Most of us would probably agree that people who don’t know anything about cars don’t become car mechanics. But in spite of not having expertise in marriage, traditionally, most people married. But times, they are a changin’.
In “Against Love: A Polemic,” Laura Kipnis argues that marriage is a capitalist construct, intended to oppress and constrain those who enter the state. One reviewer entertains Kipnis' thesis, then cogently points out that the institution of marriage predates the economic theory of capitalism by a few thousand years. But Kipnis’ anti-marriage stance is a reflection of popular sentiment.
A 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center reveals startling findings. Most young singles in America are not actively looking for a romantic partner – let alone a marriage partner. Even those who are “ISO” love don’t date very often – about half of them had been on just one date in the previous three months. Just 16% of single Americans are actively looking for a partner. When broken down by gender these numbers are even more stark: 65% of single women are not in a committed relationship and don’t care to be, while 42% of men feel the same. A mere 9% of single American woman are looking for a partner; 23% of single American men feel the same.
What does Judaism have to say about this? Is singledom by choice valued equally with the married state?
The Jewish view of marriage is distinct from extremes on the right or the left. The Torah does not view marriage as a necessary concession to people’s physical urges; in fact, complete abstinence is seen, not as a mark of saintliness, but as a sin. Nor does Torah subscribe to a life of hedonism. Instead, Judaism views marriage as intrinsically good, and a mitzvah. The traditional blessing we bestow upon new parents is that they should merit to rear their child “to Torah, to the wedding canopy, and to good deeds.”
In Psalms 89:3 we read, “For the world is built on kindness.” How does this kindness manifest in our lives? In that G-d bestowed upon us the capacity to create life. Thus, the source of love and passion stem from a pure and holy desire – to give to another. It is only when these impulses are expressed outside of the framework G-d designed for them, that they are no longer holy. By making marriage a mitzvah, the Torah emphasizes to the bride and groom that they have entered a new state: partners with G-d in establishing a world of kindness. Thus, marriage is not simply a private matter between two people, but a holy state that exists by Divine command. For more, see http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/448425/jewish/Why-Marry.htm
· How might knowing that being married is a mitzvah, qualitatively change one’s manner of interacting with one’s spouse?
· “For the world is built on kindness.” The basis of the world is selfless giving – by G-d to us, by us to others. What are some ways to implement this in our relationships?
· The Talmud, in Shabbos 30b, teaches that doing mitzvot with joy is laudable, citing as example, the joy we bring to wedding celebrations. How can we thread the joy of our wedding day throughout the years of our marriage?