Is Threatened Illness an Obstacle to Marriage?

Q: I feel I have found my true soul mate, a special man with fine character traits and a pure soul. We love each other profoundly. I believe that the kind of love which I feel toward him can be channeled towards increasing my G-d awareness and Jewish spirituality. He is a carrier of a disease which, in 20-30% of the cases, can cause him to contract an incurable terminal illness. There is no danger of the disease being transmitted to his spouse or children.

If I commit in this relationship, there is a much higher than normal chance that I could end up with great hardship in my life.

I believe I can overcome my fears quickly if I have the confidence that I am doing the right thing from a spiritual and Torah perspective. I am in great inner turmoil and distress and hope to hear from you soon.

A: Your dilemma is certainly an understandable one, and particularly painful in light of the tragic circumstances surrounding your soul-mate's illness. Your fears of not being "normal" because of the situation you find yourself in are misguided. There is no such thing as a "normative" situation in life. Divine Providence operates in all sectors to ensure that every person deals with the particular rectification relevant to his soul. With every situation of this kind which befalls man, there is a corresponding reserve of inner strength which he receives in order to deal with it. One should view it as a merit to be faced with a unique situation demanding special fortitude.

In your situation, the issue must be confronted on many levels. On the rational plane of Jewish law, there are principles which determine the extent to which we are allowed to enter into health-threatening situations. As you indicated, there is no significant threat to your own physical health; only the man's. Although you are concerned about the emotional consequences to you of his health risk, Jewish law would appear to indicate that you need not concern yourself with that risk–given that he has a 70-80% chance of remaining relatively healthy. After all, we find that reliance upon major probability is a valid principle even in regard to cases involving capital punishment. Hence, if you truly believe that you are spiritually compatible, the margin of medical risk should not undermine your conviction.

As you indicated in your letter, confidence, or bitachon, is the keyword. The degree to which you perfect your bitachon will influence the extent to which both of you overcome the insecurity ahead. According to the Chassidic understanding, bitachon is the underlying state of being associated with the "male" sefirah of netzach, "victory" or "eternity." This also represents the victory over death. The corresponding "female" sefirahhod–"splendor" or "acknowledgment"–expresses itself in the soul through the quality of temimut–simple wholehearted dedication to one's purpose in life. It is said that hod is the force which enables one to overcome disease. By firmly attaching yourselves to these respective states of being, you will be in a position to know exactly how you should respond to this situation.

You might want to strengthen your bitachon by choosing to adorn your performance of some mitzvah associated with domestic life–such as kashrut or mezuzah.

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