Rabbah bar bar Chanah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “It is as complex for God to match up a man and woman for marriage as it was to accomplish the splitting of the Red Sea.” (Gemara Sotah 2a)

Rashi explains that the splitting of the Red Sea involved changing its natural state. Similarly, God changes the natural state of two individuals, born as separate and distinct entities, and unites them in matrimony. Zohar 1:91b teaches that each person’s soul was originally whole, but at birth God split it; then He restored it via marriage to its status of being whole1. This is like the Red Sea that was originally whole and then God split it; then God restored it to its status of being complete.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan interprets the connection between making a match and splitting the Red Sea by focusing on the miracle of coinciding circumstances and perfect timing. A miracle is an event for which there may be a natural explanation, but which – happening when, where and how it did – evokes wonder. That the Israelites should arrive at the sea precisely where the waters were unexpectedly shallow, that a strong east wind should blow when and how it did, and that the Egyptians’ greatest military assets should have proved their undoing – all these things were wonders. One only has to hear stories of how spouses met one another to realise that God’s matchmaking involves a similar miracle.

Based on his understanding of the continuation of our Gemara, Rabbeinu Tam teaches that it is specifically a marriage of a widow to a widower whose union is as complex to accomplish as the splitting of the Red Sea. Both of them involve God taking the life of some in order to benefit others. This explanation fits particularly well with Rabbah bar bar Chanah’s source text from Psalms 68:7: “God gathers individuals to a house; He releases prisoners at suitable moments (בכושרות)”, because a parallel Gemara (in Sanhedrin 22a) deconstructs the word בכושרות into בכי (crying) and שירות (singing). The verse then refers to Israel’s redemption when the sea was split, for at that moment there was both “crying” [among the Egyptians] and “singing” [among the Israelites].

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov cites Midrash Shochar Tov that at the time of the splitting of the Red Sea, there was great opposition in heaven to the performance of this miracle. Perhaps, the angels argued, the Jews were unworthy of such an event. With God’s help, the Sea did split, and then it reunited. Similarly, when a person wants to get married at a young age, what merits can he have earned thus far in his life? We can suggest that God applies the principle known as Net Present Value. He looks into the future, and back values all the future good deeds. This is what God did at the splitting of the Red Sea. The Israelites had few merits but God looked into the future and back valued all their future good deeds.2

Alternatively, the Rebbe of Strikov explains that just like Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped into the Sea and relied upon God to assist, so too a man and woman take the plunge and jump in to marriage, relying upon God to assist. Gemara Sotah 17a famously comments on the similarity of the Hebrew words for man (איש) and woman (אשה), sharing the common letters א and ש, and with unique letters י and ה. Rabbi Akiva expounded: “If a husband and his wife merit it, then the Divine Presence (י-ה) is present between them; but if they do not merit it, then fire (אש) consumes them.”



1.       Rashba (Teshuvot 1:60) explains that when God first created Man, He created Adam and Eve together as one and then separated them.


2.       “May you raise him/her to Torah, Chupah and good deeds”, is a classic blessing on a birth, but why isn’t the order: “Torah, good deeds and then Chupah”? One explanation is that in olden times people would get married before the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, therefore the order used is Torah, Chupah and good deeds. We preserve the tradition of this order.

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