You should fear taking the person you are married to for granted. Never
mistreat, neglect or allow "familiarity to breed contempt." These come too
easily, when you live with a person constantly and grow secure with the
person. Because an individual is not secure with a stranger's approval, (s)he
will bend over backwards for a stranger. Being secure with a spouse can seem
to give license to bend the spouse over backwards! When they hear the
resulting "crunch," some people still don't get the message.
There is another profound consideration that can be quite impactful. Jews
are not merely a "nation." We are all descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok and
Yaakov. We are all cousins. Jewish law is replete with obligations to be
kind, respectful, peaceful, honest, compassionate, responsible, charitable
and pleasant at all times with eachother. We are all family. So, when a Jew
marries another Jew, you marry someone who is family (to whom you must be
very good) before you marry. How much moreso is your spouse family (to whom
you must be very, very good) when marriage makes the two of you into one!
A spouse is someone to treat like a precious jewel. Many people prepare
for a wedding, but not for marriage! Many people strive to please, impress
and win their mate before engagement; when, in reality, the need to please,
impress and win the mate really begins with commitment and marriage. This
remains both a practical and moral imperative which renews itself at
ongoingly, progressively deeper levels moment after moment, day after day,
month after month and year after year. The obligations grow continuously
richer as the marriage begins and continues, as you mature and as you learn
more and more about what does or doesn't please your spouse.
Marriage has three partners: husband, wife and G-d. If the husband and
the wife each are true to their responsibilities to the other two partners,
their Third Partner is true to them. G-d wants humans to make effort and to
pass the tests that He sends. If they are steadfast in their efforts and
successful in their tests, G-d provides help, protection and blessing.
More and more, this generation's marriage "track records" were not
working out in practical life. The situation has been discernably and
Jeremiah the Prophet (Jeremiah 2:4-13) says that the destruction of the
first Temple occurred because the Jews abandoned G-d Who miraculously brought
our people from the slavery of Egypt to an abundant land, forsaking the
source of "living waters" and carving broken containers that can hold no
water. Abandoning the "way of G-d" is like pouring out your water supply in a
desert. The source of life gets removed. Attachment to the "way of G-d" is an
elixir of life. As Pirkei Avos (chapter 2) puts it, "The more Torah, the more
We live in a society which desensitizes people. It is artificial,
external and callous. Foreign and destructive societal forces and values seep
into the Jewish home, marriage and heart. These forces and values seep subtly
and intrusively into relationships which do not vigilantly guard against
penetration by them. In short, they seep into marriages which do not operate
by the "way of G-d," the source of "living waters," which can act as a shield
against destructive and intrusive forces.
A verse in Psalms (127:1) helps us see this in a marriage context. "If
G-d doesn't build a home, the builders have toiled in vain to build it." A
husband and wife can strive all they want. If G-d isn't a partner in their
marriage, their efforts can all be futile. To be continued.