The Post-Honeymoon Journey

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. The views reflected in his columns 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. For more Double Mitzvahs by Sender Rozesz, check out A Woman’s Vow, Sexual Motive, and Choose Your Own Spouse.

Rated PG

In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, Moses begins his final address to the Jewish people; an address that spans the entirety of Book of Deuteronomy. At the end of the introductory verses, there is an interesting statement: “On that side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses commenced explaining this Torah, saying.” Deuteronomy, 1:5.

What does it mean that “Moses commenced explaining this Torah”? By now we’ve gone through several lengthy books that have taken us from commandment to commandment, from event to event; what more was left to explain?

Some commentaries explain that the verse is alluding to Moses’s translation of the Torah into the seventy languages. However, this explanation, while certainly true, doesn’t neatly fit within the text and cadence of the verse. The verse says that “Moses began” something; that what he began was an explanation of the Torah; and that he explained the Torah “saying” – a word which is the equivalent of “as follows.” This should suggest that the very next verses consist of Moses’s explanation. What do they say?

The next verses begin with Moses reminding the Israelites of how, in the aftermath of their receipt of the Torah on Mount Horeb, G-d told them that they had spent long enough at that mountain, and that it was time to begin the journey to the Promised Land. He then relates how he appointed judges to assist him in teaching the Jewish people and in arbiting their disputes, then reminds them of their journey to the Land of Israel, the thirty-eight-year delay occasioned by the slander of the spies, the circumventing of the land of Edom and Ammon, and ultimately the Jewish victories over the gatekeepers of Israel – the kingdoms of Sichon and Og.

But, you might ask, how is all of this an “explanation of this Torah”?

Perhaps this then is a possible meaning, and an enduring message for Jewish people everywhere.

In the blissful beginning of all romantic relationships, it seems as though it is a moment that will never end. The passion seems indefatigable; the lust, unquenchable; the peace, eternal. It will surely always remain as it is. We will never fight. We will never argue. We have arrived at true love.

And then the real relationship begins. After the initial infatuation fades, and the dopamine rush
dissipates, our true personalities re-emerge and test the mettle of our new union. Stuff, shadows, that we never thought would rear their ugly heads, now cast a pallor on our blissful landscape.

But this is where the real bonding takes place. This is where our devotion to one another, and the strength of our commitment, is tested.

The Jewish people were taken out of Egypt amidst great wonders, and brought to Mount Horeb, where they received the Torah with thunder, fire, lightning and great fanfare. This was the fiery passion and romance of their courtship and wedding with G-d. They then constructed a tabernacle so that G-d could dwell amongst them always – like the groom carrying his bride over the threshold of their new home.

This is the “Torah“.

But what was the “explanation” and “elaboration” of the Torah? That was what came afterwards: when the Jewish people left the cocoon of their honeymoon at Mount Horeb, and began their physical trek to Israel, as they simultaneously began the spiritual, mental and emotional journey of their new relationship with G-d. They had fights. They messed up. They had their ups and downs. They had times of romance, and times of strife. There were even moments where it appeared as though their marriage itself was in jeopardy. But they persevered, always returning to their commitment, revealing the might of their bond.

The passion and infatuation is fun and warming (even hot!). But it is the post-honeymoon journey that we take together that reveals the meaning and the depth of our relationship. It is the joint trek over the peaks and through the valleys that defines our union, who we are together, and what we mean to each other.

Shabbat shalom!