Choosing the Right Wife
Don't make the mistake of choosing a soul-mate on the basis of physical beauty. Many men do, desiring to show off their wives to their buddies. Nothing could be more inane...
Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
The Gemara teaches that the evil inclination seizes control of a person by way of what that person sees (see tractate Sota, 8). The Rambam adds that the evil inclination fills a heart that is void of wisdom. When the eyes are guarded and the heart is full of Torah wisdom, prayer and desire for Hashem, the evil inclination is left out in the cold. When not, and a person opens his eyes to the follies of the physical world, the heart absorbs all types of nonsense and succumbs to the evil inclination. By guarding one's eyes, he can always be with Hashem and is consequently protected from the evil inclination.
Every glance at the outside world triggers a chain-reaction of thoughts that confuse and disorient the mind. A person musk ask himself: why am I looking all around me? What will I gain? What am I liable to lose? Will this help my health and income? Such a self-test will surely bring a person to understand that he gains nothing by opening his eyes but risks everything. Is it worth it? Certainly not! With minimal self-composure – which the evil inclination does not want a person to have – one can understand that he only benefits from guarding his eyes.
Women should ask themselves: what does it mean to be truly beautiful? Superficial, skin-deep charm – more often cosmetic than not – is not beauty. Nothing makes a woman so beautiful as the light of emuna and holiness reflecting from her eyes, as was the case of our matriarchs. Adel, the daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, accompanied her holy father on many of his journeys. Why did the Baal Shem Tov prefer traveling periodically with his daughter rather than with one of his students? He said that she had a holy spirit. Her grandson, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, explained that she thought exclusively about Hashem and how to gratify Him, for she clung to Him constantly.
If you're not yet married, pray profusely to find a God-fearing woman who reflects the charm of holiness, an upright, charitable and modest woman with a good heart and character. Such a woman will be truly beautiful, inside and out, for her deeds will surely be pleasing and she'll undoubtedly have a smile on her face, for holiness and happiness go hand-in-hand. And if you are married, pray that your wife should become such a woman of valor. Remember, the more you refine and improve yourself, the more your wife will mirror you.
Don't make the dreadful mistake of choosing a soul-mate on the basis of physical beauty. Many men do, desiring to show off their wives to their buddies. Nothing could be more inane. Would you want your friends to have their hands in your wallet and fondling your money, just to show them how rich you are? So why have them look at your wife? Why inject with them thoughts of coveting and adultery? Why be guilty of making others sin? Such behavior is worse than shooting oneself in the foot. Besides, a woman who relies on superficial charm seldom places emphasis on character development and getting close to Hashem. Cosmetic beauty is vain and false, far from the true beauty of a King's daughter, as King David tells us in Psalm 45:14, “The dignity of a King's daughter is internal”. She is not on display.
A person whose regard for his wife depends on her physical beauty doesn't love her as a person at all – he loves the false charm and vain beauty. Such an individual suffers all the time: if his wife doesn't look her best, he's dissatisfied with her, and his eyes will be wandering in the proverbial pastures that he thinks are greener than his. But when she looks stunning, he'll be extremely jealous of her. He won't even let her talk to her own brothers. He'll also accuse her of looking at other men, for he looks at other women. Their marriage will be little other than constant bickering. His imagination will work overtime. They'll be in debt too, for they'll always be looking for more and better clothes, cars and jewelry to impress other people. They'll lack blessings too, for they're guilty in causing other people to transgress, especially in the areas of coveting and jealousy.
Sexual lust is the culprit that causes a person to be physical-beauty oriented. These types of individuals are seeking to satisfy their fantasies and they think that everyone's mind is as contaminated as theirs is. We must do our utmost to get off the lust train and to strive for a marriage of purity and holiness, which is a worthy dwelling place for the Divine Presence. Innately, every Jew desires to cling to Hashem and to His Torah and commandments. May we all so merit, amen!