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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Honoring Your Parents When Choosing a Spouse

This week’s Torah portion is full of intense, and famous, Bible stories. Between Jacob recently deceiving his father, leaving the nest, dreaming of a heavenly ladder, and the “love triangle” between Jacob and Laban’s daughters, there’s more than enough drama. But amid all the dramatic scenes, there are four lines in the reading that caught my eye this time through.

“Now Esau saw that Isaac blessed Jacob when he sent him to Paddan-aram to take for himself a wife from there, when he blessed him and commanded him saying, “Don’t take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” Jacob listened to his father Isaac and to his mother and went toward Paddan-aram. Then Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan were contemptible in his father Isaac’s eyes. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, Nebaioth’s sister for his wife, besides his other wives.” Genesis 28:6-9 TLV

While only Jacob was told by his parents to avoid taking a wife from among the Canaanites, Esau took notice and followed suit. Now why does this matter? It matters because even with Esau’s lack of birthright and his anger at Jacob, and probably Isaac for being so easily fooled, Esau still honored his parents by refusing to take a Canaanite wife. In future Torah portions, we’ll learn that honoring your parents is a commandment before ADONAI – allowing Him to bless you as you live out your days.

In the next few chapters of Genesis, when Jacob and Esau reunite, we see that Esau has been very successful in growing his family and his flocks! With plenty to spare and over 400 men, Esau’s success actually frightens Jacob – making their peaceful and joyous reunion all the sweeter. So, through honoring their parents in their choice of spouse, both Jacob and Esau were granted prosperity!

But how does that apply to us today? Let me tell you how my husband and I met, and you might figure it out.

Praying for a Spouse

In early 2014, I went before the Lord in prayer about my future husband. I was tired of being single and ready to move on to the next stage in life. God told me that I needed to choose to be vulnerable, to not hold my cards too close to my vest, and be willing to be loved in a new way. I walked around for a couple of days incredulous that this would be His word to me! I loved everyone with reckless abandon! I was open and kind and friendly! What the heck was God talking about?

So I went back to Him in prayer, asking for some kind of explanation. How could He say that to me, of all people? Little Miss Sunshine Extrovert, herself? “You love everyone the same. No one is special.”, I heard. My heart dropped. He was right. I loved everyone – but at an arm’s length. My irritation drained away and I was left humbled. I decided to take a leap of faith, albeit a weird one. I joined a dating website.

In the two week span that I could stand being on the site, I made a choice to only talk to matches that professed faith in Yeshua, Jesus. My parents had told me since I was young that marrying someone who didn’t believe in Yeshua, and wouldn’t want to join themselves to the Jewish people, was a bad idea. Teenage Mandie balked at such a thing, thinking: “Who were they to tell me who fall in love with?! I couldn’t control my heart!” Foolish words from a foolish child. I’ve learned to trust my parent’s wisdom through the years… So, I listened and obeyed.

When I matched with Alex, we talked casually about our shared faith and interests. It was polite, comfortable, and sweet. But I wasn’t exactly being obedient in God’s instruction to be vulnerable. So, I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked Alex out to coffee. Coffee turned into dinner. Dinner turned into coffee and dessert. By the time I got home, he had texted me about going out on a real date. I said yes.

And two dates into this new world, when Alex asked me to officially be his girlfriend, I hesitated for a moment. Saying yes would open me up for a world of possible pain that I wasn’t interested in. But, saying no would mean disobeying God. So I said yes.

A year and a half later, I said yes to Alex again when he asked me to marry him. In the span of that year, he had grown into a mighty man of God – more in love with Jesus than he was with me – and completely on board with my family’s Jewish heritage. And I haven’t regretted that decision in the years since.

Honoring my Parents

Honoring my parents by not choosing someone who didn’t share my faith has actually resulted in my own personal prosperity. God has given me a husband who loves me for everything He designed me to be and isn’t afraid of my strong personality. God gave me a favor in my pursuit of my degree in theology and standing among scholars in the Bible translation world. At every turn, no matter what it looks like, God has provided financially to sustain us each and every day.

So, choosing a spouse in a manner that honors your parents – regardless of how you may feel about it in the moment – will always result in God’s blessing! Take it into consideration as you go forward living a life that is worthy of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. •

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