Photo: Avihu Shapira
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu
Photo: Avihu Shapira

Teachers, listen to Yael

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu responds to religious girl's open letter against early marriage



I read your letter and I felt your pain. Your letter pointed to a painful problem, a hasty wedding, and marriage without true love; painful divorce, and life without gratification.


It pained me to read that you think that Jewish law is about women making do without gratification. Somebody did not prepare you properly for married life. Your assumption is the complete opposite of everything I learned in the Talmud, in Shulchan Aruch, or anywhere within Jewish law. I learned that a man must love his wife as if she was his own body and to respect her more than he respects his own body. I learned that every man is obligated to make his wife happy even 20 years after marriage. He must woo his wife even on the 50th year of their marriage.


You must know, since you were three years old, that the entire Torah is based on love. "Love thy friend as thyself" – this is what the Torah is all about. And your husband must know that the first "friend" he must love is the woman.


I am not judging your husband here. I don't know him and I must not do it without hearing both sides of the story. Your own personal conclusions are also not a public matter. It is possible that in your case there is a need to invest more, rather than give up and end the marriage. This is what marriage counselors are for.


I think your letter includes a "cry" that must resonate. This cry is unrelated to the age of marriage. An older person can still reach marriage unprepared. Your cry must be directed at the education system. A system that should invest in preparing students for married life at least as much as it invests in math.


Don't blame the age of marriage. We all know dozens of couples who got married when they were about 20 years of age and are truly successful. Not everyone who gets married at that age is a "failure" and not everyone who gets married later is "successful." Statistics teach us exactly the opposite. The older one gets married, the lower the chance of loyalty and success. The reasons for this are clear.


Everything a person has done in life is carried with him. It is not always visible from the outside, but it's there. A person's past sometimes sticks around even after the wedding. Couples who get married at a later age bring their entire past into the marriage. At times, the past does not contribute to a clean and pure marriage.


Marriage is work 

The problem lies in the "preparation for life" and its implementation. I see it many times. Every couple who is about to get married hears from me that "marriage is work."


There are those who mistakenly think that it is possible to continue on the basis of the love that was there during the wedding. The initial love is the basis for marriage. Yet one must invest in married life just like one nurtures a tree planted in the ground. Even a fine tree cannot develop without regular care.


The public conclusion that emerges from you letter should be directed at every teacher and principal, and any education system, whether it is religious or secular. Any system must include more "preparation for life" and "preparation for marriage." There is nothing sillier than to teach a person French or British history before teaching a person how to select a partner.


Math and physics can wait while a person is being taught to overcome anger or to love; when a person is being taught to feel the partner; to live. Students must be taught to overcome problems; How to love and how to argue; how to come out of an argument stronger, rather than broken. (After that, we should also teach math and history.)


This is not only your problem. Let me tell you something encouraging: "If you feel that it is possible to ruin something, believe that it also can be fixed." We can. We have to. It's possible. Many have succeeded. Good luck.


פרסום ראשון: 02.20.08, 10:14
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