or needs or to the impact of negative behavior on another person; lured by retention of freedom, independence or irresponsibility), practical (e.g. lack of relating or communicating skills, which leads to fights or relationship blockage; lack of clear, meaningful, effective or consistent life direction or goals - necessary for the establishment of a "common ground" with a relating partner; financial difficulties; intrusive and meddling parents or relatives; lack of understanding of the other gender), and those unknowable factors stemming from our Creator's infinite wisdom. Often the problems are complex, multiple and intermingled. Always, it is a case by case, person by person, individual question. One can neither lump all singles into convenient generalizations nor make value judgements about them.
The Torah, the will and wisdom of G-d, tells us what a marriage is to be, and therefore, what a marriageable person is to be. Although we cannot pretend to understand the infinite, the Torah does access to us an enormous amount of knowledge, thank G-d, as to how one may increase his or her being in accordance with what marriage and marriageability are, so as to make oneself into an instrument for a happy, successful, lifelong marriage.
Having briefly stated the problem, I will, for a singles context, draw from my multi-tape program, "Finding One's Zivug (Soulmate)," to address that perplexing question that agonizes far too many of the Jewish people today, "What IN HEAVEN is holding back my zivug?"
Since before creation, G-d had intention as to what a husband and wife are, how they are to treat each other, the criteria by which (and the reasons for which) they each are matched, the purpose and mission which each couple is to achieve, the identity and timing of every match that will ever be, how they are to manage and sustain a lifelong marriage relationship. All such areas (e.g. life goals, self-awareness, behavior in relating to another person, concept of the other gender, building a life together) are somewhat measures of readiness for G-d's sending someone's mate, albeit that there are factors involved which are in G-d's domain alone and which are above human understanding. However, we are responsible to know, understand and actively do all that we can.
G-d has taught us in His Torah what many of His principles and rules are for meriting, finding and retaining one's zivug (true, destined soulmate). This is vital to know because each individual is obligated to do his part to be a marriageable person and to be capable of maintaining a successful marriage. Without this knowledge, one may be blocked from ever being successfully married. One must actively exhibit "hishtadluss (practical, sincere effort)." This is each individual's responsibility to do, so as to be a "bais kibul (one capable of receiving)" in order to receive one's "basherte (destined mate)."
A spouse is not a separate person from the other spouse. A zivug is the other half of oneself. A single is half a person. A "human being" is a married couple - a unit with a male and a female facet, or portion. It takes marriage - to one's destined soulmate - to be a whole, complete human being.