Rebbetzin Miriam Gross
Marriage is one of the “mysteries of creation.” Much water has flowed under the bridge since Adam and Chava, but marriage is still the number-one issue for so many people, and the myriad of marriage questions thrown in the lap of rabbis, rebbetzins, counsellors, teachers and others is rather fascinating.
One of the more common ones runs something like this:
I am confused and seeking help. How should I deal with a husband who thinks differently than I do about practically everything? The only thing we agree on is that we disagree so often. Ironically, when I married him I thought we were so much alike…
Before addressing this question, I want to backtrack and analyze a different one: When looking for a suitable shidduch, should one seek a similar personality or someone very different in character?
For some reason, people seem to strongly believe that being alike improves communication. But is that really so? Engaged couples love to say, “We are so much alike!” But they are likely in for a surprise. After all, every single human being is so complex that it’s basically impossible to find someone “just like me.”
Even if two people share numerous character traits, values, and opinions, they will soon discover that they really are two very distinct entities. And the reverse is also true. As different as two people may be, there will always be large areas of similarity between them.
So is it advisable to marry someone similar? Similar in what way? Imagine two people who both lose their temper easily and both like to be listened to. How compatible are they? Similarities can cause many clashes while contrasts can offer breath-taking relief. People are like magnets – opposites attract.
Hashem actually created the world this way. The Torah starts with beis – rather than the more logical alef – in order to introduce and encode duality in the wheels of creation. This message is reinforced by the rest of the first pasuk in Chumash: “Bereishis bara Elokim es…” “Es” merges two very opposite letters – alef and tav – the very first and last of the alphabet. Then we read: “hashamayim ve’es ha’aretz” – again two extremes, heaven and earth. Rashi reinforces this message by pointing out that even heaven (shamayim) is a mixture of two opposites, eish and mayim, fire and water.
The Ribbono Shel Olam has invited us to a world of conflicting forces, and the harmony of those contrasts is our “raison de vivre.” It is also how we accomplish tasks. Like teeth, we get the job done by meeting opposition and pushing against it.
The Torah states that a wife is an “ezer kenegdo,” a contradicting assistant! A person should never be convinced that his is the only correct approach to an issue. And instead of being aggravated by a different opinion, he should enjoy the hearing other views.
We have a tendency, once we form an opinion, to forcefully stick to it and reject other possibilities. But if we are smart, we will value other viewpoints. That is the secret contained in the first letter of the Torah. Chazal in the Midrash, correlate beis with berachah (blessing) – indicating that the beauty of creation and its “blessing” stems from a combination of different elements, like an orchestra of diverse instruments working in harmony.