Made in Heaven: Marriage

There’s an expression that marriages are made in heaven. This comes from the Talmud: “Heaven decrees that this woman is to be the wife of this man” (Tractate Mo’ed Katan 18b).

A Roman matron once asked Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, “‘Now that G-d has finished creating the universe, what does He do?’ The rabbi replied that G-d now makes matches, bringing couples together so that they can marry each other” (Bereshit Rabbah 68:4). Not only does G-d bring couples together He can bring a man and a woman together from opposites sides of the world (Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 40a). In fact, every match is like the creation of a new world (Zohar volume 1, Lech Lecha, page 89a).

Regarding marriage, Rabbi Manis Friedman says something profound: “One doesn’t marry someone because they love each other, rather, they love each other because they are married. Yet, a person loves a lot of people. Why should he limit himself to one person?  You should love everybody nevertheless you may only marry one person.” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 29:12).

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan has a different perspective on love. He notes that the Hebrew word for love, ahava, has the numerical value of thirteen. This is the same as the numerical value of the Hebrew word echad meaning “one.” In its deepest sense, love takes two people and makes them into one (Made in Heaven, page 8). The love between parent and child exists because parent and child feel like one. They are part of the same family and feel a bond of unity. The bond between man and woman reflects this (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 3:49). However, until a person marries, his strongest love is naturally directed toward his parents. After marriage, it is directed toward his soul mate.

Here are few quotes about people in love. One man said of his wife, “When the love between us was intense, we could have lain together on the edge of a sword” (Tractate Sanhedrin 7a). The Torah says Yaakov worked seven years for Rachel, but it seemed like just a few days, so much did he love her” (Bereishit 29:20). The Medrash states that he loved her with a “love as strong as death” (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayeishev 19).

In Shir HaShirim (8:7) it’s written, “Many waters cannot extinguish love.” The greatest material wealth cannot buy this love; it must be earned (ArtScroll Sotah 21a, note 43). What does this verse mean? Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan states, “I recall a conversation that I had many years ago with a man who had recently celebrated his fiftieth wedding anniversary. He said, ‘Young couples think that they are in love. But they don’t know what true love really is. After fifty years of marriage – then you know what it means really to be love!’” (Made in Heaven, page 15).
What’s special about fifty? The Maharal says that marriage celebrates the total commitment of two parties to each other. The obligations a Jewish marriage entail are recorded in the Ketuvah document. The set monetary settlement allocated to a maiden was 50 silver shekels – equivalent to 200 dinars in Mishnaic currency. This sum finds its perfect parallel in the giving of the Torah, where the contractual duties of our nation’s wedding day with G-d came into effect on the 50th day after leaving Egypt (Jewish Wisdom in the Numbers, page 306).
Where does this need to get married come from? The Medrash relates that when G-d brought the various species before him, Adam said, “All of them have a mate and I do not!” Immediately, G-d brought slumber upon Adam and fashioned Eve from him (Bereshit Rabbah 17:4).
Why did Adam feel the need to have a helpmate? G-d said, “It is not good that man be alone” (Bereishit 2:18). Once G-d said that statement, it became a reality.

At one point in a man’s life, he feels the need for a soul mate. This would make sense. As the Yalkut Shimoni, (Bereshit 2:23 and 5:42) said, “Any man who does not have a wife lives without happiness, blessing and goodness his Torah is incomplete, he is without protection from sin and without peace,” (Tractate Yevamot 62b). What does he do? Rabbi Shimon says he pursues her (Tractate Kiddushin 2b). Rabbi Elazar explains this phenomenon: “Any man who does not have a wife is not a whole man” (Yevamot 63a). A man feels incomplete without a soul mate. However, a woman is not as aggressive about finding her soul mate. Still: “It is better to live as two together than to live alone” (Tractate Kiddushin 7a). Why? The Jerusalem Talmud Yerushalmi answers: “Man cannot live without woman and woman cannot live without man…” (Berachot 62b)

Why do a man and woman both need each other to thrive? The answer is found in Genesis: “G-d created Adam; male and female He created them” (1:27). Rashi explains that originally, G-d created man with two faces, one side male and one side female. Afterwards, He divided them as the verse says, “This one shall be called woman because she was taken from man” (Bereishit 2:23).
 The Chafetz Chaim on the Torah (volume 1) cites Rashi (Bereishit 2:23):“… The word ishah, woman, sounds similar to ish, man. From here we see that the world was created with Loshon HaKodesh (the Holy Tongue, Biblical Hebrew).”
Elsewhere, that Medrash (Bereishit Rabbah 17:8) states the following:
Rabbi Joshua was asked: “Why is a man assertive in asking a woman to marry him and a woman is not assertive in asking a man to marry her? Rabbi Joshua responded using an analogy: What is this comparable to? To one who lost a possession and he goes looking for his lost possession, but the lost possession does not go looking for him.
G-d removed one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve; man, always seeks to get ‘his lost rib’ back through marriage. He becomes whole once again by getting back his “lost rib,” his wife whose assistance he will need to fulfill all of his goals and aspirations (Bereishit 2:24). Therefore, a man shall… cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh (Midrash Rabbah: Parshat Mikeitz, 17:8). Why does someone want to get married? The answer is: “Just as our faces are all different, so are their ways of thinking are never the same” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 38a) so each person’s motivation to marry will be different.
Everyone has a different reason for getting married. Yet, once he decides that he wants to get married, the Seforno says the following: “One should try to marry a woman who is fitting for him and who is suitable to become attached to him, for unless the man and the woman are compatible, their bond will not be a true bond. If they are similar, they will share the same opinions” (Bereishis 2:24).

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler says, “I always say to a couple at their wedding, ‘Make sure, my dear ones, that you always desire to bring happiness and pleasure to one another, as you feel at this time. And know, that the moment that you start making demands from each other – behold, your happiness has already left you’” (Seek Peace and Pursue It, p. 180, note 1).
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz says, “Marriage is an opportunity for growth, to grow together spiritually” (Let There Be Rain, page 279). Gerald Brenan would say, “In a happy marriage it is the wife who provides the climate, while the husband provides the landscape.” In conclusion, marriage is a workshop, where the husband works and the wife shops.


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