Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it. Ephesians 5:25
The court trial in Ramapa dealing with the alleged servitude and abuse of the wife in an arranged marriage is highlighting the cultural differences in the definition of marriage. Here, in the Lower Hudson Valley, the definition of marriage is generally based on Jude-Christian Scriptures in verses such as Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” and Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
This notion of the male partner leaving his family and being united to his wife is very important to Jews and Christians alike. In addition, the sacrificing his life for his wife is part of the Christian Scripture, whatever culture that Christian might live in.
At present, because it is a trial, there are different versions of what is happening in this family. The truth of the situation will be known through the trial.
Yet, the trial does shed light on marriage, love, and loving one’s neighbor. After all, what is one’s spouse but one’s closest “neighbor”?
It is a difficult commandment, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, and to bear no grudge against one’s neighbor. Moreover, marriage — especially an arranged marriage where both partners are unknown to each other– is a training ground for learning to love a complete stranger as one’s self.
Love is an inate emotional feeling but it must also be taught. Human clannishness is evident in the many stories one hears about bad relationships between a new wife and her in-laws. Whatever the culture –indeed whatever the religion– there often seems to be an unwillingness on the part of a parent to allow a “stranger” (the new wife, the new husband) into a family. In an arranged marriage, a love bond does not yet exist between the new spouses therefore the tendency to defend one’s spouse against one’s mother or father may not be present. After all, the new spouse is as much of a stranger to her husband/defender as she is to his family.
It is especially necessary for the husband to leave his family because the might be more danger to the wife in her husband’s household than if he had moved into her father’s household. Moreover, the situation is worsened if the woman is young when the marriage takes place, and is sent to a foreign country where she has no defenders.
“Cleaving” is one of the few English words that has opposite meanings. It can mean “to join” and it also means “to separate.” If the husband does not cleave (separate) from his family, he cannot adequatelly cleave (join and be united with) his wife. At best, the inability to leave the family homestead could lead to a happy loving clan. At worst, in the case of the Ramapo family, it can lead to the enslavement of the “intruding stranger.”
Whatever the situation, whether the woman was actually enslaved or was merely unhappy in her marriage, it is a tragedy that this situation should have happened in a family, which is the foundation of society.