Shabbat Shalom with a Heart-Healthy Dose of Torah – Toldot

In a couple of weeks, Lori and I will celebrate five years of marriage. I am blessed that she is in my life. At the same time, I work to figure out what it means to celebrate now my second, fifth wedding anniversary. Cindy has been gone going on eight years; we had just hit 23 years before she passed. So, as blessed as I am with Lori, there is a part of each anniversary that makes me walk through a déjà vu moment, or as we learned from the movie “The Matrix,” a glitch in the matrix. Of course, each day is different, but the concept of marking time-based watershed moments is a little schizophrenic. As weird as this sounds, it is as if I have been born now, three times. It was with some amusement that I read a random commentary on Torah that affirmed that in fact, I have been.

In discussing the Isaac story, Torah teaches, “Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca … as a wife.” (25:20) A Midrash written by 16th Century Rabbi Menachem Azariah DeFano taught, “For three years, from the Binding of Isaac at age 37 to his marriage at age 40, Isaac was in the Garden of Eden.” Entrance to the Garden is thought to be reserved for the dead. There is a host of commentaries on what it means that Isaac died and then experienced resurrection. We know that tradition uses this three year period as preparation for Isaac’s rebirth. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson reminded us, “The Zohar refers to marriage as a person’s second birth: first, the soul enters into the body and assumes a physical existence, then, at a later point in life, it further “descends” into the physical state by marrying.”

The idea that the soul “descends” further into the physical state upon marriage is not a pejorative statement. When one marries, one becomes more deeply entrenched in the physical world. We become bound by the needs of providing for family needs. We spend more and more time/energy/focus fulfilling tangible needs with less left for the pursuit of the spiritual embrace of divinity. We have to be intentional in fashioning a commitment to spiritual engagements and growth no differently than small children have to experience growing past their obsession with toys. At some point, to live successfully, one must accept the responsibilities of his/her education and growth, even while weaning away from childhood.

I often have to remind myself that we are born to create miracles. We are divinely created beings whose purpose is to repair the brokenness in our world. We are born to create holiness in the world while often horrifically distracted. The idea that Isaac spent three years in the Garden of Eden allowed him to “reboot” his spiritual system, allowing him to enter into his marriage with Rebekah primed to stay focused on holiness. Our real world does not work this way. Even while we prepare to enter into new relationships, we are stuck, struggling to keep our physical world afloat. On the one hand, this notion of rebirth in marriage is arduous. Not only have we been struggling to grow our lives, but upon marriage, we have to jump into taking on the burden of growing two plus lives, and not stepping on each other as we do it. When we are single, it does not matter whether the toilet seat stays up or down. You understand, I am sure.

However, this rebirth gives one a second chance on refocusing one’s life. I was not the same person after marrying Cindy than I was before. I learned a lot about compassion, about sharing, about celebrating the opportunity to be responsible for and with people I love. Five years ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to renew, again. I am again, a person with different vision since marrying Lori, than I was single, married to Cindy, or widowed after her death. This renewal does not invalidate any piece of my previous incarnations. Rather, it validates the power of faith. When merging lives, our world view grows. Where we pay attention, we learn how to celebrate better that which we already believed sacred and how to rethink ideals that we took for granted, or to which we held tightly when we should have let go. Look, though, at all of the experience we have from which to draw, even while being “born again.” Thus, marriage should be synergistic. We should be able to bring our own authentic selves into this renewal of marriage and create something a whole lot more powerful than any of us are by ourselves. 

Similarly, the braided candle for Havdalah reminds us that we bring more light … more powerful energy, when we merge wicks into one flame. So, I have been born three times over the course of my life. Each has pushed me to grow and learn, struggle and resolve, and to share blessings that only multiply as I grow and as we grow together. Modeh anee lefancekha. I give thanks, everyday, God, for these opportunities for renewal, and for the partnerships in which I have been blessed to share. I will try to grow up a third time, and with faith, do and be better with my life partners. Shabbat Shalom.