Joy in Marriage

Nov 26, 2014

Joy finds its heights in marriage, and joy, so important for all human interactions, is crucial in marriage. The following sources range from the halakhic to the mystical to the practical.

The Blessing
The blessing made at the wedding is a blessing over joy. The last blessing of the sheva brakhot blesses G-d “. . . who created joy and happiness, the chatan (groom) and the kalla (bride), rejoicing, song, exulting and gaiety, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship . . . .” and closes, “Blessed are You, Hashem, who causes the groom to rejoice with the bride.”

The Mitzva
G-d in the Torah actually commands the chatan to give joy to his new wife for the first year of their marriage. “When a man takes a new wife he should not go out to the army nor be involved in any aspect of army service (even non-combat). Rather, he should be free to be at home for a year and bring joy to the wife whom he married.” (Devarim 24:5) According to Torah law this grants him an exemption from normal army service for that year.

Hagaon Rav Shelomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l used to tell chatanim: The army exemption lasts for a year, but the end of the verse, “He should bring joy to his wife . . .” stands independent in the verse. The obligation to bring joy to one’s wife is for a lifetime. (Hatorah Hamesamachat, by Yosef and Ruth Eliahu)

Note the focus on the obligation to make another happy, as opposed to being in a situation where you are happy.

The Wedding
Why is a wedding so joyous? Why do the sages say that “One who brings joy to the bride and groom is as one who rebuilt the ruins of Jerusalem”?

The Nesivos Shalom (the late Slonimer Rebbe, zt”l) shares an idea:

Joy is rooted in the “world of building” and through it both physical and spiritual building are successful. Sadness is connected with the “world of destruction”.

Joy has a powerful influence on the chatan and kalla at the opening of their marriage when they are building their home. The intense joy of their wedding brings them into the world of building, to build a house of holiness and purity.

This is called building one of the ruins of Jerusalem. for Jerusalem was called “the joy of the earth” (Tehillim 48). The Medrash (Shemot Rabba, end of Shemot) tells us that no sadness entered Jerusalem. There was a special place right outside Jerusalem called the “Dome of Calculations” where people would go to make calculations — so that they should not come to sadness in Jerusalem, “the joy of the earth,” and harm its lofty level.

Creating Divine Completion
The Maharal (paraphrased from Netivot Olam, Netiv Gemilut Chasadim, Chapter 4) on the joy of the wedding:

The unity of a man and a woman involves the Divine bringing into being of a new existence in the world. When a man and woman marry the two letters of the Divine Name — the yud in the word “ish” and the hei in the word “isha” — come together. This is because their unity is a Divine one. By nature, the man and the woman are separate; their connection is possible because of their spiritual unity. When they come together , Divine perfection and completion is formed. When there is completion there is joy; and G-d forbid, when there is a lack there is mourning.

One who makes the chatan and kalla happy merits the five sounds (kol sasson vekol simcha, kol chatan vekol kalla, kol mitzhalot chatanim meichupatan . . . ); because he has helped bring about Divine unity he merits total ease, a spreading out into all four directions and the middle that they unite at. This is the significance of the 5 sounds — for sound spreads out.

Bringing Joy into Marriage
“Receive everyone with a pleasant countenance.” Shamai in Pirkei Avot (1:15)

Rav Simcha Cohen elaborates in Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home): Everyone is naturally concerned about whether others love them and value them. A smile speaks openness to another, respect, value, and joy. When one meets another and does not smile, it might communicate to another, “You’re not important to me = I’m not excited to see you.” Shamai spoke about all people, but all the more so, this is crucial for a married couple.

A couple that smiles when their eyes meet are communicating a subconscious message: I value you, you are important to me. Especially crucial: the moment a husband walks in the door from work.

Joy and Peace of Mind
Happy is the home that is a dwelling place for joy. Real joy can only be found where there is peace of mind, true rest that a person’s soul desires. Even a person who’s day on the outside is full of anger and anxiety — can return home to rest and tranquility. Joy out of “menucha”. (From Rabbi Eliahu Kitov’s “Ish Uveito”)

A Vegetable Peeler
Even a vegetable peeler can bring joy.

Hagaon Rav Shelomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l visited the sukka of Hagaon Rav Avigdor Nebenzhal shlita in 5740 (1979). A student took advantage of the situation and asked how much a husband should spend on clothing for his wife in order to fulfill the mitzva of making her happy on the holiday. A halakhic discussion dealt with different sides of the issue and then Rebbetzin Auerbach zt”l commented with a smile, “When the invention of the vegetable peeler reached Jerusalem, the Rav bought one for me in order to bring me joy on the holiday . . . It was really very practical. . . .” (Hatorah Hamesamachat, by Yosef and Ruth Eliahu)

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