Moed Katan 3
Richard and Rachel are a lovely young couple who have been married a couple of years now. I always thought, ‘what a lucky girl!’ since every time I saw her she would be wearing a new piece of jewellery!
One day, however, they came to see me for relationship advice. It seems that whenever they got into a fight, he went out and bought her a new adornment. Sure enough, she was thrilled with the gifts, but they had finally realized that the issues in their marriage ran deeper than a new bracelet or two.
Regarding the sabbatical year when the fields must lay fallow, the Torah states, “Your field shall you not sow and your vine shall you not prune.”
The Beraisa asks: The verse only teaches me about sowing and pruning. How do I know that weeding, uprooting, hoeing and cutting are forbidden?
Answers the Beraisa: “Your field shall you not... your vine shall you not…” teaches that no work may be done in the field and no work may be done in the vineyard.
The Beraisa continues: I might think that one may not hoe beneath the olive tree nor hoe under the grapevine. Therefore the verse states, “Your field shall you not sow,” which teaches that only work such as sowing that is performed in both a field and vineyard is forbidden. This excludes hoeing under an olive tree.
The Gemara asks: Is hoeing indeed permitted? The Torah states, “And in the sabbatical year, you shall leave it and forsake it,” which means refraining from hoeing and clearing the field!
Rabbi Ukva bar Chama explains: There are two kinds of hoeing. One strengthens the tree and one just closes the cracks in the earth around the tree. Strengthening the tree is forbidden while closing the cracks is permissible. In other words, filling in the cracks is not considered real work.
There are two approaches to resolving conflict in our relationships. We can merely fill in the cracks or we can truly ‘strengthen the tree.’ When you have a fight with your spouse and you patch it up with a piece of jewellery, the Talmud doesn’t consider that work. Real work means getting to the root of the issue and strengthening the tree of your marriage. Marriage takes hard work. Simply filling in the cracks is not work and accomplishes very little.
Working at your marriage entails giving of your very essence for your spouse. It means constantly striving to fulfill your spouse’s needs, wants, aspirations and dreams. When you married your spouse, you chose to dedicate your life to serving this individual and helping them achieve greatness. You should never aim merely to placate them – that’s a quick fix. Your eternal goal should be to make them feel like the most special person on the planet.
And the same is true of your relationship with the Almighty. Some of us go for quick fixes. We’re feeling a little spiritual and so we do a mitzvah or two. Maybe you’ll pop into shul this Shabbos. But He wants so much more from you. He doesn’t need your spiritual fix; He wants a deep and meaningful relationship with you and that takes work!
Stop filling in the cracks – that’s not work! Start strengthening the tree with your spouse, with your children, with all your loved ones and above all, with the Holy One, blessed be He with behaviour that is deep, permanent and effortful!