In order to have a successful marriage, we have to totally commit ourselves. We need to learn to give of ourselves in every way. Perfunctory donations and token gestures are simply insufficient. Normal married life demands much more than this. In order for us to learn how to give with such totality we have to firstly view our marriages as an absolute fact, sealed, signed, and unchangeable, and our wives as eternal partners to our lives.
Too frequently, a marriage goes through a tense period, and then either the husband or the wife begins to have doubts: “Perhaps I could have done better in my choice of spouse.” ”Pity I didn’t marry a more successful partner.” They feel that they were deceived by the shadchan, matchmaker, or their spouse. They think, “I should have been told beforehand about such a glaring fault.
This overreadiness to hopelessly throw up one’s hands seems to have two sources of blame. The first is the era in which we live. This is a plastic generation, and because so many of the things in our lives are made for one-time use only, easily thrown away and replaced, this influences the way people see the world. As a result, some light-minded people regard their relationships, including their marriages, as disposable.
The second reason people are likely to give up on their marriages too quickly is because they lack appreciation that their marriage is a product of the Divine matchmaker. Sometimes we get so caught up in meetings, engagements, and wedding plans that we start to think that we are the ones who made this match. We forget that marriages are truly made in Heaven; it is G-d who leads the Jewish couple to the chuppah. The Gemara says that forty days before conception, a Heavenly voice declares, “bas ploni l'ploni” — the daughter of so-and-so is destined for so-and-so” (Sotah 2a). Marriage is the actualization of this declaration.
Although at times it may seem impossible, it is with this woman that I, her husband, am capable of achieving my potential. After the chuppah, there should never be any element of doubt.
There’s a well-known saying that “the greatest joy a person can experience is the resolution of doubt.” Perhaps this is the true and deep reason for the great joy so typical at weddings. For on the wedding day, there is a great resolution of doubt concerning a very central matter. Standing under the chuppah, the great question of “Who is my soulmate?” is resolved. Every man must relate to his wife with a definitive attitude of “You are my soulmate.” He must see his wife as if she is the only woman in the world.
This point is eloquently expressed in one of the seven blessings, sheva berachos, said under the chuppah. We say in the fifth berachah, ”K’sameichacha yetzircha b’Gan Eden mikedem — as You gladdened the one You created in the Garden of Eden of old.” The simchah, joy, that one feels at the finding of his soulmate should parallel the simchah that Adam HaRishon, the first man, felt when he married Chava. What was so special about this joy? Adam was marrying the only woman in the world, Chava. We must be certain that we are marrying the most suited woman in the world for us, just as Adam HaRishon was certain of this. Every man must think that he is marrying the only woman in the world.
Even so the option of divorce exists. When a husband and wife are having a fight, they can be tempted to bring up divorce as a means of settling everything. This is a huge error, for it undermines their commitment to the marital bond between them. Divorce must be viewed only as an absolute last resort. Because the marriage was made in Heaven, despite all difficulties the couple have the ability to find solutions to their problems. They are capable of adjusting to each other’s flaws and idiosyncrasies. This is only possible, however, when they have an attitude of total and absolute commitment to each other.
In Eretz Yisrael, when a man married a woman they would tell him the following (Berachos 8a): The word describing finding a good wife, matza, appears in the past tense, as it says, “Matza ishah matza tov — He found a wife, he found good” (Mishlei 18:22). On the other hand, the word for finding a bad wife appears in the present tense, motzei: “Motzei ani mar memaves es ha’ishah — I find the wife more bitter than death” (Koheles 7:26). Why is it that the good wife is mentioned in the past tense?
The Vilna Gaon explains that the answer to this question lies in the nature and character of man. When all is good, man rejoices only in the beginning, and later he forgets G-d’s kindness to him. As he gets used to the good, he tends to take it for granted. Not so when things are bad for man — then he complains constantly, in all situations.
Therefore, a man who has a good wife recognizes that he “found” her in the past, but forgets that with kindness he “finds” her every minute. The man with a bad wife remembers this every single minute; therefore it is as if he ”finds” her all the time (HaGra, Imrei Noam).
Every woman is a helpmate for her husband. Sefer Zayit Raanan writes that some gedolei Yisrael actually had wives who seemed bad and very difficult to live with. It would seem they were created to cause distress and hardship to their husbands, but this is not the case. There are men who if left to live in serenity and peace would be lethargic and not develop their personality properly. For these men, G-d created a wife who might seem difficult, “more bitter than death”; but the truth is that she was created to do good for her husband, to raise him and lift him, albeit in a difficult way, full of suffering. We see, therefore, that a man's wife is always for his benefit, as nothing bad can come from G-d. What seems in our eyes as bad is in fact good for the man who is uplifted by this.
We must remember that for every single man — the wife who was given to him is an eizer, a help for him. Sometimes, though, she is a help by being kenegdo, opposing.
Adapted from “Two Halves Of A Whole” by Rabbi Yirmiyohu & Tehilla Abramov. Available at www.jewishfamily.org