With Marriage, You’ve Got to Invest

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Noach 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Marriage involves the constant giving of oneself. Yet it isn’t easy, because people naturally love themselves too much. One is certainly allowed to love oneself. It says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18), which implies that one does love oneself. Yet one shouldn’t exaggerate that self-love.

When there were just two brothers on the face of the earth, two brothers, it was enough for one to pounce on the other and kill him. That tells us that we must be cautious. It’s not easy to get along together. Adam didn’t physically hurt Chava, but when G-d asked him why he had sinned, he blamed her, basically saying, “The woman You gave me is a tainted gift.” Yet that wasn’t so. Eve was a marvelous gift, and Adam was denying a goodness done for him (see Rashi). G-d rejected Adam’s claim, punishing him together with Chava. This same shortcoming surfaced later in his sons.

Still, despite this difficult beginning, G-d does not give up. He wants people to learn to live together, lovingly. After all, there are a hundred billion planets in the Milky Way, so every human being could be settled alone on one of them, thus avoiding any tension. Yet G-d instead crowded us all onto one planet, so we could learn to live together.

This gargantuan mission starts small, with relationship between husband and wife, between two people who chose each other and love each other. Yet it requires an investment. In initial love there is no need to invest. It comes by itself, and one does not generally know why. It’s similar to a person loving orange juice – no investment is necessary, it love just exists!

A boy asked his father: “How much did Mom cost you?” His father answered, “After so many years, I cannot recall what I paid for the ring, but I keep paying each day…” This may be meant as a witty joke, but it holds an important truth: by signing a Ketuba, a groom undertakes an obligation to support and love and respect, etc. his wife. All his life he must keep investing in her. Nothing comes for free. Man is born for toil.

You might ask: isn’t it irksome, or frightful that marital bliss requires such an extensive investment?

The answer: no! just the opposite is true. If compatibility depended on hidden reasons, then we would need to be worried about the possibility that we were not where we should be, and that we would never know how to keep things right. Then, the first time a problem arose, we might say, “Perhaps we made a mistake!”

Yet since marriage depends on our investment, we have control over its success.. We must invest more and more, until we succeed. From that moment on, “the [miniature] ‘Temple’ is in our hands”.

In other words, on the most fundamental level, there ARE no compatible couples. Rather, there are couples who WANT to be compatible, and who invest in order to succeed in being compatible. The stubborn will succeed.

Mazal Tov!