Daf Yomi Sotah 17
At this time of year, a curious channel appears on some cable television broadcasts: the fireplace. When you first discover it, it’s interesting and exciting. Who could’ve imagined such a thing existed? Is it for real? But then after a while, it gets boring. And then annoying. And then you start wondering what you ever saw in it!
Rabbi Akiva taught: Ish, meaning husband, is spelled alef yud shin. Isha, meaning wife, is spelled alef shin hay. Regarding an ‘ish’ and an ‘isha’ (husband and wife), if they are meritorious, the Divine presence dwells with them; if they are not meritorious, the ‘aish’ (fire) consumes them.
Rashi explains: The Almighty divided up His name, placing the yud in ‘ish’ and the hay in ‘isha’. If they are not meritorious, He removes His name from them and they are left as ‘aish’ (alef shin) and ‘aish.’
Remember how the sparks were flying when you first met your spouse? When you finally got married, they became your eternal flame, leaving any old flames in the dust and ashes.
But after a while, for some couples the flame can start to feel like the fireplace channel. It’s always there, but it’s no longer as stimulating and exciting as when you first encountered it. You wonder what you ever saw. Now everything suddenly feels, at best, boring. Or at worst, annoying. How do you keep the flame alive?
Rabbi Akiva teaches that the only way to keep a positive flame in your marriage is when you let Hashem in. When you are growing together spiritually, the flame continues to burn ever so brightly and powerfully. The fire never dims when you are constantly igniting one another with spiritual yearning.
When you remove the Shechina (Divine Presence) from the marriage, one of two things happens: either the flame begins to dull, or you end up with two opposing flames. It becomes aish versus aish – fire against fire. You might still both be passionate but you’re working at odds with one another. Instead of the two flames becoming one, it is two competing flames, each one only caring about themselves, and vying for dominance in the marriage.
But with G-d in the marriage, the two flames become one. These two flames are celebrated every Motzei Shabbos (Saturday night) at Havdallah. When we usher out the Shabbos, we bless over a candle that must consist of two flames that are one.
Havdallah is all about our separation “between the holy and mundane, light and darkness, Israel and the nations, and Shabbos and the six workdays.” The two conjoined wicks symbolize the strength and power the husband and wife have as a single entity, separated from the world. When you have G-d in your marriage, you become unbreakable, a single, mighty force of spiritual fire, taking on the world together, but never affected by the world.
How do you keep the flame alive? By passionately having your marriage revolve around spirituality. May you merit a relationship that burns bright and strong and passionately together as one flame, together till 120!