From time to time I ask myself this question: If people were given a guarantee of having one of four brachos fulfilled, with a 50% chance of attaining the other three, which bracha would they choose?
The four brachos I am talking about are decades of good health; consistent parnassah; successful pregnancies that produce healthy offspring who grow up to be children whom you can schepp nachas from and finding, without too much effort, and marrying your “richtige zivug –true soul-mate.”
All four are on every normal human beings’ “wish list.” Can you have a fulfilling, satisfying life without all of four? Yes, there are happily married couples in good health and with an ample income who don’t have children, but I would venture to say that as happy as they are, there is an emptiness in their lives that nothing seems to fill – no matter how close they may be to nieces and nephews, for example.
Worry, guilt and frustration are ever-present burdens for those who are chronically ill, even if they have a loving spouse and erliche children. And we all know how devastating poverty can be on a family and how it erodes a couple’s shalom bayis.
And there are those who are unmarried – single, divorced or widowed – who may have good jobs, good health, and even children, but no one to lean or during a crisis or with whom to joyously celebrate the milestones and triumphs.
All four are so important to one’s well being. Which is the best one?
Over the years, I have given this question much thought, and I have concluded that the most life-enhancing is having a true eizer k’negdo – a wife or husband who is your confidante, adviser, best friend and advocate, someone who stands by your side and is always there for you.
He or she would be a loyal helpmate who will tend to you when you are ill; who will reassure and assure you that there is always a tomorrow when a pregnancy test is negative yet again; who will cry with you when your child is far from what the two of you envisioned he or she would become and a buoy who will hold your hand when your last credit card is declined.
Others may rightly disagree with me, and insist that good health is the most necessary, for without it you can’t achieve livelihood or children. On the other hand, others will chime that having children is most important – there are yet others who feel parnassah is the most important.
But I truly believe that when you have a genuine life-partner, you will be able to deal with everything else. For when there are setbacks, if there is no one to share in your challenges, then you can fall into a bottomless pit of pessimism and quicksand of depression. Sharing the good, the bad, and the miserable with a spouse can help you withstand the poverty, the illness, the infertility and the kids who disappoint and break your heart.
I believe that each person is half a soul and marriage reunites the two. What was previously incomplete becomes whole and thus fortified. Together they can deal with everything they encounter, both difficult and joyful.
I once had a discussion with a married mother of six who opined that because she had six young children, the difficulties she experienced were on the level of mine as a single mother of three. Mathematically, the ratio was the same – one parent to three kids – but the reality is not equivalent. I asked her if walking one mile on two legs was the same as walking half a mile on one. You could say that the ratio is half a mile per leg. But she conceded that it would definitely be more challenging to walk on one leg for half the distance.