By Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld
I once heard a beautiful vort in the name of Dayan Ehrentrau of the United Kingdom. Why is it that in the Kesubah it states that “I will work (eflach) and will value you (V’Okir)” as it seems to be out-of-order. In the “Derech Ha’Olam” a person finds a mate, values her, makes a commitment, and then goes to work for the family. Yet here the order is reversed as work is mentioned before the term of endearment!
Rav Ehrentrau stated that the phrase may be read as one complete unit. Thus, the Kesubah is stating the following:”I will work hard on valuing you.” Relationships do not come easy. They require constant work, good communication, and good listening skills. We need to work on the process of making our mate dear to us.
I professionally work as a divorce mediator. I guide people through an amicable way of attaining a divorce agreement. Some years ago, a nurse was getting me ready for some medical procedures. When she found out what I do, she asked why I think so many young people are now divorcing. (This is unfortunately becoming more common in our communities as well.) I told her that I believed that we live in a society where everything has become disposable. You need a new ipad, well give away your old one. Your car is two years old, then it is time for a new lease. I opined that we have done the same with relationships. At the sign of marital trouble, we can work diligently on the issues or start with a new relationship. We often do the latter. Someone recently wrote that in some frum circles, a divorce is celebrated. This celebration is “sponsored” by friends who are also divorced, as they jointly welcome a new member to their ranks. A sad turn of events. We need to put a premium on making marriages successful. There is no substitute for the refrain of Rav Ehrentrau’s vort:”I will work hard on valuing you.”
I recently had a discussion with a Rav from Rockland County about the need to stem the growth of divorces among Bnai Torah. A thought occurred to me. To practice as an attorney, you must take Continuing Education courses to update your skills. This is true for therapists, physicians, and many others. Perhaps the time has come to encourage couples, young and old, to take a minimum of 2-3 course/Shiurim a year on issues of Shalom Bayis. Suggested topics could be communication, forgiveness, patience, commitment, etc. There are organizations that could be in the forefront of such efforts. Rabbanim could devote drashos to such topics. A day of learning could be devoted to such Torah thoughts. The possibilities are endless but the Hamon Am have to demand such approaches. What would happen if a Vaad began with the stated purpose of making such Shiurim accessible. The bargain would be this: Couples need to commit to taking a number of Shiurim each year on topics concerning the marital relationship, and relevant courses will be offered to the community. The possibilities are endless. Batei Din could offer such Shiurim as well. We need to be communally more proactive in this area as well as creative in our planning.
One article will not change the way our communities operate. I have no delusions about this. But I do have another suggestion that is easy to implement. Many of us know about an agreement signed by couples before marriage, known as a pre-nuptial agreement. This document serves as a guide for what will happen if the couple gets divorced. (On occasion it merely serves as a guide for what will happen with the estate when one party dies, but this can best be done by a proper will.) There is a document known as a post-nuptial agreement. This is an agreement signed after the marriage. I would like to make a proposal to individual readers as a way to enhance their marriage relationships. Why not compose your own post-nuptial agreement? What will it cover? Perhaps a commitment to take courses each year in matters that can enhance your relationship. You may wish to consider a commitment to make one night each month your own “date night”. Perhaps you will go to Shul together more often. The possibilities are limitless. What is important is that you “work on making your relationship valued and treasured.
If you do not like the options outlined above, make you own program. Our marital relationships are no longer guaranteed to last “Biz 120”. The challenges are great and the societal pulls are mighty. However, we are not free to simply write off the need to do what we can to give our most precious relationship greater “chizuk”. Work hard on valuing your spouse. The effort will be well worth it.
Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld is a family mediator in Fair Lawn, NJ. He may be contacted at 201.794.4545 or Rosenfeld@Juno.Com