Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

It Takes a Village – And That Includes You!

Two prominent marriages are announced in this week’s Torah portion of Va’eira that provide the cornerstone for the remainder of the last four books of the Bible, commonly referred to as The Five Books of Moses.

And they are the marriages of Amram and Jochebed and Aaron and Elisheba .

  1. Amram took Jochebed, his aunt, as his wife, and she bore him Aaron and Moses, and the years of Amram’s life were one hundred thirty seven years.
  2. Aaron took to himself for a wife, Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

UNCONVENTIONAL MARRIAGE

As I mentioned in a prior blog, A Child’s Marriage Advice that Saved Our Nation, Amram and his wife Jochebed, did not have a conventional marriage in the sense of consistency in tenure. As written in Gemara Tractate Sotah 12a, Amram in reaction to Pharaoh’s evil decree actually proceeded to divorce his wife after the birth of his first son Aaron. All (the Jewish men) followed suit and proceeded to divorce their wives.

Miriam, his daughter, vociferously protested the divorce, and Amram accepted his daughter’s words and arose and brought back, i.e., remarried, his wife, and all others who saw this followed his example and arose and brought back their wives.

Foundations are Critical

The marriages of both Amram and Jochebed and Aaron and Elisheba as described above can be considered foundational for our heritage. It was the courage of Amram and Jochebed to re unite and demonstrate by example the significance of marriage.

Jewish marriage is actually defined as “an everlasting edifice.” In the book, A Happy Home, The Lubavitcher Rebbe on Marital Harmony[i], The Rebbe z”l responds to a letter describing the Foundations of the Jewish Home:

“A marriage is not only the beginning of a partnership, but the beginning of a union, where both partners become one and are united for life in order to set up an “everlasting edifice”, as mentioned in the text of the wedding blessings.”

The Future of Marriage

The late Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks z”l in an address on Marriage and the Family discussed the difficulty of sustaining marriage and the family.

His full address entitled Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on Family and Marriage may be viewed on the following link:

https://youtu.be/U_hbT3iZ2Wk

What resonated with me are his words about marriage: “believe me, it is not an optional extra when it comes to human happiness. It is not good for man to live alone, and therefore the importance of marriage and the family, I call love that becomes loyalty. That is the essential of human emotional literacy.”

After citing statistics and the impact of divorce on children, he asked “so how do you create a marriage and sustain it, I think it takes a GREAT DEAL OF SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS, FROM COMMUNITY, FROM TRADITION TO KEEP A MARRIAGE GOING… and celebrating that the divine presence is to be found in man and woman when they are joined in love. That is what sustains a marriage, and a marriage is what gives us a sense of happiness…”

The Impact of Marital Instability

As documented in The Case for Marriage Education, marital instability (i.e., lack of sustainability), which unfortunately has contributed to an increase in the number of divorces, has the following societal impact:

  • Increasing divorce rates are correlated with significant decreases in physical, mental and emotional health among divorced couples and with their children;
  • Increasing divorce rates are correlated with significantly decreased levels of education attainment among children of divorce, resulting in life-long impact on their earnings and professional attainment;
  • Increasing divorce rates are correlated with significantly decreased levels of productivity in the workplace, thus impacting corporate well-being and the national economy;
  • Increasing divorce rates are correlated with significantly increased costs of social services needed by families who experience divorce and have a significant impact on public resources, both local and national.

Time for the VILLAGE TO GET INVOLVED

The reference from Rabbi Lord Sacks z”l to the essential support needed by the friends, community and faith institutions for sustaining marriage is the epitome of what our amuta Together in Happiness has been advocating for over ten years.

As he eloquently stated, without the “Village” (i.e., the friends, community, and faith groups) lending its support – marriages become unsustainable!

So the proverbial question of “What is in it for Me” needs to be addressed.

 Sign Me Up

Going back to the biblical marriages and the eternal edifice included in the marriage blessings, it is vital to give full recognition to those proven vehicles for helping create healthy happy marriages. And prime among them is the critical importance of pre marriage and newlywed education.

 Pre Marriage education

Pre Marriage education is an excellent way to gain the skills and techniques that will protect a relationship and lead to a great marriage and a wonderful life.

It focuses on teaching the skills and principles associated with healthy and happy relationships. It differs from therapy in that it uses a structured curriculum and is guided by facilitators who usually work with small groups of engaged couples.

It is not therapy – couples generally participate in group workshops using structured curriculum guided by trained facilitators without sharing personal information to others outside of the couple.

Benefits of Pre marriage education

The major benefits are defined by Dr.  Scott Stanley in the article “Making a Case for Premarital Education.” They are as follows:

  • It can slow couples down to foster deliberation
  • It can send a message that marriage matters
  • It can help couples learn of options if they need help later
  • It can lower the risk for subsequent marital distress or termination in some couples

Preparation is one of the most powerful tools for ensuring the love you and your partner feel continues throughout a lifetime.

Solid foundations Make for Firm Buildings

As stated in A Happy Home, the true Jewish home, a joyful home full of light, has been formed over hundreds of generations in a variety of places and under the most diverse conditions. Its firm foundations were always trustworthy, solid and stable.

We owe it to our ancestors to work on what Rabbi Lord Sacks z”l deemed the “sustainable marriage” by joining together to support marriage related initiatives.

Join the Battle

Each of us has a responsibility to ensure the perpetuation of our people and supporting couples getting married. Our amuta Together in Happiness is committed to continue the battle to win the hearts and minds of those Villagers who can play a significant role in helping couples gain the proper foundations for marriage. And that includes government officials, rabbinical authorities, kallah and chatan teachers and other educators  down to the parents and other family members.

Without the support as Rabbi Sacks z”l predicted, the divorces will climb and our children’s future will be jeopardized, and with the support – our marriages will live a lifeline of support for generations to come and certainly bring the Redemption in its wake.

Contact us at info@together-in-happiness.com and demonstrate your interest in helping support marriage education initiatives

[i] A Happy Home The Lubavitcher Rebbe on Marital Harmony (Israel: Torah Or Center for spreading the wellsprings of Chassiduth,2010)pages 13-20

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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