"Nothing new under the sun," wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes. According to
the Torah, infidelity and other marital problems aren't exactly a new societal
Torah tells the story of the sotah, a woman accused of adultery. In
the Biblical tradition, the husband would bring his wife to the Temple where the
kohen would enact the ceremony of the "bitter waters." The relevant
passages from the
Torah were written on a scroll and dissolved in the "curse-causing waters." The
name of G-d appeared in these passages and, therefore, every possible
alternative was explored first in order to avoid the erasure of the Divine Name.
If, indeed, there was no alternative, then the ceremony would be concluded and
in the process G-d's name would, in fact, be erased.
If the woman was guilty, the waters would cause her death. If innocent, she
would be blessed and her marriage would enjoy a blissful future.
Thus, Jewish tradition teaches that no stone be left unturned to make peace
between man and wife. Even if it means taking the drastic step of erasing the
name of G-d! To save a marriage, it's worth it.
How much effort do we put in to our marriages today? Interestingly, the
jealous husband in the Torah is also chastised should he overreact and run to
the kohen unnecessarily.
Today, I fear, we run to the lawyer much too quickly.
Too many young marrieds, after the inevitable first argument, come to the
premature conclusion that they must have made a mistake. "We had a fight!" "He
shouted at me." "Let me quit while I'm ahead."
It may well sound ridiculous, but in my own rabbinic experience I have seen
it all too often. There is a name for it. It's called "unrealistic
expectations." We forget that some of the best marriages on earth had rocky
beginnings and that it is normal and natural to take time to settle down and
settle into a marriage.
Why is it that we expect our marriages to cruise along smoothly without the
slightest hiccup when we have no such presumptions about any other area of life?
Say a business shows a loss in the first quarter. Do we close up shop? Of course
not. We sit down, we strategize, we find new ways of doing things and with time
and effort things turn around. Why then do we close down our marriages with such
alacrity at the first signs of difficulty?
Then there are those who are married for years but are locked in loveless
marriages. They see no hope for a better future and are resigned to living out
their lives, as Thoreau put it, "in quiet desperation."
I'm here to tell you that it needn't be that way. Many a marriage has hit
rock bottom and then rebounded into a beautiful, sensitive, mature
Here are a few important points to be aware of. 1) Help is
available. There are highly qualified counselors in every community. 2) There
should be no stigma whatsoever in going for help. If you have the flu, you see
the doctor. It's curable. So is an ailing relationship. 3) It is never too late.
I've seen people embark on a fresh, new path after 18 or 25 years of marriage
and they've never looked back. 4) Fixing your existing relationship is by far
the best option available to you.
Why is going for help the best option? Ask yourself honestly: is getting
divorced and then looking for a new partner better? What makes you think they
are lining up to marry divorced people with baggage? And staying single is no
fun either. Loneliness is no picnic. And don't think your miserable ex is going
to fall off Planet Earth after your divorce. You will still have to engage
him/her on family issues, especially if there are children. So you get to keep
most of the headaches with little or no compensation.
For too many people, work is a 4-letter word to be avoided at all costs. But
if you would invest half the amount of work into your existing relationship that
you would need to survive a divorce, you can have a marvelous relationship.
woman I know is now on her third marriage. I tried to counsel her during her
first marriage. But she was determined to end it. Today she freely admits that
had she known then what she knows now she would never have divorced husband
number one. Because, with all his faults, compared to husbands numbers two and
three, he was an angel!
Marriage and family life are part and parcel of life. They can bring
contentment and happiness to each of us -- if we work at it. Our lives can be
rich and satisfying in that deep, wonderful way -- provided we are big enough to
seek help and improve the existing stalemate. If we look at things more
objectively, we'll probably find that we are both somewhat stale mates.
Judaism has much to offer to revive tired relationships. While the mikvah
system should not be regarded as a panacea for all marital ills, it can have a
profoundly positive influence. Take the plunge. Call for an appointment to see
your favorite rabbi. He can also direct you to good professional counselors who
are committed to making marriages work.
The Torah teaches us how sacred marriage is in the eyes of G-d. Let us show a
little more respect for our marriage vows. And perhaps we ought to spare a
thought for that "significant other" who does much for us every day, which
sadly, we take for granted.
Invest time and effort into your current relationship and you may be assured
that G-d will bless the work of your hands with success, happiness and
Then, families will be whole and wholesome and G-d's Name will be