The term “soulmate” is often used to describe relationships, typically between two people who did not grow up together but met later in life and became inseparable. It is usually used when a man and woman meet and decide to start a life together; to get married, have children, and spend the rest of their lives as a unit.
Another term used for this, in Yiddish, is “bashert,” which literally means “it was meant to be,” implying that meeting your soulmate is predestined. This is based on the Talmudic teaching that every soul is split into two before birth and placed in separate bodies, and they then set out on a journey to find each other. Thus, when you come together, it is the reunification of the soul.
But there is another type of soulmate, one you don’t need to search for your entire life. This is alluded to in the commandment for every Jew to donate a half-shekel to the Temple’s coffers once a year. Every Jew, regardless of stature or wealth, was obligated to make this annual donation, and the proceeds were used to supply livestock for the various communal offerings in the Temple.
Although there were many opportunities to contribute to the Temple’s operating fund, and no doubt those of greater means made larger contributions, this particular annual collection was very specific: a half-shekel, no more and no less.
The half-shekel, as opposed to a whole shekel, alludes to every Jew being a half without his or her fellow Jew. Interestingly, our sages teach that the half-shekel donation was intended as an atonement for Jacob’s sons selling their brother Joseph into slavery. That event was the first open display of discord among Jews, and although it all worked out for them in the end, their descendants still had to atone for it. That was accomplished through every Jew making an identical donation to the Temple every year.
That’s also why specifically these contributions were used for communal offerings, since these offerings were made on behalf of every single Jew regardless of who and where they are. Every Jew was represented equally in the Temple service, and thus their contributions had to be identical.
We may seem to be different and have different backgrounds, but as the Lubavitcher Rebbe once told a philanthropist that boasted starting a congregation for “Jews with no background”:
“They have a real background of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.”
That’s where the true reunification of the soul occurs. When Jews that appear to be different on the surface are able to set their disparities aside to focus on their essence — that we are really one unit — that’s the ultimate “bashert,” meant to be. That’s how we build Jewish communities and that’s how Jews around the world will continue to thrive.
Finding your soulmate and bashert can be as easy as stepping into a synagogue, attending a Jewish event, and reminding yourself that there is nothing in the world that can tear the Jewish people apart from each other.
We are one!