Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
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- Thursday, November 16, '00 - Parshas Vayeira 5761

"My dove" - the dove is a member of the animal kingdom that chooses one mate and remains loyal to it for a lifetime. Use of the term "dove" in Song Of Songs teaches that a spouse is for staying with for a life time - with this same person, with each loyal to the other. Further, when a dove is brought to the alter for slaughter as one of the sacrifices at the holy temple, when positioned for the sacrifice, it sticks its neck out as if to offer itself. This teaches that a spouse is one who willingly sacrifices, gives of self and extends self for one's spouse (NOT for the sake of slaughter! - but for the sake of the relationship). Further, the midrash says that the dove turns its head to look back at its nest longingly when it flies away from the nest. This teaches us that the dove knows that its support, its strength and the center of its life is the nest that it shares with its mate. One's home and mate are the support, strength and center of one's life. And, the dove is chaste, always faithful to its one mate.

The Torah's recounting of the flood tells us that when Noach wanted to see if the waters dried up, he sent a raven out of the arc, and then a dove. The midrash tells us that G-d forbade everyone - man and animal alike - to have marital relations while the world outside was being destroyed. The raven was one of the few inhabitants of the arc which sinned and violated this command from G-d. Further, the midrash tells us, when Noach wanted to find out if the waters receded enough for disembarking from the arc back onto the land, he first chose to send out the raven. The raven is an unkosher species, so there were only two - one male and one female - on the arc and, therefore, in the world. The dove is a kosher species, so there were seven males and seven females on the arc. The raven had sinned, so if anything happened to it before it would fly back, Noach wanted this sinful species to be the one to become extinct. The raven was upset at being chosen, and he suspected that Noach wanted him to get killed so that Noach could steal his "wife." Not only is it farfetched to suspect that a human being would covet, and want to marry, a bird, but the Torah itself, at the beginning of this story, testified that Noach was a tzadik (that's why he was saved from the flood!). The depth of the message in this midrash is that when one's mind is evil or promiscuous, his mind works that way "universally, across the board." The low person's mind will project it's perversion or wickedness to even the most saintly person. After the raven came back (indicating that dry land had not yet appeared), Noach later sent a dove. The dove is chaste and is committed faithfully to one mate for a lifetime, in direct contrast with the promiscuous raven. This teaches us the repair for the raven's character fault. This is the proof that the raven's thinking was entirely wrong and misplaced, and that Noach was a complete tzadik. By sending the dove thereafter, Noach showed that he stood for faithfulness, purity and commitment. He was not interested in "Mrs. Raven." Noach was interested in being "kosher." This is all represented by the dove.

"My perfection." We know no one who is pure and faultless. Be we can accept our spouse and be satisfied AS IF the person is pure and perfect, by accepting faults, "shticklach," hang-ups, shortcomings, quirks and habits; and by appreciating wholeheartedly the qualities, attributes and strengths that make your mate special, precious, beautiful and unique. With all your faults, I love you no less than if you would be perfect.

Before, we differentiated two categories of fault: 1. those that make us imperfect human beings and 2. those which are injurious. Again, there is never room for damage-causing fault. We are talking about the category of faults that make us all normal, imperfect humans.

By accepting imperfections and appreciating the positives, one can perceive one's mate as one's "perfection." Even though not really perfect, you can love, appreciate and value your mate as much as if your mate was perfect. You regard your mate no less than someone perfect. You can be optimally happy, satisfied and peaceful with your "mate of perfection."

"My beauty." One must be attracted to one's mate. Your mate should be one or more of: beautiful, handsome, adorable, pretty, pleasant, cute, your eyes.

"My beloved." There must be endearment for there to be a bond. Your mate should be heartwarming to you. Through endearment, the couple has the love and affection that brings the couple to true oneness for a lifetime. To borrow again from chapter one, the essence of building this is through both giving for the good and happiness of the other.

A well-known verse in Psalms (104:15) says, "Wine will make happy a person's heart." An obvious question on this verse is that alcohol is a drug. It only can furnish a fleeting, external, artificial effect. Your essential, intrinsic condition is unchanged by the wine. There is nothing real about the happiness of wine. You only SEEM to feel happy TEMPORARILY. What, then, is real happiness?

Song Of Songs does not only use the root word "dode (beloved)" in saying "dodi (my beloved)." There is a verse (1:2) which also says "dodeicha (your belovedness)," in saying, "Tovim dodeicha miyayin (your belovedness is better than wine)." This can answer our question on the phrase in Psalms 104:15 just above.

A strong, loving and lasting marriage relationship that really works is an intrinsic, authentic and beautiful thing. Such a relationship is better than the fleeting, seemingly happy state that wine brings on. A real, complete and lasting marriage is true goodness and happiness.

The number seven is very significant in the Torah. It represents creative completion. The universe was created in seven days. Creation was completed on the seventh day, the holy shabos. The nation Israel has seven forebears: Avraham, Sara, Yitzhok, Rivka, Yakov, Leah and Rachel. The last of Yakov's children (Benyomin) was born to Rachel, the last of the forebears, completing the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the marriage ceremony, the bride walks around the groom seven times representing the seven conditions of a marriage bond (described by the prophet Hoshea 2:21-22, speaking of the marriage between G-d and the Jewish people), "I marry you ETERNALLY, and I marry you with RIGHTEOUSNESS, and with JUSTICE, and with KINDNESS, and with COMPASSION. And I marry you with FAITHFULNESS and you will KNOW G-D." These seven attributes stated by Hoshea are the foundation for a complete commitment. And from then on, the couple fulfills the seven elements of a complete relationship. The marriage manifests the creative completion signified by the number seven.