Sunday, May 7, 2017


In the history of the world literature, many essays have been written on the purposes of marriage in our society. Some of the rationales include that it is the will of God, that it provides the couples fellowship, companionship, mutual help and comfort, that it is an expression of love, and is based on a commitment to share life's joys and sorrows. The biblical rationale for marriage is expressed in Gen. 2:18: "it is not good for man to be alone; I [God] will make a fitting helper for him." The Rabbis add, "he who has no wife is without goodness, without a helpmate, without joy without blessing and without atonement" (Gen. R. 17:2). 

Recently, I have been perusing through a classic commentary on the Pentateuch, written in the 18th century by Rabbi Jacob Culli of Turkey, which reflects the thinking of his time. The text was composed in Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish spoken by Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, and who lived in different parts of the Ottoman Empire . Commenting on the Genesis text above, "it is not good for  man to be alone," the author identifies four reasons for marriage that are charming and unique.

First of all, he stated that whoever refuses to marry remains without blessings, and that the ideal age of marriage is 18 but that it is better at the age of 13, however not before. And woe to him who marries only for money (p.150/1). 

The main benefits of marriage for men are: (I am translating the most important parts of the discussion):
1. God will take care of them, because of the friendship, peace and love that exist between the husband and wife.

2. Because he (the husband) will have someone to take good care of the house.
3. To avoid the sin of wasting semen. (Here, he mentions the case of a certain Rabbi who remained married , even though the wife was mean to him. The Rabbi stayed married, because she helped him avoid the greatest sin of wasting semen).
4. When he comes home from the store, he will find the meal prepared on the table, so he will have time to fulfill the divine commandments and he will be able to read for about an hour before going to sleep.

For the peace and tranquility of the house, the author also recommends that "the man should play dumb when it comes to the management of the house by his wife, and he should rather pretend to be sleeping , instead of pointing out to his beloved one what is wrong by shouting or quarreling with her for every mistake she makes" (p.263). 

Obviously, most of Rabbi Culli's list  of benefits and suggestions are patriarchal in nature and do not apply to our time. However, for the sake of tranquility of the house, he is not totally mistaken when he suggests that, once in a while, the husband should state, "Whatever you say, honey!"

Rabbi Rifat Sonsino, Ph.D
May 7, 2017