INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGES – COMMON GOALS
I have always found international couples interesting. Both my parents and I are such international marriages. The international couples that are most amusing to me are those in which the two did not share a common language at the outset. In some way, they felt that they were “meant to be”. More often than not, they live happily ever after. Unfortunately, many times this lasts until they figure out a common language. Somehow, this complicates the tranquility in their relationship. Both begin to doubt if they were really “meant to be”. I wondered at this phenomenon for more than a while. Somehow, I stumbled on the following idea which is highly related to this type of marriage in particular and to all marriages in general.
At the conclusion of our parasha, the people of the world unified for the purpose of creating the Tower of Babylon. The mass of builders shared the same goal with three different plans (Sanhedrin 109a). One group intended to climb to the sky in order to live amongst the angels. The second group desired to climb to the sky in order to serve foreign gods. The third wanted to reach the sky with the intent to fight G-d and prevent Him from bringing another flood. And G-d punished them in three different ways. The first group were scattered by G-d. The second group became monkeys, ghosts, and demons. As for the third group, G-d sent down angels to mix up their languages. Although there were different groups and each deserved his own punishment, they all shared the common goal of erecting this sort of skyscraper.
On the verse that mentions the confusion of languages for group three, Rashi comments that G-d did not merely make a barrier of total non-comprehension. Rather, G-d confused the mass in such a way that this one asked for a brick, and his worker brought cement, instead. Frustrated over the mistake of his counterpart, the first one takes a spike and crushes his friend’s skull. When one asked for “X” in one language, this meant “Z” in the language of his acquaintance. Why did G-d not suffice with dispersing the masses with a confusion where there would exist a complete non-comprehension?
The Brisker Rav answers with the following life principle. When two people share a common goal in anything in life, the chances they will succeed are not just 1 x 2; rather, it is in an entirely different league. And the more people there are sharing a common goal, the less likely that there will be failure. They minimize the possibility of failure, making it almost unrealistic. There was great unity between the builders: they shared the goal of erecting such a tower, which gave the construction project tremendous power. This unified project was to overcome all obstacles, including not understanding each other’s tongue. The only way G-d felt it suitable to disperse them was a change of language which resulted in “one takes a spike and crushes his friends skull”. If there had been total non-comprehension, they would still have been on the same page, with a sense of unity through common goals, and then nothing would have been able to disperse them, despite their not having been able to communicate. G-d felt it necessary first to confound their ability to communicate, which resulted in their frustration, nullifying all the power that unity can generate and making it impossible to work as a team.
We may be able to apply this to marriage as well. Once there is miscommunication, where one thinks he understood the other and frustrates his/her spouse by behaving in a different manner than would normally be expected, this can be even worse than not understanding the language to begin with. When these mistakes happen, it may be a good idea to discuss and focus on the original goal with which they started their relationship. This may help with dealing with frustrations of miscommunication.