The orthodox Jewish world is in the midst of a crisis, a
crisis of not being able to find one’s marriage partner [shidduch]. Many
young men and women are either not dating, or even if they are dating, they are
having a difficult time finding that ‘perfect match’, the person with whom they
are willing and wanting to raise a family and with whom they are committed to
spending the rest of their lives. Why is this so? What’s at the root of this
crisis? Further, is there anything we can do about it? We plan on writing, ב"ה, a
series of articles to answer these questions. In this article, we will define
the problem, and in future articles we will examine some solutions from the
teachings of R’ Nachman of Breslov.
What does the Torah’s prohibition against mixing meat with
dairy (issur basar b’chalav) have to do with finding one’s shidduch?
Most people would respond with a resounding, “Huh? What kind of a question is
that? Obviously, they have nothing to do with each other!” However, the Torah
is deep and its secrets even deeper, so let’s not be too hasty in judging the
matter until we examine the subject.
To lay out the underlying problem, we will need to study a
rather lengthy section from Tikkunei Zohar Tikkun 14. Instead of
quoting and translating it phrase by phrase, we have reproduced the relevant
section (see reverse bottom) and will rely on the Matok m’Dvash
commentary to explain its meaning.
R’ Shimon bar Yochai is learning the esoteric teachings of
the Torah with his talmidim. In the course of discussing a particular
topic, they bring up Shemot 23:19: רֵאשִׁית
בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ תָּבִיא בֵּית יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא־תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי
בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ (The earliest
first fruits [bikkurim] of your soil you shall bring to the House of
Hashem your G‑d; you shall not cook a kid [gedi] in the milk of its
mother). The question is asked: What does the mitzvah of bikkurim
have to do with the issur basar b’chalav? In other words, what are we to
learn from the juxtaposition [semichut] of these two Biblical
commandments? R’ Yochanan teaches in Berachot 10a that we are to
expound, i.e. derive meaning from, juxtaposed scriptural passages [semuchin],
as it is written (Tehillim 111:8): סְמוּכִים לָעַד
לְעוֹלָם עֲשׂוּיִם בֶּאֱמֶת וְיָשָׁר
(They [i.e. Hashem’s mitzvot] are reliable [semuchim] for
eternity; made in truth and uprightness). Therefore, there must be some reason
for the semichut.
One way to understand the semichut is that just as
the mitzvah of bikkurim only applies in Eretz Yisrael so to the issur
basar b’chalav only applies in Eretz Yisrael. However, R’ Shimon knew this
was an incorrect conclusion, and he wanted to make sure that the correct halachah
was transmitted and that no confusion arose in the mesorah. For it is
written explicitly in a Tosefta at the beginning of the 8th
chapter of Chullin: בשר בחלב נוהג בארץ ובח"ל
בפני הבית ושלא בפני הבית בחולין ובמוקדשים ([The issur] basar b’chalav applies in Eretz
Yisrael and outside of Eretz Yisrael, in the Temple and when not in the Temple,
with unconsecrated meat and with consecrated meat). Further, the Rashbam (see Tosafot
on Chullin 103b) specifically explained that this teaching is necessary
because without it, one might erroneously conclude based on a comparison with
the law of bikkurim that the issur
basar b’chalav only applies in Eretz Yisrael.
So what did R’ Shimon do? He quickly summoned Eliyahu
ha-Navi to come down from Heaven—with permission from Hashem—to join them in
order to shed light on the matter. He needed Eliyahu to come with the
permission of Heaven, i.e. dressed in a body like a Tanna and Torah Sage, so
that he will be able to decide the halachah conclusively. What did
Eliyahu explained that the semichut is indeed
important, but it has nothing to do with concluding (erroneously) that the issur
basar b’chalav only pertains to Eretz Yisrael. He said that the secret has
to do with the laws of forbidden mixtures, i.e. kilayim. The verse in
question is Devarim 22:10: לֹא־תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר־וּבַחֲמֹר
יַחְדָּו (You are not to plow
with an ox and donkey together). The reason why the Torah prohibits plowing
with an ox and a donkey at the same time is because an ox is kodesh
while the donkey is tamei. We are not to mix the two together because,
in the upper worlds, it will lead to the ‘external forces’ nourishing off of
the kedushah. The semichut is to teach that if the Jews are
negligent in observing the mitzvah of bikkurim, they will
unwittingly cause basar to be cooked with chalav. What does that
mean? Chalav being white is chesed and basar being red is gevurah.
Since the two are not from the same root, this mixture will result in a
nullification of the chesed by the gevurah. This parallels the
prohibition against plowing with an ox and a donkey. Both laws are based on the
same principle of forbidden mixtures, i.e. kilayim. Here, specifically,
the prohibition is against benefiting from mixtures that are min b’she’eino
mino [one type mixed with another that is not of the same type].
But R’ Shimon raised an important distinction. An ox and a
donkey are certainly not of the same type. The ox is a kosher animal, i.e. it
is pure [tahor], whereas the donkey is non-kosher, i.e. it is impure [tamei].
So truly, this is kilayim of the good with the bad and thus forbidden.
But basar and chalav are both kosher. They are both tahor.
He argued that chalav is chesed d’kedushah and basar is gevurah
d’kedushah. Why should this be forbidden? Shouldn’t the chesed
sweeten the din of the gevurah as opposed to be nullified by it?
Eliyahu states that R’ Shimon’s logic would be correct under
normal circumstances; however, the verse itself is coming to teach a different
secret. And what is that secret? Even with issues of kedushah, we are
not allowed to mix min b’she’eino mino. Where do we learn this secret?
From Bereshit 1:24: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תּוֹצֵא
הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה לְמִינָהּ
(And G‑d said, let the land bring forth a living soul [not ‘living
creatures’ as in most translations] according to its kind). The land is the sefirah of malchut, the origin of the soul of Yisrael, the
‘living soul’. The phrase ‘according to its kind’ indicates that each soul
emerges from its source as a unique pair made up of male and female. In other
words, the paired souls are one min [type] from one root. And even
though they are both tahor, they emerge from their source as a pair, a zivug.
And they come down to this world in pairs. Therefore, each male needs to find
its zivug in order to join with each other exactly as they were when
they emerged from the sefirah of malchut, the source of Jewish
However, if someone doesn’t merit to find and marry his zivug,
and he ends up marrying another woman instead, and then a son is born from that
union, that son is considered a graft, i.e. a ‘mixture’ from two separate
sources. And that’s why the Torah teaches that, in that case, we are not to
cook a gedi in its mother’s milk. The baby boy is called a gedi.
And the verse refers to the relationship as his mother’s milk because
she’s not from the same root as his father because the mother and the father
have no soul-relationship with each other. In a deep sense, they really have
nothing to do with each other; they don’t belong to each other. As a
result, the Torah’s concern is that the son won’t be brought up well, i.e.
won’t be cooked right. Even though they are both tahor, i.e. they are
both holy Jewish souls, but not from the same root, the mixture is forbidden.
R’ Shimon emphatically stated that Eliyahu had correctly
explained the esoteric secret behind the issur basar b’chalav. He then
added his own chiddush based on Shemot 22:28: מְלֵאָתְךָ וְדִמְעֲךָ לֹא תְאַחֵר (Do not delay m’lei’atecha and dimacha).
Understood to refer to one’s bikkurim and terumah (even Rashi
admits that he doesn’t understand how dimacha refers to terumah), their literal meanings are
‘your fullness’ and ‘your teardrop’. The word m’lei’atecha, i.e. your
fullness, refers to one’s zivug, the paired soul that fills and
completes the essence of one’s half-soul (just as Chavah completed Adam’s
half-soul). And the word dimacha, ‘your tear drop’, is a reference to
one’s holy seed that one is to give to his zivug in order to bring forth
holy offspring. The expression ‘don’t delay’ teaches that one is not to
postpone marriage. Why not? One might, G-d forbid, come to emit his seed in
vain or give his first drop to a niddah, a maidservant, a non-Jew or an
adulterous woman, all of which are synonyms for Lilit, the unholy zivug
of the Samech-Mem, the Primordial Serpent. What’s the concern? The
concern is that she would snatch or kidnap the drops and create from them
impure klipot that would nourish from the kedushah and wreck
havoc in all the worlds. If this isn’t bad enough, these actions could cause
another man’s prayers to become effective and award him the merit to take the
first man’s zivug, G‑d forbid, as it is taught by Shmuel in Moed
Katan 18b: שֶׁמָּא יִקְדְּמֶנּוּ אַחֵר בְּרַחֲמִים (Perhaps another would preempt him through
Divine mercy, i.e. through prayer). And all of this would be middah k’neged
middah [tit for tat]. How so? Since the first man preempted his first seed
by giving it to someone who was not his zivug, so another man comes
along and preempts his wife, thus taking someone who is not his zivug.
And even if he merits to marrying his zivug, she will
cause him no end of grief. How do we know this? This comes from a famous
exposition on Bereshit 2:18: וַיֹּאמֶר יְיָ
אֱלֹקִים לֹא־טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂה־לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (And Hashem G‑d said, ‘It is not good that
the man be alone; I will make for him a helper opposed to him [ezer k’negdo]).
R’ Elazar asks in Yevamot 63a: So what is she, a helper or an opponent?
He answers: זָכָה עוֹזַרְתּוֹ לֹא זָכָה כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (If he merits, she helps [ezer] him;
if he doesn’t merit, she opposes [k’neged] him). Or as Rashi says on Bereshit
2:18: זָכָה עֵזֶר לֹא זָכָה כְּנֶגְדּוֹ לְהִלָּחֵם (If he merits, she is a ezer; if he
doesn’t merit, she opposes him [k’negdo], to make war with him). Putting
this together with the Tikkunei Zohar we have learning, we now may
understand what determines his merit. If he guards his brit then he
merits marrying his zivug, and she will fulfill the role of ezer
to help him in learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvot with love and reverence.
She will be his ezer in this world and in the world to come. But if he
doesn’t guard his brit, then even if he merits to marrying her, she will
be k’neged him in these four aspects and cause him to lose out in the
two worlds. What a series of multiple tragedies! And this whole mess happens
only because a young man blemished his brit when he was a bachelor.
Can anything spare us from this terrible fate? Yes, the
earliest bikkurim of your soil (see Shemot 23:19 above). Bring
your bikkurim, i.e. your first drops of seed, to the House of Hashem.
And what is the ‘House’ of Hashem? It is one’s wife, the true ‘house’ that
Hashem assigned for the man from the beginning when they emerged together from
the source of souls. Therefore, if a young man guards his brit, he won’t
cause the gedi, i.e. the son, to be cooked, i.e. to be reared, in the
milk of its mother, the son being a mixture that comes from a woman that is min
b’she’eino mino to his father. This is the deep, esoteric answer to the
existence of the semichut in Shemot 23:19.
Let’s now be honest. These days, how many young men have
guarded their brit in the manner in which we have just explained? Very
few people will speak of it, but this is the real reason behind the shidduch
crisis in the orthodox Jewish world today.
But don’t despair. There is hope. With G-d’s help, in the
next issue, we will address the issue of what can be done if someone was not so
careful to guard his brit. Is there any tikkun [repair/fix] by
which he can still merit his zivug who will be an ezer to him?
The short answer is that he will need to do teshuvah (and this can
be effective even in the case when his zivug was taken by another man),
as the prophet wrote (Yeshayah 6:10): שָׁב וְרָפָא
לוֹ (Do teshuvah and He
will heal him).