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Then the officers shall speak to the people saying, “Who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house lest he die in the war and another man will inaugurate it? And who is the man who has planted a vineyard and not rendered it profane? Let him go and return to his house lest he die in the war and another man will render it profane. And who is the man who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go and return to his house lest he die in the war and another man will marry her” (Devarim 20:5-7).
In the Sefer Shai LaTorah, Rav Shimon Yosef Miller writes in name of his father Rav Elimelech Miller the following observation: The Gemara (Sotah 2a) says that forty days before a child is formed a heavenly voice declares that the daughter of a specific person is destined to marry this person, a specific home is destined to become the property of this person and a specific field is destined to become the property of this person. It is noteworthy that these three items, wife, home and field are the same as those mentioned here with regard to the exemptions of war. Parenthetically, we must note that we are assuming that the “field” mentioned in the Gemara is a generic term that may refer to the “vineyard” mentioned in the posuk. What is the connection between the two?
Rav Miller explains that these three things define the essence of life. A person is not complete unless he has a wife, home and livelihood. It is for this reason they are mentioned both before the beginning of life and at critical danger periods of life.
It is noteworthy that the aforementioned Gemara is one of the sources for the concept of bashert. This term represents a religious belief that certain things are predestined in life as part of one’s mazal. The concept of bashert dictates that a person will attain in the proper time that which is destined for him with little or no extra effort. This is especially true with regard to those three things mentioned in the Gemara, A wife, home and livelihood. The Gemara further teaches that a person may even receive more than what was meant for him through prayer. However, it is not clear if one’s actions can cause one to be deprived of his bashert.
From our posuk we may derive that if one is not careful he may indeed lose that which is destined for him. As the army is about to depart to the battlefield the kohen announces that any man who has begun the process of marriage or who has begun the process of building a house or has begun the process of planting a vineyard shall return home, for perhaps he will die in battle. Why must he be afraid? These three things are precisely those that were predestined and announced forty days before he was formed. The fact that it is bashert for him to attain these goals will guarantee that he return home safely from war. Nevertheless, the posuk does command that he return home immediately, if not, he may perish in battle and that which was bashert for him will go to someone else.
We thus derive that bashert represents a belief only that opportunities will arise in life for one to attain that which is destined for him. If a person follows his instincts and properly exercises his free will, he will succeed in attaining that which is destined for him. However, if one is not careful, acts with negligence and abuses his power of free will, then his opportunities may slip by and his bashert will go to someone else.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002