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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Commitment’

Adultery and Marriage: a Jewish Approach to Monogamy

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

It is well known that one of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition of adultery. Extramarital sex has historically been a man’s game, since the male sexual desire is stereotypically assumed to be uncontrollable. A recent survey by the National Opinion Research Center has shown, however, that the number of married American women having adulterous affairs has nearly doubled over the last decade. Today, 21 percent of men admit to having such affairs while 14.7 percent of women now admit to having them.

Sociologists explain that women today are more willing to cheat since they have stronger careers and aren’t as worried about the financial loss they would incur in a divorce. A recent Pew Research Center poll showing that working mothers are now the primary “breadwinners” in 37 percent of American homes (up from 11 percent in 1960) seems to bear this out, as these numbers roughly match the proportion of men and women having affairs. Most of these breadwinning women are single mothers, but 40 percent of them are married and earn more than their husbands. Perhaps it is true that when women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers and rise in the corporate world, they learned from and now emulate corporate male behavior.

In What do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner notes that women may be no different from men in their struggle with monogamy and desires for sexual novelty , although there may be differences depending on the situation. For example, research on rhesus monkeys demonstrated that males initiated sexual relations when the monkeys were kept in smaller cages, but in larger spaces the females initiated sexual relations. Significantly, this and other findings have occurred at the same time that the number of women in scientific research has soared. We hope that science has passed the era when scientists could claim that women suffered from “hysteria” (based on the Greek word for uterus), irrational behavior supposedly caused by disturbances in the uterus.

One might think that monogamy was considered to be against the norms of evolution, since a male biologically wants to have as many offspring as possible. Analysis of various animals living with their brood show that anywhere from 10 percent to 70 percent of their offspring have a father different from the male animal currently staying with the brood. Professor David P. Barash of the University of Washington famously quipped, “Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery.” Even among primates (which include humans), more than 200 species are not monogamous. However, British scientists have found that in the three species of primates in which monogamy evolved, it did so after a period where males had earlier committed infanticide. In reaction, fathers began to remain by their children and mothers to protect them from rival males, thus establishing the monogamous nuclear family. The virtual universality of this system among humans, and its staying power across civilizations, argues for its value.

Even among other species from beetles to baboons, while exogamous sex occurs, one mate will often react with a ferocious jealousy if it observes the other straying. Promiscuity may be necessary among some species for survival, but that does not mean that these creatures like it.

Marriage is one formal marker and arrangement for monogamy. In the Jewish tradition, marriage is a central institution, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik wrote about this unique commitment:

On the one hand, the great covenant [of marriage] has been compared by the prophets time and again to the betrothal of Israel to G-d; on the other hand, the ordinary betrothal of woman to man has been raised to the level of covenantal commitment. Marriage as such is called berit, a covenant. Apparently, the Bible thinks that the redeeming power of marriage consists in personalizing the sexual experience, in having two strangers, both endowed with equal dignity and worth, meet. And the objective medium of attaining that meeting is the assumption of covenantal obligations which are based upon the principle of equality. Hence, we have a clue to the understanding of the nature of matrimony. All we have to do is analyze the unique aspects of covenantal commitment and apply them to the matrimonial commitment (Family Redeemed, 41-42).

Knowing how hard it is to find the perfect partner, the Rabbis taught: “It is [as] difficult [for G-d] to match up [a man and a woman for marriage] as it is to split the sea (Sotah 2a).” Elsewhere in the Talmud, the Rabbis debate whether the primary goal of marriage is to produce offspring or about the marriage itself:

Rav Nachman said in the name of Shmuel that even though a man has many children, he may not remain without a wife, as it says: “It is not good that man be alone.” But others say that if he does have children then he may abstain from procreation and he may even abstain from taking a wife altogether (Yevamot 61b).

But even those who subscribe to the latter position, that it is not obligatory to get married, must agree that it’s still desirable and good (i.e., not legally required but clearly very good and important) to marry.

Rav Soloveitchik further explains:

Within the frame of reference of marriage, love becomes not an instinctual reaction of an excited heart to the shocking sudden encounter with beauty, but an intentional experience in reply to a metaphysical ethical summons, a response to the great challenge, replete with ethical motifs. Love, emerging from an existential moral awareness, is sustained not by the flame of passion, but by the strength of a Divine norm whose repetitious fulfillment re-awakens its vigor and force. The marriage partners, by imitating G-d who created a world in order to be concerned with and care for it, extend the frontiers for their communal living to their offspring, and by questing to love someone who is yet unborn, defy the power of erotic change and flux. The ethical yearning to create and share existence with someone as yet unknown redeems hedone by infusing it with axiological normative meaning and thus gives it a new aspect — that of faith. Since our eternal faith in G-d is something which defies rationalization, the mutual temporal faith of man and woman united in matrimony is just as paradoxical. History does not warrant our unswerving religious faith; likewise, utilitarian psychology denies the element of faith in the marriage institution (Family Redeemed, 42).

No one claims that monogamy is easy. We know from psychological studies that young people often have cognitive skills that are still evolving, and it is difficult to tell whether two people can grow compatibly over decades. The choice of a partner is a serious matter. Honest and loving marriage is central to the Jewish faith. We must do all we can to collaboratively preserve the holy covenant that strengthens our families and societies.

We must protect our own marriages and the institution of marriage. Adultery, as one of the many causes of failed marriages, must be rejected through ethical conviction and spiritual commitment. We must all have personal moral accountability, legitimate caring for our spouses and children, and Jewish commitment to the pledge of monogamy and shared covenant of love and devotion.

White House Statement on Bulgarian Terror Attack

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Statement by President Obama on the Terrorist Attack in Bulgaria:

I strongly condemn today’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israelis in Bulgaria. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured, and with the people of Israel, Bulgaria, and any other nation whose citizens were harmed in this awful event. These attacks against innocent civilians, including children, are completely outrageous. The United States will stand with our allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack. As Israel has tragically once more been a target of terrorism, the United States reaffirms our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our deep friendship and solidarity with the Israeli people.

Clinton Says US Commitment to Israel ‘Rock Solid,’ Wants Support for Palestinian Authority

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

In meetings Monday with Israeli leaders, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on them to take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority.

According to the website Inyan Merkazi, Clinton has received a promise from Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi that he would not end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

During Monday night’s news conference, which began an hour late, Clinton reiterated that the U.S. “commitment to Israel is rock solid. By strengthening Israel’s security we are strengthening U.S. security.”

In her meeting with President Shimon Peres, Clinton said:

“I am here in Jerusalem on such a beautiful day at a moment of great change and transformation in the region. It is a time of uncertainty but also of opportunity. It is a chance to advance our shared goal of security, stability, peace, and democracy, along with prosperity for the millions of people in this region who have yet to see a better future.”

She added: “And it is in moments like these that friends like us have to think together, act together. We are called to be smart, creative, and courageous.”

According to Clinton, Israel and the United States are on the same page on Iran, Clinton later told reporters in Jerusalem.

“We remain focused on relaunching peace talks,” Clinton said to the reporters, adding that the international community can help but it was up to the parties to do the work.

Clinton also said that during her meetings with Egyptian authorities in Cairo, she offered the message that the U.S. wants the new leadership in Egypt to uphold its peace treaty with Israel.

Clinton arrived in Israel on Monday and met first with President Shimon Peres, where she said they spoke about “Egypt and Syria, peace efforts, Iran and other regional and global issues.” She then met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad before holding the news conference.

She will return to the United States on Tuesday, capping a 12-day, nine-country trip. It is her first visit to Israel in two years and possibly her last as secretary of state.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem next week for talks on Iran’s nuclear program and the situation in Syria, which has been called a civil war by the International Red Cross.

The U.S. National Security Council said Sunday that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon visited Israel over the weekend for consultations with Netanyahu, Barak and his Israeli counterpart, Gen. Yaakov Amidror.

In a statement, NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters on Sunday evening that Donilon had reaffirmed the “unwavering commitment” of the United States to Israel’s security. He said Donilon’s visit was the latest in a series of ongoing U.S. consultations with Israeli officials on a range of regional security issues.

JTA content was used in this report.

Titles: Commitment and Complexity: Jewish Wisdom in an Age of Upheaval and Genesis and Jewish Thought

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Title: Commitment and Complexity: Jewish Wisdom in an Age of Upheaval


Author: Rabbi Yehuda Amital


Publisher: Ktav Publishing House


 


 


Title: Genesis and Jewish Thought


Author: Chaim Navon


Publisher: Ktav Publishing House


 

 

 


         Yeshivat Har Etzion is one of the main centers of religious Zionism in Israel. It is the largest hesder yeshiva, where students combine serious advanced Torah study with army service in Tzahal’s elite fighting units.

 

         But it also stands apart on two other fronts. First, it’s founding roshei yeshiva, Rav Yehuda Amital and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, are among the foremost intellectual leaders of our Torah world. Second, its web-based Virtual Beit Medrash (www.vbm-torah.org) regularly offers first-class shiurim and Torah courses from a cadre of exceptional teachers.

 

         Ktav Publishing House now gives us a glimpse of the yeshiva’s two pillars.

 

         Rav Amital’s teachings reflect striking originality, courage and breadth of knowledge. Aviad Hacohen, one of the illustrious alumni of “Gush” (as the yeshiva is called), has collected, edited and organized many of his teacher’s thoughts and ideas that shed light on his path and messages as conveyed over several decades.

 

         The original Hebrew version was presented to Rav Amital on his 80th birthday.

 

         Each selection is at most three or four pages in length, but they reflect the greatness of the man and the ideals for which he stands. They cover all aspects of life and society, showing an appreciation of what is best in us, and an aversion to what plagues us.

 

         One can think of no simpler introduction to the best values of religious Zionism by one of its most successful teachers.

 

         Chaim Navon’s study of Sefer Bereishit was originally presented on the Virtual Beit Medrash, offering a good introduction to the quality and scope of this web-yeshiva – headed by Rav Ezra Bick and Rav Reuven Ziegler.

 

         The book brings together various philosophical and conceptual backgrounds necessary for a sophisticated understanding of the Torah’s message. We learn of the importance of biblical criticism in understanding the text, and the richness of Jewish thought and its uniqueness to non-Jewish approaches.

 

         Too many of us study Bereishit through the prism of the elementary school classes where we first approached the text, or the various “parshah sheets” distributed in our shuls each Shabbat.

 

         How nice it is to read such a literate and sophisticated presentation of the richness of Torah study.

Commitment Phobia

Tuesday, August 21st, 2001

People are not all the same. We have different energy levels, make decisions based on different criteria, and structure our lives in different ways, depending on what makes us most comfortable. But if you’re in a com­mitment-phobic relationship, it’s important that you gain some insight on your partner’s comfort zone and how he/she functions in the world. According to psychologist Carl Jung, people are born with preferences, and how we bal­ance and use these preferences is what makes up a good part of our personality. Most people are balanced between two of these preference types called Judging and Perceiv­ing.

The Judging Types like things to be settled, finish­ed, out of the way, and want the tension off their minds. They are often organizers and planners. Perceiving Types like to keep their options open as long as possible. They have a “let’s wait and see” attitude. To alleviate tension, they may avoid making decisions.

The Commitment-Phobic individual is balanced at 90% perceiving and 10% judging. It’s like having a scale that is tipped over too much to one side. If this should happen, they can often feel trapped by pressure, obliga­tion and commitment. They are frequently likable, adaptable and charming people, always on the lookout for some new adventure or experience. They want their freedom and dislike being controlled. One of the key factors for commitment-phobics is closure. They keep collecting new information rather than drawing conclusions. Only when they have looked at all of the possibili­ties are they likely to settle down and get married.

Baruch Hashem, this past Labor Day was my wed­ding anniversary. When I was single, I thought I would never get married. If it wasn’t for my mother, a”h, I would still be single, even today. At age 31 and almost engaged, I was still looking for excuses to back out. But my mother, who had tremendous insight as to what I was feeling, sat next to me and explained that you have to move on to the next stage in life — a level of growth that can only be obtained through marriage and not to be avoided. You are about to marry a wonderful girl and in all probability, she will be your ezer kenegdo. Hashem has sent her to you so that you can balance the scale back to where it belongs. If your are good to her, you will reach a level of growth that you never thought possible.”

I didn’t understand what my mother was talk­ing about, but I did listen! And she was right. Seven­teen years and three children later, I still wake up in the middle of the night and look at my wife and chil­dren while they’re sleeping. I still can’t believe I’m married! What I did to deserve to have such a good wife and children is beyond me, but I thank Hashem every night for making it happen.

In pre-marital and marital counseling, the aware­ness of type preferences creates the greatest challenge for couples in establishing satisfying relationships and shalom bayis.

Moishe Herskowitz’ M.S., C.S.W., is a marriage counselor and maintains his private practice in Brooklyn as founder of CPC. He is an educator, lecturer, consultant and adjunct professor at Touro College. He is the counseling coordinator for Career Ser­vices at Touro College and the At Risk Center in Brooklyn. Moishe is presently working as a licensed guidance counselor for the NYC Board of Ed. in Special Education. For more information or to obtain a free brochure, please contact Moishe Herskowitz at 435­7388 or at CPCMoishe@aol.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/marriage-relationships/commitment-phobia/2001/08/21/

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