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Bachelors in Heaven

Bachelors in Heaven

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You meet the man of your dreams. It's love at first sight (you practically fall off your camel the first time you set eyes on him). Not only is he righteous, gracious, handsome, sensitive and spiritual — the kind of guy who's out meditating in the fields on summer afternoons — he's also immensely rich. The stalwart heir of the most prestigious family in Canaan!

But there's this one strange thing: no one knows where he's been or what he's been doing for the last three years. Three years ago, following a trip with his father to the summit of a lonely mountain, he vanished into thin air. And now he's returned as suddenly as he disappeared, not a day older — those who know him swear — than the day he dropped off the face of the earth.

What does this mean? What does this bode for your marriage?


In marked contrast to other religions, Judaism does not advocate disengagement from the physical world. In fact, some would say that the Torah way of life is not a "religion" at all. The bulk of its 613 mitzvot (divine commandments) are concerned with decidedly non-religious issues: what you eat, how you dress, what kind of neighbor you are, how you treat your parents, how you speak to your children, how you relate to your spouse.

The Tanya (the basic work of Chabad Chassidism) puts it thus,

This is what man is about; this is the purpose of his creation, and of the creation of all the worlds, higher and lower: to make for G‑d a dwelling in the physical realm

Certainly, there's lots of spiritual stuff going on as well. Each day begins with a lengthy hour of prayer. Each day has set times devoted to the study of Torah. The Jew is instructed to meditate upon the greatness of G‑d and develop feelings of love and awe in his or her heart. The Talmudic passage (Ethics of the Fathers 5:22) which describes the ideal life-cycle for the Jew designates the first two decades of life wholly to spiritual pursuits.

But always the spiritual stuff is there as a prelude and preparation for the physical — not vice versa. The morning prayers set the tone for a day in the marketplace; a sanctified childhood and youth prepare for a lifetime of interaction with the material world; a wholly spiritual soul is created and primed for its descent into physical life; the spiritual state of Gan Eden (the "afterlife") precedes the soul's reinvestment in its body in the divinely perfect, yet also physical, "World to Come".

The "dwelling for G‑d in the physical realm" is the objective, the purpose. The spiritual stuff is the roadmap, the pep-talk, existing solely to guide, inspire and vitalize the making of our physical lives something that is true to its creator and essence.


An examination of the chronology of Isaac's life, as recounted in the Book of Genesis and its attendant Midrashim, reveals an inexplicable gap of nearly three years. According to Genesis 21:5, Abraham was 100 years old when his son, Isaac, was born. According to Genesis 25:26, Isaac was 60 years old when his twin sons, Jacob and Esau, were born, twenty years after his marriage to Rebecca at age 40. That same chapter recounts an event (Esau's selling of his birthright to Jacob) that occurred on the day that "the lads matured". The Torah regards 13 as the age of maturity, which would make Isaac 73 at the time. But that day was also the day of Abraham's passing. As per Genesis 25:7, Abraham lived 175 years — which places that day 75 years after Isaac's birth.

According to one explanation offered by the biblical commentators, Isaac spent three years — the period between the time he was bound upon the altar on Mount Moriah and his marriage to Rebecca — in the Garden of Eden, in a wholly spiritual state of existence. These years were not part of his physical life. Thus, on the day that Jacob and Esau made their historical deal, Isaac was in his 73rd year of physical life — while for everyone else, 75 years of physical time had transpired from the time of Isaac's birth.

What does this mean for us? The Lubavitcher Rebbe offers the following insight. In the life-cycle of a human being, there is nothing that signifies the soul's descent into physical life more than the act and experience of marriage. Marriage is when a person ceases to live within his own body and begins to share his very soul with another body, in a relationship that is predicated on the most physical of human drives. The "mundane" aspects of life — earning a living, financial planning, homemaking, shopping — consume ever-widening arcs of one's existence and ever-deepening involvement of one's energies. At the same time, it is the most deeply satisfying of life's endeavors. For this is what man is about.

How does one prepare for marriage? By becoming more physical, more materially oriented, in preparation for this further plunge into the human state? Isaac did the very opposite — he retreated to a state of utter spirituality. This gave him the vision, the perspective, the fortitude, to make his physical life a divine place, rather than a place that obscures the divine.

Want to know how close you are to G‑d? Look at what kind of a husband you are. Want to be a good husband? Get close to G‑d.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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zeynep October 22, 2013

The last two sentences of this article, when enhanced with the necessary third party, reveal the ultimate that can be said about human marriage:

Want to be a good husband/wife? Get close to G-d. Reply