by Shira Cohen-Goldberg
January 25, 2009. Here was this guy from JDate. He liked Ethiopian food and taught at Tufts University. He was four years younger than I, just out of grad school, and had a warm smile. When we met for dinner, my hair was still wet from the gym, and I had forgotten to put on makeup. He asked me questions, listened, nodded, and tilted his head in an ever-so-caring way. He wanted to connect and continued to smile warmly as we ate spicy food with our hands and talked about life in Boston, our families of origin, and the similar values that we shared despite growing up in homes 5,000 miles away from each other.
June 18, 2010. My first visit to Mayyim Hayyim. My mom witnessed me immerse. My future husband, that amazing guy from JDate, witnessed by a friend, also immersed.
June 20, 2010. Our wedding day. After a short courtship that started with a conversation, and led to a play, a hike, 10k race, a shared home, and a proposal, we publicly became each other’s beloved, and we were married.
June 20, 2016. We have been married for SIX YEARS! We are still married. Two kids. Many immersions. Huge hurdles and lots of happy moments past. Perhaps many challenges accompanied by more joy, fulfillment, and laughter ahead.
A few weeks back, I found myself weighing in on a Facebook conversation about marriage in the observant Jewish community. The women were commenting on a column written by someone who wrestled for years to find her bashert, or perfect match, until finally, she found the right pathway to her husband, and was soon to be married.
“I’d love to read an article like this that doesn’t end with the person getting married, because what happens to those of us who never get married?” a friend shared. To her I replied, “I always thought that getting married was something to strive for, and that if I didn’t get it, I had failed. I am now married to someone I am completely compatible with, but [meeting him] was total luck.”
I have a lot to say about finding a life partner. I feel intense empathy towards people who are searching for that person, as my search was long and wrought. I had fantasized about being married since I was a child, and assessed potential dates for whether they were husband material for at least half of my life, pre-marriage. I remember at 16, asking my high school boyfriend whether he would convert to Judaism should our relationship lead to marriage. Perhaps much of this marriage excitement was fueled by being raised in a home where my parents were exceedingly happy together, and framed by being so identified with my mom. I was sure I would meet my future husband in college and get married upon graduation, just like she did.
But is it accurate to chalk my marriage up to “luck?” Upon our wedding invitation were the celebratory words from Psalm 118:24, recited at our most joyous moments:
“Zeh hayom asah Hashem, nagilah v’nismicha vo!” This is the day God has made, let us celebrate and rejoice in it!
That day was one of the best days of my life. It was a celebration of the true miracle that I met and was able to marry my best friend. This was a public proclamation of our love and commitment to one another.
But… What was God’s role in this? I do not struggle at all with my belief in God, rather my belief in God’s capabilities. The longer I live, the more I wonder whether God is responsible for creating and overseeing our personal miracles and calamities, or whether these are some strange combination of luck, circumstance, nature, and timing. The blessings. The sips of wine. The remembrance of Jerusalem. The broken glass. The lifting of the chairs and dancing that does not seem to end…
Why did I struggle for so long to find my beloved? Why do others never meet that person? How is it that after a decade and a half of searching, I found him? And finally: Wouldn’t it have been great if marrying the best person I know meant only simple joys from our wedding day until forever?
My husband and I are building a home. But the construction takes time, is full of effort and requires the many mundane, finite tasks to align and secure brick after figurative brick. As our God watches us do this work, I really don’t know what miracles God will/will not perform nor tragedies God will/will not prevent. What I do know, however, is that whatever day tomorrow is, it will be a day where the sun rises and sets, and for this reason alone, will be the day that God has made.
Shira M. Cohen-Goldberg serves on the board at Mayyim Hayyim. She and her husband are past participants of Beyond the Huppah: Creating the Jewish Marriage you Want, which will run again in the Fall 2016. She is a long-time member of the Cambridge-Somerville Jewish community and works as a literacy specialist at an educational non-profit focused on organizational change. She spends most of her time working and rearing her 4-year-old, Hallel, and toddler, Ya’ara, in partnership with her husband, Ari.