Cold Soup

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. Sender Rozesz is Jewrotica’s resident Double Mitzvah columnist. The views reflected in his writing represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated.

Rated PG
Our consciousness seems to always be struggling, grasping for an awareness, a connection, with G-d. Like a person drowning, our minds and hearts cling desperately to every floating straw, every thread of the Divine, every bit of confirmation that the world isn’t just as it appears to us; that we really do have a mission and a destiny that transcends the numbing mundanity of our physical existence.

But the watery depths beckon ever convincingly. Their soft, inexorable pull at once seduces us to surrender our grip, to allow ourselves to sink into blissful oblivion, to let go of the constant struggle. At the same time, the sheer force of its pull suggests to us that we would be foolish to fight it; that there is little point in persisting to grasp at straws.

But there are certain moments in our lives, and certain times throughout the year, when that flimsy piece of straw turns into a sturdy plank, when we find that the slight thread is connected to a thick rope, a rope tethered to our mother ship. In other words, there are times when our relationship with G-d presents itself, not as an ethereal phantom, but as a strong reality; one that replaces our materialistic world as our dominant perspective, and forces the stormy waters of worldliness to recede.

These moments often occur during the months of Elul and Tishrei, for it is during these months that we place our relationship with G-d at the forefront and center of our consciousness.

Indeed, switching analogies from water to courtship and marriage, we are very much like the provincial bride, living in a small primitive town, who is swept off her feet by her dashing, worldly, larger-than-life groom.

What does he see in her? What attracts him to such an apparently unremarkable girl? Who knows? Perhaps there is just something about her. Perhaps she possesses a quiet stubbornness and strength – surely a trait running in her family – that he values above all else. Perhaps it is the subtleties in the particular way she responds to him, that hint at an intellectual and emotional depth not found in other girls. Regardless, he courts her and woos her with a singular focus, until he wins her hand in marriage.

The month of Elul is described by R’ Schneur Zalman of Liadi as a month in which the King “is in the field.” In other words, it is a time when the King is accessible, when He is not ensconced in his palace where decorum and matters of state restrict access to Him. In our analogy, this is the period in which our Groom dates the bride, pursuing her, each trying to impress the other, displaying only their most attractive and likeable sides to the other. At no other time is the Groom quite as accessible.

Then the match is made, and the couple is betrothed. Rosh Hashana commences the wedding ceremony with great fanfare. Horns and trumpets announce the arrival of the Groom, as the bride stands demurely under the Chupah, her face veiled. There is festivity in the air, as all of the guests watch the ceremony, observing the Groom placing the ring in the bride’s finger, and hearing the words that speak of the bride’s exclusive commitment and bond to her new Husband.

The ceremony takes on a more solemn note as the newlywed couple leave the Chupah to enter the Yichud room. In this room, on Yom Kippur, there are no guests, no onlookers; for these moments are for the bride and Groom alone. It is here where the bride removes her veil, and presents herself, uncovered and vulnerable, to her Husband. She is now bound to him; not only her flattering parts, but all of her. She feels exposed and uncertain as she exposes herself to Him for the first time as His wife; but she is encouraged when He smiles warmly at her, and reminds her that she is everything that He has sought in a bride.

Then, on Sukkot, the Groom finally takes His bride into His house, where they consummate their marriage under a roof of leaves and a million shades of green. They emerge from their amorous activities only to join in the feasting with their seventy guests, making sure that none are left out of the festivities. Symbols of marriage and fertility abound, including a large phallic branch, bound tightly by a ring with leaves of myrtle and willow, and an aromatic citron reminiscent of woman’s ripe breast.

After seven days of merriment, however, the Groom is ready for some private celebration with only His wife. On Sh’mini Atzeret the guests take their leave, and the newlyweds celebrate their joy for one final day, with just the two of them. The doors are locked and blinds are drawn, as the couple passionately imbibe awareness of each other.

That’s Tishrei in a nutshell. It is in these days that the stupefying veil of materialism that clouds our spiritual senses is pulled aside, and we are once again able to connect with a higher reality.

While these stages in our relationship with G-d occur and re-occur on an annual basis, the time of year also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the status of our historic and ongoing relationship with G-d.

Our marriage began with thunder and lightning, and passionate promises to each other. We had our struggles and quarrels, but we always came back to each other. This week’s Parshah, Haazinu, consists of a song that forecasts the upheavals that our relationship with G-d would endure.

Where are we today? Today, there are so many diverse levels of Jewish belief and performance; how does G-d react to this? Does G-d look at us today with the same love and acceptance in his eyes as the Groom in the Yichud room?

How could he not?

To paraphrase an analogy that I once heard from a renowned lecturer and author:

Imagine that our newlywed bride has upset her husband, who storms out of the house, though he promises to return shortly.

While she waits, His wife sets the table for dinner, with a bowl of hot, steaming soup.

He is gone for two thousand years.

When he finally returns, he finds the soup still on the table, cold and congealed. His wife is still there too. He hears her muttering to herself, and he realizes that she is deeply engaged in an internal debate about what to do with soup. Should it be reheated? Should she throw it out and prepare a new pot? Perhaps some other dish?

Two thousand years later, and his wife is still there, waiting for him, and trying to figure out how best to feed him.

I’d say she’s a keeper – don’t you?

Chag same’ach!