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“Go forth, O Daughters of Zion, and behold King Shlomo with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, and on the day of the gladness of his heart” (Shir Hashirim 3:11).
The Gemara declares (Shavuos 35b), that “King Shlomo” in Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs) refers to The King of Peace – Hashem.
The Mishnah explains (Ta’anis, Perek 4 Mishnah 8): “’The day of his wedding’ – this refers to the day of the giving of the Torah on Sinai; ’The day of the gladness of his heart’ – this refers to the day of the erection of the Holy Temple.”
My Rebby, shlita, once explained this Chazal with an enlightening allegory. Imagine a couple who got married. Both the bride and the groom were only children to their parents, and they and their families always anticipated their wedding day. From the moment they became engaged, preparations went into high gear to make this the “most unforgettable wedding ever.” Since both families were people of means, and money was no object, it was only a question of planning. And that’s exactly what they did. For months, they were totally obsessed with plans for the wedding. It was on their mind day and night. They picked the finest hall with the nicest decorations, to which they added many of their own innovations; they searched for and found the best band in the country; they personally tasted every food item which was to be served; they designed the fanciest invitations one could imagine and invited the most distinguished guests to what was predicted to be “the event of the century.”
Finally, the big day arrived and, much to their satisfaction, there were no disappointments. Everyone agreed that it was the nicest wedding they had ever attended: the food was luscious; the band was fantastic; and, in general, a marvelous time was had by all. Everyone went home feeling very upbeat; happy that they were invited and were able to attend such a splendid affair.
But then, something very strange happened. When the last of the guests had gone, and the families sighed a deep sigh of relief as they thanked Hashem for allowing them to be privileged to witness the fulfillment of their life-long dreams, the chosson (groom) packed up his belongings and prepared to go back to his parents’ home while the kallah (bride) packed up her things and prepared to return to hers! The rabbi, who performed the beautiful ceremony, asked them what was going on, and, to his amazement, they explained that now that they had successfully attained the culmination of their aspirations, they could go back to their regular lives, feeling totally content and satisfied!
The rabbi, of course, told them that this is ridiculous. A wedding is not an end by itself; it is merely a means to an end. The objective of the wedding is for the bride and groom to go now to build their own home together; a home which will be a true bayis ne’eman biYisrael – a steadfast, Jewish home. The day after the wedding, things cannot be “business as usual,” with bride and groom returning to their previous lives. The wedding must bring them into a new world, a totally different existence; a life of man and wife.
Although the allegory is quite simple, many of us make that same silly mistake on a spiritual level. Not understanding what Shavuos really represents and what it is all about, we focus on its aspect as “the great wedding day” between Hashem, the groom, and The Children of Israel, His bride. One of the great Kabbalists, Rabbi Yisrael Najara (author of Kah Ribon Olam) actually composed a Tannaim and Kesubah (marriage contracts), based on Kabala, symbolizing the nuptial agreements between them. Some even have the custom of reading them publicly at the Yom Tov meal. These documents describe how spectacular the event actually was: Hashem arranged for the visual and sound effects of thunder and lightning and burning torches; He invited myriads of angels to entertain; He invoked the galaxies to play the most “Heavenly” music; and He had the firmaments produce sweet-smelling fragrances. This wedding was, beyond a doubt, the most magnificent one there ever was, or ever will be.
But the wedding was only a means to a much loftier end. “’The day of his wedding’ – this refers to the day of the giving of the Torah on Sinai; ’The day of the gladness of his heart’ – this refers to the day of the erection of the Holy Temple.” The innermost chamber of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, where the Holy Ark within which lied the two Tablets of the Ten Commandments, together with the Sefer Torah which was written by Moshe Rabbeinu, is referred to in Tanach as the “bedroom chamber.” The reason for this is that there is the intimate meeting place between Hashem and His “bride,” the People of Israel. The purpose of the “wedding day,” on Shavuos, was to initiate the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple to fulfill the commandment, “And they shall make a Sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Shemos 25:8). If, after the giving of the Torah, the “bride and groom” return to their regular way of life before the “wedding” and don’t go on to build a “home” – the Temple – together, then they have missed the main point of the entire event.
Many have the custom of staying up all night on Shavuos and learning until dawn. But even this can serve as a distraction from the main focus of the holiday. For Shavuos is not merely the day of “learning Torah”; most importantly, it is the day of the “receiving of the Torah.” It is the day that we have to decide what part we want Torah to play in our daily lives; how much we will learn; what we will learn; with whom we will learn; where we will learn; what are our goals in learning; and what are our goals in life, in general. And the way to do this is to take time out, before Shacharis (the Morning Service), and take a walk alone, for at least a quarter to half an hour, and do some very serious introspection about whom we are and whom we want to be – whom Hashem wants us to be. What are our strengths and weaknesses and how can we best utilize them to serve Hashem properly. When we come to the proper conclusions, including a daily, itemized, schedule of learning, then we can go to shul and pray to Hashem to help us successfully actualize our aspirations. In the Shemoneh Esrei we say, “Visain chelkeinu bisorasecha – give us our portion in Your Torah.” And as we hear the reader relate the dramatic story of the giving of the Torah on Sinai, we should imagine that we are standing there with them, receiving our own, personal part in the great mission of the Jewish Nation.
And after performing all of the above, we will actually experience “The day of his wedding.” But it will not end with that. Most importantly, it will bring us to “The day of the gladness of his heart.” After Shavuos, things will not be “business as usual.” Every one of us will proceed to build his own personal Temple, a home where we will live together with our “Groom” – Hashem, and together, we will “live happily ever after,” in this world and in the world-to-come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network