||WHAT IS HOLDING BACK MY ZIVUG [TRUE SOULMATE]?
PART FIVE: MARRIAGE BASICS IN A NUTSHELL
- Thursday, November 1, '01 - Parshas Vayeira 5762
Pirkei Avos teaches the
fundamentality of laiv tov, a "good heart." In chapter two, Rabbi Yochanan Ben
Zakkai sends his five main disciples out into the world to see what is good to adhere to
in life. Rabbi Elazar reported, "A good heart." Rabbi Yochanan said that this is
the best answer because a good heart contains all good and a bad heart contains all bad.
A good heart contains in it the faculties for getting along with and living with all
people, whether neighbors who you face each day by virtue of their dwelling near you, or
friends who you actively choose to be close to. You want good, and not bad, for all
others, you are wise and behave so as to produce good and harmonious consequences into the
"long run" from your choices and actions.
In chapter six, Pirkei Avos also describes a good heart as one of the 48 things needed
to acquire Torah. You can talk and intellectualize all you want. But, unless you can
absorb and assimilate Torah into your heart; to feel it, to act on it, to spontaneously
respond to life based on Torah, and to seek aggressively to do good for your fellow Jews -
being delighted for each opportunity to do so (Tiferes Yisroel), your "Torah" is
as if not yet learned (Rabbi Yisroel Salanter).
The Talmud (Kidushin 30b) tells us that G-d created the capacity for bad in the human
being, and He created the Torah as the antidote. In our context, the cure for fault within
every person is for each to sincerely occupy himself with learning Torah; absorbing and
assimilating the Torah into one's heart, and thereby bringing it into fruition and
practice in his choices, judgement and behavior - especially in human relations; the
"cure" will come to show up, in "real life."
The implications of this for relating to people and for marriage are clear. All midos
(character traits) and human qualities are in the heart. The heart is the deepest and most
fundamental element of the human being. A good and spiritually developed heart is the
beginning of all behaviors, choices and responses to life.
The way one relates to anybody in general, and to a spouse in particular, stands or
falls on the spiritual quality of one's heart. We will come back later to study the Torah
meaning and role of the heart in greater depth. Since midos is one of the most crucial
elements of the heart, let's take our first look at midos now.
Key elements of readiness for marriage are possession and valuing of midos (character
traits). This devolves around working on destroying bad traits, building good traits at
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, eighteenth century; "gaon" means
"towering peak"), one of the greatest geniuses in history and one of the
greatest rabbis known to have ever lived, writes (Evven Shlaima) that the ESSENCE PURPOSE
OF HUMAN LIFE IS FULL-TIME WORK ON MIDOS (CONQUERING ONE'S INNER FLAWS AND BUILDING ONE'S
INNER CHARACTER), AND EVERY MOMENT THAT YOU ARE NOT WORKING AT CONQUERING AND DEVELOPING
MIDOS, YOU ARE WASTING THAT IRREPLACEABLE MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE! The soul needs Torah just
as the soil needs rain. Just as rain causes whatever was planted to sprout forth - whether
for good or for bad - so does Torah cause whatever is in a person's heart to sprout forth.
The Torah develops whatever is in the heart. If one's heart is good, his spiritual
qualities will increase. If one's heart is evil, Torah will increase his laziness,
wickedness or bitterness. Torah increases whatever is naturally in one and you must
consciously make strong effort to smash the inner bad and to develop the inner good. Each
day before study, one must cleanse his heart of impure thoughts or conduct which can
effect fear of sin and doing of good deeds. One must labor from youth till old age to
develop oneself for the good. Further, one must never stray so far as to be unable to help
himself. One must constantly examine himself, plan changes against evil traits with
craftiness and without laziness. One must cure inner traits before character improvement
is externally recognizable. All good behavior depends upon repairing character traits,
which are like garments to mitzvos and embody central principles of the Torah. All sins
are rooted in faults of character.
To bring the Vilna Gaon's writing into our context, fundamental to marriageability is a
foundation in destroying character faults and building good character qualities.
Over the years, I interviewed numerous elderly successful veterans of marriage, rabonim
who have dealt with shalom bayis (troubled marriage) or gittin (divorce cases), marriage
counselors, frustrated singles, divorced people who "learned their lessons,"
etc. - people who are on the "front lines" of the subject. If you asked me to
boil down their cumulative descriptions of what a marriage is, I would say
* pleasing one another,
* getting along,
* building a relationship gradually over a lifetime and
* giving yourself up.
If you asked me to put human relations into a quick nutshell, I would say "the
fine art of making people important." If you asked me to put the institution of
marriage into a nutshell, I would say, "the fine art of making your spouse into the
most important person in the universe, making him or her know it and trust it, giving the
gift of your full heart, with unbending commitment and good-will, towards the end that you
cause your mate to be continually amazed and pleased, and when done mutually and
consistently for a lifetime, in conjunction with raising a healthy family with Torah
values and practice, you've basically achieved marriage."