I have been taught all my life that a man is to pursue a woman to marry her. The only scripture that comes to my mind is proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Yet, going back to Genesis, God brought Eve to Adam. Adam didn’t have to find her, also it doesn’t sound like Adam had to pursue her since she was the first and only woman on earth. Correct me if I am wrong.
As we discuss in some detail in our practical marriage guidance audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden, God could have chosen to begin populating the world in many ways. Among other choices, He could have created a number of people at one time, He could have created woman first and He could have created man and woman at the same time.
Kenneth, the Bible is not a history book about what happened millennia ago, instead, it is really an instruction manual about how to live your life today. , It, therefore, makes sense that the Bible’s account of Adam’s and Eve’s creation is full of messages as to how the world really works. One of these lessons is that by creating Adam first, a protocol is being set that the world works best when a man invites a woman into his world rather than the other way around.
We also see the man choosing the woman in Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man takes a wife…” The Torah never says, “When a man and woman decide to marry.” It also never says, “When a woman or a man decides upon a mate.” Written the way it is, serves to confirm your wording. Indeed, the best way is for a man to choose a woman. (It is her prerogative to accept or reject him.) We see the world’s adoption of this ancient Biblical principle in the widely observed practice of a woman marrying and taking her husband’s name.
Confirming the wisdom we already know from the Bible, it is interesting that decades after the rise of feminism, we are not seeing 50% of marriage proposals being made by men to women and the other 50% being made by a woman going down on one knee and holding out a Rolex watch to a man while saying, “Please make me the happiest woman in the world by marrying me.” The overwhelming majority of marriage proposals are and will continue to be made by men to women. There is an additional aspect to this. The Torah is sensitive to protecting women’s emotions. Every time a proposal is proffered, it contains the risk for stinging rejection. Better for a man to face that humiliating experience rather than a woman.
The way the first marriage is described in Genesis, Adam and Eve both knew there was literally nobody else for either of them. Similarly, once married, the husband and wife in every marriage should feel that their spouse is the absolute best and only choice for them. That’s the way commitment works.
However, as you note in your second paragraph, Adam did not choose Eve from a number of possibilities even though, by definition, she was the perfect mate for him. While we do discuss in our CD what messages God was teaching us about how the world He created really works by creating Eve as Adam’s only matrimonial choice, we are also shown that this lack of choice brings problems in its wake. Only a few verses down the road, after sinning, we see Adam retorting to God, “ “The woman whom You gave to me, gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) Adam is subtly placing the blame on God rather than accepting complete responsibility for his actions. After all, this is the wife that God picked for him!
Ancient Jewish wisdom takes that lesson to heart. While children usually must obey parents, one of the exceptions is when it comes to marriage. One is not obligated to marry the man or woman whom one’s parents prefer. Each individual must accept responsibility for the success of his or her marriage and not say, “Well, I married the person you picked for me. This is your problem, not mine.” Every marriage has its bumps and difficult times, especially during the early years. Both husband and wife should know that this was their choice and their commitment to uphold.
Long live marriage,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
16 thoughts on “Should men pursue women or the other way around?”
Dear Rabbi, My posts seem a little argumentative when I read them. Sorry about that. I’ve been watching Ancient Jewish Wisdom for a while and am a fan.
Perhaps I’d better try to explain why I see things as I do. As an elderly bachelor, I’m acutely aware that inside-the-box thinking for that question doesn’t work for all people or in all situations. Biblical accounts like Ruth, where outside-the-box solutions seem to work wonderfully well, lead me to question whether the box is sometimes a shortcut to reach a decision without asking a tough question. What’s REALLY going on here? Going outside the box is really dangerous if you haven’t asked that question but staying inside can be too as the divorce rate shows. From my perspective, I would guess knowing the answer to that question will make a bigger difference than going inside or outside the box. It’s easier to think outside the box when you live outside the box. That’s why I question the value of that particular box.
If I may add to what has been said about Boaz and Ruth, the text doesn’t say he covered her with the corner of his garment then as she requested. There was a detail he had to take care of first. Asking him to is the only thing that looks to me like a marriage proposal. I think people put too much importance on the tradition that the man should be the one to take the lead in courtship and then propose.
I think If the text says do something, one needn’t look for reasons behind it. Do it. If only convention says so, its not written in stone and there’s probably a reason you could guess behind it. If your circumstance doesn’t fit the reason, as Boaz and Ruth’s didn’t, don’t be embarrassed to chuck tradition as she did and do what’s necessary. The Bible is quite lacking in examples of courtship that modern convention would approve of. A couple’s roles in marriage are much more important than those in their courtship.
You feel that people put “too much importance on the tradition” that men should propose. This, to us, is much like saying that people put too much importance on the tradition of not jumping out of normally functioning airplanes without a parachute. It’s not a tradition! It is reality. Any woman in a free society has every right to propose marriage to any man she chooses. Just as she has every right to step out of an airborne airplane. In both cases calamity will result. In the airplane situation, after a thrilling ride, the sudden stop will prove fatal. In the proposal situation, the man bursting into uncontrollable laughter as he disappears towards the horizon in a cloud of dust will inflict almost as much pain on the unsuspecting woman.This is called knowing how the world REALLY works. Please invest a few minutes in our podcast http://rabbidaniellapin.libsyn.com/the-manufacturers-recommended-maintenance-schedule-for-marriage
Yet I don’t see a hint of such a calamity in their marriage. Their marriage seems to show that not only the way it came about, but everything about it was radically against the factors that convention say are important to the success of a marriage. They were a total mismatch in those things. Like the book of Ecclesiastes shows all the things people value and chase that are in the end worthless, and then shows what is of true value, Ruth does the same about marriage. What they did have in common was they valued the traits of a Godly person. Ruth had, like Boaz’s mother, at great risk left behind an ungodly people to follow the people of God. Boaz had, though a person of high esteem in Bethlehem, openly praised and showed kindness to a person lowest in social standing without attempting to capitalize on his investment in her.
Hi Rabbi Lapin. Thank you for your elaborate response. Although my question is not quite related to marriage I find no better place than here to ask it. When Jesus was asked who is to be bleamed about a man who was blind from birth. He answered no bodies fault. It is for the glory of God to be made manifest. What does this really mean? Does it mean that God inyentionally experiments and create problems in the lives of men just to Glorify himself some day?. Example people waiting for the fruit of the womb for many years or children born with certain disabilities. What really happens when crises result by no failt of man?. I will appreciate any clarity you can give me on this. Thank you.
I hope you understand my reluctance to try answer your question. You see, I am a Jewish rabbi, and I am well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures and in ancient Jewish wisdom. However, I am not at all knowledgeable about New Testament writings from which you quote. I think you might be best served by asking your question to your Christian pastor.
It could be a test (Job) however consider this. We are made for connection. Our transgressions are like pollution, they are not isolated and private. A medical condition of an individual is not necessarily a punishment for his own sins but possibly a result of accumulated or acute “pollution” in the society. So in this context you can witness his works in two ways:
1) this is the way he set it up, we are reminded that we are connected so we should pollute less;
2) sometimes he intervenes rather directly;
3) usually in such cases all the best in the people around is brought out.
Not a pastor or priest, but seeing no other answers from Christians I hope this aids in your search.
This article stimulates much emotion in my thinking…especially in the light that I understand what you said to be true. I choose a woman and she accepted and we built a large family over 2 and a half decades. Although not perfect in my execution of being a father and husband, I was committed and present and loved my role. Three years ago, my wife decided to disavow almost everything we built together- our values and convictions and left with our children. A year and a half after that she divorced me and now is engaged to be married. In the course of much pain and sorrow through all of this- I have waited, communicated and expressed my love to her to rebuild- to put our family back together, to get help. All to no avail. My dogged determination is out of love for her, but more so because I have made a commitment to God through a marriage vow to her. Needless to say- it leaves all of my family and friends scratching their heads. All through this I have made decisions with the goal of restoration in mind- following advice you gave me just before she left of not making decisions on how they make me feel in the present, but how it will make me feel 5 years from now. I gave up almost everything. I say all of this to circle back to the choice I made 25 years ago. I am confronted with that decision, maybe I choose wrongly? For various reasons on both her and my part nonetheless. That haunts me- because it pains me to conclude all of the life I remember (which for me includes far more positive than negative) for the past 25 years..was a mistake. All of the 11 children we had together should not have been? I am left with much confusion and disappointment with marriage. Perhaps I have been wrong in my understanding of marriage and the intent that I believe it to be sacred, lifelong and ordained by God. Trying very hard to process how to resume life not being the full-time dad I was and not living life with a woman who we made mutual vows of till death do us part.
> I don’t know just how not perfect you were in the execution of your role. The phrase, “Although not perfect” can cover a vast spectrum of sins. What is more, being “committed and present” and loving your role just night not have been in any way related to the things your wife needed from you. To walk away after 25 years, well, I would definitely want to hear from her. It all sounds terribly sad and of this I am sure: When your wife walked out the door three years ago, that wasn’t the first indicator you had of problems. Marriage is of course meant to be, as you say, “sacred, lifelong and ordained by God”. And your wife might well believe that too. But that tells us nothing of the small details of day to day marital life and, as they say, both the delight and the devil are in the details. There are far too many questions I would have to ask in order to provide anything like useful information on your past marriage. Since your former wife is now remarried, I ask you to look only forward. Honestly identify the mistakes you made and figure out how to turn your pattern around. Focus on trying to maintain or rebuild your relationship with your children, and perhaps start contemplating remarrying also. Onwards and upwards.
Here’s what is so hard about responding to your letter. First, obviously I don’t know you at all and I don’t know much about your life over the past 25 years. All I work with has to be deduced only from the 300 or so words you wrote us. Second, you can’t see my face which shows the compassion I feel for your circumstances; all you have are my words which in the absence of facial clues, can sound cold and unfeeling.
That said, let me start with an example. Somebody might (and has) said to me, “Rabbi, I work so hard–60 hours a week–and still I get paid very little. In the mornings I mow my lawn with a hand push mower, and in the afternoon I excavate a hole for my future swimming pool. At least I enjoy my work but as hard as I work, I ought to be earning more”. You know the answer as well as I do. It has little to do with whether or not you enjoy your work and it doesn’t even matter how hard you work. Nobody pays you for working hard. They pay you for doing things for them that they don’t wish to do for themselves. We measure your financial viability not on how hard you work but on how much you do for how many others. Sounds almost cruel, doesn’t it. But it’s true.
Similarly, when you write <
Hello from Lusaka, Zambia, Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin!
I love how you teach how the world really works.
I was an avid listener of rap music and other popular forms of music. A few years ago I decided to drastically cut back on what and who I was listening to. I did that because I realised that the music was feeding into my mind and it made me start to look down on relationships. With themes of heartbreak and affairs to degradation of women, I realised that my ideas of relationships was terrible.
I am Christian and I realised that if God created marriage, it is supposed to be a beautiful thing and not messed up like I heard often in the music.
A big thank you for the knowledge and wisdom that you spread because I genuinely appreciate what you do! God bless you!
Mwaka, what an amazing and growth-oriented person you are to be able to analyze what you are doing and change direction. We are proud to count you among our readers.
Thank you so much!
Wonderful to hear from you in Zambia, Mwaka,
I was in Lusaka and also Kariba before I left Africa to relocate to America. Even more wonderful is to hear how you have moved onwards and upwards in your spiritual journey. I know this growth will soon be reflected in your financial and family life if it isn’t already. Thanks for being part of our ministry and please listen to the weekly podcast http://rabbidaniellapin.libsyn.com/ and daily television show http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw All blessings to you and your family
Thank you so much, Rabbi! Yes it has began to reflect in my financial and family life. I recently started a job and have a 2nd source of income.
When I stopped listening to so much music, I became an avid listener of podcasts and sermons. You were mentioned in some podcasts I listened to and then I began listening to yours too! That’s how I found this wonderful column.
Hello Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
How would you help me to understand:
1) Ruth and Boaz’s introduction and courtship? Although he proposed she initiated by “uncovering his feet and laying down”.
2) To a much lesser degree Judah and his daughter in-law Tamar (I know that it was not a marriage and trickery).
In these cases, do you think that the women persued the men? Where does flirtation enter into the mix? I am married and know for a fact, that my wife still expects me to pursue her!!!
Peace and Blessings,
You sound as if you pretty much have got it clear, Ricardo,
Your last sentence confirms that for us. Not everything that Biblical personalities did is to be taken as worthy of emulation. King David took Batsheva in a way not recommended for us. Samson, that great man of Israel, should certainly serve as no model for how our sons should find wives. Gaza is really not a good idea. Similarly, the Ruth and Boaz situation was shaped directly by God in order to bring about the line of David as you know from the final verse of the book of Ruth. And interestingly enough, so was the Judah and Tamar circumstance. One of their sons Peretz, is mentioned by name in Ruth 4:18 where the Davidic line is identified. Special circumstances not for repetition. In both those cases ancient Jewish wisdom credits the women involved with almost prophetic insight into the roles they were called upon to play in God’s plans. Continue to pursue and maintain a happy and fulfilling marriage,
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