May 29, 2008
Ingredients for a successful marriage
Parshat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)
What are the ingredients for a successful marriage? A great medieval sage once suggested the following four:
The prophet Hosea describes the relationship of God and Israel as a husband-wife relationship. Hosea himself did not have the happiest of marriages. God told him to marry a loose, immoral woman, so that he would know God's anguish over having a "wife" like the Jewish people who behaved scandalously in their religious choices during the prophet's era.
As Hosea laments his own troubled marriage, God commiserates with him and shares about his own failing relationship with Israel, who often call out to their foreign gods and ignore their true "husband," the Holy One, blessed be He.
But there's always hope, God says. Yes, my "wife" may have strayed and forgotten about our love, but I know that things will be better in the future. She'll one day realize that all her alleged "friends" are really not, and that I'm her one, true love.
On that day, we'll be reconciled.
And then God states the most poignant words of reconciliation (Hosea 2:21-22): "I shall wed you forever; I shall wed you with righteousness, justice, kindness and compassion. I shall wed you with faith, and you will know God."
The three "I shall weds" refer to the first three ingredients on our list:
Finally, says God, "You will know God." If you can commit to the first three on the list, the fourth and ultimate intimacy will occur naturally. Your devotion to Me will allow you to understand and know Me as much as I know you.
Our commitment to our spouses -- just as our commitment to our faith -- requires perseverance, integrity and sacrifice. It was as true two and a half millennia ago as it is today.
"Turn it over, and turn it over again, for everything is contained in [the Torah]" (Mishnah Avoth). Not to take anything away from Dr. Phil, but he's got nothing on the Torah.
N. Daniel Korobkin is rabbi of Kehillat Yavneh in Hancock Park and director of Community and Synagogue Services for the Orthodox Union West Coast Region.