Our current generation's awareness of marital conflict and marital vulnerability has hampered many people's interest in marrying. People are marrying later than they did just 30 years ago. There are unprecedented numbers of never-married people in their 30's and 40's who question whether they will ever marry. Significant numbers of women are considering having children without the burdens of marriage.

In the 1970's, there were people who challenged the concepts of monogamy and fidelity, naively believing that they could be truly caring and faithful to multiple contemporaneous sexual partners. These individuals argued that monogamy was abnormal, unrealistic and hypocritical. That simplistic flower child innocence has been replaced in the 90's by a hard cynicism. I recently saw a young woman wearing a T-shirt that said don't expect me to be faithful to anybody.

In contrast, Torah commands us to marry, to have children, and to be faithful. Torah clearly encourages the viewpoint that men and women do better, emotionally and spiritually, when married rather than single. In fact, it can be argued that the Torah sees men as having a greater need for the protection and nurturance of marriage than do women. Thus, for men marriage is not only advised but is an absolute commandment. This is commandment #213 in Maimonides' listing of the 613 commandments ("mitzvot"). This need is reflected in the report by American sociologists that the adults at greatest risk for suicide are older non-married males.

The Rabbis require that an unattached male marry, even in a situation where he had been married before, and even if he had had children by that previous marriage, and even if he is no longer capable of siring additional children, and even if his current children prefer that he not marry, and even if he would have to sell precious possessions in order to marry. For specific details, see The Code of Jewish Law, Even Ha-Ezer, section 1. (I had the pleasure recently of being taught that part of the Code by Rabbis Benzion Chanowitz and Yossi Rosenbloom.)

Torah sees both practical and spiritual advantages in the married state. On a practical level, marriage provides emotional and ethical stability. Beyond stability, marriage demands and promotes personal growth, as we learn to accommodate to our spouses' needs and as we are encouraged by our spouses nurturance.

On a spiritual-mystical level, marriage represents a uniting of the feminine and masculine forces of the universe. Faith, deductive elaboration and gravity are examples of the feminine forces; they are paralleled by masculine counterparts including reason, sudden insight and lightening. This intangible mystical union of feminine and masculine forces results in visible, physical manifestations; for example, the individual personalities of husband and wife are enriched by a blending of male and female traits.

Torah's optimistic view of marriage contrast markedly with many secular psychological theories. For example, approximately 70 years ago, when Sigmund Freud was in his 60's, he wrote a book, Civilization and Its Discontents. There, he stressed the instinctual barriers to human bonding.

Freud asserts that people possess two primary instincts. One of these, Eros, the love force, gives people gratification when they bond with others. The second, the death force Thanatos, gives people gratification when they are destructive to each other. Freud notes that obviously Thanatos blocks human closeness. However, even Eros has its limiting effect on human closeness. Only part of Eros power comes from a stable, non-selfish, altruistic love of the other person. The second component of Eros is based on a selfish love, on the fact that I care about a second person because they give me pleasure; thus, should they frustrate me, I may stop loving them.

Having seen the rise of Fascism and Totalitarianism in Europe, Freud expressed major concern over the ability of people to contain their destructive tendencies. Freud says that these selfish and destructive instincts are curbed by the ethical rules of civilization. However, he describes a catch 22, in that these rules often cause guilt, neurosis and an aggressive backlash of resentment.

Torah and Freud agree that there are destructive forces and instincts wired into the universe. How is it that Torah and Freud reach such different conclusions about our capacity for bonding? An answer may be seen in the very beginning of Freud's book. He says that a dear friend of his described a mystical feeling of being at one with the universe, a religious experience of feeling bonded with G‑d and mankind. Freud acknowledges that he himself had never experienced such a feeling. He then goes on to give a psychoanalytic explanation of that feeling, which trivializes that experience as a residue from infantile wishes. Lacking a connection to G‑d, Freud also lacks Torah's antidote to Thanatos.

Torah in general, and the Chassidic classic text Tanya in particular, teach that we can overcome any of our negative instincts. We do so by opening ourselves to experiencing the love of G‑d that is inherent in our souls. There are many texts and exercises in Judaism that teach us to feel this overwhelming love of G‑d. When we feel that love, we naturally desire to follow G‑d's wisdom, as it is revealed in Torah. The power of that love strengthens us as we overcome temptations. We surrender to G‑d joyfully, not out of a sense of burden, guilt or fear, so there is no backlash of resentment.

One can make a comparison to being on a diet. Sometimes people struggle terribly to stay on a diet. After having been good all day, they may wake up in the middle of the night and eat everything in the house. In contrast, there are times when a person is really into their diet. They are thrilled with themselves each time that they turn down a temptation and see their progress toward their goal. They don't feel that someone else is forcing them to diet. Rather, they welcome the discipline of the diet as self-actualizing.

When we feel at one with G‑d, we are glad to surrender to our love of G‑d. This model of relating to G‑d teaches us how we are to relate to our spouse. Torah says that when we marry, we are no longer supposed to be two separate entities (and they shall become one flesh—Genesis 2:24).

I have met with many troubled couples, where each spouse carefully guards their own independence. Marriage is not about independence. It is about mutual joyful surrender. In marriage, one plus one equals one. When my foot hurts me, I do not get angry at my foot, nor do I punish my foot, because I experience my foot as part of me. In fact, I then try to assuage my foot's pain.

I was driving home with my wife recently, after my daughter's wedding, and we passed a highway billboard. It said, "I loved the wedding. Please invite me to the marriage... signed, G‑d."

May we all extend that invitation to G‑d by creating a marriage that is worthy of his visiting. And may all our lives be a marriage of union with G‑d, heralding the divinely perfect world of Moshiach, speedily in our day.