Marriage

For the week ending 5 February 2005 / 26 Shevat 5765

Why Get Married?

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

From: Anonymous

Dear Rabbi,

Why should a person get married?

Dear Anonymous,

Ill first explain some ideas behind the Jewish notion of marriage and why its essential, and then refute some common arguments against getting married.

One of the main reasons for getting married is to help each other grow through a life-long process of emotional, intellectual and spiritual sharing and challenge. This is the meaning of the verse, "It is not good, this state of mans being alone; I will make a helpmate opposite to him" (Gen. 2:18). As long as a person is single, it is not good meaning not only is the person incomplete, but the entire Creation is also lacking perfection (Rabbi S. R. Hirsch). The purpose of this union is that each should help the other reach perfection. Sometimes this is achieved by sharing; sometimes by opposing, questioning and challenging. This ideal dynamic of "opposing-helpmate" is best achieved between a man and woman committed to a love for growth together for life.

Marriage as context for growth is also intimated by the verse, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). As father or mother, a persons main responsibility is to ensure that the child grow to be the best person possible. Marriage, then, takes a person to the next, natural and higher plane of potential perfection. Becoming one flesh is an allusion to this fusion of two perfect halves into a unified whole. In fact, the Zohar (Lech Lecha 91b) teaches that every soul is divided into male and female components before being sent into the world. Ideally, every match is the re-fusion of the halves into one.

But this becoming one flesh is not only figurative. Contrary to popular misconception, Eve was not necessarily created from Adams rib. According to a statement of our Sages Adam was split in two. The Talmud (Eruvin 11) explains the verse, And G-d took one of his sides, to mean that Adam was originally a composite of both male and female aspects side by side. G-d separated them in order to create the longing for, and fulfillment in, the male/female union. Therefore, marriage is the venue through which one attains spiritual, emotional and physical unity and perfection.

Of course, the true pinnacle of male/female physical unity comes to fruition in the birth of their children another reason to marry. Thus, G-d simultaneously commands and confers blessing upon the union of man and woman, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). However, the point is not just to have children. Being fruitful means realizing ones potential through sharing and challenge in marriage, in order that ones productive traits and talents ripen, and his branches become laden with sweet and pleasant fruits. Only then can one truly multiply, as his perfection through marriage is conferred to and perpetuated by their children, the fruits of their labor. In this way, a married couples figurative unity as one flesh becomes manifested literally in one flesh, many times over.

Some people object to getting married because, they argue, as the divorce rate gets higher and higher, why marry to get divorced? In truth, if people really knew themselves and truly understood the purpose of marriage in short, if each person strove to become as perfect a half as possible before tying the knot, marriage would strengthen the knot, not undo it. Some consider marriage restrictive. Is permissive truly desirable? In any case, one who desires only to receive might find marriage restrictive; one who desires to give will find marriage limitless. Others claim marriage limits ones horizons experientially, career-wise, etc. However, the commitment and obligation to spouse and children provide an opportunity to attain true greatness precisely because of the need to succeed as both a person and professional.

Finally, some resist marriage for global considerations to alleviate mother earths over-burdened resources or to reduce world hunger and the like. While these are noble concerns, they dont preclude family life. First, a lot can be done to improve personal and global consumption besides being barren. Consume less and have children a creatively modest lifestyle could permit having children without adding significant demand on resources. In addition, there is really no direct correlation between one persons ability to feed his children and another persons not. Give more of your income to hungry children while feeding your own. Last, a Jew in particular should avoid this solution of celibacy or sterility. Relatively speaking, the Jews are but a tiny fraction of the world population. If anyone should undergo population control, nations who have historically persecuted, decimated and annihilated the Jews, but are themselves among the most populous, should perhaps take precedent. A Jews self-imposed sterility abrogates the Divine command/blessing to be fruitful and multiply, making him a willing accomplice to those who have sought, and still seek, our extermination. "Am Yisrael Chai!"

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