Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Letters of Strife and the Mechanism of Love

I Love You Because You are Beautiful, vs. You are Beautiful Because I Love You

Class Summary

Why can’t people get along today? What happened to relationships in our world? Why are so many couples struggling to find happiness together? A single commandment in the portion of Pinchas can give us at least part of the answer.

A debate between the Karaites and traditional Jews focused on the anomaly of the Rabbis calling the document of divorce a “get,” neglecting the biblical term for the writ of divorce.

The word “get” is spelled from two letters, Gimmel and Tes. The Vilna Gaon presented an ingenious insight about these two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, showing how they symbolize the reality of a divorce. Building on this idea, his student explained why these two letters were the only ones omitted from the portion in Pinchas dealing with the daily lamb offerings: this portion captures the essence of an enduring relationship hence it has no place for the letters of divorce.

This class presents an explanation why it is specifically the portion discussing the daily lamb sacrifices that conveys the essence of an enduring relationship.

There were two types of offerings brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. While most sacrifices were partially burnt and then partially eaten, ‘the burnt-offering,’ the Olah, had to be totally consumed by the flames of the altar. Nothing remained to be eaten. It was a sacrifice totally dedicated to G-d and the person who offered it derived no benefit from it. The daily lamb offering was an ‘Olah.’

From a spiritual and psychological perspective, these two types of offerings represent two types of sacrifice: Self-motivated sacrifice vs. complete sacrifice; conditional sacrifice vs. unconditional sacrifice.

You may love your spouse and make sacrifices for your spouse because of what you receive, what you expect to receive in return. You appreciate her physical and emotional qualities, you cherish your partner’s looks, wisdom, kindness or candidness, and you gain much from it. Essentially it is not the other person you love, rather it is yourself whom you love. You love that part of the other person which enriches your life.

Then there is another form of love and loyalty, in which you transcend yourself and ask not what your friend can do for you, but what you can do for your friend. Without personal gain and self interest. To paraphrase Kennedy: Ask not what your wife can do for you; ask what you can do for your wife! Ask not what your husband can do for you; ask what you can do for your husband!

It is this type of relationship that eliminates the possibility of divorce. Hence, it is from this offering that the Torah omits the two letters representing divorce.

1 comment:

Serpil said...

So true, it should work when it's mutual.

But, imagine a couple where one side only gives without expecting anything back, and the other one only takes...