||WHAT'S NEW IS NOTHING NEW
- February '03/Shevat-Adar I 5763
Our society's values are not new. They are described in detail by the Torah. "That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)."
The "relationship crisis" is an outgrowth of contemporary society's values. The ability to address the "relationship crisis" is strengthened by virtue of the Torah's comprehensive addressing of (1) the problem and (2) the solution. Both are as old as time. Both can be studied and, in this series, will be.
"Go over and over the Torah for everything is in it and through it you will see with clarity (Pirkei Avos, chapter 5)."
"In everything you do, know G-d; and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6)."
When I was in yeshiva, I knew that the Torah presumes the Jew to be "a marriageable entity." It stood to reason that, somewhere in the Torah, the secrets of how to succeed as "a marriageable entity" were available.
In November of that year ('77) I had gone out with a woman in whom I was seriously interested. I wanted to know how to "do it right." Ya know, "just in case" she'd wanna marry me or somethin'. As it turned out, I remained safe. She rejected me for a rich and accomplished doctor. I couldn't even dissect the frog right, in high school biology, so I suppose I never stood a chance. But, that relationship "put it together" for me. It made me aware that a serious relationship doesn't just happen. The just-then-exploding statistics, increasingly common and widespread "war stories" of rocky or terminating marriages, the growing number of singles - and events attended by them, and the long lines in front of divorce court - all coming "out of the woodwork" and all coming to my attention at about the same time - made a "light bulb go on in my head."
I promptly and intensely started to explore the problem in depth. For approximately four years thereafter, I built an hour-a-day session into my learning, seven days a week. I continued the project up to the present day, after I left full-time yeshiva study. I vigorously sought out what the Torah had to say on every imaginable aspect of the subject. I studied the creation of male and female, Eliezer's search for Yitzchok's wife, the teachings about G-d's matching of couples, the analogies of Mount Sinai and the Sanctuary to marriage, Talmudic teachings for peace and blessing in marriage, commentaries to the wedding blessings and to aishes chayil (the "Woman of Valor," in the book of Proverbs), elements of a bride and groom relationship indicated in Song Of Songs, the Code Of Jewish Law on mate selection and marriage behavior obligations and grounds for divorce, mussar (character development studies for purifying and elevating one's personality), the Arba Turim and Michtav Mi'Eliyahu on treatment of husbands and wives, hashkofa (Jewish values and attitudes), writings and role models from authoritative rabbis on marriage or interpersonal behavior, the inaugurative sacrifices of the 12 tribal leaders (Numbers, chapter 7 - which mystically represent marriage), the building of closeness in the relationship during the "shana rishona (first year of marriage)," conflicts between honoring parents and marital harmony, traditional man and woman roles, resolving fights and impasses, oneness, commitment, relating skills, dealing with anger and on and on and on. Whenever I couldn't dream up enough subject matter on my own to investigate, I went to Torah authorities for suggestions and more direction.
When my inclination started surfacing, I was occasionally asked to speak before my yeshiva or people came to me for my opinion or help on personal or relating problems. I attended numerous seminars and workshops. I recognized the need to acquire practical skills so I started taking college-level courses in psychology, sociology, communication, human development, human relations and public speaking. I also interviewed people in some position to be entitled to an opinion about marriage, including mature married people, experienced rabbis and practicing counselors.