The Cosmic Marriage
by Simon Jacobson
More ink has been spilt over this topic than any other. More
songs sung, poems written and films produced. Why the unquenchable
thirst? What is it about the love between a man and a woman
that inspires endless fascination bordering on obsession?
Many regard the attraction between the sexes as a biological
instinct, an emotional need or a primal impulse. Judaism,
however, views the attraction between a man and a woman as
a sacred search that is deeply imbedded in the cosmic makeup
of the universe.
The spiritual mystery of the union between man and woman is implied
in the name given to the festival of Shavuot. In the Talmud, Shavuot
is referred to as The Marriage Day. What marriage occurred
on this day? At Mount Sinai God gave mankind the gift of the Torah -
a blueprint to enable man to spiritualize the physical world. Shavuot
is thus considered a marriage between God and the people, between heaven
The use of the term marriage in relation to the giving of the Torah
suggests a parallel to physical marriage. The giving of the Torah was
an awesome event, an unprecedented Divine experience. What does this
unique spiritual encounter between man and God have to do with the corporeal
marriage between a man and woman? Let us explore some parallels between
the divine and the human models of marriage.
The midrash relates that before God gave the Torah to the Jewish people,
He said: Accept Me
and then accept My decrees. In
a marriage relationship, it is essential to accept and embrace your
partner as they are in essence before addressing individual needs. Too
often we treat marriage only as a contract based on mutual benefit:
I will look after the kids and cook the meals if you take out
the garbage and pay the bills. Marriage is not merely a composite
of details, it not just about convenience or getting the job done, its
about embracing another soul in your life.
There are two kinds of love selfish and selfless love. Selfish
love is conditional - you love on condition that your needs are met,
and when your partner falls short of serving your needs, you may be
tempted to reject them and search elsewhere. With conditional love,
we see our partners as an extension of ourselves and feel that it is
our responsibility to correct or change them. Although we constantly
learn from each other, the role of a spouse is not that of an authority
or a teacher, but that of an equal. The Torah tells us that marriage
begins with unconditional love and acceptance of the entire person -
first accept Me and the details will follow from there.
At Mount Sinai, God initiated a reciprocal relationship, a partnership
with mankind. When God descended onto Mount Sinai, it was necessary
for Moses to respond by ascending the mountain. Judaism teaches that
the relationship between man and God is not an immature reliance or
passive dependence on heaven. We believe that Gods blessing is
present in all that we do, but it is incumbent upon us to utilize the
tools and resources at our disposal to fashion a vessel to contain the
The give and take of a dynamic relationship between husband and wife
necessitates a mature sense of self. Ascending the mountain symbolizes
the confidence that you matter, that you as an individual have a vital
role to play in the world. When this is lacking, unhealthy co-dependence
can arise where partners rely on each other to compensate for their
own lacks. Marriage partners should look to each other to complement
who they are so that together they can create a powerful partnership.
God shared a vision with us at Mount Sinai, a blueprint of how to
bring sanctity and spirituality into the world. Perhaps the ingredient
most lacking in marriages today is a shared spiritual vision. People
often marry because of physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological
compatibility, but dont take into consideration spiritual compatibility.
Spiritual compatibility entails not just a shared desire to build a
home and family, it also involves a spiritual vision of how you, as
a couple and a family, want to impact the world; how you envision your
unique contribution to others; how you intend to build something that
is greater than both of you.
Shavuot, the Marriage Day, inspires us to view marriage not just as
a union between two people, but as the marriage between heaven and earth,
between God and man. When we harness the mystical power of love and
marriage, recognizing that it is a manifestation of the divine union,
our marriages will become a microcosm of a cosmic marriage. The unity
this manifests will penetrate through the physical and spiritual dimensions
shining a light for eternity.