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The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage
by permission of Jonathan David Publishers.
The marital integrity of the Jewish people was legendary in ancient and medieval times, and Jewish family life is idealized even in these days of upheaval. What qualities make Jewish marriage so stable?
Marriage Is Part of the Natural Order
Jewish marriage is not designed for the ethical management of the sexual drive, nor is it a concession to human weakness. Jewish marriage makes its appearance within the natural order of creation, not as a law promulgated by Moses nor as a legal sanction, but as a blessing from God. Just as woman was created as a separate being, “a helpmeet opposite” man (Genesis 2:18), the purpose for the creation of marriage is stated in five words: lo tov he-yot ha-adam le’vado–It is not good for man to be alone.
Marriage was created at the beginning, at the same time the principals of marriage were created. It was not an afterthought, designed to control their passions, but part of the natural order of human society. The moment we are born we are destined for marriage. When a newborn child is named, the prayer is le’huppah u’le’maasim tovim (to the marriage canopy and a life of good deeds). Marriage is thus grounded in the primeval relationship of the sexes in order to perpetuate the species and enhance personal growth.
Marriage Repairs Existential Loneliness
Marriage is seen as a blessing because it enables us to overcome loneliness. According to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Genesis 2:18 reads “he-yot” ha-adam le’vado rather than “li-he’yot,” which implies not that “it is not good for man to be alone,” but that it is not good for man to be “lonely.” Being “alone” means being physically alone, wanting company, needing assistance; being “lonely” means spiritual solitude, as one can feel lonely even in a crowd.
God seeks to remedy that with the creation of woman as ezer ke’negdo, a helpmeet opposite him. Now if le’vado (alone) means simply needing company or requiring assistance, then woman is ezer, a cook and bottle washer, a real helper. But if le’vado means lonely, then ezer is not just a partner to lighten the burden, she is ke’negdo, part of a spiritual union of two souls. The basic God-created human unit is man and woman, one flesh, completing one another.
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