Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
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- Thursday, November 30, '00 - Parshas Toldos 5761

In Parshas Naso is the Torah reading about the sacrifices brought by the 12 tribal leaders for the original inauguration of the mikdash. According to midrash and kabala, the sacrifices of the 12 tribal leaders represents beginning a marriage! "It was the day of his wedding, the day of the happiness of his heart (Song Of Songs 3:11)." Rashi writes, "'The day of the happiness of his heart.' This is the eighth day of setting up the Mishkan [when sacrificial service was inaugurated in the sanctuary - with the first day of sacrifices by the 12 tribal leaders]." We see that the inauguration of the service of the Mishkan (by the 12 tribal leaders) is an analogy to marriage.

Hashem commanded building the sanctuary to enable Jews to achieve holiness, atonement and perfection. When the service was inaugurated, it was a day of celebration. Yet, the Torah says, "And it was on the day when Moshe completed setting up the sanctuary" (Numbers 7:1), starting with the word "Vayihee (And it was)," which always introduces something with an element of pain and misfortune (tractate Megilah 10b). How does the Torah refer to one of the happiest and most profound milestones in Torah history, inaugurating Temple service, as a day of trouble?

The Midrash Tanchuma brings the following story (on "Vayihee" in Numbers 7:1). There was a king who had a very argumentative, shrewish and troublesome wife. He said to his queen, "Sit down and start sewing a huge royal cloak." He thought to himself, "I know that as long as she is busy sewing, she will be occupied because this is a very large and intricate assignment, so she will not be able to make trouble." She sewed and sewed and sewed. One fine day, she came to the king and said, "Here is the royal cloak. I finished the job."

The king said, "Oy vay [oh woe]!"

The queen was surprised at his response. "You told me to sew a royal cloak. I sat down and made the royal cloak as you said. What's this 'oy vay'?"

The king said, "All the time that you were working on the cloak, I knew you were busy and occupied, I knew you weren't going to incite any fights, provoke or anger me or make any trouble for me. Now that you're free from the work and finished, OY VAY, you can start in causing me trouble again."

The midrash learns this story from the first word in the story of inauguration of the sanctuary, "Vayihee (and it was)," which is grammatically close to "vay (woe)." While the Jews were busy making the sanctuary, a long and intricate job, they were too busy to anger the King, G-d, with sins. Before the work on the sanctuary, they had time to sin with the golden calf, time for distractions from spirituality. Now that the sanctuary was done, the Jews could find time for trouble and sin, and to provoke the "King."

In drash and kabala, these inaugurative sacrifices of the tribal leaders represent getting happily married. The midrash can correspond to the marriage aspect also. You may think that when you're going out or engaged that you have to keep busy. You work carefully on impressing, on not antagonizing and on winning the person. Once married, he says, "No more Mr. Nice Guy. I'll forget about her feelings and needs; I got to get on with the real important business of life." She says, "Now I got him hooked, he isn't going anywhere anymore. I can look like I want, do what I want and spend his money like I want."

No, the midrash says. If you think the work comes before marriage, and then you are free to do what you want when married, OY VAY! That marriage will be a disaster. THE WEDDING IS REALLY WHEN THE WORK JUST STARTS! Once the work on building the sanctuary, mishkan (from the word kodesh, holy) was completed, there was time for trouble. If used for avoda (service of G-d), the sanctuary is holiness. If a couple gets married ill-equipped, or unwilling, to do all the work of building and maintaining their marriage, there is so much room for trouble and damage. If equipped for avoda, then the marriage, kidushin (also from the word kodesh), is holiness. If they are prepared to work to make their marriage holy, subordinated to the service of G-d, ready to work and sacrifice for the sake of their marriage, that couple will have continual happiness.

The Torah portion before Naso, Bamidbar, tells of how each of the twelve tribes received its own banner, to give each its own unique identity. This story takes place on the first day of the SECOND MONTH of the second year after the departure from Egypt. The second portion (Naso) tells how each of the twelve tribal leaders brought generous sacrifices to inaugurate the service of the sanctuary (which was the forerunner to the Holy Temple). This story takes place on the first day of the FIRST MONTH of the second year after the departure from Egypt.

Notice that the first portion, chronologically, takes place second (a month later) and the second portion takes place first. We have a principle that the Torah is not required to be chronological. Its writings often are positioned so that adjacency, context or sequence of the writings give us instructive lessons. By the same token, when there is no reason to veer from chronology, the Torah maintains it. For example, the story of Creation IS INDEED right at the beginning of the Torah! So what is the lesson when the above two stories in the Torah are placed in reverse chronological order?

The story of the 12 tribal leaders bringing sacrifices represents (in Midrash and Kabala) STARTING A MARRIAGE! Each of the 12 leaders brought the exact same sacrifices (flour, incense, animals, etc.) and the Torah repeats the list (of about 70 words) 12 times with each leader's name (for a total of about 800 words). The Torah is concerned about brevity, and we have here the most extensive case of "non-brevity" in the entire Torah! The Torah could have said that all 12 leaders brought the list of gifts, and saved about 700 words! Ramban explains the repetition. The 12 leaders had utmost honor for Heaven. Their intention was pure. None was looking to out-do the other. THEY WERE ALL UNIFIED AND AT PEACE. Each was only concerned with giving respectfully and wholeheartedly for a cause greater than self. THIS IS WHAT MAKES A MARRIAGE!

In the story of the banners, each tribe had its own identity, its unique and separate individuality. When a person looks at the Torah superficially, his flesh and blood eyes see the story of separate identities first, and see, as last, the story of what makes a marriage. Yet, chronologically, the story of the sacrifices actually comes first. Because the 12 leaders' giving was so complete and perfect, and was so beloved in G-d's eyes, the Torah included, in full, every detail of each leader's identical set of gifts. The Torah is instructing us NOT TO FALL INTO THE TRAP OF SEEING SEPARATE IDENTITY AND INDIVIDUALITY FIRST. The "G-dly perspective" is to see that THE PEACE, UNITY, SACRIFICE, GIVING, RESPECT, UNSELFISHNESS, RESPONSIBILITY AND FREEDOM FROM EGO - WHICH ARE CENTRAL TO MARRIAGE - COME FIRST. Do not say, "I got to be me! I have to fulfill myself! You must do more for me! I have to do my own thing!" IN G-D'S EYES, the couple comes before the self! Your unique "self" is never an exemption from giving; it is the DEFINITION OF HOW YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY, IDENTITY, INDIVIDUALITY, TALENTS, STRENGTHS AND ABILITIES CONTRIBUTE TO THE "TEAM;" it is HOW YOU GIVE AND SUBORDINATE YOUR UNIQUE "SELF" TO THE MARRIAGE!