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