This week, two friends of mine will be married.
While I am filled with deep joy for them and wish nothing but blessings upon their marriage and life together, I have to admit that I am a little stunned.
Their courtship has been… unconventional.
In a world of text messaging, Skype, Facebook, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that my friends met while playing a massive online role playing game, but I am. They met in game, pursued each other in game, and fell in love in game. It wasn’t until after the proposal of marriage that they met in person.
This courtship has me thinking about Jewish ideas about love and marriage. Talmud tells us that 40 days before the conception of a male child, a voice from Heaven will declare the name of the future wife of the child. This wife is the besherte of the child, the pre-destined soul mate and spouse. In traditional Orthodox communities, the recognition of this soul mate would be in the hands of family, friends and community who would inquire about the merits, virtues, and talents of the potential partner.
But what about the rest of us – the Reform Jew, the convert, the Jew without family? How do we recognize our basherte? Are we left to online dating, World of Warcraft, and Facebook to find the soul mate that God has chosen for us?
It seems incredible to me to fall so madly in love with someone you have never met, to feel so deeply about someone that a picture is more than enough to content you. I struggle to believe that in-game encounters can count as courtship, as relationship building.
Then I remember the look in my friends eyes when they are near each other. I remember the way they hold hands and cling to each other, and the joy that they have found. I watch as they converse about things that could be difficult and awkward with the ease that comes from long conversations about everything and nothing. They tell me that without the physicality of nearness to impede them, they have learned to truly talk to one another. They say they have opened up to each other with a vulnerability that is difficult when you are looking in someone’s eyes. They tell me that they are soul mates because they have put in the work to make it so.
Perhaps this is the truth – God does for us what we do for ourselves. Put in the time, the honesty, and the commitment and you can become the soul mate to your partner. Do the work of a relationship and you will reveal yourselves as soul mates.
And if this work is on Facebook, Warcraft, or Jdate, so be it. Increasingly people are forming communities this way, finding love this way, creating their worlds this way. Perhaps it is time for me to set down the fountain pen and the poetry and get myself a screen name?