In just a short time Shavuot will be upon us and we will once again rejoice in the marriage of the Jewish people with the Torah and our G-d. The concept of unity—with G-d, as a nation, or as a couple—is foundational to the Jewish experience and to our personal experience in this world. From the time most are little there are dreams of finding our beshert, the one destined for us, and we daydream about who he or she is, how we will meet, and what our lives will look like together. Will there be a big wedding or small? Will there be good familial relations between in-laws? Will there be children? If so, how many? Who will they look like? Where will we live? The questions are endless, as is the subject of marriage and unity throughout the Torah and our most revered texts. Given the importance of marriage both in our personal lives as well as our religious paradigm, I’d like to spend some time with you in this article exploring various facets of Jewish marriage in modern day as I see it through my lens of being a married observant Jewish woman who also works with couples in private counseling practice. Let’s start with one of the most anxiety-producing subjects related to marriage . . .
WHERE IS MY BESHERET??
Or, am I married to my besheret? Or, is he The One? Or, am I The One? The truth is there is only one answer to these questions: Only G-d knows. I know that’s not what we want to hear, but there is no way for us to know who is destined for us, what our soul’s path requires, and if we will merit our true “soulmate.” However one thing I do know for certain is that one of the best ways to draw our partner to us—married or not yet married—is to focus on our own personal spiritual work of becoming the best versions of ourselves and to focus less on what the other person needs to fix (if married) or on what we want our ideal mate to be like (if not married yet). We have no control over others or over G-d’s greater plan, but we do have some control over the person we are and are working to become. Somehow the magic happens and . . .
HURRAY! THE CHUPPAH IS FINISHED, SHEVA BRACHOT DONE!
Mazal tov! You found him or her and you’ve stomped the glass! All was (hopefully) delightful and now it’s time to send thank you notes and start to build a home together. At first things are amazing. You’re sharing time together, learning about each other more, and getting into a married-life rhythm. There are challenges here and there but you face them as a team and feel that together you can take on the world! Until that first major conflict . . .
I HAVE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE.
You are upset. You feel a knot in your stomach. You feel a bit nauseous. How can it be that this person, my other half, my “you complete me”, doesn’t do exactly as I say? How can he be so insensitive? Does she think I’m her child to order around? What happened to that perfect person I fell in love with and married? Was he or she replaced with an evil twin? After the initial shock of a first major argument one comes to realize that in fact our spouse is a person, and like all other people, he or she has strengths and weaknesses. We all have wonderful character traits and some wretchedly awful ones too. The beauty of marriage in its rawest form is that there is no hiding. Mistakes will be made. Words will be said. Regrets will be created. However there are blessings in everything and so the trick is to take those mistakes, words, and regrets and squeeze the lessons from them. It’s important to never get stuck in those less-than-perfect moments and consciously shift your view to see the glass as half-full . . .
OKAY, I’VE GOT THIS.
Somewhere within those first years of marriage the three parties who married under the chuppah—the bride, the groom, and G-d—will start to coalesce and gel into something that becomes its own creation, different and unique than any of the individual parties prior to the chuppah. This new formation or unit must find its own feet to stand on, its own code of ethics, its own pattern of living. For a Jewish couple, this can be done using the technology of Torah and mitzvot as foundations. Once this entity called “couple” begins to have its own unique identity, the work really begins. Much like a person drawing closer to G-d, working to draw closer to a spouse requires focus, dedication, empathy, attachment, vulnerability, willingness to admit wrong-doing, and generally an attitude of “I’ve got this.” In marriage you will be witnessed—for better or worse. You will be tested. You will be elated at times and at times brought down low. Regardless, marriage is the ultimate classroom, your process with your spouse is the ultimate curriculum, and shalom bayit (peace in the home) is your ultimate goal and reward.
HAPPILY EVERY AFTER . . .
Okay let’s just pop this bubble right now: “Happily ever after” is a Disney story, a completely fictitious affair. Got it? Get it out of your head that marriage can be, should be, or is . . . EASY. Most of us have a hard enough time managing our own ups and downs let alone those of our spouse and children. In today’s divorce-ridden society we simply do not know what will be, and the truth is we don’t need to know. What we DO need to know is that it is up to each and every spouse to show up—day in and day out—and to hold on to the idea in our heads that as long as we give 100% in the marriage then whatever the outcome it will ultimately be the best result for all involved. No matter what, if we fail to see that we are accountable to our spouse in marriage, it is imperative to be clear that we are accountable to HaShem in every moment of our lives.
Whether you wish to get married or are married, or wish to get un-married or re-married, take time this Shavuot to appreciate the ultimate marriage—that of HaShem to us, his people—and ask yourself how you are doing with that marriage in order to draw the strength you need to merit meeting and/or building a home with your partner in life. Part of the process of effective personal growth and relationship development is to take time to deeply reflect on lessons learned and lessons yet to be learned. The holiday of Shavuot provides a beautiful time and energy to do just that. Chag sameach!
By: Mia Adler Ozair
Mia Adler Ozair, MA, LPCC, NCC is a licensed clinical psychothera- pist and educator
with a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. Mia is licensed in both California and
Illinois and she can be reached through her
web- site at www.bhcounsel- ingcenter.com,
e-mail at mia@bhcounseling- center.com, office 310- 464-5226, or followed on Twitter