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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Every pot has its lid, but are you a pot or a pan?

Daf Yomi Sotah 2


A middle-aged bachelor once came to the Steipler Gaon, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, and complained, “I thought everybody has a basherte, the other half of their soul.  If that’s true, whatever happened to mine?”
“My dear child,” replied the Steipler, “indeed, even you had a basherte.  You met her many years ago.  She was quite interested in getting married.  But you decided that her nose was just a little too big and you let her go.”
Upon hearing these sage words, the man was devastated.  He went back home but every step he took was painful.  He remembered the young lady well.  He knew that she was the one but he had let his ego get in the way of marrying his basherte

Three months later, he decides that he must find out whatever happened to her.  He tracks her down and lo and behold she’s still living in his old home town.   Sure enough she had moved on after they had parted ways.  She was married to a fine man and had four children.  But tragically, she had been widowed for the past year and a half and was struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table for her little orphans.

The end of the story saw the man marrying his basherte.  They went on to have another three kids and lived the rest of their lives in happiness together.

Rav Shmuel the son of Rav Yitzchak said:  When Reish Lakish would begin Tractate Sotah, he would teach the following:  A man gets the wife he deserves, as the verse states, “For the rod of wickedness will not rest upon the lot of the righteous.”  Rabbah bar bar Chanah added in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: And making matches is as complicated as the splitting of the Red Sea, as the verse states, “G-d places individuals to the home; he releases prisoners at the right time.”
The Gemara asks: Is it true (that you get the spouse you deserve)?  But Rav Yehuda quoted Rav’s teaching: Forty days before the embryo forms, a Heavenly voice declares, “this daughter will marry this boy; this home is for this couple; this field is for this couple,” which implies that your basherte is predestined, and not determined by your actions!
The Gemara answers: No problem.  The Heavenly voice teaching applies to a first spouse.  The original teaching refers to a second spouse.

While the Gemara resolves the apparent contradiction with one approach, the Steipler seems to suggest an alternative resolution.  According to the Steipler, while your basherte is predestined, you still have free choice whether or not to marry them.   Based on your thought, speech and action, you could miss the opportunity to marry your basherte.   That’s what’s meant by getting the spouse you deserve.

How do you miss out on your basherte due to the choices you make with your thought?  Well, maybe you don’t think he’s suave enough or handsome enough.  How about your speech?  Maybe you’re rude to her on the date.  Action?  Maybe you fail to do the gentlemanly things like opening the car door.  Maybe her thought failing is to let him go because he didn’t open the car door every time or walk on the outside of the sidewalk!

The good news is that according to the Gemara, you always get a second chance.   Even if you don’t marry the one that was originally chosen for you, there is a pool of other potential marriage partners.  Half of them are there by no fault of their own – on the contrary, it was their original basherte that made the wrong decision.  Whether you’re there because of your own undoing or someone else’s, never give up!  As the old saying goes, ‘Every pot has a lid!’

Rabbanit Batya likes to say: While it’s true that every pot has a lid, not every pan has a lid.  Why not?  The difference between a pot and a pan is that pots are deep and pans are shallow.  If you want to marry your basherte, you can’t afford to be shallow.  The fellow who met with the Steipler wanted to marry a supermodel and overlooked his basherte in the process.  While you certainly should be physically attracted to your potential spouse, external beauty is definitely not the primary criterion for choosing whom to marry.  

Another thing about pots, says the Rabbanit, is that their depth demonstrates that they have so much more to offer than a pan that hardly contains anything.  When Reish Lakish teaches that you get the spouse you deserve, his point is that you must prepare yourself to be a basherte.  You must be brimming with ingredients to bring into the marriage and give to your spouse, in the way of love, care, and good middos (character traits).  If you’re empty and have nothing to offer, you’re more of a pan than a pot and will have a hard time finding your lid.

(And then there are Tupperware and Pyrex that lose their lids, as they say, “Tupperware’s the stupid lid?”  But alas, that’s for another day. . . .)


Every pot has a lid, but first you need to become a true pot.  Only then will you find your lid and never let them get away.  May you merit finding your basherte and spending the rest of your life in happiness with them!