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Home » B'Ha'alotcha, Marriage

Behaalotcha: The Miracle of Marriage

Submitted by on June 14, 2016 – 3:17 pmNo Comment | 2,551 views

Sibling Rivalry

When word reached Zipporah that two new prophets had been identified among the Jews, her response was a quiet murmur, “Oh, I feel for their wives, I hope their marriage won’t end as mine did.“ Her sister in law, Miriam, overheard and asked her to explain. Zipporah replied that ever since the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai, Moses had not discharged his conjugal obligations.

Miriam was appalled. She felt that this level of abstinence was overreaching and turned to her brother Aaron. “Does G-d speak only to Moses,” she asked, “He speaks to us too.” If G-d can speak to us despite our normal married lives, why does Moses think he should be different?

G-d immediately appeared to Miriam and explained that Moses was a unique prophet. He speaks to G-d as one would speak to his fellow. I communicate with him clearly and not with riddles. He gazes directly upon me. For this level of spiritual attentiveness he must be perpetually conditioned for prophecy. He can’t toggle in and out. Unlike you, Moses is compelled to lead a life of abstinence. [1]

Miracle of Marriage

G-d’s response to Miriam indicates that it is not possible to be in a prophetic state while engaged in physical intimacy. If this is the case, Miriam, a prophetess in her own right, should have known this and admired Moses for choosing to remain continually in the prophetic state rather than toggle in and out. In other words, if prophecy is a higher state than married life, why was Miriam appalled that Moses opted for the higher state? [2]

Miriam’s objection tells us that intimacy in married life is holier than the prophetic state. G-d’s response informed her that Moses enjoyed a unique brand of prophecy that transcended even married life.

Man and Woman

The chief characteristic of marriage is that it joins a man and a woman. These two species have no business merging, they are as different as polar opposites can be. Biologically, man is active, woman is passive. Emotionally, man is aggressive, woman is sensitive. Psychologically, man builds, woman nurtures. How can we can get any more different than man is from woman?

The answer is that you can’t and the merging of such complete opposites is nothing short of miraculous. It is said that when opposites attract, sparks fly. The mystical reason for this is that the only way for complete opposites to be drawn toward each other is through the manifestation of a third and higher power, in whose presence all differences fade.

Imagine two men in perpetual disagreement. Where one is fair the other is harsh. Where one is cerebral, the other is emotional. Where one is quiet the other is loud. Where one is patient, the other is rash. Where one is honest, the other is cunning. No matter the place and time, they are always in disagreement. Except for one scenario. When they appear before the king. In his majesty’s presence they are both overawed and their differences fade to insignificance. Before the king they are simply loyal subjects. Not brash, fair or harsh. Just subjects.

In the presence of greatness, everything fades to insignificance. G-d is infinitely great. What’s more, He is omnipotent. G-d can bring opposites together because before Him they are not altogether different. Furthermore, G-d is the single origin of the entire world. All the opposites in the world, emerge from the same G-d. In His presence, opposites intuit their common origin and uncover their ability to unite.

When opposites attract, sparks fly because it is the presence of something absolutely great, read G-d, that drives the attraction in the first place. When the infinite is present, everything is intense including the relationship. Of course sparks fly.

Nowhere are the differences more pronounced than in intimacy and nowhere is the presence of the Divine more palpable to facilitate this attraction. This is precisely why it is only in this arena that man and woman become active partners with G-d in the act of creation. The infinite power of G-d is present. [3] The raw force of life is active. Thus the capacity for conception is generated.

Miriam and Moses

When Miriam compared the holiness of a happy marriage to the sacred state of prophecy she knew without doubt that holy matrimony is much more sacred than prophecy. In prophecy one might feel holier, experience spirituality, be aware of acute clarity, but it is not the apex of G-dliness. On the contrary, if the interfacing with the Divine during prophecy is within human capacity, then it is a lowly level of G-dliness. One tailored to the measure of our capacity.

Miriam thus lamented that Moses deliberately forsook marriage for prophecy. She too was a prophetess. So was Aaron. And they both understood the need for married life notwithstanding the occasional bout and spiritual thrill of prophecy. She was perplexed as to why Moses failed to understand this.

G-d then appeared to Miriam and explained that Moses’ prophecy was not at all like her own. Moses was unique in the annals of history. No one ever saw G-d the way Moses did. Moses saw G-d as one would see his fellow. Just like you take in the totality of your fellow when you gaze upon them, so did Moses absorb the holiness of G-d.

Moses could absorb this intense energy and withstand the supreme experience without flinching. The ordinary person would pass out from the sheer thrill and intensity. They would be unable to filter the awesome vision through the prisms of eye and mind. Somehow Moses could. Somehow Moses did.

For the average prophet, marriage was holier than prophecy. For Moses, however, prophecy was holier than marriage. Miriam finally understood that Moses had made the right choice. And as is often the case, what is right for one is not necessarily right for another.

Moses was Moses and Miriam was Miriam. We are certainly not like Moses. We have never experienced even a modicum of prophecy, let alone the prophecy of Moses. What we do have, however, is the sanctity of marriage. Let us appreciate the power of a marriage to usher in the presence of the Divine.

They say that marriage is between a man and a woman. Actually, it is a partnership of three. Man, woman and G-d. A thrice repeated knot, is unlikely to unravel. If we let G-d into our marriage and become aware of the holiness in our homes, our relationships will be strengthened. May we be blessed with robust, happy, loving marriages, founded on the precepts of the Torah and bathed by the warmth and light of Jewish mysticism.[4]

[1] Numbers 12: 1-8.

[2] Though this was difficult for Zipporah, Miriam should have realized that he did this to benefit the nation.

[3] Infinity in procreation is denoted by the fact that the child will have children, who will in turn have children. This reflects a capacity for procreation that, over time, is endless.

[4] This essay is based on Toras Menachem v. 16 p