Monday, May 30, 2016

Lioness Finds Her Bashert

Three years ago, when I was visiting Chobe National Park in Botswana as part of the Torah In Motion Africa Tour, we were lucky enough to spot a solitary lioness. Although it was getting dark and she was quite far away, I even managed to take a good photo (see right). Later that evening, when I transferred the photo to my laptop and zoomed in on it, I noticed that her eyes were different colors - her right eye was blue instead of the normal yellow. The next day, I asked the ranger, and he told me that she was blind in one eye. Poor lioness.

Two years ago, we visited Chobe again. Once again, we saw a lioness - and it was the same one! Her eye had gotten even worse, it was now entirely opaque. The poor thing was still alone, too.

Last year, when went to Chobe, I eagerly looked out for the one-eyed lioness. Alas, I did not see her. I hoped that she was still alive.

Five days ago, we went back to Chobe. And yet again, we saw the lioness that was blind in one eye. Only this time, she wasn't alone. She was with a large and powerful male lion. And one of his eyes was damaged! She had found her bashert!

Here is a photo of the happy couple (alas, a little out of focus):

And here is a video (but if you're reading this via email, you will have to visit in order to watch it:

Baruch Hashem!


  1. I wonder how the conversation with the shadchan went:

    - I have a beautiful girl for you...
    Shadchan: Wow, tell me more about her
    - Blond hair, thin, athletic...
    Shadchan: Very nice, very nice
    - She's very capable, can feed a family...
    Shadchan: Wonderful! What's her name?
    - Chobe
    Shadchan: Hmmm.... Interesting. Is it Yiddish? Is it a family name?
    - There's this other thing, I'm not sure about it, but my Rav says I have to tell you and it's not lashon hara: She's blind in one eye.
    Shadchan: Aha. Nice speaking with you. *about to hang up phone*
    - Wait - did I tell you? She's a lioness.
    Shadchan: Oh! In that case, do I have a boy for her...

    R Stefansky

  2. You reminded me of the story of the guy who davvened for a striking, tall chick with long legs. He got kicked to death by an ostrich.

  3. Waiting for the hashgacha pratis story in one of those Jewish versions of Chicken Soup for Your Sappy Soul.

  4. Beautiful story on animal shidduchim(compare with the Mishna in Kiddushin which makes a contrast between animals and humans for livelihood;רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר ראית מימיך חיה ועוף שיש להם אומנות והן מתפרנסין שלא בצער)

    1. Now that you bring that up...
      I'm going to tweet this in two days when the daf yomi with that Mishnah comes up. R. Shimon Ben Elazar was a victim of survivorship bias. He didn't see the wild animals that starve.

  5. Great post!! Nice to read something positive..... Also about something that is truly your tchum.

  6. Neat story, R' Natan. What is the origin of these cats' blindness? Is it some kind of inherited thing, or the result of an infection?

  7. Alas, it won't last long.Soon a stronger male with 2 eyes will come along,chase of the male, kill their one-eyed offspring and mate with her. Not much of a love story, but stronger cubs!

    1. I prefer the artscroll version, but thanks for sharing.

    2. @mb
      "their one-eyed offspring"

      R Stefansky

  8. Something about a rationalist posting about basherte...
    שמונה פרקים לרמב”ם פרק ח
    אבל הלשון הנמצא לחכמים, והוא אומרם: “הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים” – הרי הוא אמת, ומכוון אל מה שזכרנו, אלא שהרבה יטעו בו בני אדם, ויחשבו בקצת מעשי האדם הבחיריים – שהוא מוכרח עליהם, כגון הזיווג לפלונית, או היות זה הממון בידו. וזה אינו אמת, כי זאת האשה, אם היתה לקיחתה בכתובה וקידושין, והיא מותרת, ונשאה לפריה ורביה – הרי זו מצוה, וה’ לא יגזור בעשיית מצוה; ואם היה בנשואיה פגם – הרי היא עבירה, וה’ לא יגזור בעבירה.
    [There is no contradiction to this from the following] statement of our Sages: “Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven.” 2 This statement is true and conforms to the conceptual framework that we have explained. Nevertheless, many people err with regard to it and imagine that a person is fated with regard to many of the matters in which he is given free choice: e.g., whether he will marry a particular woman or acquire a sum of money through theft."

    Oh, wait! Not humans but animals can have a basherte!

    1. Rambam doesn't mean that there is nobody predestined to be your "bashert" - say, most compatible match, only that it is entirely within your discretion to choose to marry them or not, and it doesn't contradict the doctrine of free will. Given that, it would follow that animals that don't have our "free will" may indeed be predetermined to find their "bashert".
      Of course, if they don't mate for life, things will get a bit more complicated...
      R Stefansky

    2. Do you think that is actually his position? I presume he either disagrees with the Gemara or that he interprets it to mean that some people are better matches for each other than others or another somewhat allegorical interpretation. He later restricts God's control to natural phenomena. I would argue that facially the Gemara not intended to be taken literally.

      Another support for allegorical interpretation is that the Gemara makes a lot more sense in a monogamous society and the Judiasm did not always recommend monogamy (not saying the Rambam thought this thought).

    3. Could be not. Although, I don't think that it's beyond the realm of possibility that Rambam felt that there was a "most compatible" match. And if it is, it's not evident from the cited Rambam, it would be assumed based on how he restricts the practical manifestations of hashgacha pratit elsewhere in his writings.

      If I would want to argue the idea of bashert through the philosophy of Rambam, I'd say it was preprogrammed into nature from the onset, - similar to how he deals with אין חדש תחת השמש in the MN - and not due to personal divine manipulation during pregnancy.

      I think there is little doubt that Rambam knew that Judaism didn't always prescribe - as a law - monogamy, any cursory glance at Tanakh or gemara will tell you that. However, I think it is safe to assume that the "special marital bond" of monogamy was always idealized. From the onset we are told -
      עַל־כֵּן֙ יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ אֶת־אָבִ֖יו וְאֶת־אִמּ֑וֹ וְדָבַ֣ק בְּאִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וְהָי֖וּ לְבָשָׂ֥ר אֶחָֽד.
      Many gemaras that deal with marriage - including of course the one re מ' יום קודם לידת הולד - also give off the same impression. It seems that although monogamy was never - until recently - universally mandated, the idea of a bashert was certainly not a foreign one.
      How do we reconcile them? Do we even need to reconcile them? תן לחכם ויחכם עוד.

      R Stefansky


Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

Tzedakah: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

How do you tell apart a good charity from a bad one? It can be very difficult to know who is actually honest. But the first step is to be aw...