Everybody loves a wedding. The love, the excitement, the heartfelt anticipation of a deep and lasting bond. When we speak about the beauty of marriage, we speak of deep commitment and selfless, unconditional love. But what does that really mean?
Commitment to children aside (because children are an extension of ourselves), are we ever really selfless? And “unconditional commitment” to a marriage? Why? What if someone feels betrayed? Is a spouse expected to be above “conditions,” like respect and loyalty?
Poetry aside, I believe marriage does have a special quality which lifts it beyond any other committed relationship. That quality is: G-d.
1. Believe in soul mates? The Torah describes husband and wife as two halves of one organic whole. That's not poetry; it's a description of reality. Looking through a Torah lens, I see my marriage as a spousal unit with a specific destiny; I am but half of that unit and I'm responsible for my part in life's work. This creates a very important attitude in dealing with marital friction. Instead of feeling the tension of being pitted against one's spouse, it becomes the feeling of “how do we make it through this fog?” The “we” is a given; the work is keeping “we” in sync.
2. My internal commitments can shift, i.e. if I'm a vegetarian today, I can change my mind in the future. But when I surrender to a force outside of me -- higher than me -- as my guiding compass, it brings an inherent stability. My moods can't effect the compass; it's beyond my reach. Marriage has the capacity for a deep mutual commitment to something Higher. Seventeen years ago, when I stood under the chupah (marriage canopy) with my wife, that chupah represented the Divine. It still does; I never want to walk from under that chupah, because it shelters my relationship until this day.
People sometimes ask why they should get married, if they're already living in a committed relationship. Does it really make a difference?
To me, it makes all the difference in the world. It's the difference between two people creating a relationship, and two halves uncovering the Oneness that's already there.
Can we really compare?