The Wedding Gift

The Wedding Gift

The month of Elul is an auspicious month that precedes the High Holy days of Rosh Hashono (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Children are taught a simple way to understand the significance of the month Elul from a phrase in Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) where each word begins with one letter in the word Elul: Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li. “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.”

The “I” refers to us, the Jewish People. Our “Beloved” is G-d, our King, our Benefactor, our Protector, Source of all Life and all goodness.

But “I am” - what? – “to my Beloved”? Implied here is the word “devoted”, and not only devoted, but exclusively devoted.

It is not enough to be devoted to G-d as well as to others, G-d forbid. It is not enough to worship G-d at the same time that we worship secular gods or idols. G-d requires our EXCLUSIVE devotion. I am (only) to my Beloved… and He is only to me. So says the very word ELUL.

There are vast lessons to be learned from this about our relationship with G-d, but on the surface, Shir Hashirim is written as a deeply passionate love song between husband and wife.

MARRIAGE AS G-D WANTS IT

As a Taharas Hamishpacha (Laws of Family Sanctity) teacher, I must not only think a lot about what makes marriage work, but I must find the words to convey to my students the practices and attitudes which will help them. One thing I have found to be true for all Jewish couples is this:

All the vital gifts available to us through being happily married are delineated in the Torah. When we live 100% according to the Torah, our marriages are as deep and as passionate as the love described in Shir Hashirim.

The Torah gives us one vital gift, for example, with the Laws of Harchaka (separation). These laws, which require a pulling away, are  what enable us to have a reunion. As I told one woman in my Taharas Hamishpacha class - a long married, Orthodox woman whose marriage was languishing, “You didn’t take yourself away, so you have nothing to give back.”

Over the many years of marriage, she had let the precious Laws of Harchaka slide. By now they were simply gone, not a part of their lives. As if somehow they “didn’t need them anymore!”

Some young women in my classes protest, “Oh, it is so embarrassing to be keeping the Laws of Harchaka in public.” I want to know, WHY? Why is it any more embarrassing to be recognized as being in one phase, than in another? As a matter of fact, to me it seems more embarrassing if people know you are in the other phase, where these laws of separateness are not required.

ARI AND SHOSHI

You have know about these laws since your engagement, or earlier. Maybe they are “no big deal” in your eyes. If so, I wish you could have met Ari and Shoshi, a completely non-religious couple I am friends with in Israel, where I live with my husband and children.

In Israel, even the most non-religious Jewish women do go to the mikvah just once before the wedding and Shoshi came to me to learn how to prepare for the pre-wedding mikvah immersion.

I gave her the information she came for, wished her the best of luck and thought that would be the end of it. But no, before she left my house, she leaned forward with a curious little smile. “Come on, tell me the truth, what do you teach THEM?” By ‘them’ she meant the Orthodox girls.

Never one to let an opportunity slip away, I agreed to tell her. We sat for hours while I explained to her that during the separation phase, the Orthodox girls would not even hand something directly to their husbands. Their husbands would not be allowed to smell their perfume or hear them sing. The wives would be completely modest in front of their husbands, even in private.

Shoshi’s eyes began to shine. “I want to try it that way!” she exclaimed, very excited by my description.

I went to the wedding. After the chuppah, Ari came over to me. “Are you the woman?” Somehow I knew just what he meant and said yes. “So all this was your idea? “Don’t do this, don’t do that”!?” He sighed dreamily. “It was the best wedding present we received. Even though we have known each other for a very long time, I cannot believe how I feel tonight. Thank you!”

Isn’t that the way it can be for us, too? “Even though we have known each other for a very long time…”

Only if we rashly reject the wedding gift G-d gave us, is it different. Therefore I suggest that when a couple is having any sort of marital problems, before they look any further, they should become  stringent with the Laws of Harchokos specifically, which tend to slide with the years.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson said in his own words: “When you are close when you should be apart, you’ll be apart when you should be close.”

It is the distance as described by Halacha (Jewish Law) which creates the reunion as described in Shir Hashirim.


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