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Friday, 15 January 2016

Fall in love again and again

Daf Yomi Gittin 32

Which biblical couple had the best marriage?  Think about the relationships of our patriarchs and matriarchs.  Avraham had to be told by Hashem to listen to Sarah.  What’s more, it took decades of marriage until he told her how beautiful she was.  Rivkah had to deceive Yitzchak in order to have Yaakov receive the special blessing.  Rachel couldn’t contain her upset over her barrenness causing Yaakov to become angry with her.  Leah had to buy her way into her Yaakov’s bedroom. 

Is there any union in the Torah that serves as an ideal model for marriage?

The verse in Hoshea states, “For though he be fruitful among the brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of Hashem shall come up from the desert, and his spring shall dry up.”
Rava says: [The east wind causes] even the handle of a hoe to loosen. 
Rav Yosef says: Even a peg in the wall may loosen.
Rav Acha bar Yaakov says: Even a reed woven into a wicker basket may loosen.

If relationships were to operate in a vacuum, they would be much simpler and more straightforward.   But that’s not how life works.  We are constantly assailed by ‘east winds’ that brew up a storm, throwing all manner of challenge into our lives.  That’s why it appears that our patriarchs and matriarchs may not have had perfect marriages.  It wasn’t that they were deficient in their marriage skills; they were just working through the issues blown in by the east wind.

The east wind can blow all sorts of tests and challenges into your relationships.  Sometimes it’s a financial challenge.   Maybe you or your spouse suddenly lost their job.  Sometimes it’s a challenge with children.  Your teenager may be acting up and you’re both at your wit’s end.  Sometimes it’s a health challenge.  And other times, it’s just the day-to-day challenges that the east wind has slowly but surely been blowing in.

It’s not easy to keep an awesome, passionate, loving union going with everything else going on.  The Gemara tells us that the east wind can upset even the tightest bonds.  But, depending on the nature of your relationship, you will weather the storm and continue to build the bond between you.

Is your marriage like a handle and a hoe?  In other words: imagine a broom connected to the broomstick.  In order to work properly, they need to be squeezed in very tightly together.  That’s a great relationship.   But it runs the risk of being loosened by the east wind if you are more of the stick than the broom.  The stick on its own is useless; it’s only there to make the broom do its thing.  If one of you is there simply serving the other one and helping them to reach their dreams and goals, you might feel it’s a solid relationship, but you have to wonder how the other person feels.

Is your marriage like a peg in the wall?  That’s a pretty solid relationship, tight enough to withstand some of the strongest east winds.  Both are serving one another.  The peg needs the wall to maintain its position; and the wall needs the peg to present its best self, such as with pictures that may be hung on the wall.  Nevertheless, the union is only built on one relationship aspect.  It’s like a marriage that’s built on a common love of birds, or a common interest in art or music. 

That kind of relationship is good, but ideally, you want a relationship that is multifaceted, woven together like a wicker basket so tightly that even the strongest east winds will not shake the bond.  You might have fallen in love with your spouse for a variety of reasons.  Some of those are eternal, others may be more temporary.  The thing about a wicker basket is that it is not satisfied to be bound together with just one loop; each reed binds itself to the basket with loop after loop after loop.  The secret to a rock solid marriage is to constantly find new ways to connect with your spouse – new interests, new ways to make them happy, new strategies to fall in love over and over again!

Even still, the Gemara says that the strongest relationship will be rocked from time to time.  Even the wicker basket is loosened by the east wind.  That doesn’t mean you have a less-than-perfect relationship.  The fact that our patriarchs and matriarchs had their challenges and differences didn’t mean they weren’t bashert – meant for one another.  That’s just the nature of marriage – our Sages tell us “the same way no two people have the same face, similarly no two people have the same character.”  The challenge of marriage is to constantly work to weave that wicker basket ever stronger and airtight.

G-d looked at Adam and said, “It’s not good for a person to be alone.”  He never said that spending your life with another human being would be a walk in the park either!  But the rewards of a healthy relationship when both spouses are working together to build an incredible wicker basket are unsurpassed!  May you never stop weaving your basket and building an incredible life with your spouse!

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