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Marriage - A Partnership of Individuals

What happens when Mom is sick? For the last few weeks I’ve been under the weather. Not sick enough to stay in bed all day, but not healthy enough to be active all day either. By Thursday evening last week I was achy and tired and still hadn’t made it to the grocery store although our pantry needed restocking. Fortunately, my husband swooped in to save the day with an offer to let me go to bed while he took care of the family’s needs and a grocery run that night. I gratefully gave him the shopping list and retired for the night. Friday morning I walked into the kitchen and was greeted with bags and bags of groceries piled all over the counters. Clearly, my husband had bought far more than our limited list called for. Even more exciting for my kids, many of the bags were filled with snacks and treats that are not our usual fare. Are you surprised? I wasn’t. A marriage is not a melding of two identical people, but rather the transformation of two distinct people each with their own style and personality into a new unit that encompasses both of them. Our family is blessed that they have a mother that shops (or attempts to) somewhat frugally and healthfully and our children are equally blessed to have a father that splurges occasionally with treats. Either one of us alone would be lacking, but together we offer our family a beautiful whole.


Marriage as well as any other partnership works best when people with distinctive assets (and defects) join forces to create a union greater than the sum of its parts. This requires a commitment from both partners to a set of shared values and open communication between them to ensure they’re on track together to upholding those values. Either a lack of shared vision or a lack of communication will undermine the partnership. In Parshas Vayeira, (Genesis 18:1 - 22:24), Avraham’s (Abraham) wife Sarah perceived a threat to their shared values, leading her to share her concerns and tell Avraham to banish his son Yishmael (Ishmael) as he was exerting a negative influence on their son Yitzchak (Isaac). Sarah and Avraham shared a goal to build a home with spiritual values and when Sarah saw a threat to those values she communicated her concerns to her husband who followed through decisively. This presents a striking contrast to this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Toldos (Genesis 25:19 - 28:9). In this Parsha, Rivka (Rebecca) and Yitzchak (Isaac) don’t exhibit this quality of joint partnership and communication. Although Rivka had received a prophecy regarding her pregnancy, we find no evidence that she relayed the prophecy to Yitzchak. She kept hidden information that could have influenced their approach to raising their children. It is probable that the message “the elder shall serve the younger'' played a part in Rivka’s determination that Yaakov (Jacob), the younger son, should receive his father’s blessings (Genesis 27), but instead of communicating openly with her husband, she maneuvered to deceive Yitzchak by presenting Yaakov as Eisav (Esau). 


Yitzchak and Rivka were two different people from two distinct backgrounds and despite a shared value system, they didn’t openly communicate with each other to reach a unified approach towards their children. (I want to stress that although the Torah shares with us the challenges of our forebears so we can learn from them on our level, it’s important to understand that they operated on a spiritual level far beyond what we can relate to and there are layers upon layers of deep Torah wisdom beyond the scope of this article.) The consequences of the lack of communication and unity between Yitzchak and Rivka were significant and long lasting, contributing to enmity between brothers that extended for generations.


A husband and wife aren’t supposed to be identical. The value of their marriage lies in their differences so long as their relationship is based on a commitment to shared values and open communication between them. While young mothers may be appalled when their husbands throw their toddlers up in the air, the young fathers are giving their children something just as valuable as Mommy’s gentle cuddles. Children need both parents and they need them to be different and distinct but also united as partners. Your spouse’s different personality, background, and perspective are not problems, but opportunities for the two of you to jointly create an entity that encompasses the best of both of you and is greater than either one alone.


This lesson applies far beyond marriage, to families, communities, and nations. November 14th’s inspiring March for Israel in Washington DC was so remarkable because of the diversity of the participants. Hundreds of thousands united, not because they were identical or even similar, but because they shared common values. We aren’t meant to be the same, but we must harness our differences for the sake of building something greater than the sum of its parts. True unity comes not from conformity, but from value oriented partnerships. Our marriages need this and our world does too.


Coming soon! Stay Tuned!

Join Rebecca and Max Masinter in a joint workshop for married parents - How to Parent Your Family as Partners


I am dedicating this Torah thought to the memory of Elchanan Klein, a husband and father to three children and a student at the Jerusalem College of Technology, who was murdered by terrorists in Israel as he was returning home from reserve duty on November 2. May his memory be for a blessing.



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Guest
Nov 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautiful!

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Guest
Nov 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great points as always!

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Thank you!

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