The Natural Tension in Marriage

By J.J. Polter, Oak Park, Michigan
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

Here’s a proposition i’d like to suggest: The concept of Marriage is like a liberal Democrat living together with a conservative Republican.

Allow me to explain: There is a concept in Chassidus that Hashem attempted to first create the world specifically through Middas HaChessed, (Overbearing kindness). When this didn’t work, He tried creating a world specifically through Middas HaGevurah (Overbearing judgment/strictness). And when this didn’t work, he combined both Chessed and Gevurah together, and the world stood.

What does all this mean, and why is this necessary? Well, i’d like to believe that there is a direct correlation between today’s political world, the world we currently live in, and this concept brought in chassidus more than 200 years old.

Allow me to explain as follows: The position of a typical liberal democrat is roughly the same as Middas HaChessed. Think about it. They want nothing more than the good of all people. Social Justice, Welfare, ObamaCare, equal rights, affordable education, and much more. Essentially, they are the epitome of Chessed. Perhaps Chessed doesn’t neccessarily translate into “equal rights and social justice”, but Chessed, at least at its most basic level, simply wants the good of all. Giving, which is perhaps THE most fundamental virtue of the democratic party, is the very core of what Chessed is really all about.

However, let me be clear: i do not claim to say that every liberal (or even a single liberal, for that matter), acts in a manner that truly benefits society as a whole. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Liberals tend to preach about all the good they are doing for the sake of humanity, but when it comes to their actions, they perform far less than they say they do, sometimes even harming the people because of their inactivity on behalf of their political dispositions. This is one of the biggest arguments against them (usually emanating from conservative, republican, or even religious parties). In spite of all this, the sheer purpose of the democratic party, at its most basic level, is to perform acts of goodness and kindness for the betterment of all of humanity, regardless whether its members, followers or affiliates adhere to this, and act upon it, or not. Effectively, this truly is Chessed in its purest form; sacrificing oneself for acts of goodness and sheer kindness for all of the humanities.

The torah explicitly states that the Middah of Chessed was especially attributed to Avraham Avinu (the forefather Abraham), and this is clearly expressed on numerous occasions throughout. Arguably the most known instance is where Avraham hurriedly ran to welcome and feed three angelic guests all sorts of delicacies, warmly offering whatever they pleased, catering to even the most discriminating palates. Separate dishes of meat and milk were prepared accordingly, and Sarah contributed as well, baking three fresh loaves of bread. Oh, and Avraham did all of this on the third day after he had circumcised himself. if that doesn’t scream ‘Chessed’, well then, i don’t know what does.

Isaac, however, was a bit of a different story. He was the epitome of Gevurah. True, he shared the same level of respect and admiration for G-d’s will, but he performed Torah and mitzvos in a different manner. With Issac, one needed to prove himself; there were no free lunches. Again, the trait of Gevurah which was so specifically attributed to him can be clearly seen in another instance, just several chapters later, in Parshat Toldot. In order to receive the heavenly blessings, Yaakov (Jacob) and Eisav (Esau), fought each other to the death, (well, almost anyway) to merit having the blessings bestowed upon them. A clear and concise proof to the undeniable truth that Issac epitomized Gevurah. You need to EARN the blessings, or they won’t be given to you.

To a certain extent, the same is true within each and every one of us, in our very own lives. In the book of Tehillim (Psalms) it is written “Through the toil of your hands, shall you eat”. This essentially means that one needs to toil physically and sweat to earn a livelihood, to sustain himself and his family, and that most nothing is given. As a famous author once said “For anything worth having, one must pay the price…and that price is always hard work, patience, and self-sacrifice”. However, although Gevurah is crucial to achieve a sense of responsibility, a harboring of good ethics, and an advancement of life’s goals, (all fundamental values of the conservative world) Chessed plays an equally important role in the day to day life of the individual, which can clearly be seen in the third and final forefather, Yaakov.

Yaakov (Jacob), was of a different mold entirely, He epitomized the attribute of Tiferes (Beauty). He achieved this attribute by fusing together both attributes – the one of Chessed as well as the one of Gevurah – together into one unit. This is the reason Yaakov was given a second name; because he embraced Gevurah (and realized its necessity) just as much as Chessed. Think about it: Yaakov’s birth name (whose root is “Eikev”-meaning “Heel”), symbolizes Chessed, in the same way Eisav provided Yaakov with a Chessed by allowing him to grab onto the ‘Eikev’, or ‘Heel’ of his foot, thus enabling him to leave the womb of his mother. Similarly, anyone who embraces Chessed is essentially giving of himself, even if its a mere ‘Heel’ alone, and nothing more. Chessed is not possible if one is not willing to give of himself; it doesnt need to be overly excessive, and in fact, there is a potential harm in doing so, lest one becomes too involved with caring for and pleasing others, whilst not caing enough for himself, which happens all too often. However, Chessed mandates that one give of himself at least a miniscule amount, that being at least a ‘Heel’s worth’ of care and compassion. Yaakov was the embodiment of this type of Chessed; caring just enough about others, while not getting too caught up in this compassion. He embraced Chessed just enough, while reserving the rest of himself for Gevurah. Yaakov’s second, given name, (the one given to him by G-d), Yisroel-Israel is comprised of the two words “Yashar” and “El”, which loosely translate to ‘The righteous G-d’. However, literally, “Yashar” translates into “Straightforward”, which is often a product of Gevurah. Conservative, right-winged individuals, who are usually more serious, goal-oriented, and traditional, are often, as a result, more “straightforward” as well. These concepts and ideas more or less define Gevurah, which teaches structure, responsibility, consistency, and purpose. Essentially, people who are more ‘Gevurah-like’, are often more conservative, and, as a result, more straightforward as well. Yaakov’s straightforwardness was a product of his name Yisroel, which signified and empitomized the Gevurah side of G-d. Thus, we can very clearly see how both names, Yaakov, and Yisroel, symbolizing both the attribute of Chessed and the attribute of Gevurah, contributed to create the perfect fusion of Gevurah and Chessed, combining them into a one, symmetrical whole.

In addition, yaakov’s own life was fraught with this fusion of Chessed/Gevurah. Such as the time when Eisav came to fight Yaakov in retaliation to Yaakov’s stealing the Blessings from him. Yaakov displayed both aspects of Gevurah as well as Chessed, in that he both prepared for war accordingly, assembling troops, and the like, yet he was also ready and willing to pray and make peace with his brother, and in fact, that being the preferable outcome, is what indeed transpired.

The point is clear. Yaakov utilized both facets of Chessed (making peace with his brother, a fundamental aspect of Chessed), and Gevurah (imploring his brother to create peace and let bygones be bygones), thus creating the ultimate bond between them, creating the brand new entity of Tiferes.

So what is the purpose in all of this? For what reason are any of the forefathers relevant to this topic? And, most importantly, how does this all factor into the the concept of marriage, the headliner of this article?

The answer to all these questions can be answered with but one simple solution: it is only through the Chessed of Avraham, the Gevurah of Yitzchok, and the Tiferes of Yaakov, which is essentially the fusion of Chessed and Gevurah, that one can achieve a perfect harmony within his relationships. Every single relationship needs a something called a Push-Pull factor. The Push-Pull factor is a balance of Gevurah and Chessed, by combining the ‘Push’ of Gevurah, and the ‘Pull’ of Chessed. Let me explain: by implementing the Conservative ‘Push’ of getting things done, maximizing your life’s goals, creating and giving, instead of relaxing and taking, fulfilling and pursuing dreams, all traits of a conservative mind, one essentially ‘Pushes’ himself to be self-motivated, consistent, and responsible. By contrast, merely ‘Pushing’, oneself is not enough, lest he turn into a heartless robot, without a care in the world toward the feelings or emotions of another, including, G-d forbid, his own spouse; a vital ingredient in the secret recipe for a happy marriage., and ultimately, a happy life as well. This is where the ‘Pull’ factor comes in. you see, the ‘Pull’ factor essentially embodies Chessed, for Chessed is a ‘Pull’ from the mundanities of the world, the physicalities of self-embetterment, in order to pursue a deeper connection; one that essentially ‘Pulls’ one another to their spouse through the attribute of Chessed. Yes, Chessed, the liberal-based kindness that, although in certain respects fails to achieve much of their personal goals, seeks to better the world around them, and, in this case, when dealing with one’s spouse, the betterment of ones spouse.

Put it this way: think of someone extremely responsible you know in your personal life. Be it a friend, relative, or someone else, it doesn’t really make much of any difference. Have you noticed, that more often than not, they are less in-tune to their emotion, and more focused on self-betterment rather than helping the masses? Most people who are conservative, goal oriented, Gevurah-like people tend to focus inward more, while liberals, outward. That is often why liberal, feelings-oriented people often care less about themselves, and more about others. Obviously the issue is that if one doesn’t value himself, or care to better himself enough, before attending to the needs of others, he will likely have a very difficult time focusing on the needs of others, despite his perseverance in assisting the world. Like it says, “Beautify yourself before attempting to beautify the masses”. Those words have always rung true, and how much more so these days, when people all across the world are losing their minds in midst of the madness. Even if you personally have never seen anyone, or know of anyone like this, you most certainly have a friend or someone you know who knows someone like this.

However, have you noticed how Liberals act when they truly perform good deeds and kindness? Here’s where Conservatives take the blow. While Conservatives are often more focused on their personal lives rather than tending to the needs of others, or even bothering to listen to others, for that very matter, liberals attempt to rectify the mistakes of the past, and bring joy to the hearts and minds of millions of people across the globe, thus helping the masses is an abundant number of manners. When liberals get it right, they tend to be better, and often more righteous people than the greatest conservative in the world. These are the facts, and they are undoubtedly undeniable.

And when people fuse all of these together, the ‘Push-Pull’ factors of both Gevurah and Chessed, (which, in today’s day and age, roughly mirror the conservative and liberal viewpoints in the United States, and the world over, for that matter,) by combining the positives of Chessed-Avraham and the positives of Geburah-Yitzchok, you achieve a successful, happy, goal oriented, caring, loving, responsible, dedicated, devoted, consistent, fulfilling, kind, respectful, beautiful, incredible marriage, and life-the very life yaakov lived every single-one of Tiferes. That perfect fusion brought a subliminality to Yaakov’s life which had never existed in any of the forefathers till that point, and when Yaakov combined both Gevurah and Chessed, he created a recipe for perfection. Something we should all aspire to be in our own lives.

Finally, this is what is meant by what is written:“Only when Hashem created the world with Middas HaChessed and Middas HaGevurah, did the world stand”. For each of them on their own would create a lopsided value-system. Gevurah alone could never last. Neither could Chessed. They both need each other to coexist; Just as Man needs Woman to coexist. They are both vital to one another, and one without the other, would inevitably cause society as we know it to perish and wither into dust. It is my fervent belief that only through fusing together the opposites of Chessed and Gevurah, can one fuse together the ultimate bond of oneness between husband and wife, between G-d and the jewish people, between Moshiach and the Rebbe and the effect the purpose and harmony of all of creation: Marriage.