April 10, 2024
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Sotah Daf 27: The Currency of Marriage

Avraham is getting on in years and he realizes that the time has come for his son Yitzchak to get married. He calls over his butler, Eliezer, and entrusts him with the mission of finding a bride for Yitzchak.

“Seriously?” thinks Eliezer. “He wants me to travel all the way to Haran to seek a wife for his son? What about my daughter? Has he even considered her for Yitzchak? I am a God-fearing individual and I have always been there for Avraham and his family! But instead of recognizing my devotion to Avraham and monotheism, he wants me to go to his cousins who are idolaters?! It makes no sense!”

***

Today’s daf discusses the attributes one should look for in a potential marriage partner and that person’s family.

אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל יִשָּׂא אָדָם
דּוּמָה וְאַל יִשָּׂא בַּת דּוּמָה שֶׁזּוֹ בָּאָה מִטִּיפָּה כְּשֵׁרָה וְזוֹ בָּאָה מִטִּיפָּה פְּסוּלָה וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר יִשָּׂא אָדָם בַּת דּוּמָה וְאַל יִשָּׂא דּוּמָה שֶׁזּוֹ עוֹמֶדֶת בְּחֶזְקַת כַּשְׁרוּת וְזוֹ אֵינָהּ עוֹמֶדֶת בְּחֶזְקַת כַּשְׁרוּת וְהִלְכְתָא יִשָּׂא אָדָם בַּת דּוּמָה וְאַל יִשָּׂא דּוּמָה

“Shmuel says: ‘A person should rather marry an individual with a wanting reputation than the child of an individual with a wanting reputation. For the former comes from good seed, while the latter comes from questionable seed’. And Rabbi Yochanan says: ‘A person should rather marry the child of an individual with a wanting reputation; don’t marry an individual with a wanting reputation. For the former has a presumption of goodness, while the latter has a presumption of impropriety. And the law is a person should rather marry the child of an individual with a wanting reputation; don’t marry an individual with a wanting reputation.’”

Obviously, a person is never faced with the choice of marrying someone or her mother. The point of the Gemara is let’s say you’re presented with two shidduchim—blind date prospects. One is an average individual from a prestigious family, the other is an incredible individual from an average family. Which one should you go out with? Answer: The boy or girl who is an incredible individual, despite the person’s lackluster background and familial status.

That’s what Eliezer failed to appreciate. He figured that his family was so prestigious—after all, he was the personal assistant to the great Avraham!—that there was no better shidduch in the world, as far as family was concerned! Why would Avraham look anywhere else?

But that’s not what’s important when seeking a marriage partner. You are not marrying the parents; you are marrying the individual. Rivka—despite having grown up in an idolatrous home—was “like a rose amongst the thorns.” She, herself, was an incredible individual and far outweighed any shidduch prospect from a good family.

Sadly, too many people look for the wrong things when it comes to seeking a marriage partner for themselves or their children. Certainly, family is important… So is the job. So are looks, and so on and so forth. But, the most important attribute to look for—above all else—is that the individual is a mensch. Not how wonderful the person’s parents are. Not how philanthropic the person’s grandparents are. The primary question is: What kind of character does the individual have? Remember: the individual is the one you need to be able to get along with and live a joyous, peaceful life, not that person’s parents!

Once the question of the individual’s character is answered satisfactorily, then you can consider other matters. But, if the answer to the first question is unclear, don’t proceed! The key to a successful marriage and happy life is good middos. You want to marry someone of impeccable character. The more refined your own middos and the middos of your prospective spouse, the happier your life will be. That’s the simple formula. It’s not about parents. It’s not about money. It’s not about looks. It’s not about intelligence.

Everything has a currency. To buy a car, you need money. The more money you have, the better the car you can afford. To get into college, you need intelligence. The more intelligence you have, the better your chances of acceptance into college. To have a happy marriage, you need good middos. The finer your character, the happier the marriage. It’s that simple.

When seeking a marriage partner, remember, it’s for life. Sure, all the fanfare surrounding the prestigious family you’ve gained entry into is exciting. But, once the dust settles, and the final sheva brochos are recited, you have to live with this person for the rest of your life.

May you merit the wisdom to choose a spouse who has incredible middos, and if you act in kind, you will be happily married until 120!


Rabbi Dr. Daniel Friedman is the author of The Transformative Daf series and the founder of the Center for Torah Values. www.transformativedaf.com 

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