A Foundation of Love

A Foundation of Love

The Jewish home is not just an accidental unit where a man, woman, and children live. It is a sacred unit, the quintessential core of Jewish existence, and the wellspring of Jewish values from which a child draws spiritual sustenance for a lifetime. The Jewish home is where the Sabbath is observed, the laws of Kashrut are brought to life, and the Torah is studied.

The Jewish community is founded on the Jewish home, and the Jewish home is founded on the husband and wife relationship.

The Talmud discusses in depth the importance of marriage and marital harmony, extolling the husband and wife relationship. The Rabbis teach that a man should "love his wife as himself and honor her more than himself." Maimonides1  interprets this passage by saying that a man is required to speak softly and kindly to his wife, never treating her with anger or causing her sorrow.

The Talmud2teaches that the husband-wife relationship is a union conceived in heaven, the highest form of interpersonal love. "Rabbi Tanchum stated in the name of Rabbi Chanilai, 'A Jew who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness', Rav bar Ulla added, 'And without peace.'"

A Jewish marriage is a sacred institution, and the love between a husband and wife is a pure and sanctified love. The laws of Taharat Hamishpachah (Family Purity) and Mikvah create the holiness of the marital relationship. These Halachot strengthen the home and the family.

It may be said that a husband and wife who observe Family Purity are the ultimate "romantics" - honeymooning some twelve times a year.

A full study of Taharat Hamishpachah would be beyond the scope of this discussion. A husband and wife may engage in marital relations until the time of month when the woman menstruates. Seven days after the woman's menstrual flow ceases (but not before the twelfth day since the beginning of the period), she immerses in the mikvah. After she fulfills this Mitzvah, she and her husband may once again engage in physical relations. Taharat Hamishpachah rejuvenates the marriage monthly. The longing for physical expression gives way on the day of immersion to an experience which parallels the original "honeymoon" experience.

During the time that a couple may not be together physically, they relate to each other in non-physical ways, talking and sharing. The couple develops meaningful ways to express love, affection, and appreciation, transcending the physical.

A Young Jewish woman described her experience of going to mikvah and its effect on her marriage:
"Once at the mikvah, I found a very clean and modern facility. I also found complete and detailed instructions on how to prepare. I enjoyed the preparation immensely and still do.

Never in my daily life do I allow myself the luxury of more than half an hour in the [bath] and the complete attention to my physical self from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. How happy I was to rediscover myself! When I went into the mikvah, the water was warm, friendly and accepting. I said the brachah (blessing), submerged myself a second time,3  and came out feeling really renewed.

The ritual of going to the mikvah has had the hoped-for effect on our marriage. We have two weeks free from sexual pressures and demands. I find that during this time I feel closer to G-d, meditate more often, and study more easily. Our time together is really together, precious because it won't last forever, treasured by both of us. During that time, I feel closer to the material human world and seem to have more energy for all people - not only my husband."

It may be said that a husband and wife who observe Taharat Hamishpachah are the ultimate "romantics" - honeymooning some twelve times a year. The halachot of Taharat Hamishpachah uplift the sexual act to a sublime experience.

The Torah was given to the Jews to uplift them beyond the plane of human wisdom. Taharat Hamishpachah strengthens family life, engenders peace between the couple, and sanctifies the mundane. The fulfillment of this mitzvah has a profound influence on one's family and on all past and future generations.

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