“How will I know he’s my beshert, my soul mate?” one of my students asked me the other day.

“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “Make a commitment to him, put in all the hard work and effort necessary and he’ll become your beshert.”

Beshert is one of the most confusing and misleading ideas in Jewish life. Although the Talmud states that 40 days prior to the formation of the fetus, a Heavenly voice comes down from Above and decrees who is to be mated with who, this activity in the spiritual realm does not inform the practical choices that we have to make.

In fact, it can become a distraction. It leads us to look for signs and omens and the mysterious ways of the cosmos that brought us together, and to ignore the more important elements required to create a good and productive relationship.

The fact that you “never” go to that store and you’re “never” home from work at that time and that he was buying “exactly” the same thing as you may be a cute story to tell your grandchildren (or not), but it doesn’t demonstrate whether he’s kind and loyal.

The moon, the stars and that special glow don’t speak to whether he’s honest and trustworthy.

And all the physical attraction in the world tells us nothing about his staying power over the long haul, about his true understanding of the word commitment.

That’s why I suggest that if need to talk about beshert (and it seems we do!) it should come at the end of the discussion, not the beginning.

When two people build a life together, when they start with a foundation of shared values and good character, and if their commitment is strong, they will create a healthy marriage.

Beshert is what you get after years of struggle and joy, years of pain and celebration, years of effort and laughter.

With all the hard work, with constant giving to their spouse, they will create an irrevocable bond. Through their family activities and community involvement they will deepen their unity. Their sense of intimacy and connection will only grow over time.

Beshert is what you get after you pay your dues. Beshert is what you get when you put someone else’s needs before your own. Beshert is what you get when you keep pushing forward no matter how rough the road. Beshert is what you get after years of struggle and joy, years of pain and celebration, years of effort and laughter.

There is a slightly mystical aspect to beshert – it's what you get when you’re not looking for it, when you’re not fooled by illusory externals and pseudo-spirituality.

Beshert is what you get after using your time to be loving and caring, after creating a true marital unit out of two individuals.

It is true that everything is in the Almighty’s hands, but not necessarily in the way we initially think. If we do the real job necessary to make a marriage work, then the Almighty performs a miracle for us -- we see that although we didn’t recognize it at first, we have married our beshert after all.