Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on the Chassidic Perspective of Marriage by Rabbi H. Reichman
A Jewish marriage is a sacred bond, which echoes the bond between G-d and the Jewish People. This series of classes, based on the Chassidic teachings of the Sochatchover Rebbe, the Shem Mishmuel, presents both philosophical insights and practical comments on the unique beauty of the Jewish marriage.
In Judaism, marriage is considered one of the most pivotal events in a person’s life. The first story in the Torah concerning people is the story of the marriage of Adam and Chava. Additionally, the first mitzva in the Torah is peru urevu, to build a family, which our Sages consider a very great mitzva. In today’s permissive society, the institution of marriage is under severe attack. The more we know and the better we understand what marriage is all about, the stronger our bond will be.
The Shem MiShmuel takes a penetrating look at the concept of nisuin by analyzing the seven blessings recited under the chupa. He begins with the first bracha, “Shehakol barah l’chvodo, who has created everything for his honor.” This blessing applies to all of creation, why did Chazal place it as the first of the sheva brachot? The Shem MiShmuel answers this question by introducing a fundamental concept that is at the heart and soul of marriage.
There seems to be a clash between our physical and spiritual reality. Physicality appeals to our baser instincts and, if unguided, pulls us away from Hashem. Spirituality drives us to develop our inner selves and draw closer to our Creator. How can marriage, which seems to be merely a physical event or at best a means to continue the human species, be considered a core mitzva of the Torah?
He answers that marriage is really a spiritual experience. In the first blessing of sheva brachot we affirm that the union of man and woman is only to increase the honor of Hashem. Physicality is not antithetical to spirituality, but a means to glorify His name. Our purpose on this world is to find Hashem within the physical realm. The Chassidic masters called this l’galot et hanizozot, to discover the sparks of spirituality embedded in the natural world. Indeed, this is not only Chassidic philosophy but a critical part of our revealed Torah. Many mitzvot can only be fulfilled with our physical bodies such as putting on tefilin, eating matza, and sitting in the suka.
When Balak and Bilam plotted to curse the Jews, their motive was to keep them in the desert. They claimed that the holy nation of Israel should continue praying, studying Torah, and being involved in spirituality exclusively. Entering the land of Israel would mean facing physical reality. They said, “Let this world be our domain. Let’s not mix spirituality into it.”
Marriage involves finding the sparks of divinity within the physical world. Hashem gave us physical bodies so we could learn how the physical and spiritual aspects of our life are intertwined. The purpose of creation was not for man to escape or avoid the challenges of the physical world. Rather, Hashem placed our souls down on earth so that we would pass the tests of life with flying colors and emerge greater for the experience. When the Vilna Gaon asked the Dubno Maggid to give him rebuke he told him, to be a Vilna Gaon closed up in a room is a great accomplishment, but to remain a gaon in the streets of Vilna or in the Russian forest, is an even greater feat. The Gaon began to cry and immediately left Vilna that night. He wandered through Europe for three years and his sojourn left a lasting impact on his spiritual development.
Marriage is the first and possibly the prime place where the melding of physicality and spirituality takes place. A marriage that is focused exclusively on physical attraction is doomed to failure because all physical things eventually deteriorate. A Jewish couple sees their marriage as a divine union. They know they are bound in an infinite, eternal connection. Their marriage exists because of Divine will, it is the place where the Divine Presence rests, and where spiritual sparks can develop and grow. Creating an abode where the honor of Hashem can increase is the essence and sanctity of a Jewish marriage.