What is The Ultimate Marriage?

Thursday, 4 May, 2023 - 8:00 pm

One day at a busy airport, the passengers on a commercial airliner are seated, waiting for the cockpit crew to show up so they can get underway. The pilot and co-pilot finally appear in the rear of the plane and begin walking up to the cockpit through the center aisle. Both appear to be blind.

The pilot is using a white cane, bumping into passengers right and left as he stumbles down the aisle, and the co-pilot is using a guide dog. Both have their eyes covered with huge sunglasses. At first, the passengers don't react, thinking that it must be some sort of practical joke. However, after a few minutes, the engines start revving and the airplane starts moving.

The passengers look at each other with some uneasiness, whispering among themselves and looking desperately to the stewardess for reassurance. Then the airplane starts accelerating rapidly down the runway and people begin panicking. Some passengers are praying, and as the plane gets closer and closer to the end of the runway, the voices are becoming more and more hysterical. Finally, when the airplane has less than 20 feet of runway left, and is about to plunge into the water, there is a sudden change in the pitch of the shouts as everyone screams at once, and at the very last moment, the airplane lifts off and is airborne.

Up in the cockpit, the co-pilot breathes a sigh of relief and turns to the pilot: "You know, one of these days the passengers aren't going to scream, and we're going to go straight into the water and get killed!"

What Jewish grave site today attracts so many Hundreds of thousands of people?

It is the grave site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yuhai who lived 1800 years ago, in the second century CE, and is buried in the town of Meron in Israel.

The yahrtzeit will be this coming on Lag Bomer this Tuesday, May 9th, 2023.

The Rashbi authored the book of Zohar, the classical source of Kabbalah, he lived in the 2nd century C.E.

But there is something strange about this day: It is called the “wedding” day of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Never has a yartzeit has ever been described as a “wedding,” and for good reason.

How can a yartzeit, a day of passing, be called a “wedding?”

The sage Shmuel said to his student Rabbi Yehudah: Grab and eat, grab and drink! The world that we are passing through is like a wedding."

What then was he telling him? What was the point of this advice?

Shmuel's point was to warn his student not to wait until tomorrow to use his money because a person has no assurance that he will be alive tomorrow to enjoy his money. Life is like a wedding that swiftly passes.

Some will not allow themselves to enjoy their money today, because there is always a “tomorrow” they must save up for. But life is short, and you can’t delay your happiness till tomorrow.  

You know the anecdote: An old Jew hears that Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize. Why did he win, the old man asks his friend.

“Professor Einstein invented the theory of relativity. That everything—even time and space—is relative.”

“And for this, you win a Nobel Prize?!” the other Jew retorts. I have known this truth for years ago. And I have always proved it simply:

3 strands of hair in a bowl of soup are a heck of a lot; three hairs on a head are NOTHING. Similarly, spending 30 years with a woman you love is like one year. Spending one year with a woman you dislike, is like 30 years!... I don’t need Einstein to teach me that everything is relative.

But why, to illustrate the brevity of life, does Shmuel give the example of a wedding?

Clearly, Shmuel is conveying a deeper message to his student than “life is short, live today!” The example of the wedding is essential to the understanding of the message.

At the heart of marriage lay a paradox.
It is a restrictive experience. If you are a bachelor, you can dance to your own beat. Once married you must dance to two beats—and sometimes they are conflicting beats.

A man quipped: When we were engaged, I was doing all the talking; she was doing all the listening. When we married, she began doing all the talking and I was doing all the listening. Now, ten years later, we both do all the talking and the neighbors do all the listening!

Compromise becomes the name of the game. People are different. Men and women are very different, sometimes opposites.

Yet, on the other extreme, G-d created our world in a way that without the mating of opposite genders, male and female, reproduction is not possible. This is true in humans, in the animal kingdom, and even in the botanic world. Only through the intimacy between woman and man, can a child be created.
All of us are mortal. We don’t live forever. Our creations, too, are mortal. They all come to an end. There is only one exception: Children. They outlive us and their children outlive them. Your children link you to infinity and eternity. We are here today because thousands of years ago men and women united to bear a child. Those fathers and mothers are long gone. Their creations are long gone. Their homes, towns, and cities have long crumbled. But – we are here. And they are here today through us.

When you spend an extra 3 hours at the office, building your company, you are investing in something at best temporary. When you spend that time with your children—reading them stories, playing a game with them, bonding with them—you are investing in eternity.

This is the paradox: marriage is a limiting experience. It requires you to compromise and tame your limitless self-expression. Yet in this very process, we also grow and reach our deepest potential. The very need to live with another person makes us deeper, stronger, more mature, kinder, and greater people. If we want to remain free and unrestricted in our lives, we will live as long as we live and then the show is over. By choosing to remain unbound and unlimited, we ensure our finitude. By choosing to become finite, we become infinite; by choosing to become limited, we access infinity and achieve eternity.

This paradox is not only in marriage; it constitutes the very essence of life.

Our marriage to our spouse is really our second marriage. All of us experience a first marriage at the moment of birth—when our souls “marry” our bodies and they “move in” together for life. The soul and the body are two opposite realities: one is physical and concrete; the other is spiritual and sublime. One enjoys material pleasure and the other pines for transcendence. One craves self-gratification; the other yearns for truth. One sees the objective of life as self-gratification; the other—to become one with G-d.
Yet, just as in a physical marriage, it is only as a result of the unity between man and woman that they can achieve eternity, so it is with the marriage of soul and body.
Samuel Herman (Sammy) Reshevsky (1911-1992) was a famous chess prodigy and later a leading American chess Grandmaster. He was an eight-time winner of the U.S. Chess Championship.

At the age of six, he would play against as many as 30 players at a time, moving quickly from board to board, and could repeat all 30 games afterward, move by move. He was known as "Shmulik the wonder child. He was a descendant of Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz, who descended from the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal. Sammy Reshevsky grew up in an observant home, and throughout his life and fame, remained faithful to his Judaism and Torah, refusing to ever play chess on the Sabbath or Holidays. Upon turning 70 and no longer on top of his game, he asked the Rebbe, if he should retire. The Rebbe advised him to continue playing because it was a proud demonstration of a Jew succeeding without compromising his spiritual ideals and values. Reshevsky complied and shortly afterward, he traveled to Russia and upset the world champion, Vassily Smyslov. Living in Crown Heights in the 1940s, Sammy prayed in the then-tiny Lubavitch synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY. Once, at a Sabbath gathering, in 1948, the Rebbe, in recognition of his presence, explained the spiritual meaning behind the chess game. There is one king. All the other pieces revolve around him, and their entire mission is to protect and serve him. G-d is the King, all else was created by Him, given the opportunity to connect to His truth and to serve Him.  Now we will appreciate the marvelous depth of what the sage Shmuel said to his student Rabbi Yehudah: Grab and eat, grab and drink! The world that we are passing through is like a wedding." A wedding may seem like a limiting experience, yet it is precisely through that you can reach your deepest potential, and what is more, you can reach beyond your potential and achieve eternity. The same suggested the sage is the world we pass through. Our journeys in this world may seem so limiting and stressful, with so much agony, hardship, and pain. Yet you have to know, said the sage, that it is through the work in this world that the soul reaches its deepest potential and experiences radical, infinite growth. Hence, “Grab and eat! Grab and drink!” Seize the moment! Grab every mitzvah that you can do. Cherish every moment you have.!

This is why it was the yartzeit of Rabbi Shimon that came to be defined as a wedding. For he was the one who gave us the gift of Kabbalah, What is Kabbalah? What is Chassidism?

On the surface, Judaism is all about structure—performing fixed laws at certain times, and places, in certain ways. Came Kabbalah, and revealed how each of these mitzvot, is on a deeper level, a portal to infinity, to transcend structure and touch the Divine. Rabbi Shimon is the one who shows us that life is a “wedding”—an opportunity for infinity. So, each Lag BaOmer, we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the esoteric soul of the Torah. We dance with the soul who showed us how life was a wedding, an opportunity to merge paradoxes and thus connect to eternity.

Soseize the day. Every moment, every opportunity, every mitzvah, grab and eat! Grab and drink!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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