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Introduction

In the general concept of kabbalistic soul mates, we marry the other half of our soul (may we all be zoche to find our true zivug and have a bayit ne'eman b'yisrael). Our goal is to become one, like we once were. The point is brought down in, for example, chassidic mamarim based on the kabbalah that "back to back" oneness is not as sublime and lofty as "face to face" oneness, so having been split apart, we can turn and face each other and reach a new level of eternal oneness. Judaism, it seems, is the most truly romantic of the belief systems of the world, placing the closeness and true yichud (intimacy) between couples as the highest pinnacle of creation, the upper echelon of spirituality, and the entire Torah is practically a guide on how a husband and wife can learn to become closer than is humanly possible. Their reward is (at least in part), the eternal oneness that is the reward of this effort.

[Yes, this question will not likely be interesting unless you have a little romance in your heart.]

This question is more specific than the title implies, please read the background carefully:

Sources and Background

In this question I am considering just the case where one spouse from a successful, loving marriage dies younger, and therefore the remaining spouse remarries (which is encouraged in Judaism: Tav le'metav tan du mi-le'matav armelo). Let's bring some opinions about what this means for the eternity of the couple where the husband dies first (most of the opinions deal with this, there are a few brought for the other way around towards the end). This is the stronger case because generally speaking, the wife is the "centre", the "crown"1, the "home"2, and thus it makes more sense to ask this question from the husband's point of view (imo).

According to Hagahot Yad Sha'ul3, a woman will reunite with her second husband after the resurrection. See also the Chatam Sofer (355) who ruled that when a woman remarries after being widowed, her second marriage, in effect, nullifies the bond that she had with her first husband4.

The above opinions come up in the context where the woman had children only with the first husband. In the case she had children with both, the Kabbalah says that she will be reunited with her first husband in Heaven5.

There is also the opinion in Piskey Teshuva 124 that brings that a woman will be reunited with her first husband, unless the second marriage was more distinctly successful (according to Rav Aviner's understanding). In Yabia Omer 7:40, Rav Ovadia paskins that a woman should be buried next to her first husband, unless she specifically requests otherwise.

The differences between the above opinions is sometimes framed in the context of whether the wife was a virgin at the time of her first marriage. This also raises questions about what if the woman did teshuva, or if she converted prior to getting married, and I'd be happy if someone brought up answers to that in their answer if possible.

With regards to the husband, there are strong sources that claim he is always connected to his first wife6. See also the discrepancy on the duration to which a husband must wait before remarrying vs a wife7.

There is much more to discuss. If anyone has "The Philosophical Quest" by J. David Bleich, I believe a lot of information on this topic is found there around page 300 onwards.

Question

The question is, how do we solve this complicated problem, and what are the ramifications? If we hold that the wife is reunited with her first husband, what of the second husband (if it was his first marriage, and even if not)? Or vice versa. What if there were several remarriages, such as with the Chatam Sofer, lo aleinu?

A sad image of a young man, madly in love with his wife, lying on his tragic deathbed, knowing that his wife will no longer be his, never again, she will remarry and be someone else's for eternity comes to mind. Is he being punished? What greater Divine gift can a man lose than his home, his crown, his soul mate? Maybe he will pray that her next marriage won't be successful so he can keep her. A worry that perhaps one shouldn't fully let one's heart fall for one's spouse, just in case, comes to mind, especially if he is her second husband. I think it's an important question... The tremendous task of becoming one with someone certainly won't benefit if there are doubts in this area.

How can we have a more optimistic, as well as complete and sensible picture of this whole issue, that maintains the strongest Jewish opinions on "soul mates"? If it's unavoidable that some of us will be "alone forever" chas veshalom, then what will be our solace?


It's an emotional question, I'd appreciate answers that:

a) Support the strongest Jewish stances on "soul mates"
b) Are based on deeper insights, such as sourced in kabbalah and chassidus
c) Are hopefully optimistic! Becoming "One" is such a profoundly important idea, I'd rather find answers that make it ikar, rather than dilute it in any way.

E.g. a "nice" solution might be that when a spouse is lost, a part of the living spouse "dies with them", and they truly are united forever. A quick study of Shaar Gilgulim would yield that such things are certainly not out of the realm of possibility, and would be beautiful, yet a positively identified source is sought here.


1 - Mishlei 12:4
2 - Rashi on Shemot 19:3
3 - YD 366:3; See also She'arim Metzuyanim B'halacha 199:7; B'tzel Hachachma 2:73
4 - See also Be’er Heitev, EH 17:1; Pitchei Teshuva, EH 17:1. See also Knesset Hagedola, EH 17:2; Birkei Yosef, EH 17:1 and Emunot V’deiot 7:6, Birkei Yosef, EH 17:1; Chatam Sofer, Nidda 70b, contrast with the fact Rav Chananya ben Chachinai didn't remarry after his wife died and was resurrected in Ketubot 62b, and commentaries there, and Mishne Halachot 9:402 regarding relations after the death/resurrections of Har Sinai.
5 - See Zera Emet, YD 146, which also explains how a husband prefers to be buried next to the same woman that he had his first children with. See also Yabia Omer 7:40.
6 - Based on Keren Ora, Yevamot 55b, and Tosfot, Bava Batra 114b
7 - YD 392:2; Be'er Heitev 392:2; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 392:4,5

2 Answers 2

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Rav Chaim David HaLevi has an amazing Teshuvah that addresses some of these issues from a spiritual perspective, though not necessarily all the emotional ramifications you are looking for. Legally, a lot of this is similar to what you already cite from the Yad Shaul and Yabia Omer, but he has more discussion of the emotional stakes and brings sources that could guide you in further research.

In Aseh L'kha Rav 7:56 he was asked about a widow who wants to be buried next to her second husband. He discusses the concept of soul mates and states that there is a presumption that a woman's first husband is presumed to be her soul mate, which is based on a Zohar. He also explains that divorce would sever the spiritual bond between them---i.e., a divorced couple are not together in the next world. However, he writes, sometimes a woman's first husband is not in fact her soulmate and she will have a stronger connection to the second husband (for example, maybe the first marriage was unhappy but the husband died before they could get divorced). Certain factors, including whether the couple had children and the woman's own feelings and stated preferences can be clues to which husband was the actual soulmate. Therefore, he concludes, if a woman wants to be buried next to her second husband her wishes should be honored. Even in such cases, however, the severing of the bond between a woman and her non-soulmate first husband is not as absolute as divorce.

Rav HaLevi does leave many questions unanswered: for example what happens to the first husband? Or what would happen to the second husband in most cases? And whether if a man had two successive wives and neither was a widow from someone else whether he would be with both in the next world. Still, it provides a perspective regarding the situation of a woman with two husbands and what role the spiritual and emotional connection plays. Personally, I'd like to believe that for any man (or woman) who doesn't find his soulmate during life (whether because he never married, or had an unhappy marriage that divorced, or was a second husband) he'll meet the right person in another gilgul or in the yemot hamashiach etc. But I don't have a source for that (yet?).

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  • Thanks for these extra sources and it is interesting to find a perspective that holds that one can even be married to a non-soulmate. I hope you find the answer to your final question. Perhaps we can be also united with someone in Heaven or Olam Haba?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 9, 2023 at 13:59
  • 1
    That's what I meant by the etc. I like your question, I have wondered about these issues too. Hopefully people have good insights to share. I believe in Mi Yodeya!
    – Avraham
    May 9, 2023 at 14:08
  • If this is a question you've wondered about too, you are more than welcome to contribute to it by editing it and adding in your own explanation and query
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 9, 2023 at 16:01
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The OP specifically requested positive answers, so let's rephrase the statement accordingly: Is the focus of Judaism primarily on the positivity of life? When asked about women's rights and Judaism, Rabbi Shimon Gruen emphasized the importance of not approaching Torah with a lens solely based on Western values. He stated that the Torah has its own set of values, and if one's perspective does not align with it, the Torah is not altered to fit individual viewpoints. While there will be enlightening responses that provide positive insights, it's important to acknowledge that not all answers may be pleasant.

In the realm of Kabbalah, the Ramchal, a renowned mystic who authored numerous books, delved into the concept of gilgul neshamot (the reincarnation of souls) in Chapter 106 of his work, "Sha'arei Ramchal." A friend who has extensively studied the subject shared with me his learning on this chapter. According to the Ramchal, the progression of souls has undergone various stages. Initially, each person received a new soul, followed by the idea of gilgulim, where the soul returns in a different body to rectify past transgressions. In our present time, the souls have become fragmented and comprise parts of many thousands of different souls that unite to form a complete soul. By performing sufficient mitzvot (good deeds) in our lives, the fragments can attach to a pure soul and partake in the spiritual connection known as the Shechina. However, failing to do so results in our souls fragmenting into numerous shards to be reused once again. This perspective may appear disheartening.

I will include a relevant excerpt from the Ramchal's work at the end. It becomes evident from his teachings that unless a couple manages to perfect themselves and align with a spiritually "good" soul...

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  • Thanks. This seems to be a general answer to the difficulties a soul might face after life, could you spell out exactly how this relates to my specific question about the kesher between couples? I understand you are hesitant to fully elaborate these lofty ideas, but as it stands I can't find this answer hugely useful for my question (although I am still glad I read it, ty. Maybe in the future after my own learning is more mature I'll see what you are seeing so please don't delete it)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 17, 2023 at 15:00
  • 1/ I appreciate your interest in this topic. However, I find the answer too bleak and pessimistic to share openly. Each soul is composed of thousounds of fragments of other souls and after we die, we may have the opportunity to join a neshoma in Gan Eden, depending on our merits. But even then, there is no guarantee that we will not be broken apart again into many pieces. And what about our spouse? Will they also reach the same level of neshoma as us? May 17, 2023 at 15:22
  • 2/ And if they do, will we be able to reunite with them in the same neshoma? The odds of that seem very slim to me. Perhaps less than 0.1%. This is a sad and dark answer, based on the teachings of the Ramchal. But I am sure there are other perspectives as well, which is why I hesitated to reply until now (I wrote this on the day you asked). May 17, 2023 at 15:22
  • 1/ I hear you loud and clear, and thanks for sharing the truth no matter how potentially bleak it is, and for sharing in similar feelings on the topic with me. Potential hopeful "other perspectives". 1) Maybe each fragment is subdivided into two parts that seldom separate even in this process? 2) Maybe we should have don le'chaf zechus that 0.1% is 99% due to Hashem's perfect match making, help and hashgacha 3) The times when couples don't end up together for eternity are because they didn't become one, so the loss they feel at that opportunity is not so bleak. Those that truly wish to be...
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 17, 2023 at 15:31
  • 2/ ...together forever are likely to succeed as that would be the exact kind of prayer that Hashem hopes to hear, as I said in my answer: Oneness is the whole point. Hashem will provide endless help with anyone who wishes to pursue it? These are all items I've heard reference to in various places and flavours, generally ones that are in agreement with Lurian Kabbalah and Ramchal, so unless you have any specific reasons to doubt 1, 2 or 3, I don't see anything not-Jewish about being optimistic, even if we have to accept some negativity from time to time? :)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 17, 2023 at 15:33

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