First we need to hear a story from the Midrash:

A Roman matron was discussing Jewish belief with Rabbi Yossi ben Halafta. "Okay," she says, "I get the part about G‑d creating heaven and earth. But once He got that down, what has He been doing since?"

"Since then," Rabbi Yossi replied, "He's been matchmaking."

"Matchmaking?" the matron repeated in surprise.

"Sure. Like this young lady marries this young man... and so on. Lots of matchmaking to do every day."

"That's ridiculous!" the matron exclaimed. "That's no feat for a G‑d who created heaven and earth. Why, even I could do that!"

And to prove her point, that night the matron took one thousand of her male servants and one thousand of her female servants and matched them together as husband and wife.

The feat, however, was short lived. That night was a sleepless night of howling, screaming, smashed windows, slammed doors and angry voices. The next morning, men and women hobbled, limped and crawled to their mistress, whining and pleading, "I don't want this one! Please get me out of this!"

The matron immediately called for Rabbi Yossi ben Halafta to return. "There is no god like your G‑d!" she proclaimed. "It is all true, your Torah is indeed beautiful and praiseworthy, and you spoke the truth!"

Rabbi Yossi replied, "If it seemed easy in your eyes, it is as difficult before the Holy One, blessed be He, as the splitting of the Red Sea."

"The Almighty matches men and women despite what they think they want, despite what they think is good for them. As the verse alludes, 'G‑d gets singles to become housebound; He brings out prisoners with great difficulties.'"

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (founder of Chabad Chassidism, 1745-1812) cites this midrash in one of his discourses and poses the following questions:

When the matron asked what G‑d has been doing since Creation, why didn't Rabbi Yossi provide the obvious, simple answer—that G‑d has been sustaining the world at every moment, providing all beings with life and upholding heaven and earth from returning to the void? And why does Rabbi Yossi believe that matchmaking is as hard as splitting the Red Sea—an entirely supernatural event?

To understand this, we have to understand what their argument was really about. The matron was familiar with classic Hellenist philosophy. She understood that everything fit into a cosmic scheme; a neat, closed system whereby everything followed established ideal patterns and, well, made sense. She was ready to accept that a Higher Being had originally set those laws and patterns in motion. But once the program was loaded, what more did this Primal Being have to do with the cosmos?

So Rabbi Yossi countered that she—and all those Hellenist, philosophizing know-it-alls—had it all wrong. Reality is not a closed system. There are plenty of things in the world that don't fit into any pattern, follow no law or logic and simply make no sense whatsoever.

Like marriage. Marriage is not the result of natural order or logic. Marriage is the result of a voice from heaven declaring, "So and so is to marry so and so!" In other words, it is G‑d messing into the system He set up—much like one of those unpredictable users that programming engineers so much despise, inputting values at whim as the program unfolds.

The matron thinks that's absurd. To her, everything makes sense—including marriages. She sets out to prove herself. She doesn't just match haphazardly—she takes into account height and weight, disposition, etc. This one likes music and this one likes music. This one likes food and this one likes to cook. This one is into wine, dance and romance and this one is looking for excitement. Everything makes sense and so all the matches should work perfectly.

But they don't. They don't because marriage is not a sensible act. Nobody goes under the chuppah (marriage canopy) in a balanced state of mind. No one with a clear head would jump in to such a venture on such a contract with such risks.

G‑d knows this—and He has two strategies to bypass human logic. First of all, He infects the subjects with a state of temporary insanity (a.k.a. "love"). The fortunate are stricken for longer periods of time, often for many months. By the time it dissipates, it's usually too late to get out.

Then there's another strategy: the matchmaker. The craft of matchmaking, notes Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is through "errors of reason and mistruths" because "intellect does not have the power to complete a match." Intellect, he states, "only gets in the way and ruins matters." The only effective strategy is "by turning nature upside-down so that merchandise is sold at something other than its real value."

In other words, if all matchmakers would tell the truth and everyone would be open and frank on every date, the world would be a very desolate place.

(One matchmaker explained it to me like this: "We set up David and Sarah on a date. David comes home and calls me to tell me how everything went so great and he's wild about Sarah. I call Sarah. She tells me about her doubts, how can she know, maybe she should try someone else. I tell her that David feels the same way and they should both try again. Then I call back David to tell him that Sarah is really interested in seeing him again and he should call her to make another date." Did she lie? Yes. Does her strategy make sense? No. Does it work? You bet.)

But why should intellect and reason be so powerless in this regard? Why can't people just say, "Look, these two make a good couple"? Why are matchmakers doomed to making a dishonest living or no living at all?

Simply because marriages are made in heaven and not on earth. Actually, Rabbi Schneur Zalman states, they are not even made in heaven. Heaven is also part of "the system." Marriages are made in the Primal Mind of the One who conceived all things to begin with—including this thing we call Intellect. They don't fit into any pattern because they are not really part of our world. They are as supernatural as the splitting of the Red Sea.

As it turns out from Rabbi Schneur Zalman's words, not only do marriages and other assorted miracles make no sense—nature itself also makes no sense.

The Hellenist matron would have told us that the laws of nature are the most perfect and ideal, and therefore must be that way. Rabbi Yossi, on the other hand, would have said that nature is no more than G‑d behaving in a consistent manner, like the pianist following his score without flaw. Just as G‑d can improvise at will—i.e. a miracle—so He can follow a script at will—i.e. nature. In the words of the 17th century sage Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi, "Nature is nothing more than consistent miracles."

Why does gravity correlate to mass? Why is the Planck constant
h = 6.626 0693(11) x 10 -34 J · s = 4.135 667 43(35) x 10-15 eV · s? Why when you add to a quantity does the quantity increase? For the very same reason that David and Sarah decide to get married—simply because the One Above so decreed. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to be the way it is.1