Intimacy and Commitment

Intimacy and Commitment Immersion in the Mikvah represents a bond with the source of all existence, God. A woman who immerses so that her entire body is covered by the waters of the mikvah is relating totally, with her entire being, to God. Similarly, from an emotional perspective, the woman must be totally submerged in the experience of mikvah. She must appreciate it as a sanctified process, granting her new sensitivity to spirituality. The sense of purity, the anticipated, reunion with her husband and, most importantly, the satisfaction of fulfilling God's will, all combine to create an uplifting experience.

The connection between intimacy and commitment is far reaching. It extends well beyond the relationship between man and woman. From the Torah point of view, the notion of intimacy also lies at the heart of the connection between woman and God. It is also the means by which God expresses His adoration and love for the Jewish people. 

For man and woman, the marriage partners, the incorporation of the Family Purity code into their life is a major commitment. It affects their relationship physically and spiritually. From the loftiest concepts that surround the principles of mikvah and purity down to the very design of the bedroom, this precious code is relevant. On a deeper level, the philosophy behind Family Purity is relevant to the nature of the communication and level of intimacy shared by husband and wife while in a more mundane sense it may affect their vacation plans or their leisure times.

However, between woman and God, Family Purity represents a special connection, a private relationship with her Maker. Mikvah introduces a sense of intimacy into the woman-God relationship, a union and connection that has no other parallel in Jewish law or experience. Immersion in a mikvah creates a oneness with God; it is a spiritual intimacy which sets the tone for and precedes the intimacy she can only then enjoy with her husband.

The woman's total immersion in the mikvah carries the message of total commitment of one's entire being to Godliness. It cuts across the notion of limited or part time Judaism and emphasizes the totality of Torah observance. For a few precious moments, the woman is enveloped by spirituality, her body completely submerged in the 'living waters' of the mikvah. Momentarily she returns back to the state of purity that surrounded Adam and Eve at the beginning of creation when they were naked but unashamed because of the purity of their connection with God. This privelege forms the basis of a special relationship between woman and God.

Tangentially, it is worth nothing that the only other commandment that involved the whole body is the mitzvah of Sukkah, where in most instances the whole person sits in the Sukkah. Both commandments also share another feature; their connection with joy. The conjugal obligation of a husband towards his wife is found in the words "and he should make his wife happy". The title attributed to the Sukkot festival is "the time of our rejoicing". Indeed, the message of Sukkot is mentioned expressly in the Torah where the reason for this mitzvah is written. "In order that your (future) generations shall know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt." Commitment to God requires knowledge, a word which is connected to intimacy.

The connection between Sukkah and mikvah is further reinforced by the idea that a Sukkah is compared to a chuppah, the marriage canopy, while the seven days of rejoicing following the wedding day. The Ramban extends this idea further by comparing the seven days of Sukkot to the seven days of creation. It is God's creative spirit vested in woman which is revitalized by the mikvah waters referred to as 'mayim chayim', the living waters.

Total commitment may at times represent a burden and an onerous responsibility. But ultimately, its purpose is to bring joy to those that express that commitment be it in relation to the festivals or the mikvah and the sphere of intimacy.

And finally, it is through the experience of marriage and intimacy that God's love and adoration for the Jewish people is highlighted. God delights in the attainment of the happiness of His people which is achieved though marriage and love. The first commandment in the Torah is to 
be fruitful and multiply". The Midrash tells us that God presided over the marriage of Adam and Chava on the first day of creation. God's recognition of the importance of the relationship between man and woman is spelled out early in the book of Bereishis when God says, "it is not good that man be alone."

Our rabbis tell us that God delighted in the marriage of the Patriarchs. The Torah mentions the details of the Patriarchs' relationships with their wives in order to tell us of the greatness of God's joy in seeing them together.

So important is marriage and family to God that the Talmud tells us that on entering the World to Com a person is asked three questions: "Did you buy and sell in good faith? Did you have a set time for Torah study? Did you raise a family?"

God shows His special regard for marriage by releasing from the worlds above the souls of deceased parents and grandparents who are able to be present at the wedding of their children. At the wedding, under the chuppah, God enters into a lifelong partnership with the newly wed couple, imparting to the woman the blessing and power of creativity.

How significant is the Midrash which relates the account of a Roman matron who once asked Rabbi Yose Ben Chalafta. "Now that God has finished creating the world, what does He do?" Rabbi Yose replied that "God now arranges matches, bringing couples together so that they can marry each other."

Oneness and unity are a central theme of Judaism. We attest to the oneness of God in the famous Shema prayer everyday. "On that day God will be one and the world will be one" is also said everyday in reference to the Messianic era. intimacy is the vehicle by which this oneness and unity is achieved in relations to the woman and man, woman and God and ultimately God and the Jewish people.

Excerpted from Spirituality and Intimacy by Rabbi Raphael Aron. Click her to purchase the book in its entirety

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