In this weeks letter, presented in honor of Shabbos Pesach, The Rebbe responds to one suggesting that when two people have good feelings towards one another – why the need for formal marriage and “legal agreement” – where the Rebbe clarifies the misconception of marriage as a mere “legal contract”. It is the sanctity of married life which played a large role in our survival of the Egyptian enslavement. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
24 Nissan, 5738
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter with enclosure. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in letting me know that you enjoy reading the “Thought of the Week.” Inasmuch as these thoughts are based on Torah, which declares that “the essential thing is the deed,” I trust that they have an impact, in some measure at least, on the actual daily life and conduct of the readers.
Moreover, since the mitzvah of v’ohavto lre’acho komocho is the Great Principle of our Torah, you surely endeavor to be a god influence in your surroundings, especially in view of the fact that you have a special standing in the society as a “Dr.” For it is a matter of common experience that when a person is prominent in a certain field, his influence extends also in other circles.
With regard to the problem of marriage which is the main subject of your letter, suggesting that when two people have good feelings towards one another there is no compelling reason why they should bind themselves by formal marriage and “legal agreement,” etc.
I trust it is unnecessary to explain to you at length that a human being is essentially different from the lower species, though he has certain needs in common with them, such as eating and drinking, etc. Hence, whereas in the case of the animal world these are purely instinctual functions, a human being is expected to elevate even his natural needs to a higher level of G-dliness, as expressed also in the dictum, “Know Him (G-d) in all your ways,” this is to say, whatever a Jew does it should be sanctified with G-dliness; which is why a Jew recites a benediction not only before doing a mitzvah, but also before eating and drinking, etc.
Certainly, when it comes to human feelings and personal relationship toward another person, it is not only unbecoming to place such a relationship on the level of the animal world, but the Torah strictly forbids it.
In your letter you speak of marriage in terms of a “legal contract,” etc. but surely you know that in the Torah and in Jewish life, marriage is designated as “Kiddushin” – a holy and sanctified union. Be it noted that since the Jewish people and every individual Jew became a “Hoy Nation” on receiving the Torah and mitzvos, there are many aspects in Jewish life that are not explicitly termed “kiddushin” – though all are to be sanctified to G-d (as mentioned above). Yet precisely marriage has so been termed and the formal declaration of the marriage ceremony is “Harei at mekudeshes li” – “Be thou sanctified unto me.”
All this goes to emphasize the sublime nature of the relationship between man and woman in Jewish life, which has its true expression in marriage “in accordance with the Law of Mosheh v’Yisroel”
This is why I must take the strongest exception – and I trust you will not take it amiss – to the view on marriage which you seem to advocate, which is based on a total misconception.
I am confident that on reflection, you will fully agree with all the aforesaid, notwithstanding how lightly marriage may be considered in the outside world – a world that is, sad to say, not noted for the excellence of it moral and ethical standards.
To conclude on the note of Pesach, the Festival of Our Liberation” which we have just celebrated, it is pertinent to mention that one of the reasons why our Jewish people were able to survive their enslavement in Egypt as a distinct people was the sanctity of their married life and the raising of their children in the way of G-d – even in the midst of a pagan and morally most depraved society. These were the children, as our Sages tell us, who proclaimed “This is my G-d!” and ensured the continuity and eternity of our Jewish people as a “Kingdom of Kohanim and a Holy Nation.”
The above letter is from The Letter and the Spirit by Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP).
These letters were written originally in English and were prepared for publication by Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, whose responsibility it was the Rebbe’s correspondence in English and several other languages.
We thank Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro, who was entrusted by his father-in-law Rabbi Mindel with his archives and who is Director of the Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), for making the Rebbe’s letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.