We might expect to feel the greatest love for those who give us the most. Yet Judaism teaches that giving, not receiving, engenders love.
As long as we live alone, and only for ourselves, we have no opportunity for growth of character. Goodness means, above all, to give to another. Marriage constitutes the ultimate framework for profound giving.
Prior to woman’s creation, the Torah tells us: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis ). As long as we live by ourselves and only for ourselves, no good can emerge.
What is good? The Psalmist describes G-d’s goodness by declaring: “You open Your hand and satisfy the needs of every living thing” (145:16). Above all, goodness means giving to others.
To ensure that we become givers, the Jewish people received numerous instructions on interpersonal relationships. The commandments to give charity and gifts to the poor, to help unload and reload an over-burdened donkey, to refrain from taking revenge or bearing a grudge - all are intended to coax us out of our cocoon of selfishness and to care for others.
A person living on his own, will be called upon to help others only occasionally. Self-perfection through giving remains a remote goal. In marriage, however, opportunities to “love your fellow as yourself” abound on a multiplicity of levels. Marriage is the ultimate framework for profound giving.
The Sages taught us not to wait until feelings of love inspire our giving. They explain that it is giving that inspires love. Judaism therefore directs a couple: If you hope to truly love each other, give to each other!
If we approach marriage with the desire to give, we will build a love capable of withstanding not only crises, but also the test of time - a love that continually grows.