The decision for a couple to get engaged and make the ultimate commitment to each other is probably the most important step of their lives. From the moment two people decide to marry, spend the rest of their lives together and God willing raise a family and create a home, the direction their individual lives take changes forever. It is not just that now each partner surely has to reconsider their own particular aspirations and desires but they now have to take on board their partners dreams and wishes and use their own personal resources to help make those dreams come true.
What does it mean to be ‘engaged’ to someone? The word ‘engage’ means according to the oxford dictionary:
1 attract or involve (someone’s interest or attention).
2 (engage in/with) participate or become involved in.
3 . employ or hire.
4 enter into a contract to do.
5 enter into combat with.
The origin of the word is French and has the sense of to ‘pawn’ or ‘pledge’. This seems to be closest in meaning to the biblical use of the word arev which is used so powerfully by Judah when he tries to convince his father Jacob to allow Benjamin to travel with his brothers to Egypt. Jacob would not allow Benjamin to go with his elder brothers due to his fear of losing yet another of his beloved youngest sons, the other being Joseph who was lost to him many years earlier and from whose loss he never recovered. Judah says to Jacob that he personally guarantees Benjamin’s life and bears total responsibility for him. The Rabbis’ commentary on what Judah actually promises is both moving and passionate. They say that Judah binds up his life with Benjamin’s so closely that their lives are interchangeable; that their souls become equal, identifiable and indistinguishable. Jacob understands from this that to Judah, Benjamin is not just a separate person who he would care for according to the usual norms of brotherly kinship and concern, rather, now Judah would protect Benjamin with the same fervor and zeal he would use to defend his own life….
Perhaps this is the ultimate degree of commitment that an engagement signifies. When a couple fall in love and ‘plight their troth’ the beauty of the new connection is that ideally each looks on the other as having a life as equal and precious as his own. Their engagement to and with each other is the promise to each other that each will guard the others life and well-being in the same way that he/she would guard their own. It is only this feeling of security that allows each half of the couple to negotiate the hurdles they are sure to encounter as they strive to build a meaningful and blessed life together.