Marriage Made in Heaven
The concept of marriage does not apply only between men and women in Judaism; our entire relationship with G-d is considered a marriage. Today, Shavuot is our wedding anniversary, the day on which we received the Torah. Each and every year, we once again relive the giving of the Torah, our marriage to Hashem.
We received the Torah as an entire people, men, women and children; and we are taught that Har Sinai, the smallest and humblest of all the mountains, was held above our heads, symbolizing the chupah. When we received the Ten Commandments, this represented the giving of the ketubah, representing our love, commitment, respect, and responsibility within this relationship with G-d.
Every time a man and woman marry, as they stand under the chupah, it is a re-enactment of our wedding day with Hashem, the day we received the Ten Commandments. Therefore, I would like to look more deeply into these commandments and see how they can give not only spiritual advice for improving our marriages, but very practical and essential guidelines as well.
1. I Am the L-rd Your G-d Who Took You Out of Egypt, from the House of Slaves.
In this first commandment, the first word is Anochi. Anochi means "I" in Egyptian. Now why would Hashem start the first of the Ten Commandments, in a foreign language and not in Hebrew?
At that time, we, the Jewish people, had just come out of Egypt. Although we did use Hebrew, Egyptian had also become quite familiar to us. Hashem chose to communicate to us in a common language; some common ground with which to start off the relationship. This holds a lesson for us all.
The use of the word "Anochi", I, teaches us that Hashem put Himself, His very core, into the Torah. The lesson for us is that we must likewise put our heart and soul into our marriages.
2. Do Not Have Other Gods Before Me
Don't look at other men or women; don't compare your husband or wives to other peoples.
Focus on the good that is in your spouse, the things that matter. By recognizing them, you will strengthen them. Comparing only leads only to trouble. This is your spouse, there is no other.
3. Do Not Say Hashem's Name in Vain
Don't speak about your spouse lightly or needlessly. We sometimes have a tendency to put down our spouses in a laughing, joking way. Why? What is the point? What good can it possibly do?
4. Remember the Day of Shabbat and Keep it Holy
Shabbat is the day we strengthen our bond with Hashem, a day we spend time on spiritual pursuits.
Make time for your marriage. Take a day off, an evening away, some time with no phones, doorbells, or other distractions.
5. Honour Your Father and Your Mother
Take this literally. Honour your parents and your parents-in-law. It might be difficult at times. That is why it is a commandment. But if you make the effort to honour your parents and your in-laws, you will gain, and so will your children.
There is such a thing as too much involvement. The primary influence and focus after marriage should be one's spouse, not one's mother. When balanced, however, healthy and strong connections with the older generation are beneficial to everyone in the family.
6. Do Not Murder
The Torah commentator Ibn Ezra says the prohibition against murder means "with your hand or with your tongue." Verbal abuse as well as physical abuse is clearly forbidden.
When you speak cruelly to someone, you kill his or her character, you destroy their personality. As a spouse, recognize the power you hold. Make the effort to encourage, openly compliment, and express appreciation. If stealing someone's confidence through verbal cruelty is the equivalent of murder, then uplifting the confidence of another can only be the equivalent of giving them life.
Do not kill: don't kill their personality, their ability to succeed. Every husband and wife can and should be the cheering squad for the other.
7. Be Faithful
Well apart from the obvious what does it mean to be faithful? It means recognizing that there are areas of marriage that are private. It means that we don't reveal our personal issues to the public; that is betrayal. It means that both a man and woman should respect the private space and time within marriage as sacred and know that what happens there stays there. It means trust.
8. Do Not Steal
Give credit where it is due, it won't cost you anything. A man I know rather well gained his PhD. Whenever someone congratulated him, he replied, "The credit really goes to my wife. She took the kids out so it was quiet for me and she worked and supported us so I could study."
9. Do Not Bear False Witness
The commandment to be truthful reminds us to have honest and open communication in marriage.
Talk to each other! Say what is bothering you. We didn't receive the gift of prophecy under the chupah.
10. Do Not Covet
Don't be jealous. Now who would be jealous of their own spouse? Surprisingly such people exist.
In a lot of situations, especially if the woman is home with the children and her husband goes to work, they are jealous of their husbands' freedom. Every husband should bear in mind the burden that his wife carries, and try to help her as much as possible. In addition to that, he should appreciate and understand her. His verbal appreciation alone can lighten her load more than he can imagine.
Every wife should bear in mind that if she is unhappy and resentful, she should sit down with her husband and figure out what she can do to achieve satisfaction. Maybe she needs to get out and be in the company of other women. Maybe she needs to work additional hours. Maybe she needs to work fewer hours or stop working altogether. Perhaps she needs more help. Maybe there is one particular friend who is making her feel inadequate. Maybe she has Mother-in-law trouble, who knows? With a little thought and some discussion, she can figure out what she needs and she can stop being jealous of her husband.
The Ten Commandments apply to all aspects of our lives and in every situation. If we take a deep look at them we will find that through following these laws we will first be able to rectify ourselves, and from that, we will have the ability to rectify the world around us.