I met my first husband in college. We dated for more than two years and married five days after I turned 23. Sixteen months later, he came home from a party I had not attended, sat me down and announced, “I don’t want to be married to you anymore.” More than three decades later, I still can’t make sense of what happened.
An excruciatingly prolonged relationship with Mr. Not-Even-Jewish consumed the balance of my 20s. He was black and his cultural identity was a hugely significant part of his life. That motivated me to look more deeply into my own cultural identity.
I began correcting a lifelong ignorance of my heritage by studying Judaism. At first, it was merely an intellectual/anthropological curiosity. It was years before I took Judaism seriously.
At 29, I remarried. I learned how to keep Shabbat, how to keep kosher and how to study Torah in a way that soothed my soul. Alas, despite producing two delicious children, my second marriage soured fairly quickly, though I hung on for seven years.
I was 0 for 2.
By then, I was living an Orthodox life in a major Jewish community in Baltimore, yet I was significantly different from most Orthodox women. Besides being a ba’alat teshuva (adult returnee to traditional Judaism), I had an advanced secular education, a significant professional identity, two young daughters and two ex-husbands.
The chances of me meeting a suitable Orthodox man were negligible. I fully expected to be alone for a long time.
Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht—Man plans and God laughs. I don’t know why or how I merited such a gift, but the very same year my second marriage ended, I finally met my beshert.
Within a period of a few weeks, two friends and a colleague mentioned the same local, never-married, congregational rabbi to me. Despite the fact that she hadn’t spoken to him in 20 years, one friend was so convinced we were beshert that she left him a monumentally long voicemail message, encouraging him to call me.
A few days went by and I hadn’t heard from him yet. So I called him. This isn’t generally done in the Orthodox world. I remember clearly thinking that if it put him off, we wouldn’t be a match anyway.
We went out for coffee after a Torah lecture in his shul.
Eight months later, we married in a huge synagogue wedding, with 1300 congregants and day school students in attendance.
I may have had a painfully rocky start, but we have been blessed (so far!) with 24 peaceful, harmonious years. We function together as a team, and that has made all the difference.
That, and the fact that he makes me laugh every single day.
Rivkah Lambert Adler is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and adult educator, specializing in Jewish and Israel content. Her particular focus is on the current non-Jewish awakening to Torah. Her beshert, Rabbi Elan Adler, is a Torah teacher and pastoral counselor. They made aliyah in 2010 and live among the Judean hills, just south of Jerusalem. They have children and grandchildren in Israel and the U.S.