Friday, June 26, 2009

Love and Marriage

As Groucho Marx famously quipped, "Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?"
There is no specific mitzvah or commandment in the Torah for a couple to get married. Nonetheless, we know this was a practice our ancestors engaged in (pun intended), in part because couples like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and even Moses and Tzipporah paired off. There is also the first mitzvah of p’ru ur’vu, be fruitful and multiply. We also can infer notions of marriage in biblical times because of the laws of divorce stipulated to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 24. Thus marriage (and divorce) have been a part of our tradition since the most ancient days.
Yet if you watch enough television or listen to enough am radio, it would appear that marriage is under attack. The most common threat by these analysts is gay marriage. I could not disagree more with this assessment. I would argue instead, the threat to the 'institution' of marriage and to families is the fifty percent divorce rate in this country.
The number one threat to marriage it would appear to be is celebrity. Jon and Kate sadly have become the latest symbols of this issue. Though as a society quick to judge, it is hard to comprehend the pressure of ongoing public analysis of the flaws in one's relationship. Though to be fair, they did not need to agree to become celebrities in the first place, but that is a blog for another day.
However there are many other compounding factors. Stress, children, one's age at marriage, financial difficulties, children, medical challenges, lack of family support, lack of communal support, lengthy time apart for employment reasons, children, religious differences, incarceration, military deployment, infidelity, children, and the list goes on and on.
The better question we should be asking then is what are we as a society doing to help strengthen the bonds of a loving family, and what are we doing to give them the resources they need. This I feel is a much better conversation than either laying blame or judging no matter how much fun seem to have reveling in the misfortune of others. For what goes on behind closed doors, even in front of cameras, we will never fully know.
My prayer is that Jon and Kate are able to resolve their issues amicably and in the best interest of their children. And that this also serves as a warning to future couples of how the pursuit of celebrity may be detrimental to one’s marriage. And instead they will come to understand how a long lasting loving relationship has its own rewards far greater than either fame or fortune.

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