Project Genesis

Judaism and Non-Jews

Idolatry and Non-Jewish Practices

“Divination” to Identify Spouse

Question: About 1 year ago I went on a date with this amazing Jewish guy. Right away, he made such a great impression on me—simply the best guy I ever went out with. Soon, though, I had to leave town for 6 months, and he brushed me off when I moved back to town.

Now, every time I get someone’s phone number, I take any pen that is handy and write the number in my little black book. Looking over my book, I realized that 386 of the 387 numbers I wrote down were in either black or blue ink. The only number that is not is that of the guy I am talking about—his number is in RED ink! I can’t get over it—how is that possible? This is the guy I want to be with, and his number is the only one out of 387 numbers that is not in black or blue ink! Is this a sign from God that he is meant to be with me? Should I continue to pursue him? What does the red ink mean?

Answer: Your question relates, in an interesting way, to the practice of divination. The Torah actually forbids trying to discern God’s plans through random actions (see Deuteronomy 18:10). However, the Talmud notes that various forms of divination were actually employed by the most surprising individuals (see Genesis 24:14 and Talmud Chulin 95b for some examples).

Therefore, based on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 179:4), it seems that active divination is always prohibited, but certain types of passive divination are allowed. For example, if one were to build a new house, marry a woman, or father a child, one could note subsequent progress in various life endeavors (i.e., does a new business venture go well or poorly), and attribute that progress to the recent new house, marriage, or child. Additionally, one may also rely on asking a young Torah student to quote the first verse that comes to his mind; considering the result a mini-prophecy. (I personally doubt that this would be effective today – if only for the fact that kids today learn so few verses in the first place!) In any case, the Rem”a (Shulchan Aruch ibid) writes that “one who acts with simplicity and trusts in God will be surrounded with (God’s) kindness” (see also Deuteronomy 18:13).

Moreover, beyond the fact that the sources above could imply that relying on such a sign might not be advised, I would suggest that, in your situation, it is effectively impossible to confidently deduce the significance of the red ink your phone book: After all, it could just as easily mean “stay away—this is dangerous for you,” as “pursue this guy at all cost.”

I wish you very great success in your search for a husband with whom you will be able to grow yet higher in your Torah lifestyle.

With my best regards,

Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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