IT STARTS WITH HONESTY
Perhaps you’re married, or considering getting married. I have a question for you to pose to yourself: Why did I get married (specifically) to my Husband? Or, why do I want to marry (specifically) my Bridegroom? These are very good questions that deserve very honest answers (and no generalizations).
We need to be honest with ourselves and we need to cultivate relationships where our answers can be freely shared with a significant other without threat of rejection. No one should ever fear that love will be taken away because of an expression of thoughts or feelings. In a marriage relationship, you should never be afraid to share anything.
Love is either conditional or unconditional. Either there are conditions attached to love, to where there is an exchange and love can be easily withdrawn, or taken away until it is felt deserved and you’re proven worthy . . . or, love is a gift. Torah Flash: Love should always be a gift.
When love is a gift, there are no delusions. Okay, so, you might not have married the most compatible person. And, for those of you getting married, there might be someone out there better for you, or him. None of this matters. When love is a gift, it is a choice. You have chosen to love him and he has chosen to love you.
That being said, unconditional love is required if you want to grow your marriage. But marriage itself is a covenant, and a covenant is a contract. Don’t get it confused. There are rites and obligations. And, every marriage has its conditions.
GROWING LOVE, UNCONDITIONALLY
In the Ancient Hebrew Marriage Rite, unconditional love is necessary for growth. To grow anything, you must provide it with the proper environment and nourishment to thrive. The soil has to be fertile and the foundation has got to be solid. While it’s the heart of hearts to believe that love will conquer all problems within a marriage (and yes, it can), don’t get caught-up in a narrow-minded vision and think there is only one expression of love to work with. You can love someone deeply and still opt to divorce.
What does unconditional love look like?
Unconditional love begins with knowing who you are, loving who you are, and not feeling threatened or being fearful of being yourself in another’s presence. It is truly about allowing people to be who they are, loving them, freely, AND exercising your own freewill to choose wisely for yourself . . . to not compromise yourself, your principles, or your soul path. To love unconditionally, you must first know and love yourself.
Unconditional love is allowing a person to express their thoughts and feelings with absolute confidence. No one is to be punished for their honesty. You allow each other to freely share warm and cold feelings, the positive and the negative. Yes, this gives way for disagreements and sometimes disturbing emotions to take hold, but always there should be a commitment to growth and happiness.
HALACHA . . . THE WAY TO WALK
The foundation of a strong marriage is grounded in the sharing and pursuit of mutual life goals. Some might have answered the question (posed in the opening paragraph) with an answer of love. I got married to him or I am getting married . . . because . . . “I love him.” Torah Flash: Love, alone, is not the foundation of a strong marriage. While yes, love is important, love in itself is never enough.
You may find this rather surprising, but it is unfulfilled life goals that destroy the most promised and long-lasting of marriages, more than anything else. Most people need a sense of meaning and direction in their lives. Sadly, there exists some who don’t. It is difficult to be attached to someone who doesn’t have or fully know their ‘meaning’ or divine purpose in life.
When you marry into another person’s way of life, especially if neither of you have a plan or a vision, it can be like being lost at sea. What good is holding onto the helm and you’ve got no rudder. There’s no telling where you’ll end up. (And then, enters the thought . . . We can live on love (?)—hey, I’ve heard it all before.)
“Ahh, we can just drift. After all, we aren’t going anywhere.”A Place in the Sun (1951) Boat Scene, Shelley Winters
What’s worse yet, if you know where you want or need to go, but you’re stuck on a boat to Tarshish (by your own will, or another’s) when YAH purposed for you to be in Nineveh—there’s going to be some storms, and you just might get thrown overboard. This is why so much time and care is given to the stage of Betrothal.
During this stage, the Bride’s parents must intimately know and represent her by listening closely to the Bridegroom’s dreams, and more importantly, they must ask questions: What is his life’s desire? Is it more than just financial accomplishments? Does it involve children and a family? Does it include a path of personal growth and development? Will his Bride take part and share in his achievements? Is there hope and compassion for community and charity?
They must listen to how the Bridegroom paints his life’s picture and they must take care not to be blinded by his looks, material assets, or financial wealth. Most importantly, they must represent and share the Bride’s aspirations, her values, her hopes and dreams.
It is equally important for the Bridegroom’s father to recognize and bring to front his son’s ‘life ultimate goals’, for this is what the Bride and Bridegroom will be sharing and shaping in their own marriage. This is what will make their marriage bloom, with love. (Wow, we can learn so much from this marriage rite!)
Of course, as a woman, before you entertain a man’s wants, you must first know what you value in life and what you wish to accomplish, along with your most cherished dreams and desires. You have to know what you want, for as you will see, in the Ancient Hebrew Marriage Rite, the Husband is responsible for the Wife’s happiness.
(From Parts’ I and II, you should have a greater understanding of what a Ketubah is. Now, we will explore what it entails and why it is necessary.)
Simply put, the Ketubah outlines the rights and responsibilities of the Husband in relation to his Wife. The Ketubah is NOT a Prenuptial Agreement. It is considered a security and a protection for the Wife (or her descendants) should she die, or should she no longer support her Husband in the marriage.
The Husband is obligated to provide the Wife with four basic things:
- Clothing and Lodging (according to his lot in life)
- Food and Sustenance (maintenance)
- Conjugal Visits (sexual pleasure)
- and of course, the Ketubah (the fixed sum she will be paid if they divorce, as required by law)
It is important to note, the Ketubah is only valid if it stems from the Husband’s desire to divorce his Wife. Otherwise, the Ketubah is given to the Bride for safe keeping and is beautifully decorated and hung in the home as a reminder to the Bridegroom of his obligations.
I will reiterate: In the Ancient Hebrew Marriage Rite, as unto today, the Husband is responsible for his Wife’s happiness, and most notably stated, her sexual pleasure. The Ketubah represents his obligation and her right.
Sefer Keritut, is Hebrew for divorce document. While the word ‘Get’ is said to have its origins in Aramaic text, it is the term most commonly associated with dissolving a marriage. The Get must be given in free will, and it does not require the consent of the woman.
When a man takes a wife and is intimate with her, and it happens that she does not find favor in his eyes because he discovers in her an unseemly matter, he writes for her a document of severance, gives it into her hand, and sends her away from his house. She leaves his house and goes and marries another man.Deuteronomy 24:1-2
The Get is usually written by a scribe who (in no relation to either the Husband or the Wife) acts as an agent of the Husband. A Get is written in 12 lines, just as the numerical value of the word in Hebrew “get” is twelve. In it, the Husband literally declares that his Wife is now free. (No person may object against you from this day forward, and you are permitted to any man.) The woman now has the freedom to marry any member of the 12 tribes.
Sacredness has two sides, the beginning and the ending, as in Havdalah, a separation of Shabbat and the return to the ordinary six days of work. So it is for the Get; it is a termination of the sacred union and a return to a secular existence of dissolve.
A Wife has a right to compel her Husband to fulfill his obligations, or to proclaim that she no longer wishes to be his Wife. Interestingly, a Husband cannot compel his Wife to keep her marriage covenant. If she is unhappy, it is the responsibility of the Husband to hear and honor her desire.
Therefore, if the Wife so requests to be separated from her Husband, he must present proclamation, just the same as if he desired it himself. In this, the Wife has a way of escape from the marriage in cases of mutual desire, or in cases where she is considered disadvantaged by her husband’s callousness, insensitivity, or cruelness.
An Agunah (literally meaning chained, anchored) is for when a Husband has gone away (or out to war) and has never returned. The Wife has been chained to a marriage, where presumably, the Husband is dead. The Agunah provides her a way of escape from a seemingly, non-existent marriage. (An Agunah is also used in difficult cases when a Husband refuses to grant his Wife a divorce and withholds the Get, as well as when a Husband suffers from mental illness, or insanity.)
FINDING YOUR WAY, YOUR DIRECTION
As you see, YAH has provided us with a marriage covenant and a document of severance. He also has given each and every one of us free will. While he has set the path for us to follow for us to succeed in our marriages, he does not strong-hold us to stay camouflaged in a failed union for the sake of an institution.
Only he knows truly our heart’s motivations and desires, and the depth of our every situation. In all things, we must choose wisely, and commit to loving, unconditionally. Once again, it starts with honesty.
Whether you’re getting married, or you’re already married, consider what you need in your life for it to be good. The gift of love tells others that we want to share whatever we have with them that is good. Just remember, marriage is about striving together toward shared goals. It requires respect.
One last nugget to share. It has been revealed through polls and surveys . . . the main reason a woman respects a man is . . . his life direction. (Make’s sense.)
Which way are you headed?
Thank you for reading. May you Seek YAH, Follow Ha Mashiach, and Operate, always, in spirit and in truth. Shalom!
(Cover Photo by Nappy)