Love and Marriage - Which Comes First?

Rabbi Reuven Mann

There is no institution which is more significant to the preservation of civilization than the family.  The well being of society and the cause of human progress is dependent on a firm and stable family unit.  Judaism revolves around the sanctity of the mishpacha as it is absolutely vital to the proper raising of children and perpetuation of the Torah way of life.  No relationship is more important in this regard than that of marriage.  Happy marriages produce thriving families.  Unhappy ones create misery for the parties involved and those who are closest to them.  Thus the subject of choosing a spouse should be a matter of great concern.  This week's parsha Chaye Sarah is almost entirely devoted to the search for a suitable mate for Yitzchak Avinu, the second of the Patriarchs.  Avraham appointed his loyal servant Eliezer to embark on a search in the land of his birth for a women who would be a suitable match for his son.  He supplied him with 10 camels bearing all types of gifts as no expense would be spared in this most crucial endeavor.  However, the modern reader finds it difficult to relate to the method in Shidduchim used by Avraham.  How can someone else pick a wife for you?  Shouldn't the principals be directly and personally involved in the search for one's "intended?"

There is much that we can learn from the perspective of the patriarchs.  Their main concern in marriage was not the pursuit of romance which is all that matters in the contemporary world.  Modern man does not understand that true love is based on an appreciation of the virtue and character of an individual.  Modern man is consumed by the pursuit of self gratification.  In a sense he is incapable of true love.  His love is sensual and superficial and only lasts as long as it provides him with a "thrill."  When the romantic feeling wears off he moves on because he never developed an attachment to the genuine qualities of the other person.  Eliezer did not "arrange" the marriage of Yitzchak to Rivka.  He recognized the high level that Yitzchak was on and what type of spiritual qualities a man like him would be attracted to.  Moreover, Yitzchak was not searching for romance but for a suitable helpmate who shared his values and would be a full partner in achieving the exalted goals of his life.  The choice of Rivka was made with great wisdom and deep insight into her ethical and moral makeup.  She was the appropriate match for Yitzchak.  When he learned from Eliezer about her wonderful deeds he realized that she was a true disciple of his mother Sarah.  The verse says "she became a wife to him and he loved her."  One may ask: "Shouldn't love precede marriage?  The answer is that romantic love comes before marriage but often doesn't survive it.  True love comes later.  Only by her being a wife to him and he being a husband to her, working together as a team, facing the challenges of life and growing together, serving Hashem and fulfilling their unique spiritual mission was true love attained.  May we merit to achieve it.

Shabbat Shalom