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MARRIAGE LICENSE

by Michael Gros    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

It is a custom at weddings to wish single friends “soon by you.” Well-thought out blessings are handed out to special guests by the bride and groom.

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It is a custom at weddings to wish single friends “soon by you.” Well-thought out blessings are handed out to special guests by the bride and groom. At their wedding, the couple hopes that their blessings will come to fruition soon — but only Hashem knows when this will happen.

Hashem must have been listening very carefully at my wedding, because exactly one year and four days later, one of my very special friends and college roommates has found his bashert and will be getting married. Emulation is the highest form of flattery. Now that I’ve had a year to work on it, I can talk from (a little) experience about marriage.

One of the keys to a happy marriage can be found in the story of the creation of man. When Adam and Eve were created, the Talmud (Tractate Berachot) tells us that they were created as a single entity, which G-d then separated into two separate halves. From this we learn that togetherness is the natural state of mankind. The Torah stresses this when it says “Man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This message is especially strong on this Shabbat, as we mark the festival of Tu B’av (the 15th day of the month of Av). On Tu B’av during the Temple period, unmarried men and women would go out into the fields in order to find their mates. Tu B’av was one of the happiest days of the year, because it was on this day that each person would find his or her other half. Once a person finds his bashert, the person that G-d has chosen for him, he becomes ‘complete,’ as he reunites with the other half of his soul.

This idea of unity between a husband and a wife can be used to explain a strange inconsistency in this week’s Torah portion. The Torah states, “From there you will seek Hashem, your G-d, and you will find Him” (Deuteronomy 4:29). A casual observer, especially one reading the English translation, would easily miss the strange dichotomy in this line. The line uses the Hebrew word “uvikashtem — you [plural] will seek,” and then says “umatzta — you [singular] will find Him.” What is G-d talking about, and why does He change from plural to singular?

Rabbi Meir Simchah HaKohen, a great Torah scholar at the turn of the 20th century, explains that this verse refers to the unity of the Jewish people. When Jews are united in a single purpose, that of serving Hashem, they lose their individual identities and become a single entity. However, at a time when the Jewish people will abandon the Torah, as is foretold in this week’ Torah portion, their common allegiance to G-d is dissolved. As a result, they become separated from one another and lose their sense of unity. Now it is possible to understand the discrepancy in the verse. “Uvikashtem — you will begin to seek” is written in the plural, referring to the Jewish people when they stray from G-d, and therefore become separate from Him and from each other. But ‘umatzta — you will find Him,” is in the singular, for once Jews find G-d, they reestablish their bond with Him and are reunited with their fellow Jews into one indivisible entity.

The unity of the Jewish people is a phrase that is commonly thrown about today. How is it possible to achieve this lofty goal? To achieve the goal of unity of the entire Jewish people, it is necessary first for each person to be united with the other half of his soul. When the verse says “uvikashtem” in the plural, it is possible to understand this as the individual man and woman before marriage, who seeks G-d, but has difficulty finding Him. Once two people find each other and join together, they become a single entity, capable of “umatzta,” of finding G-d. Is marriage a guaranteed way of finding G-d? When a couple unites to create a home of happiness and Jewish traditions, the Talmud (Tractate Sotah) tells us that they bring the presence of G-d into their home.

A home based on Torah values and love becomes a dwelling place for G-d, in effect fulfilling the second half of the verse, that you will find Him. From the strength of the family comes the strength of the nation. A strong family, based on Jewish customs, creates a strong, unified Jewish people. By creating a strong Jewish home, we are able to find G-d, and can bring His presence into our homes and into the world.

 

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This Dvar Torah is dedicated to Sammy and Mandy in honor of their upcoming wedding.

Michael Gros is a graduate of Emory University, and recently finished two years of learning at Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell’s College in Jerusalem. After his first year of marriage, he is happy to report that Sammy and Mandy have a wonderful thing ahead of them.

You are invited to read more Parshat Vaetchanan articles.

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