A Jewish boy is learning well and wants to remain single, claiming that the time and energy in a Jewish husband’s responsibilities of married life and taking care of children will restrict his ability to focus on learning Torah. In addition, he claims that he wants to stay involved in spiritual growth and holiness, and keep away from the physical pleasures of this world. To me that sounds like a very lofty goal, focusing solely on spirituality and connection with Hashem. Is his outlook correct?

Rabbi Chaim Mintz responds:

This question is really twofold. One point is that a Jewish husband’s responsibility of a family interferes with his ability to learn Torah. Secondly, from a spiritual perspective, attachment to the physical is the antithesis of spirituality and holiness.

Getting married is a mitzvah for a Jewish man

As far as the first concern — the need to take time off from his learning — this question is not unique to marriage. Marrying and raising a family is a mitzvah, and are like many other mitzvot that are very time consuming, yet we know that one must stop learning Torah to perform them. While there is no question that learning Torah brings the greatest infusion of holiness into a person, at the same time mitzvah performance is also crucial.

The great rabbis teach us that the Torah is compared to a great fire, and the mitzvot are the candle holders. As great as the Torah is, without something to contain the fire it would just dissipate. Every mitzvah creates a receptacle to contain this great fire of Torah, allowing the person to absorb its greatness. Thus, one who thinks he can just learn Torah and not perform mitzvot properly only stands to lose, because he will be unable to receive the great benefits the Torah has to offer.

Transforming the physical into the spiritual

And as far as the second point — the spirituality of studying the word of Hashem brings a Jew to the highest levels of closeness to Hashem. Marriage, on the other hand, seemingly keeps a person anchored to the physical and mundane world, and prevents him from
reaching great spiritual heights.

In truth, this same question can be raised regarding any physically-oriented mitzvah. Let’s take oneg Shabbat enjoying good food on Shabbat — as an example. At first glance, enjoying tasty food and physical pleasure seems diametrically opposed to the G-dliness that Shabbat represents. Why don’t we spend Shabbos in shul learning and davening, like we do on Yom Kippur?

The answer is that one of the most important life missions of a Jew is to transform the physical into the spiritual, thereby connecting even the mundane and material elements of the world to Hashem. Every mitzvah a Jew performs infuses him with a level of holiness, as we say in the blessing before a mitzvah: “asher kideshanu b’mitz’votav — Who has sanctified us with His mitzvot.” For this reason, a person enjoying his meal on Shabbat with the intent of fulfilling Hashem’s will is doing a great mitzvah, for he is infusing the material with G-dliness. This brings a person closer to Hashem, not farther from Him, and is the ultimate spiritual growth, transporting Hashem’s light into our physical world.

The same is true for a Jewish man’s great mitzvah of marriage and raising children who will learn Torah and keep the mitzvot, thereby bringing glory to Hashem’s Name. One who has this in mind when fulfilling this mitzvah will certainly transform the mundane act of marriage into a holy act of a mitzvah. Thus, this young man is not correct in his assumption, for instead of marriage pulling him away from Hashem, it can bring him even closer.

This question and answer session is taken from Oorah’s Ask the Rabbi book by Rabbi Chaim Mintz, published by ArtScroll.

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