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172 The Jetcish Quarterly Review. 


" The Omnipresent," said a Eabbi, " is occupied in making marriages." 
The levity of the saying lies in the ear of him who hears it ; for by 
marriages, the speaker meant all the wondrous combinations of the 
universe, whose issue makes our good and evil. 

George Eliot. 

The proverb that I have set at the head of these lines is 
popular in every language of Europe. Need I add that a 
variant may be found in Chinese ? The Old Man of the Moon 
unites male and female with a silken, invisible thread, and 
they cannot afterwards be separated, but are destined to 
become man and wife. The remark of a Rabbi, quoted in 
Daniel Deronda, carries the proverb back apparently to a 
Jewish origin ; and it is indeed more than probable that the 
Rabbinical literature is the earliest source to which this piece 
of folk-philosophy can be traced. 

George Eliot's Rabbi was Jose bar Chalafta, and his remark 
was made to a lady, possibly a Roman matron of high quality, 
in Sepphoris. Rabbi Jose was evidently an adept in meeting 
the puzzling questions of women, for as many as sixteen 
interviews between him and " matrons " are recorded in 
Agadic literature. Whether because prophetic of its sub- 
sequent popularity, or for some other reason, this particular 
dialogue in which Rabbi Jos6 bore so conspicuous a part is 
repeated in the Midrash Rabbah alone not less than four times, 
besides appearing in other Midrashim. It will be as well then 
to reproduce the passage in a summarised form, for it may be 
fairly described as the locus classicus on the subject. 

" How long," she asked, " did it take God to create the 
world ? " and Rabbi Jos£ informed her that the time occupied 
was six days. " What has God been doing since that time ? " 
continued the matron. " The Holy One," answered the Rabbi, 
" has been sitting in heaven arranging marriages." " Indeed!" 
she replied, " I also could do as much myself. I have thou- 
sands of slaves, and could marry them off in couples in a single 
hour. It is easy enough." " I hope that you will find it so," 
said Rabbi Jose ; " in heaven it is thought as difficult as the 
dividing of the Re'd Sea." He then took his departure, while 

"Marriages are made in Heaven." 173 

she assembled one thousand men-servants and as many maid- 
servants, and, marking them off in pairs, ordered them all to 
marry. On the day following this wholesale wedding, the 
poor victims came to their mistress in a woeful plight. One 
had a broken leg, another a black eye, a third a swollen nose ; 
all were suffering from different ailments, but with one voice 
they joined in the cry, "Lady, unmarry us again! " Then the 
matron sent for Rabbi Jos6, admitted that she had underrated 
the delicacy and difficulty of match-making, and wisely re- 
solved to leave heaven for the future to do its own work in 
its own way. 

The moral conveyed by this story may seem, however, to 
have been idealised by George Eliot almost out of recognition. 
This is hardly the case. Genius penetrates into the heart, 
even from a casual glance at the face of things. Though it 
is unlikely that she had ever seen the full passages in the 
Midrash to which she was alluding, yet her insight was not 
at fault. For the saying that God is occupied in making 
marriages, is, in fact, associated in some passages of the 
Midrash with the far wider problems of man's destiny, with 
the universal effort to explain the inequalities of fortune and 
the changes with which the future is heavy. 

Rabbi Jose's proverbial explanation of connubial happiness 
was not merely a bon mot invented on the spur of the moment 
to silence an awkward questioner. It was a firm conviction, 
which finds expression in more than one quaint utterance, but 
also in more than one matter-of-fact assertion. To take the 
latter first, " Rabbi Phineas in the name of R. Abbahu said, 
We find in the Torah, in the Prophets, and in the Holy 
Writings, evidence that a man's wife is chosen for him by the 
Holy One, blessed be he. Whence do we deduce it in the 
Torah? From Genesis xxiv. 50: Then Laban and Bethucl answered 
and said (in reference to Rebecca's betrothal to Isaac) : The 
thing procccdeth from the Lord. In the Prophets it is found in 
Judges xiv. 4 (where it is related how Samson wished to mate 
himself with a woman in Timnath, of the daughters of the 
Philistines) : But his father and mother knew not that it was of 
the Lord. In the Holy Writings the same may be seen, for it 
is written (Proverbs xix. 14) : Souse and riches are the inheri- 
tance of fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord." Many 
years ago, a discussion was carried on in the columns of 
Notes and Queries concerning the origin of the saying 
round which my present desultory jottings are centred. One 
correspondent, with unconscious plagiarism, suggested that the 
maxim was derived from Proverbs xix. 14. 

Here we may, for a moment, pause to consider whether any 


174 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

parallels exist in other ancient literatures to the belief in 
heaven-made marriages. It appears in English as early as 
Shakespeare — 

God, the best maker of all marriages, 

Combine your hearts in one. Henry V., v. 2. 

This, however, is too late to throw any light on its origin. 
With a little ingenuity one might, perhaps, torture some such 
notion out of certain fantastic sentences of Plato. In the 
Symposium, however (§ 192), God is rather represented as 
putting obstacles in the way of the union of fitting lovers, in 
consequence of the wickedness of mankind. When men 
become, by their conduct, reconciled with God, they may find 
their true loves. Astrological divinations on the subject are 
certainly common enough in Eastern stories ; a remarkable 
instance will be given a little later on. At the present day, 
Lane tells us, the numerical values of the letters composing 
the names of the two parties to the marriage-contract are 
added separately, and one of the totals is subtracted from the 
other. If the remainder is uneven, the inference drawn is 
favourable ; but if even, the reverse. The pursuit of Gematria 
is apparently not limited to Jews. Such methods, however, 
hardly illustrate my present point, for the identity of the 
couple is not discovered by the process. Whether the 
diviner's object is to make this discovery, or the future lot 
of the married pair is all that he seeks to reveal, in both cases, 
though he charm never so wisely, it does not fall within the 
scope of this inquiry. Without stretching one's imagination 
too much, some passages in the Panchatantra seem to imply a 
belief that marriage-making is under the direct control of 
Providence. Take, for instance, the story of the beautiful 
princess, who was betrothed to a serpent, Deva Senna's son. 
Despite the vigorous attempts made to induce her to break 
off so hideous a match, she steadfastly declines to go back 
from her word, and bases her refusal on the ground that the 
marriage is inevitable and destined by the gods. 

As quaint illustrations may be instanced the following : 
" Eaba heard a certain man praying that he might marry a 
certain damsel ; Raba rebuked him with the words : ' If she 
be destined for thee, nothing will part thee from her; if thou 
art not destined for her, thou art denying Providence in 
praying for her.' Afterwards Baba heard him saying : ' If I 
am not destined to marry her, I hope that either I or she may 
die,' " meaning that he could not bear to witness her union 
with another. Despite Raba's protest, other instances are on 
record of prayers similar to the one of which he disapproved. 

"Marriages are made in Heaven." 175 

Or again, the Midrash offers a curious illustration of Psalm 
lxii. 10 : " Surely men of low degree are a breath, and men 
of high degree a lie." The first clause of the verse alludes 
to those who say in the usual way of the world, that a certain 
man is about to wed a certain maiden, and the second clause 
to those who say that a certain maiden is about to wed a 
certain man. In both cases people are in error in thinking 
that the various parties are acting entirely of their own free- 
will, while as a matter of fact the whole affair is predestined. 
I am not quite certain whether the same idea is intended by 
the Yalkiit Beubeni, in which the following occurs : — " Know 
that all religious and pious men in this, our generation are 
hen-pecked by their wives, the reason being connected with 
the mystery of the Golden Calf. The men on that occasion 
did not protest against the action of the mixed multitude (at 
whose door the charge of making the calf is laid), while the 
women were unwilling to surrender their golden ornaments 
for idolatrous purposes. Therefore they rule over their hus- 
bands." One might also quote the bearing of the mystical 
theory of transmigration on the predestination of bridal pairs. 
In the Talmud, on the other hand, the virtues of a man's 
wife are sometimes said to be in proportion to the husband's 
own ; or in other words, his own righteousness is the cause of 
his acquiring a good wife. The obvious objection, raised by 
the Talmud itself, is that a man's merits can hardly be 
displayed before his birth — and yet his bride is destined for 
him at that early period. 

Yet more quaint (I should perhaps rather term it consistent, 
were not consistency rare enough to be indistinguishable from 
quaintness) was the confident belief of a maiden of whom 
mention is made in the Sefer ha-Chassidim (§ 384). She 
refused persistently to deck her person with ornaments. 
People said to her : " If you go about thus unadorned, no 
one will notice you nor court you." She replied with firm 
simplicity : " It is the Holy One, blessed be he, that settles 
marriages ; I need have no concern on the point myself." 
Virtue was duly rewarded, for she married a learned and 
pious husband. This mention of the " Book of the Pious " 
reminds me of the circumstance under which the originator of 
the latter-day Chassidism, Israel Baalshem, is said to have 
married. When he was offered the daughter of a rich and 
learned man of Brody named Abraham, he readily accepted 
the alliance, because he knew that " Abraham's daughter" was 
his bride destined by heaven. For like Moses Mendelssohn, 
in some other respects the antagonist of the Chassidim, 
Baalshem accepted the declaration of Rabbi Judah in the 

M 2 

176 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

name of Rav : " Forty days before the creation of the child, 
a proclamation (VipTQ) is made in heaven, saying: The 
daughter of such a one shall marry such and such a one." 

I will close with an Agadic story, in which the force of this 
predestination is shown to be too strong even for royal 
opposition. It does not follow that the pre-arrangement of 
marriages implies that the pair cannot fall in love of their own 
accord. On the contrary, just the right two eventually come 
together; for once, free-will and destiny need present no 
incompatibility. The combination, here shadowed, of a pre- 
destined and yet true-love marriage, is effectively illustrated 
in what follows : 

" Solomon the King was blessed with a very beautiful 
daughter, who was the fairest maiden in the whole land of 
Israel. Her father observed the stars so as to discover by 
astrology who was destined to be her mate in life and to wed 
her : when lo ! he saw that his future son-in-law would be the 
poorest man in the nation. Now, what did Solomon do ? He 
built a high tower by the sea and surrounded it on all sides 
with inaccessible walls ; he then took his daughter and placed 
her in the tower under the charge of seventy aged guardians. 
He supplied the Castle with provisions, but he had no door 
made in it, so that none could enter the fortress without the 
knowledge of the guard. Then the king said : I will watch 
in what way God will work the matter. 

" In course of time a poor and weary traveller was walking 
on his way by night, his garments were ragged and torn, he 
was bare-footed and ready to faint with hunger, cold, and 
fatigue. He knew not where to sleep, but on casting his eyes 
around him he beheld the skeleton of an ox lying on a field 
hard by. The youth crept inside the skeleton to shelter him- 
self from the wind, and while he slept there, down swooped a 
great bird, which lifted up the carcass and the unconscious 
youth in it. The bird flew with its burden to the top of 
Solomon's tower, and set it down on the roof before the very 
door of the imprisoned princess. She went forth on the 
morrow to walk on the roof according to her daily wont, and 
she descried the youth. She said to him, ' Who art thou ? 
and who brought thee hither ? ' He answered, ' I am a Jew 
of Acco, and a bird bore me to thee.' The kind-hearted 
maiden clothed him in new garments ; they bathed and 
anointed him, and she saw that he was the handsomest youth 
in Israel. They loved one another, and his soul was bound 
up in hers. He was ingenious and witty ; and one day she 
said, ' Wilt thou marry me ? ' He replied, ' Would it might 
be so!' They resolved to marry. But there was no ink 

"Marriages are made in Heaven." 177 

with which to write the Kcthiilah, or marriage certificate. 
Love laughs at obstacles. So, using some drops of his own 
blood as ink, the marriage was secretly solemnised, and he 
said, ' God is my witness to-day, and Michael and Gfabriel 
likewise.' When the matter leaked out, the dismayed cus- 
todians of the princess hastily summoned Solomon. The 
king at once obeyed their call, and asked for the presump- 
tuous youth. He looked at his son-in-law, enquired of him 
as to his father and mother, family and dwelling-place, and 
from his replies the king recognised him for the self-same 
man whom he had seen in the stars as the destined husband 
of his daughter. Then Solomon rejoiced with exceeding joy 
and exclaimed: Blessed is the Omnipresent who giveth a 
wife to man and establisheth him in his house." The moral 
of which seems to be that though marriages are made in 
heaven, love must be made on earth. 

I. Abrahams. 


The chief passages to which the reader is referred are: Midrash 
Kabbah, Genesis § 68, Leviticus § 29, Numbers §§ 3 and 22 ; Midrash 

Tanchuma to the portions NET) ''D, T11DD and !"6e>' , 1 ; Midrash Samuel, 
Ch. v. ; Talmud, Mued Katon, 186, and Sotah, 2a. — Dr. Bacher's latest 
work Die Agada der Tannaiten, II. (1890), contains ou pages 168-170 im- 
portant notes on some of these passages. — I have freely translated the 
story of Solomon's Daughter from Buber's edition of the Tanchuma, In- 
troduction, page 136. It is clearly compounded from several stories 
too familiar to call for the quotation of parallels. With one of the 
incidents may be compared the device of Sindbad in bis second voyage. 
He binds himself to one of the feet of the rukh (i.e. the condor or the 
bearded vulture) ; and in another adventure, he attaches himself to the 
carcass of a slaughtered animal, and is borne aloft by a vulture. A 
similar incident may be noted in the Psevdo Ben Sira (ed. Steinschneider, 
page 5). Compare Gubernatis, Zool. Myth., II. 94. The fabulous anlta, 
too, was banished by God as punishment for carrying off a bride.