“From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven, and when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, the streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from that united being.” Baal Shem Tov
I never saw any bright, shining lights in the relationships I was surrounded by growing up.
My mother was forced to drop out of high school to get a job to help support her family. Her dream was to finish, go to college, and eventually become a lawyer. I think she might have done it too, but my (birth) father drank up all her savings while she was pregnant with me. She left him.
I wasn’t even a year old when that happened, and since he never made any effort to see either of us after that, I don’t know what their relationship was like. But I’d guess, if I could have seen them together, I’d have seen more darkness than light.
My Daddy (my step-father) was the closest thing to a loving parent I ever had. But I remember the screaming matches he got into with my mother. I would go out of the house and as far down the block as I was allowed, and I would still hear them. I was always surprised they managed to stay together as long as they did. He left her.
My mother was a “church lady” but I remember her spending a lot of time sitting in cars with other men after church ended. And Daddy always had girlfriends. It amazed me that none of them were ever more than half his age. I saw more affection, more light, between my mother and Daddy and the people they weren’t married to, than I ever saw between the two of them.
Over the years, I’ve read about bashert, the Jewish ideal of finding the person you were meant to marry: the one preordained for you by G-d’s guiding hand. The one whose light would combine perfectly with your own.
Like many things I find interesting that are not part of my life, I thought about this… a lot. Bashert seemed like an interesting idea. But given my background, you can probably understand that, at an emotional level, it never became anything more than words to me. It was a totally abstract concept. No amount of imagining on my part made it seem real.
Now I’m not saying that I never had any relationships of my own. I did. I do. Friendships were and are the strongest and most fulfilling… the most truly an unmixed blessing. I am endlessly grateful for my friends.
Love relationships have been much more problematic. Looking back, I think a couple of the men I knew might have loved me. If they did, I wasn’t aware of it at the time. And I’ve always been convinced that I wasn’t capable of feeling “love” myself. In fact, I never knew with certainty what the word even meant.
So I filed bashert away with princes on white chargers, living happily ever after, and other bits from romantic movies and fairy tales. The only thing I really understood was that I didn’t understand bashert… or love. And then, for years, I simply stopped thinking about them at all.
But then, something completely… weirdly…wildly… magical… mystical happened.
Yeah, I know. How “whoo whoo” new age of me. I hesitate to use those words, but there just aren’t any other words that even come close to describing what I experienced.
During a Shiva visit, the very last situation I would have expected such a thing to happen, I saw… I felt… bashert.
Oh, not mine! Never that! I *still* can’t imagine that.
A Rabbi, associated with my synagogue, that I don’t know well but very much respect, lost his mother. I was hesitant to attend the Shiva, because I really *don’t* know this Rabbi well. In fact, I’ve spent years thinking he has no idea who I am, although I know that probably isn’t true. He’s just a truly shy introvert, who is not very comfortable talking to random women who walk up to him with equally random questions. And really, who can blame him?
And since there would be an Orthodox minyan as part of it, I wasn’t at all certain how many women would be there. I haven’t been to many Shivas (thank goodness) and even fewer strictly Orthodox ones. But, after getting past all the above stuff, plus my introvert issues about not wanting to go anywhere there will be more than a couple of people, I determined that, even if it made me uncomfortable, it *was* the right thing to do.
So, I took a deep breathe, and I went.
When I first arrived, the minyan was already in progress in the dining room. The Rebbetzin and another woman were sitting together in the kitchen next to it, talking softly with each other. I came in quietly and sat down with them. I don’t know the Rebbetzin very well either, and I knew the other woman even less. So, I was prepared to just sit there in silence, and listen to them and to the service.
As I said, this isn’t something I’d had much experience with.
We always stand every time Kaddish is spoken during services, so I was only a little surprised when the Rebbetzin jumped to her feet each time it was said here, even though, at first, I did wonder a little why we were doing it. It hadn’t occurred to me that we were participants in the service. Perhaps the wall was acting as the mechitzah. I didn’t know, but naturally, when she stood, I stood.
We could hear her husband clearly saying the prayer of praise for G-d that we say for the dead. But I noticed something I couldn’t identify about the way she moved and stood. It was brief. But I was positive I felt it every time she stood for her husband’s recitation of the Kaddish.
The service ended, and after a short pause at the kitchen island for some refreshments, most people moved into the living room, currently filled with chairs for the visitation. As this introvert tends to do, I took a seat at the back. The Rebbetzin was standing off to my left and a little behind me.
Her position isn’t a thing I would normally remember so exactly. But it was just off to my left, out of the corner of my eye, that I kept sensing *something*. I admit, at first, I was slightly annoyed that “whatever it was” kept distracting me from listening to the tender, affectionate little stories the Rabbi was sharing about his relationship with his mother.
Finally, I realized that what I was noticing was that “something” I’d been aware of in the kitchen whenever the Rebbetzin stood while her husband was saying Kaddish. Only now it was stronger … pulsing… directed.
It took me a bit to figure out (brace yourself, here comes the whoo whoo new age part) one, that I was seeing and feeling *at the same time*, and two, that it was the connection between these two people. I’ve never been someone who sees auras, but whatever was happening was some combination of two senses that I still don’t know exactly what to call. But there was no doubt “something” was going on over there just off to my left.
Throughout the time the Rabbi was speaking, the Rebbetzin mostly stayed silent. But if I turned my head just a little I could see that she was completely focused on him. From time to time, when she sensed he needed it, she would say a word or two. But the “something” that flowed between them was never absent.
It became obvious to me that she was there for whatever he needed. And, of course, though he seemed to be completely engrossed in the sharing of his memories, he was very much aware of that. Each was aware of the other in a way I had never seen before.
With a little bit of a jolt like a minor electric shock, I realized that what I was seeing/feeling was… bashert.
This… was “true love.” Way beyond the pretend we see in movies and read about in fairy tales.
The Rebbetzin *was* the G-d ordained other side of his soul, and he, of hers. No matter what happened, good or bad, their connection would both enfold and uphold them both.
I never saw it in my own family. But over the years, I’ve had friends who had good, solid and enduring relationships through all the stuff they say in the marriage ceremony: richer, poorer, sickness, health. And at least once, they were together until death did part them. Perhaps if I’d known this existed, I might have seen/felt some of that between some of them.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I would have because, since that evening, I *have* seen/felt it in couples I know now. Not so strong, but I suspect that may be because it doesn’t manifest itself in this world in such strength, when couples are just going about their day to day activities. It only shows itself the way it did that night at times when there are crises in their lives.
Of course, now that I have seen/felt it I’ll never forget that I did. It isn’t something I’ll ever have. Maybe it could have been… once upon a time. But the possibility is long past. Strangely enough I don’t mind.
Instead what I feel is honored.
It is so incredible, as to be almost beyond what I can believe, that I had my awareness changed the way it was that night. That G-d let one of the broken souls in the world who will never experience it, know with certainty that that kind of connection *isn’t* just a fairy tale, that it is real.
And it provided the answer to a question I’d been pondering lately: Why would a perfect being create humans, who are so incredibly and inherently *not* perfect?
I read Jewish wisdom that said the answer is that the world was made because of G-d’s love for us. And I’ll be honest, I’ve never been sure about that. Especially around this day, the 9th of Av, the anniversary of so many of our tragedies, when we read the despair contained in Lamentations, and the sorrows in the poetry of mourning.
We are reminded almost daily that we don’t even love each other.
But the knowledge of this other truth, the reality of bashert has made it possible for me to believe that G-d does love us. It has let me understand that, however annoying we may be as a species, however many mistakes we may make as individuals, or as Jews, against all reason, G-d really does love us. And that we, and this world, were created out of that love.
And I know this to be true because I personally experienced the echo of this love as it manifested itself, that night, between these two people.
Bashert is my evidence. It is the heartbeat of G-d’s love. Maybe what I felt is whoo whoo new age. Or maybe it’s timeless Torah wisdom. About that you would have to ask someone much wiser than me.
Because I don’t know that. But I do know this:
For letting me experience both their love, and G-d’s, in the time of their pain, I will always be more grateful to this Rabbi and Rebbetzin than I will ever be able to find the words to express.