Secrets to a Successful Jewish Intercultural Marriage

SECRET # 1:  COMMITMENT

Commitment is the Key to Making any Marriage Work (Marriage According to Genesis 2)

Genesis 2 belongs to both Jewish and Christian Scriptures.  It is probably the foundational passage in the Bible in establishing meaning of marriage.  I also think it provides a key to a successful Jewish Intercultural marriage.  It’s the idea that a married couple is actually a single unit, and that changes dramatically the way a couple behaves towards one another and deals with differenes.

Gen. 2:18, 21-25

 The LORD God said,  “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said,  “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

A question we are immediately presented with when looking at this text is why was Eve taken from Adam’s rib (or perhaps better translated, side)?  Everything besides the man and woman were made out of nothing.  God just created it.  But not so with Eve, she was not made just out of nothing. Here, God used something specific to form this wife for Adam.  He used a part of Adam, his rib (side).  Why? Why not simply make Eve out of the dust like Adam, or out of nothing?

Well, I think it had to do with helping us understand the nature of marriage.  Adam said she is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.  Eve was actually a part of Adam’s body.  The text goes on to say, that for this reason, when a husband and wife get married, they become one flesh. So what are the implications of that?  A husband or wife, are to care for the other as they would care for their own body.  They are no longer two but one. For a married person, there is no caring for themselves outside of a context of caring for their spouse.  That is a tremendous responsibility but also a blessing.  For think of the tremendous trust and security that comes in a marriage when both partners see each other as just as important as themselves.  When the needs, worries and cares of the other are just as if they were their own.

I think the beauty of the one flesh marriage, can best be illustrated with the relationship between parents and their children.  Think of when a child comes to a marriage.  The child is the product of the one flesh of husband and wife. A child is literally flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone.  Often times with a baby, people seem to instinctively recognize the need to care for the baby as they care for themselves.  The baby’s needs are automatically their own.  If the baby needs something, it is as if the parents needed it themselves.

It has not been my experience that this recognition that another’s needs are your own, comes nearly as naturally in marriage.  We seem to cling to our own needs and desires pretty ferociously at times.  In fact, oftentimes people far from giving themselves to their spouse, actually see their spouse as a way to meet their own happiness, almost like a tool.  I think that is one of the reasons for so much divorce, when the tool stops working, when we stop getting something from our spouse, we get rid of them.

Again, picturing a child.  Think of how much a child’s security and development are connected to their ability to be secure in the love and sacrifice of their parents.  So it is with a spouse, and the health of a marriage.  Think of the wonder and security of a marriage when both partners are given over to the care and love of the other.  When they see their union as indissolvable.  There is complete security and trust.

Now, does that mean life or marriage will be easy?   Of course not!  But there is a big difference in how you work out a couple works out their problems, when they know they are absolutely committed to one another.  When they approach their problems, with the assumption that each are trying to do what is best for both. They may have different opinions on what is best, but what a difference when the goal is to care for one another and not just yourself.

Marriage is not the binding together of 2 people who are “in love”.  It is each person, saying this is the person I am choosing to make the object of my love.  This is the person I am going to become one with.  Our society may say love is just a feeling or an affection.  But, it is not, love is a decision.  That is why we can vow to love someone when you get married.  You can’t commit to having a feeling.  When you marry someone, you are choosing to love someone. This is the person I am going to make the object of my love, I will cherish them.

In a Jewish intercultural relationship, if this is the foundation of their marriage, it creates a stability of commitment that brings a strength to working out any cultural and religious issues.

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