Jewish Word // Beshert
A Talmudic Date with Destiny
Stroll Manhattan’s Upper West Side on a Saturday night and you’ll find yourself surrounded on all sides by prospective couples trying each other out. The last few years have seen an explosion in the neighborhood’s popularity among Jews in their twenties and thirties. For New York’s young Jewish singles, destiny—or beshert—has an address, and it’s west of Central Park.
Though the term beshert can refer to any fortuitous event (“I missed the bus, but it must have been beshert, because I heard it broke down”), it’s most often used to mean a soulmate: the one person whom an individual is divinely destined to marry. The etymology of the Yiddish word—spelled, generally, either bashert or beshert—is something of a mystery. Some argue that the word comes from the German beschert, meaning bestowed or given. (Bescherung, a version of the word, is used to describe the exchange of gifts on Christmas.) Others say that it’s from the Yiddish word sher, meaning scissors or shears, the idea being that beshert is something that has been shaped in a specific way, as if cut out by a pair of unseen scissors…
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