||CAN YOU BE AN 'US?'
- Thursday, November 23, '00 - Parshas Chayei Sara 5761
A married couple is somewhat
analogous to a baseball team. Each "player" covers the various "bases"
or positions needed for the victory of the team in the "game of life," by
playing together. Being ready to marry is being ready to give ego up to be a teammate,
always ready to happily give of yourself for other people and for your responsibilities to
To be ready to marry, you must be able to give of yourself for a spouse, children and
the good of your marriage team. It is a measure of readiness to marry:
* when it makes you happy to give to other people;
* when you give unconditionally, graciously, respectfully and cheerfully;
* when you are "emotionally available" and "emotionally
responsible" for the good of your spouse and children, on a steady and reliable
* when you give without hesitation, grudge or nastiness.
If the needs of the team are in conflict with the needs of your ego, do you get upset
or closed up or do you go beyond yourself and give what is objectively needed and for the
most long-run good?
A serious relationship requires self-awareness in a wide variety of respects:
personality, true and healthy needs, life mission and personal potential, what can I give
to another and what needs in another would be healthy for me to give to, values, goals,
what weaknesses can I live with, what is a realistic compatibility profile, etc.
One must have self-awareness (development of meaningful life mission, understanding of
one's psychological reality, etc.) that is reasonably full, accurate, objective and clear.
Otherwise, a person may be disadvantaged or downright handicapped by ineffective criteria
or counterproductive definitions of "needs" in one's mate search. When a single
does not have correct self-awareness, (s)he may need prodding by a caring, tactful and
supportive friend, to become more clear, realistic and ready for the mate search and for
marriage. Otherwise, it is like shooting a gun with no defined target, or driving with no
destination defined. Whose fault is it that you didn't reach Wisconsin? Besides, if you
don't have a clearly identified and defined destination or goal in life, how can you
expect that someone else can share your journey to "there," when no
It is possible to have an elaborate, thorough "check-list," which could be
worthless if you are not the person who would be wanted by - or compatible with - the mate
you want. I have seen many people "know" what they want and never get along with
the person who is "ideal on paper." There can be many possible reasons for this,
ranging from psychological to lack of focus to immaturity to character flaws. When you
devise your list, analyze whether you are the person who this person would want and would
get along with.
Being married means ongoing responsibility to a spouse and children. Therefore, being
marriageable means that you are able to unselfishly and steadily deliver what you are
responsible for, even when life is stressful or painful. A good test in this is: when you
are suffering or pressured, can you still be spontaneously concerned about another person?
Even if you can't be your fully loving and giving self, you can say, with softness,
control and consideration, "Right now I'm [upset, in pain, anxious, nervous, etc.]
and I can't give you the [attention, courtesy, time, respect, answer, etc.] that you
deserve. It is no fault of yours and I do not want to take my troubles out on you. I don't
want to hurt or shortchange you. Give me some time to work myself out and I'll talk to you
pleasantly later." When you're married, having problems is no excuse to withhold what
you are responsible for...no excuse to ever stop being an "us."
When a farmer (in Eretz Yisroel, in the time of the Holy Temple) completes the work
(g'mar malacha) of producing grain, he must give "truma (a donation)" to a cohen
(who works in the Holy Temple, and who has no income except for donations). The farmer
gives two and a half percent of the crop. The law says to estimate the donation, not to
precisely calculate the donation. Why? Because, if the farmer measures exactly, this will
bring out the characteristic of being tight or stingy. If he estimates, and knows that he
has to give not less than two percent, this will ingrain in him the trait of ayin yofa
(good-natured generosity). By practicing ayin yofa, the farmer will come to build
generosity and a kind spirit within himself towards others, and he will learn to incline
to give more to people than what is strictly due them. The Torah does not want people who
give to do so in a technical, begrudging or strict way. In the Torah, giving means going
beyond what one "has to." Giving is from the heart, with a kind spirit and for
the good of recipients (Mishna Trumos, chapter four; and Rashi to Baitza 13b). Mutual ayin
yafa is very important to making a marriage happy.