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Parshas Shemos (5774)

The Secret to a Long Lasting Marriage

Do you want to know the secret to a long-lasting marriage? ….. Don’t get divorced!

All kidding aside, we can gain some insight into what it takes to have a successful marriage by exploring one of the Sheva Berachos (seven special blessings) recited under the chuppah (wedding canopy) at a traditional Jewish wedding

In the fifth of the seven blessings we refer to the newlywed couple as rayim ahuvim, “beloved companions”, and we beseech G-d: “Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creature in the Garden of Eden …”

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, in his commentary Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers), explains why the newlywed couple is referred to here as rayim ahuvim. He writes that it is a fact of nature that the more time people spend with each other, the more they get tired of each other.

As King Solomon, the “wisest of all men”, writes in his Proverbs: “Let your feet be scarce in your fellow’s house, lest he be satiated with you and come to hate you” (Mishlei 25:17). This means that we should not burden even good friends with too many visits, as one can become weary of too much of a good thing. As the common saying goes: “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

This being the case, one has to wonder how married couples can stay together for so many years without getting sick and tired of each other. In fact, many couples do indeed get sick of each other after a number of years and split up. How many couples do you know who are married for 60 years? 50 years? 25 years? It’s not so easy these days to find couples staying together for long periods of time.

[There are some exceptions, though, as in the following joke: Even though Morris and Sadie had been married for a very, very long time, they still decided to visit a divorce lawyer. At the first meeting, the lawyer asks them, "Why in the world do you want to get divorced? You each look well into your nineties. Why now of all times?" Morris replies, "Actually, I'm 102 and my wife Sadie is 101." The lawyer is totally bemused and asks them again, "So why do you want a divorce now?" Sadie replies this time, "Well, we wanted to wait until all of the children were dead."]

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin explains that it is for this exact reason that we bless the newlywed couple under the chuppah at the beginning of their marriage that G-d should gladden them that they should be rayim ahuvim , beloved companions, i.e. that they should always remain beloved to each other even though they are constant companions.

And the way that the newlyweds will merit G-d’s blessing to always be rayim ahuvim can be found at the end of that same blessing: “…as You gladdened Your creature in the Garden of Eden …”

The commentators point out that the ‘creature’ referred to in the blessing is Adam, whose lonely life was gladdened when Eve was fashioned and brought to him.

They explain this blessing to mean that just as G-d gave Adam – His “creature” – tremendous happiness with his new wife Eve, because they both had total clarity that they were meant for each other since there was nobody else alive on the planet besides them, so, too, should G-d bless the “beloved companions”, this newlywed couple standing together under the chuppah, that they should experience the joy that comes from knowing that they were meant for each other and that there is nobody else.

If a couple enters into marriage with the emunah and belief that they were meant only for each other, and that the shidduch (match) is bashert (pre-ordained by G-d), then they will have the strength and fortitude to stay together through thick and thin, no matter what comes their way.

Sure, they might have plenty of fights over the years (every healthy marriage does), but they will still stay together as husband and wife and will always remain rayim ahuvim.

Jacob and Rivka had been married for 65 years. When they were asked whether, in all those years, they had ever thought of divorce, they replied, "Heavens no! …murder yes, but divorce never."

[It should be mentioned that there are some really bad marriages that should definitely be ended, and the Torah certainly allows for divorce when absolutely necessary. Here we are referring to the majority of relationships which are essentially healthy and which have the potential to last for many long years if only the couple is committed to staying together at all costs.]

May we all merit to have wonderful, long-lasting relationships with the people in our lives. Amen!

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