The Call from Within
Why marry? The question is so maddening because there seems to be very little rational reason to support such a drastic move. Whichever way the issue is presented, the obvious cons considerably outweigh any pros which may be suggested. What logic lurks behind a commitment which lasts an eternity? Would anyone in their right mind sign a job contract which contains a binding lifetime obligation, when so many jobs are available which do not require such an extreme commitment? So, why enter a binding marriage proposition? While the marriage contract does contain an escape clause, invoking this clause invariably causes unspeakable pain and emotional havoc. Why not enjoy relationships for their natural duration, and then move on when the eroded passion ceases to justify the maintenance of the relationship? Why would any sane person willingly consent to stick with a relationship even after it deteriorates to the point that it is rocky and challenging at best?
Would anyone in their right mind sign a job contract which contains a binding lifetime obligation?
Admittedly, the improved economic standing of women and the elimination of much of the stigma attached to remaining single have caused the marriage rate to decline in recent decades. Nevertheless, despite the decrease in societal and peer pressure to marry, the latest statistics show that more than three-quarters of the adult population is married!
So why do we marry? According to Kabbalah, the compulsion to rush into a lifelong commitment is an expression of the human soul’s deepest ambitions. The subliminal signals emanating from the soul have caused the logic-defying institution of marriage to be an integral part of the human fabric since the dawn of time. The soul’s desire to connect and commit makes the aspiration for marriage one of our most basic instincts.
What is the soul’s agenda? What does it stand to gain from hooking up with another soul? The mystics explain that two primary considerations drive the soul’s desire to marry: a desire to be complete, and its need to transcend itself.
1 + 1 = 1
In the first marriage ever, Adam and Eve were initially created as a single, two-faced body. The single being was split in two—a man and a woman—and then reunited in matrimony. In the world of souls, the partition and reunification of the male and female components of individual souls occurs continually. Every body is occupied by half a soul, and both body and soul reach a state of completion only when they are reunited with their bashert, their long-lost other half.
The attraction to the opposite sex actually stems from the soul’s innate desire to reunite with its soulmate
The Talmud says that each soul’s bashert (predestined soulmate) is determined before its birth. The two may be born continents apart, with seemingly nothing in common, but divine destiny ensures that everyone’s path intersects with that of their bashert.
[In rare instances, due to external spiritual factors which may intervene, it is possible for people to marry spouses who are not their basherts. Even in such instances, however, eventually the two original soulmates will marry—whether later on in life as a second marriage, or in a future incarnation of the two souls. See Marriage: Destiny or Chance.]
Thus, the attraction to the opposite sex, so often reviled as a weakness associated with base carnal urges, actually stems from the soul’s innate desire to reunite with its soulmate.
Extreme care must be taken not to misuse the sacred and potent power of sexual attraction by expending it in a context other than marriage. See Dating the Jewish Way for more on this subject.
The Commitment Itself Is the Objective
Whereas bodily needs and tendencies are decidedly egocentric, the soul is totally selfless. Commitment without the expectation of a commensurate return benefit may sound absurd when talking the language of the body, but is music to the ears of the soul. The soul’s most fervent wish is to transcend itself. Marriage offers the soul the opportunity to express its altruistic nature.
Marriage is about two souls who put their individual needs aside, and commit themselves 100% to the success of the relationship.
The Ultimate Goal
Aside for the bride and groom’s commitment to each other, Jewish marriage involves an additional two commitments. First, it is a commitment to the continuity of the Jewish nation. Jewish parents raising Jewish children with Jewish values is our nonviolent way of combating the Crusaders, Chmielnicki, Hitler, and all the other bigots who aspired to relegate the Jewish people to the annals of history.
Marriage is also a commitment to actualizing the divine plan which spawned all of creation
Secondly, marriage is also a commitment to actualizing the divine plan which spawned all of creation. G‑d desired a home, and it is our mission to sanctify the world, making it a hospitable abode for its Creator. The ammunition we were provided to accomplish this task are the Torah and its commandments, and the home is the first frontier. Man and woman are the perfect team to implement this plan. When working in harmony, they have the ability to make the home an epicenter of holiness whose rippling waves affect the neighborhood, the country, the world and the cosmos.
Because of the considerable role marriage plays in the actualization of the master plan for creation, G‑d expends considerable time and energy (as it were) on “playing matchmaker.”
“With what is He occupied since [the six days of Creation]?” the Midrash asks. “He is preoccupied with matching together couples,” is the answer! Every individual wedding is a vital piece in the grand puzzle which, when completed, will usher all of creation into its intended state of redemption.
Jewish marriage is about two people who commit themselves 100% to the success of G‑d’s relationship with creation.