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Home » Marriage, Vayikra Parshah

Vayikra: Love

Submitted by on March 9, 2019 – 9:27 pmNo Comment | 80 views

True love can only emerge when two people perform acts of love for each other. I am not talking about the shallow love that people describe when they talk about falling in love. That kind of love is skin deep. I am not even talking about the kind of love that results from being kindred spirits who share interests and values. That kind of love is only heart deep. I am talking about the oneness that emerges between husband and wife after decades of marriage. That kind of love is deep, abiding, and pervasive.

This is not the kind of love that you fall into. This is the love that you build slowly and painstakingly over many years. It is a love that merges two people into one in the sense that they can no more separate from each other than they can separate from themselves. This love is not dependent on any factor. It doesn’t matter what the other looks like, dresses like, feels like, or talks like. All that matters, is what the other does for you. If it is consistent and pervasive, the result will be pervasive, abiding, and enduring love.

Offerings

When you are down and your spouse quietly brings you a cup of tea or a box of chocolates to cheer you up, you feel cherished. You know you are important, and that your feelings matter. When you feel like a bagel, and your spouse goes out in a rainstorm to get one, your heart opens and your let your loved one in. If your loved one rejoices with you in your joy and cries with you in your misery, if your loved one shares your highs and your lows, you will grow to love.

If you do the same in return, your loved one will let you in. The feelings of mutual closeness will gradually build until a oneness will form. It is a oneness born of decades of shared living. It is the sharing of life experiences. It is the sharing of errands and duties. It is the sharing of secrets and intimacies. It is the sharing of pastimes and fun. These create memories that deepen the relationship. With every day that passes, beautiful memories remain that grow and expand the love.

Selfless

In the building of deep and abiding love, the more comprehensive and selfless the gift, the more meaningful it is. The more self-serving the offering, the less cherished and loved you will feel. For example, if you want a day of solitude and your loved one goes out fishing with his/her buddies, you won’t feel overly cherished. But if you want a day of solitude, and your loved one sits on the stoop patiently waiting for you to be in the mood for company, you will feel cherished beyond belief.

You will feel so humbled that you will ask yourself what you did to deserve this amazing person? You will go out of your way to pay it back and make your loved one feel as cherished as you felt.

Wood

This helps us understand a curious aspect about the sacrifices in the Temple. There were many forms of offerings available in the Temple. You could bring gratitude offerings if you had something to be grateful for. You could bring joyous offerings, if you had something to be joyful about. You could bring sin offerings, if you had something to repent for. Or you could bring offerings just because.

But there was one item that every offering required—fuel. Every offering was raised on the altar and consumed by fire. The fires on the altar burned all day long and quantities of wood were necessary to fuel the fire. The wood was purchased with communal funds, but anyone who wanted, could donate the wood.

On the face of it, one would imagine that this would have been considered a mere donation rather than an offering. After all, the wood was just a tool that enabled the offering to be brought, it was not an offering in and of itself. Yet, not only was the donation of wood deemed a full offering,[1] it was a more ceremonious and joyous affair than the offering itself.

When the Jews returned from Babylon to build the second Temple, the public coffers were empty and there wasn’t enough money for the constant supply of wood necessary for the altar. Several families stepped forward to donate wood on the days when the Temple coffers were empty. In recognition of their generosity, those days were designated for those families in perpetuity. Every year on those days these families would once again supply the altar’s wood.[2]

Supplying the wood was such a joyous occasion that the families were not permitted to work on those days, or to fast or eulogize.[3] Why is donating wood, mere fuel for the offering, such a joyous occasion?

The question becomes even more perplexing when we learn that the fifteenth of Av was the happiest day in the Jewish calendar because (among other reasons) it was the last day to chop wood for the altar.[4] The wood chopped on this day, would not be placed on the altar for days and weeks to come, yet the celebrations were so intense that this was the most joyous day in the Jewish calendar. Why is that?

A Simple Gift

Our earlier discussion about building deep and abiding love sheds light on this question. Love is nurtured through the sacrifices that lovers make for each other. The more selfless the sacrifice, the more love it builds. When the offering is enjoyed by the giver, it is less meaningful to the recipient. When the giver gets nothing out of it, it is a pure act of love.

The offerings on the altar cemented the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. Gratitude offerings were meaningful because they expressed a deep feeling of gratitude. Sin offerings were cathartic because they mended the relationship with G-d. Offerings brought just because were also exhilarating because it felt good to contribute to the relationship.

But offering wood did not yield much in the way of personal satisfaction to the donor. Not only is wood a mere tool for the offering, it was often not used until days or weeks after it was donated. One didn’t get a sense of fulfillment or achievement; one didn’t feel especially holy or connected when donating wood.

One donated wood because G-d’s home needed wood. One did not do it for oneself. One did it for G-d. In the end, giving selflessly and purely for love, contributes more to the relationship than giving something that we enjoy giving. Hence, the gift of wood was the greatest conduit of love between the Jewish people and G-d. This is why it was a cause for such intense celebration.

There was a rabbi who would disappear into the forest every day for an hour before services. The congregation whispered among themselves that the rabbi was surely visiting heaven before his prayers. One day, someone followed him and saw him enter a shack in the forest, where he helped a widow wake her children and prepare them for school. When he returned, the people asked the man if he had seen the rabbi ascend to heaven. No, he replied, the rabbi did not go to heaven. He went much higher than heaven.

The question we can ask ourselves every day is this: What quiet thing can we do today that will not be for us, that will be purely for G-d and that will take us much higher than heaven—all the way to G-d?[5]

[1] Toras Kohanim, Leviticus 2:1.

[2] Babylonian Talmud, Taanis: 26a.

[3] Maimonides, Hilchos Klei Hamikdash, 6:10. See Taanis 12a that on occasion this festival overruled a fast day.

[4] This was the end of the dry season. Wood was not cut for the altar once the rains began.

[5] This essay is based on Likutei Sichos:22 pp. 7-15.

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