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Chabad Lubavitch E-Torah - A Good Marriage

by Rabbi Altein, September 16, 2011

This Shabbat is the 18th day of Elul, the last month before the Jewish New Years. Beginning with this Shabbat, there remain only 12 days to this year, one day for each of the 12 past months. Each of these days provides us with a final opportunity to correct the shortcomings of one of 12 months that have passed, so that the New Year will begin with a fresh, clean slate.


The number eighteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew word “Chai” meaning life, so the 18th of Elul is also called “Chai Elul.” This day marks the birthday of the founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and it is also the birthday of the founder of Chabad Lubavitch, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. These two great teachers of Chassidism were born on “Chai” Elul—“Chai” meaning life—because their teachings infused new life, joy and warmth into Judaism.

Our sages compare the relationship of the Jew and G d to the relationship of a husband and wife. It is no secret that our current relationship to G-d needs some improvement. And, sadly, the institution of marriage in today’s world is also in desperate need of improvement. Both marriage and religious observant require deep commitment, and that is something that is becoming harder to find, nowadays.

This is where Chassidic teaching has much to offer.

Let’s begin with marriage. Sometimes people will marry because they are attracted to each other and each anticipates the personal satisfaction and pleasure that he/she can gain from the marriage. That kind of marriage can work as long as each is able to satisfy the other’s desires. But as soon as they hit the disappointments and struggles that come with real life, that relationship will crumble. A relationship cannot endure if its foundation is only pleasure.

True love is when one is totally consumed with the other’s needs, no matter what the challenge of personal discomfort. Religious marriages that are based on commitment rather than pleasure are much more endurable and bring much blessing. And in a marriage based on deep commitment, the inadequacy of a spouse is forgiven and forgotten.

The same is true of the Jew’s relationship to G d. Not all religious Jews Chassidim. The difference is in the attitude and in the depth of commitment. To some people, life’s purpose is to achieve pleasure and personal gain. And these people might even become religious if doing so will provide them with recognition and social status. The level of Jewish observance of such a person is very flimsy. If one’s goal is pleasure and personal gain, then what will happen when it becomes tough to be Jewish?

Chassidism offers a totally different outlook. It teaches the beauty and meaning of Torah. It imbues the Jew with true dedication to the ideals of Judaism and it teaches the value of every Jew. A Chassid’s goal in life is not self, but to help others, to contribute to the betterment of the world at large and particularly to every Jew. The study of Chassidism inspires a Jew with such depth of that no difficulty can shake it.

And when our relationship to G-d is based on deep commitment, He responds with that same level of commitment and love to us and forgives and forgets our inadequacies and spiritual failings. Chassidism imbues the month of Elul with Chai—with life and warmth and allows us to begin the New Year freshly invigorated.

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