Keeping Your Bashert

We live in an age where the very social fabric of society seems to be tearing apart at the seams. Divorce rates in the western world hover at fifty percent. And that’s only for first marriages. Second marriages have an even higher failure rate. And third marriages a higher failure rate still. Besides the personal misery, the biggest cost is that the concept of raising children in a stable home seems to be a relic of the past.

And while it’s true that we Jews are a nation separate and above the rest of the world, it affects us as well. Divorce in our community has also risen to an alarming rate.

While there are many factors that affect the divorce rate, there is one perspective that is vital for the success of your marriage.

A Bit of Wisdom

A number of years ago, I brought a couple to my rebbe, the Rosh ha-yeshiva, zt’’l. They hadn’t been married very long, and the fights were regular and nasty. Things didn’t look too promising.

The rosh ha-yeshiva took the time to speak to them for a while. And from that point on, their marriage took a turn for the better and continued to improve. They are happily married for many years now.

You might be wondering what “magical words” the rosh ha-yeshiva said. Was it Kabbalah? Or at least ruach ha-kodesh?

It was neither. It was the rosh ha-yeshiva’s wisdom that saved their marriage. He brought them both into his office and listened carefully to what each one had to say. He then asked the young man to step outside, and he turned to the woman and asked her what was going on. The rosh ha-yeshiva listened very carefully as she spoke and he picked up a sense of what the problem was. The husband felt that his new wife wasn’t up to his level. It seems that this man was quite successful in yeshiva, and he held of himself—maybe a tad too much.

The rosh ha-yeshiva then called the husband into his office, and his first remark was, “She’s a very chashuvah girl. I’m very impressed with her.” The rosh ha-yeshiva went on to ask another question or two, and then repeated, “She’s a very chashuvah girl. I’m very impressed.” He then followed with a few more questions and some comments, and then a third time the rosh ha-yeshiva repeated, “She’s a very chashuvah girl. I’m very impressed.”

This conversation changed their marriage. How? Because this young man looked up to the rosh ha-yeshiva as a Torah sage. Here was a gadol b’ Yisrael giving his wife the stamp of approval. “Obviously, there’s a lot more to her than I realized,” he thought. And that transformed their marriage.

Who Made This Shidduch?

The thought that you should keep in the forefront of your mind is that the Creator of the heavens and the earth handpicked your spouse to be your partner in life. And most likely, Hashem knows what He’s doing. Most likely, Hashem got it right.

If you are wondering why this concept is so critical for the success of a marriage, it shouldn’t be that much of a mystery.

I Made the Biggest Mistake of My Life

At some point in most marriages, either the husband, or the wife, or both realize that things aren’t going as they should be. It may take a while, but at some point that crashing realization hits him, and he screams out: “I made the biggest mistake of my life. I married the wrong person!”

It’s at that very moment that he has to ask himself a critical question, a question that frames every other assumption and attitude that he has about marriage.

That question is: who made this match? Who brought us together?

Asked in this way, the question is the answer. Because once he understands that Hashem brought this person to him, and him to this person, he is ready for the very first rule in a successful marriage.

It’s about Growth

A successful marriage is based on two people joining together in peace, harmony, and love. For that to happen, both parties have to be giving, caring, generous people who have the maturity to put aside their own self-interests and self-gratification and devote themselves to another person’s needs. Most of us aren’t ready for that for a long, long time.

And that’s the first rule about marriage. A solid, happy marriage demands that both partners change. It requires significant growth. And there’s a lot of learning on the job.

But it’s not by accident that marriage requires change and demands work. Hashem created us with all the tools, motivations, and situations that we need to reach our level of spiritual perfection. While a perfect marriage is partially about finding a helpmate, it also a stage setting that demands growth.

On the most basic level, it’s about learning to put another human being’s needs before your own. An infant only knows its own needs and isn’t equipped to care about another person. As we mature, we are supposed to become caring and sensitive to others. But this doesn’t come naturally—it requires a lot of work and a lot of focus. For most of us (men especially), marriage is the first time that we actually have to put someone else’s needs before our own. It’s the first time that we leave that sheltered cocoon of “my needs,” “my wants,” and “my desires,” and look out for the interest of another. For the first time in our lives, we begin to act like Hashem—focused on giving, caring, and nurturing someone else. So, in that sense, marriage as an institution is a huge growth opportunity.

On a Personal Level

But on a personal level, it is equally significant. Each of us has areas that we need to work on. For one person, it might be learning to be patient. For another, it might be working on his temper. For yet another, it might be about becoming less arrogant. Everyone has a particular weakness that requires improvement.

Hashem handcrafts the perfect situation for each person’s growth. Challenging, yet doable. Demanding, yet within reach. When Hashem brings together a couple, it is for the purpose of the two joining and making a strong whole, and for the two to help complete one another. Included in that is perfecting the area that each of them needs to improve.

One of the things we humans find difficult is change. And while we are very skilled at seeing the areas that other people need to develop, turning that same critical eye to ourselves is something we rarely do.

In a successful marriage, both partners join as one to form a whole in harmony, joy, peace, and security. More than just an aid to the journey, however, marriage itself is one of the stage settings of life that helps a person reach his level of perfection. When a couple are able to grow together their marriage flourishes and they enjoy the most the most nourishing relationship possible—they become one unit, one bond, unbreakable and inseparable  -- together forever.

Courtesy of