By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
I’m a happy single Jewish guy, and don’t, personally, see a reason for getting married. I’ve been in very meaningful relationships, some of them long-lasting, and I feel all I would want to get out of life and marriage I get from them. I don’t feel the need to go through all the hassle of raising children. As you can imagine, I’m put on a guilt trip at least once a month by my mother, but I’m not planning to get married out of guilt. Do you have a good reason why I am wrong?
Dear Already Satisfied,
With your permission, I am going to take the liberty of offering you some light rebuke. It’s not really about marriage you’re asking, but about the way you view life in general, and marriage is just one specific question which emanates from your worldview.
Between the lines of your question it is apparent that your motivation in life is to “get” as much as you can out of life and others, not what you can give. You perceive raising children as a hassle which, comparing your investment versus your reward, would not be worth it. You “get” all you need out of your temporary relationships without the investment implicit in an eternal relationship. Even the pen name you used spells out that you are totally satisfied without giving anything of yourself to anyone; your happiness revolves around the fact that you’re “getting” all you need.
This weltanschauung (outlook) is antithetical to the worldview of Judaism. We, as Jews, are commanded to “walk in His pathways,” or emulate the Al-mighty in all we do in our lives. The Talmud explains that just as He is merciful, we, too, should be merciful, forgiving and, above all, giving. To give to others is to emulate G-d. Life is not about what one can get, but what one can give. When one is receiving, they’re not expressing their own lives to the fullest, since to receive doesn’t cause any growth. Every time you give, you grow, and growth is life. Furthermore, the more you take and receive without giving in return, the more you become selfish and self-centered, the opposite of G-dliness and Judaism.
The Talmud says that one becomes complete only with marriage. One of the main reasons for getting married is to help each other grow through a lifelong process of emotional, intellectual and spiritual sharing and challenge. Marriage is also the ultimate framework for giving and receiving in a way which emulates G-d and at the same time builds the world into a stable, joyous environment. All this is implicit in the verse “It is not good, this state of Adam’s being alone; I will make a helpmate opposite to him” (Genesis 2:18). As long as a person remains single, it is not good — meaning not only is the person incomplete, but the entire creation is also lacking perfection (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch).
The Torah says that through marriage the man and woman “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). One meaning of this is the fusion of two halves into a unified whole, as the Kabbalah teaches that every soul is divided into male and female components before being sent to the world and the match is the re-fusion of the halves into one.
Another meaning of this is, through together having children, they “become” one flesh. This fulfills the mitzvah to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Being fruitful doesn’t just mean literally having children. It encompasses realizing and actualizing one’s potential through sharing and challenge in marriage in a way that one’s productive traits and talents ripen and produce pleasant fruits, multiplying in a way that is an asset to the world.
May you become truly satisfied with your future true fulfillment, giving and love.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association.