Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
October 24th 2013 -Volume 4, Issue 4 –20th of Cheshvan 5774
Parshat Chayei Sarah
Love Lost and Love Found
Her brother is a crook. Her father is not much better. Her grandfather was a pagan and actually ran a business selling all types of religious paraphernalia. She's kind of young and supposed to be a sweet girl, always helping people out and praying a lot and she's really great with camels. There are rumors though that there are fertility problems in the family. She has an aunt that was not able to have children until very late in life. So whadya say? I mean, I know your son is a very pious man and all. And that you're a pretty well off guy that could afford a lot better. But who are we fooling? He's not young anymore and the truth is your lineage isn't much prettier. And the story about you taking him up and almost killing him, didn't gain any major shidduch (matchmaking) points either. So nuuu..? Is it a match or not? Oh, and I forgot to mention it's probably going to be a hefty dowry to get this girl, so send lots of jewelry to impress.
And thus the first Jewish match was made. I imagine most of the average matchmakers would never have been able to pull of such a match like that; the son of the greatest man of the generation, Avraham, and the daughter of Besuel and brother of Lavan, or as he was named by his victims and relatives as "the swindler". Truth is it's probably a good thing they didn't do too many background family checks on most of our ancestors. We would probably not be too proud. Lots of skeletons falling out of lots of closets. Uncles, brothers, associates and cousins whose pictures we would probably pull out of our family albums and hide from the kids-so they don’t ask too many questions. We have no shortage of black sheep.
The problem is that we have a mitzvah to learn the Torah. So we can't hide that book. And sadly enough without any rose smelling perfume to cover up the stench, or even any Israeli smoky cigarettes or oily shwarma smells to overpower it-all our dirty laundry comes out. We had an uncle named Lot, one called Yishmael, one named Esau, the leader of our tribes Yehuda fathered a child with his daughter-in-law- incidentally that is where king David came from, and on, and on, and on…It's all out there and there's no fixing our Shidduch resume. Even our great leader Moshe married the daughter of a once idolatrous priest. It's a real mess all around. If any of these people would be living in today's world there wouldn't be enough camels in the world that they could offer to get a shidduch/match. But yet they did find their "Bashert". The Jewish nation was thus born. Perhaps the lesson is to not neccesarily judge everyone by their families. We've all got some baggage.
The truth is though the story of the marriage of our forefather Yitzchak and our matriarch Rivkah in this weeks Torah portion is not a story of a girl from the "other side of the tracks" finding despite the odds her "true love" and running off to build their beautiful tomorrow together. Neither is it a story that tells us that one should not be particular or careful with "checking out" ones prospective spouses family and background. In fact it’s the first time in the Torah where we ever find someone making his messenger take a very graphic and serious oath. "Don't take a girl from the Canaani daughters". Avraham is a big believer in lineage. In fact her lineage is the only really condition that he gives that she be from his family. Not her looks, not her deeds, not her religious observance level, not whether she will cover her hair, light Shabbat candles, not even who she voted for in the last elections, just make sure she is from my family. Or as we say in Yiddish "fun unzereh".
To understand the Jewish concept of marriage the Torah is trying to teach us particularly with this first "shidduch", I believe we have to understand the revolution that took place in the approach to marriage with the advent of Judaism. Maimonides in his work on the laws of marriage begins with a history lesson.
"Before the Torah was given, when a man would meet a woman in the marketplace and he and she decided to marry, he would bring her home, conduct relations in private and thus make her his wife. Once the Torah was given, the Jews were commanded that when a man desires to marry a woman, he must acquire her as a wife in the presence of witnesses. [Only] after this, does she become his wife. This is [alluded to in Deuteronomy 22:13]: "When a man takes a wife and has relations with her.... This process of acquisition is universally referred to as erusin ("betrothal") or kiddushin ("consecration")."
With this law the world changed. People were no longer "living together" as an act of convenience, accommodation, for the purpose of procreation. Marriage was now given a new role. A man would "acquire" a wife. How hard are those words to our 21st (and probably even 20th century) ears to read, to relate to, to respect? But that's what it is. That's what God's description of the ultimate process of marital fulfillment is. Acquisition. Perhaps the way to understand it is by what it is called, rather than the description of its process-Kiddushin- consecration, holiness, sanctification. Marriage which done through the process of acquisition= Kiddushin/Holiness.
But isn't holiness something between God and I? Doesn't it happen in Synagogue? Marriage is about love, respect, shared goals, chemistry, children. Where does Hashem come into this process and what does He have to do with the process of marrying a woman.
To understand it all we really have to go back to the beginning, and I do mean "The Beginning".
"And Hashem said it is not good for man/adam to be alone, I will make him a helper opposite him."
Hashem never seemed to have a problem understanding why he created male and female elephants, dolphins, ants or even plantae (the fancy scientific word for plant life). All of a sudden He creates a single man and says "hey, this is not a good idea" and separates what seems to be this androgynous self-reproducing man/female-like being from one another and makes a female. What made him different from all the other beings? Why were we together and then separated? The answer is that man as opposed to all other beings was created with the spirit of God. He was given a Divine soul. The soul encompassed everything about God both male and female. Hashem Echad- God is one and we were created with that one-ness. The problem is that we were so great that Hashem said we would fool ourselves and begin to think that we were the only beings that would be ruling the world. God in the heaven and Man/God down here on earth. It seems that some of this tendency to think we are God still stuck with men today. Hashem therefore split us up. He put man/woman to sleep and took a rib from him and built woman.
"He called her Isha/woman because she was taken from Ish/man"
He made Female/Eve to remind the guys that we're not God. We were created to bring the God from heaven down here on earth. We were created to make Kiddushin /sanctification upon this world. The process for doing that is realizing that we are lacking in our soul and our ability to achieve this goal when we are separated, when we are not one again. We reacquire what was taken from us to form the oneness that will bring that Kedusha holiness back.
Until the Torah was given it was an old story. Man meets Girl, they like each other, what a nice coincidence, let's go do what we gotta do together; a partnership of two different beings to meet their individual needs and desires. This was a pre-Abraham world. This was a world that didn't know that there was a Divine soul in each and every one of us; the world that didn't know and understand that we were put here to bring heaven to earth and earth up to heaven. In the world of Avraham though, each man had to understand that life was not just about happening to meet someone and living life together. Man had to understand that he was lacking the part of his soul that he needed to fulfill his purpose on this world. Marriage is not anything that we "fall into". It has to be a calculated understanding that I am missing something and I need to acquire it back once again. Not only do I need to acquire it, but that acquisition is something that is the most essential thing in my life. Without her I can't make it happen. I can't be holy, I can't fulfill my holy role. I am Livado-alone just a half of me down here while Hashem is waiting up there.
The acquisition though is unlike any other acquisition. This is not just like a laptop, car, cow or camel. This is my life. It's me... the return of me...it's us. The man makes the aquisition because she was taken from him, but in truth it is a merger. It is rejoining her once again and uniting us into that original soul. Accidental, coincidental, convenient and even mere emotional relationships can come and go. Holy ones that unite the two souls in kiddushin with that higher purpose are as eternal as their life mission and mandate. They last forever.
When Avraham was looking for the mate for his son, the first Jewish shidduch, the only criterion was someone that comes from a place that recognizes it has that Divine DNA. Lavan and Besuel, our Matriarch Rivkah's father and brother, with all their flaws, still possessed that one recognition. They were the children of Nachor who grew up with Avraham. They had within them as did Avraham the potential and spark that would ultimately be ignited. They weren't from the cursed son of Noah, Cham. Rather they were the descendants of Shem. Their offspring would be able to make Kiddushin. The first Jewish wedding is ready to happen.
But what about love? Yes, what about love. Wait my friends, wait. Of course this is love. In fact it is the first time the Torah ever mentions love between a man and his wife. Adam "knew" Eve, Abraham "took" Sarah, But no mention of love. Yitzchak and Rivka meet and finally we have find love.
"And Yitzchak brings her to the tent of his mother Sarah (OB"M) and acquires her… and she becomes a wife to him… and he loves her."
To quote Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in the 19th century "the more she becomes his wife the more he loves her". Love in its truest sense are once the man and woman connect in that deepest way. The word love in Hebrew ahava has in fact the same numerical value (13) as another word Echad-one. Love is eternal because it is those two souls that have found one another and have committed to a life of transcendence, a relationship of holiness. They have become one. It's not the beginning of the story. It's the happily and holy ever after.
Have a lovely Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZES TOUR GUIDE EXAM QUESTION OF THE WEEK
(answer below at end of Email)
Where is the ANZAC Memorial located
a) Be'er Sheva
d) Mt. Scopus
Me'arat Ha'Machpela, Hebron- The oldest Jewish site in the world. That pretty much makes it a cool place in of itself. The first piece of land purchased in Israel. Even cooler. The place where the first was buried,where all our forefathers and 3/4 of our matriachs are buried, it doesn't get cooler. Welcome to Hevron the city that corresponds to earth (of the 4 basic elements of the world) and that is the foundation of the world. Here our sages tells us Adam and Eve are buried as well as the head of Esau. The current building which is on top of the doubled burial caves underneath where there were many archeological clay pots and other testimonies dating back to the early Israelite period, was built by Herod (same guy who built the Temple and you can see the similarities in the huge stones. After that it was built again and again by Byzantines, Arabs and Crusader and Mamaluks. From the period of the Mamluks for about 700 years until 1967 Jews were only allowed up till the 7 step outside. After it was conquered singlehandedly by then Chief Rabbi Goren it has been mostly put under the authority of the Waqf, particularly the access to the underground caves in the portion of Yitzchak and Rivka. Jews have access to those areas only ten days a year one of them being this Shabbos- known as Shabbos Chevron when thousands make the pilgrimage to this holiest of Jewish burial sites.
RABBI SCHWARTZ YOUTUBE LINK OF THE WEEK
(In honor of Shabbat Chevron)
Life in Hebron today the heroes that live there for us
The story of the resettlement of Chevron by the heroic woman who started it all
RABBI SCHWARTZES QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Your birthday is the day that Hashem decided that the world could not exist without you."-Rebbe Nachman of Breslav
RABBI SCHWARTZES JOKE OF THE WEEK
A mother is having a very tense relationship with her fourteen-year-old son. Screaming and fighting are constantly going on in the house. Finally she takes him to a psychoanalyst.
After two sessions, the doctor calls the mother into his office and says "Your son has an Oedipus complex."
"Oedipus Shmedipus," The woman answers, "As long as he loves his mother."
RABBI SCHWARTZES EXAM ANSWER OF THE WEEK
Answer is B: ANZAC or the Australian New Zealand Armed Corps were a battalion that fought with the British against the Turks in WWI here in the holyland. They were a Calvary brigade (horses) and perhaps the greatest battle they fought was the battle of Be'er Sheva (captured in the movie "The Lighthorsemen"). The Be'eri forest not far from Be'er Sheva was donated by the Australian division of the KKL (JNF) and is the location of the large A shaped Memorial to the soldiers that fell in WWI from ANZAC and from a distance it is also in the shape of a horse. Along the memorial are enjoyable hikes throughout the forest.