Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Wedding Celebrations that Even Corona Cannot Dampen

One fascinating byproduct of the Corona is the ever changing restriction on the number of people who may attend a wedding. Over the course of Corona, the restriction has changed from the equivalent of a backyard barbeque limit to upwards to 200. And yet despite the regulations, weddings continue to be celebrated even if they require more creative preparations and more attendees are left to witness the wedding on Zoom versus actual participation. For these couples proceeding with the wedding and married life is of paramount importance. And that is cause for celebration as a victory over Corona.

The Wedding of the Century

Today commemorates the 92nd anniversary of a couple whose wedding also had major challenges to overcome. On the 14th of Kislev, 1928, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson z”l, married Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn z”l (1901-1988).  As I wrote in a prior blog “A Wedding Celebration and Marriage Lessons for Eternity,” by firsthand accounts, it was an extraordinarily joyous event bringing together religious figures from all corners.

And yet, similar to the obstacles caused by Corona, this wedding also had to overcome debilitating circumstances.  The fact that the wedding venue was Warsaw, Poland was completely due to the dark historical circumstances of the times as shown by the fact that the bride’s father, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, had been persecuted by the Soviet authorities for his religious activities and, following his recent release from prison, fled the Soviet Union, never to return.

Also, while the crowd at the wedding included many notable rabbis and communal figures, two guests of honor were conspicuously absent – Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s own parents, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak and Chana Schneerson, who were prohibited by the Soviet authorities from attending. The couple had actually delayed the wedding in the hopes that the communist government would relent and permit the parents to attend the wedding, and only when it was clear that such a permission was not forthcoming did the wedding proceed.

This fascinating video provides the background depicting the historical challenges and yet the elation of the wedding itself.

What is all the Fuss About?

The real question behind all of the weddings and the elaborate modifications that are required as demonstrated above – is why get married in the first place?

As I mentioned in the blog, “A Wedding Celebration and Marriage Lessons for Eternity,” the marriage of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin not only represented the union of two distinctive Chabad families, but also allowed for a glimpse into what marriage should represent.

Marriage as a Foundation

In the book The Edifice, from the life and teachings of the Rebbe, the Rebbe states:

“At a Jewish wedding, we bless the couple that their home be “an everlasting edifice.” This is not a poetic expression but a literal prescription for success. Just as a physical structure requires a solid foundation, a marriage must be founded on eternal Jewish tradition, teachings, and observance if it is to withstand the test of time.”

Other Rabbinic experts weigh in on the topic

It is noteworthy to also present what other Rabbinic marital experts have cited as a definition of the marital partnership.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin

In the book A Tzaddik in Our Time, the story is told that one of Rabbi Aryeh Levine’s students of marriageable age was about to embark on the seas of matrimony. So he came to Reb Aryeh and asked,” How should I behave toward my wife? How should I treat her?”

Reb Aryeh looked at him in wonder. “How can you ask a question like that? A wife is like your own self. You treat her as you treat yourself.” And indeed when his own good wife Hannah felt pains he went with her to Dr. Nahum Kook and told him, “My wife’s foot is hurting us…”

Rabbi (and Rosh Yeshiva) Aharon Feldman

Also according to Author Aharon Feldman in his book The River the Kettle and the Bird, marriage is the natural state of man and it improves every dimension of life. In fact, man exists on a physical level on an emotional level and on a spiritual level and on each of these levels, marriage provides vital benefits. He goes on to say that nothing can be as meaningful or as encompassing as the goal of making one’s home a sanctuary for Hashem a home built on Torah and mitzvoth.

Rabbi Simcha Cohen

According to Rabbi Simcha Cohen in the book “What did you Say” ,the English version of his best selling Hebrew “HaBayit Hayehudit” through marriage,  “each partner seeks to satisfy a deep seated need planted within from the day he or she was created:

  • to live with a kindred spirit,
  • to fulfill the emotional needs of the other
  • to receive warmth, encouragement and appreciation in return
  • and to be accepted and loved for who he or she is.”

The Wedding That Never Ends

So now that the reasons for marriage are articulated, how may we continue to achieve what the Rebbe describes in The Edifice as the “Wedding (that) Never Ends?”

According to the Rebbe:

“Man and woman are opposites – they cannot remain united without constant help from a higher power. It follows that one must “Get married” anew each day, tapping into the spiritual energy of the wedding day to renew and strengthen the bond with one’s spouse. This should be done with the same joy that was felt under the wedding canopy.”

A Promising Solution

One of the most promising ways to “Get married” every day is to make the decision to invest in the marriage. The best time of course to get marriage off on the best foot is prior to and during the first year of marriage. Here is the rationale for the recommendation:

Premarital education is particularly effective when couples are first starting out. Young people are quick learners and at this stage in their relationship, they don’t have years of embedded habits and resentments which need to be counteracted. The logic of learning effective relationship skills is irrefutable.

According to Professor Howard J. Markman, the co- developer of PREP (Prevention Relationship Education Program), a premier marriage education curriculum program, (and the program with whom our non profit has the exclusive partnership to operate in Israel) premarital education is very effective at counteracting the dynamics of negative communication and mismanaged conflict, because we can help couples improve their communication and improve their conflict management, thereby improving their satisfaction over time and preventing divorce.

In prior blogs, I have presented my new bold plan for rallying the troops to embrace and participate in the marriage education movement – the Project Chayei Sarah outlines the basis for participation.

The Decision is in Our Hands

We can as a society make a decision – to support and encourage the couples who bravely proceed with the wedding despite Coronavirus and its limitations. During these turbulent days, every couple will need the fortification that marriage education presents.

On this auspicious day of celebration of the 92nd anniversary of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson and Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn z”l, we can make a commitment to make our marriages a priority for the benefit of generations to come. And in doing so, we have the proper response to Corona – nothing will defeat us – our survival as a people depends on decisions we make today – Join the marriage education movement and be part of the solution.

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