Terri Schiavo has died. It was a sad story, one that possibly should have remained a private family ordeal but turned into a news headline for thirteen long days. Scores of articles and news pieces have been written, many in favor of Terri's parents and siblings, less in defense of her husband, Michael. I do not wish to take sides. I wish to dwell upon a different aspect of the story, one which, for me, highlighted a concern we all share.

Every Friday I spend a few hours in Manhattan meeting with Jews from all walks of life in their businesses and offices. This is part of my weekly routine as a Chabad rabbinical student. We offer teffilin for men and Shabbat candles for women. We talk a little Torah and discuss the news.

This week, Rachel, a middle-class working mother, married for ten years, said to me the following: "You know, marriage today is different. It's not the life-long commitment it used to be. There is so much divorce. Nobody really devotes themselves fully to their spouse; in most cases, it's not even expected that they should. In the final analysis, you can't rely on someone who you have brought into your life for total protection. A parent," she continued, "is a source of unconditional love, your real lover and protector... It is a shame that our system allows for a husband (especially one living with another woman), to be the sole kin and decision maker on the spouse's behalf.

"You can ask all my friends, they will tell you the same," she concluded. "That's the way things are today."

I found her observation saddening. If "that's the way things are today," then we, as a society, are to blame. "Just imagine," I said to Rachel, "that the story had been in the reverse—that the parents wanted to remove the feeding tube and the husband was the one who insisted that he would take care of her and keep her alive. You would have surely said: 'Wow, what a hero! What a true and loving husband!' You would have praised the judicial system that had the wisdom and the faith to believe in marriage and in the inviolate commitment it engenders..."

I've been thinking about my conversation with Rachel all week. I thought about the Torah's perception of marriage: "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cling to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 3:24). I once heard a beautiful explanation for the term "one flesh." One flesh and not one mind, or one heart. Because to have one mind, friends can achieve that without getting married. The same goes with one heart, etc. One flesh, however, means not just an intimate encounter that unites a couple physically, but a union in which their physical and mortal needs become one. I care for you as I care for myself, because your needs—all the way down to the most basic needs of the flesh— are my needs.

No other relationship is so strong—not that with a best friend, sibling, or even parent. These are indeed unconditional and deeply rooted; they arise from an earlier stage of life. But marriage is (meant to be) much stronger. It is not just meeting someone and bringing them into your life, a newcomer, hence not as strong as parental love, as Rachel imagined. Marriage is two halves of a soul becoming one. Her worries become your worries; his needs become your needs. One flesh.

Michael Schiavo may have dealt wrongly. He defiantly did not stay loyal, and there are a lot of speculations as to his intentions in taking the feeding tube out of a defenseless patient. However, one positive thing emerges from the tragic story: it underscored the age-old perception of marriage. The perception the Torah expresses when it says, "...and they shall be one flesh."

This should be a wake up call for all of us. Ask yourself: what have I done today for my spouse in taking care of his or her needs, physical and spiritual? Build love and appreciation for each other, like you have with no one else. Then you can rest assured that in times of stress, or G‑d forbid illness, you can rely fully and unconditionally on each other, with true love, care and protection.

I once read a beautiful story of a newly married Israeli soldier who lost a leg in combat. When his wife came to visit him in the hospital, he said: "Darling, go find yourself a healthy husband with two legs." "No," replied the wife, "I didn’t marry your leg. I married you, and thank G‑d you are still here."

May we all be blessed with healthy and happy marriages, and homes full of love.