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There is a Talmudic statement in Sotah 2a which is commonly used as the source that every person has their destined match (the parameters of "destined" is a separate discussion):

והא אמר רב יהודה אמר רב ארבעים יום קודם יצירת הולד בת קול יוצאת ואומרת בת פלוני לפלוני בית פלוני לפלוני שדה פלוני לפלוני

for Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: Forty days before the creation of a child, a Bath Kol issues forth and proclaims, The daughter of A is for B; the house of C is for D; the field of E is for F! (Soncino translation)

At face value, this statement only speaks from the man's perspective. That is to say, when a man is born Heaven announces his destiny. This "destiny" consists of his destined wife, his destined field and his destined house. However, the Talmud makes no mention of a Heavenly announcement preceding a woman's birth wherein Ploni is destined for the Daughter of Ploni.

Based on this, perhaps the concept of "bashert" only applies to men and not to women. (This would seem to be a big chiddush, as every discussion of shidduchim that I've ever seen appears to be based on the premise that everyone, both men and women, have their destined match.)

Indeed, Tosafos on the spot explicitly notes that the Talmud seems to be discussing the male perspective:

קודם יצירת הולד. נראה לרבי קודם יצירת הזכר בין אם לא נולדה הנקיבה עדיין בין אם נולדה

Prior to the formation of the fetus. It appears to Rabbi [that the Talmud is referring to] prior to the formation of the male, whether or not the female has been born yet.

R. Samuel Eidels, in his commentary to this Tosafos, appears to come perilously close to saying straight out that this only applies to males:

ובתוס' בד"ה קודם יצירת הולד נראה לר"י קודם יצירת הזכר בין אם נולדה הנקבה בין אם לא נולדה עדיין עכ"ל. יראה דמשמע להו הכי דבת פלוני לפלוני דומיא דבית ושדה פלוני לפלוני דביצירתו תליא מילתא ומדקאמר נמי בת פלוני לפלוני משמע דבהריון הזכר שהוא בעולם (ושייך לומר עליו פלוני) תליא מילתא אף שהנקבה אינה בעולם דלא שייך למימר עליה פלונית אלא בת שתהיה לפלוני דאביה הוא בעולם ואפשר שלזה כוונו בפ' המפלת זכר זה כר נקבה נקייה באה ר"ל שהזכר נולד במזלו אבל הנקבה נקייה באה בלי מזל כי כבר נתלה מזלה ביצירת הזכר זוג שלה ועוד כתבנו שם פירוש אחר ע"ש

Meaning to say that the male is born with his destiny, but the woman is clean. She comes without destiny because her destiny has already been made dependent on the formation of her male partner. (Translation of bolded portion only)

In light of all this, is there actually an explicit Talmudic source that women have destined matches as well? Is this issue discussed in Rabbinic Literature (either on this Talmudic passage or elsewhere)? Have any contemporary shidduch discussions noted this?

(Technically, a valid answer could be that the Talmud is not speaking so precisely, and simply did not bother to spell out that the reverse is true as well. However, I am primarily looking to see if any commentators even took note of this issue. If one did and concluded that the whole thing is not meant precisely, that is fine.)


Edit for clarification:

It appears that I might not have done a good job explaining what I am asking. My question is based on two premises.

  1. In my exposure to the Jewish world it seems that everyone takes for granted that there is a concept (sometimes referred to as "bashert") that every (Jewish?) person has a destined mate. This is not to say that everyone will automatically marry this mate, but it is to say that in a sense God has picked out a mate for each person. This concept is often used to comfort/encourage those who are having trouble finding a spouse, and most often seems to be based on the above Talmudic statement.

  2. To me it appears that the simple understanding of the Talmudic statement is that God picks out a woman for every man. It does not seem to say that God also picks out a man for every woman. I cited Tosafos and the Maharsha because they both have comments to this Talmudic statement that indicate that they are aware that the Talmud appears to be speaking specifically to men.

Even before I ask the actual question, one can answer by challenging either of my two assumptions. If either of my assumptions is proven incorrect (either via sources or some other form of argumentation) then the question will never start.

Now here is what I am not asking:

  1. I am not asking a question on the Talmudic passage.
  2. I am not asking a question on Tosafos.
  3. I am not asking a question on the Maharsha.
  4. I am not asking a question about statistics.
  5. I am not asking why there should be a difference between men and women.

What I am asking is simply how we justify premise # 1 in light of premise # 2. That is to say, why is there such a pervasive belief about destined matches that is unsupported by the Talmud? Again, someone can answer by saying that I am wrong and there is not such a pervasive belief. Someone can answer that I am wrong and the belief is supported by the Talmud (I believe that is what this answer is attempting to do). Someone can answer that the belief serves a greater purpose so we keep it despite it being unsupported by the Talmud. Someone can answer that the great commentaries have struggled with this very question for hundreds of years. Someone can answer that the belief is indeed incorrect, but it will rarely have a practical impact (due to similar number of boys and girls) so nobody cares that the belief is technically not correct. (Perhaps that is what this answer is arguing.) There are many different ways one can go about answering this question. Of course, answers with sources are very valuable; mere assertions have much less value.

Thank you to those who have already commented/answered. If I have still failed to adequately explain my question, please ask me to clarify further.

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Tosfos HaRosh on the gemara in sotah:

הא בזוג ראשון הא בזוג שני. פירוש שני לשניהם דאיזה מהם שהוא ראשון נגזר לו זוגו קודם יצירה

If I have understood this correctly, he says that זוג שני in the gemara must refer to the second marriage for both man and woman. If it was first marriage for either, the marriage would have been from the decree pre-conception.

This assumes that the statement in the gemara applies to both genders equally.

  • 1
    @Moshe Steinberg You have given excellent proof that the Tosfos Harosh indeed understood that both the male and female have preordained matches. the question still remains, where did the Tosfos Horosh find this in the Gemara? – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 10 '18 at 22:11
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore In my answer I cited a potential source from Chazal. – Alex Jul 12 '18 at 17:43
3

There are various parallel passages to this Talmudic passage scattered througout Midrashim. One such passage is found in Bereshis Rabbah Parshah 68. In this Midrash we read about a matron who asked R. Yose Bar Chalafta what God has been doing since creating the world. R. Yose told her that God spends His time making matches:

מטרונה שאלה את ר' יוסי בר חלפתא אמרה לו לכמה ימים ברא הקב"ה את עולמו אמר לה לששת ימים כדכתיב כי ששת ימים עשה ה' את השמים ואת הארץ אמרה לו מה הוא עושה מאותה שעה ועד עכשיו אמר לה הקב"ה יושב ומזווג זיווגים בתו של פלוני לפלוני אשתו של פלוני לפלוני ממונו של פלוני לפלוני

While this is the text in the standard version, the critical edition by Albeck & Chanoch actually has a slightly different text:

מטרונה שאלה את ר' יוסי לכמה ימים ברא הקב"ה את עולמו אמר לה לששת ימים מאותה שעה מהו עסוק אמר לה יושב הוא ומזווג זיווגים איש לאשה ואשה לאיש

The phrase that I bolded might be the answer to the question here. The apparent redundancy of "man to woman" and "woman to man" may be telling us that every man has a woman who is his match, and every woman has a man who is her match.

If this understanding is correct, this would be a source in Hazalic Literature that both men and women have destined matches.


Here is the actual page (full PDF here) of the critical edition of Bereshis Rabbah with the phrase underlined:

enter image description here

The version in Yalkut Shimoni, both in Bereshis 117 and in Tehillim 794, has this phrase as well.

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You seem to have provided pretty good sources that this gemara in fact does not apply to women. I agree with your conclusion based on your evidence.

You ask on this, how is it that "everyone" uses this as a source for the idea that everyone has a predestined match. I believe that you are requesting a source that would discredit your sources. I disagree with your approach.

First of all, we don't know who "everyone" is. However, taking "everyone" into consideration, suppose you are right, and there is no source for women being given a predestined match. "Everyone" would still be right! That is, because at least 95% of women (so be super safe) are the subject of some man's bas kol. This should give heart to any girl struggling with shidduchim, that someone out there is meant to go and find her, and her name has already been picked for the special someone out there for whom she was chosen by Heaven.

I believe what I write is very sensible, however it does not provide you with that which you asked for, that is, "is there actually an explicit Talmudic source that women have destined matches as well? etc."

(Another question might be, "what is the meaning of this disparity?" Al berko touched on this issue, however he might have done a better job...)

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This question should look at the math.

Example: There are 100 males and 100 females in the set of births. As long as a particular girl is designated for one of those particular boys, then by definition, they both have a "destined" match.

Sure, you could approach it by saying "Every boy gets a designated girl assigned to him from heaven, before he is born." But then, once you say that, it will also be exactly true that: "Every girl has a designated boy, as well." The only difference is whose perspective we start the analysis from (the boy's or girl's?)

So both need to be true. Saying "every boy has his girl" causes the statement: "every girl has her boy." to become in a sense, redundant. It is two sides of the same coin.

The difference however can be shown in a case where a man marries his destined woman who happens to be 2 years older than he is. So, when she was born, her future husband's "40 day pre-birth announcement" was not yet made. She then lived for 1 year, 10 months, and 20 days as an infant, without any designated match. Then the boy's announcement was made, and she became designated to him at that point in her life. However, when the boy was born, he never existed a day on Earth without his designated girl.

So, in that sense, a woman can be born "clean" without a "mazal" or designation, while a man cannot.

The alternative possibility (that there could be some people born without a designated match, boy or girl,) is not ruled out by the quoted Gemara in Sotah 2a. The Gemara merely says that the time for destined matches to be announced is 40 days before the formation of the boy-fetus half of the match. It need not be read to mean that everyone must have a match, or that such a match must happen on Earth, or that matches cannot be changed etc.

Therefore, any other combination of inquiries into statistics of live birth ratios (male vs. female) , divorce rates, infant mortality, etc. are all moot. Rather, it is simply that the designation is made based on the readiness of that particular boy as was said above.

  • I'm not sure this answers the question. The whole first part is simply untrue, unless you have a source that there are exactly the same amount of boys and girls. The second part is asserting that this Gemara is not in fact a source for everyone having a match. That was essentially the question: Why do people take this as a source that everyone has a match when it doesn't seem to include women? You are just adding that it also might not include men (do you have any source that interprets it this way?) – Alex Apr 9 '18 at 16:07
  • Though that is not to say that it would not be a valid answer to say that the Gemara is simply lav davka, and it didn't bother spelling out that the reverse is true as well (though there too a source would be valuable). – Alex Apr 9 '18 at 16:09
  • First, could you edit your question to clearly ask: "Is it possible that more women are born than men and those extra women are therefore born without matches all the time?" If that is in fact your question. Your question on Tosfos, R' S. Eidels words, and your question of equality in "bashert" does not ask about a more women than men scenario at all. – David Kenner Apr 9 '18 at 16:30
  • Secondly, if you are assuming that "everyone has a match" in that Gemara, then my first answer is exactly what you want and its also mathematically the only way it could be. But FYI, searching Wiki etc. shows that scientists say the real birth rate in the world (not only Jewish but all people) is @ 107 males to 100 females. Due to higher infant mortality in males, the real rate of survivors is 101 to 100 male vs female. Starting by age 25 and up in general, the number becomes 100:100, and then as you go to older ages, women outnumber men. – David Kenner Apr 9 '18 at 16:33
  • Whether more women are born than men is not the question; it is the nafka minah. The question is that conceptually, the Gemara does not appear to be a source that women have a match. You seemed to answer that even if they have no match inherently, they will always practically have a match. That does not address the conceptual issue, and just seems to say that it will never make a difference. My response to that is who says the statistics work out in such a way that it will never make a difference? – Alex Apr 9 '18 at 17:24

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