With all the responsibility, pressure, money and work required to marry-off a child, comes the privilege of sharing some life-lessons as well. Pre-wedding, last-minute conversations, often over the kitchen countertop, can quickly turn into deep existential / practical advice-giving sessions that connect you with your child in ways perhaps too intimate to be had previously.
These are precious moments — where father & son open and share life experiences, perspectives and wisdom never explored together before.
In addition to my astonishment at the depth and quality of my son’s understandings, was the nachas (pleasure) I received from his openness and inquisitiveness about the secrets of married life. While I learned a lot from him, I conveyed a message which I believe is worth sharing.
Getting to know Her
Raised in a family with five boys, and then a girl, our eldest son has had rare interaction with girls and women. Other than with his mother and some brief conversations with his female cousins, I’m not sure our 23 year-old boy has ever sustained a prolonged dialogue with a member of the opposite sex (yes, I’m presuming gender here). Dating for the first time — actually sitting across the table with a female — was a brand new experience for him.
Surprisingly, he handled it like a pro (must take after his dad). But as things became more serious, some differences in her feminine mannerisms threw him for a loop. He was not used to having such long conversations, quickly moving from point to point, focusing not so much on what happened, but on the feelings that each detail elicited. He was surprised at how concerned she was about the way he behaved in public, and confused when she announced that after the wedding, she was going to throw-out all his clothes, and immediately take him on a desperately needed shopping trip.
From the men in our community, he was not only inundated with marriage jokes, but also bombarded with the importance of how to honor your wife and make her happy. “A woman represents the Schina — Gd’s divine presence in this world”. “Honor your wife and make her your queen — know that she is your gift from above”. Even my eleven-year-old chimed in “Don’t forget – Happy wife, Happy life!”.
Amidst all the humor and important advice, I had my chance to share something as well. “Please son, don’t forget that getting married is only part of your journey, not the end. Gd wants that you find a wife, raise a family, and bring good people into the world. Your marriage is not your mission — it is the medium through which Gd wants you to fulfill your mission. And your wife — she is a partner, a gift, that Gd is giving you to join you in your mission. You must honor her, protect her, and treat her with utmost dignity if you want her help. Be the captain of your ship, with her at your side, bringing the next generation of humanity into the world.”
“But Dad, what if we are not happy?”
“That’s a problem, for sure. But don’t forget, being happy together, while important, is not the goal. Raising a family, bringing the next generation of children into the world, supporting and protecting your family, is. There may be times that you are unhappy, and with her — it happens. But just because two crew-members don’t get along sometimes, does that mean that we turn the ship around? Does that mean that we abandon ship and leave the passengers stranded? You are the captain of your ship, and your mission is to take your passengers — your family — to the next port, so that they can continue the mission.
Keep in mind that she is Gd’s gift to you that you should become the man that you are capable of, and she is part of that process. And at times, you may not always feel happy. With hard work and Gd’s help, you will have an amazing marriage and share a wonderful journey together.”
I like that message. I don’t hear people talking about the purpose of marriage much nowadays, other than personal satisfaction. And while I’m all into personal satisfaction, it is important to raise our consciousness a bit and focus on the end-goal every once in awhile.
May we merit the ultimate and final next-port with the coming of the redemption, immediately.