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Michelangelo once said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
The essence of every Jew is a beautiful perfect soul. It is unmarred by ego, immaturity, insecurity, obsession, or any other form of human weakness. This beautiful soul, more pristine than the angel in …

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Home » Beshalach, Marriage

Beshalach: Why, From A Distance?

Submitted by on January 20, 2018 – 10:46 pmNo Comment | 2,607 views

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Or at least that is what people say. Distance is also a nuisance in a relationship. While couples who live together, stay together, couples who live apart come apart. So, there is a benefit to each. When you see one another every day, you feel close and intimate. You feel as if you are a part of each other. But when you are at a distance, the passion and yearning are stoked.

Siblings are bound at the hip because they belong. They come from the same genetic source and grew up in the same household. They like each other because they are alike. Couples are not alike. On the contrary, opposites attract. Couples must therefore love each other.[1]

Husband and wife come from different worlds. They come from different genes, different environments, and the main difference, one is a man, the other is a woman. They are worlds apart. They have such a large chasm to cross that they need momentum to cross it.

Liking a sibling or a friend is like taking a stroll; one foot planted leisurely before the next. Loving a spouse, is like taking a leap. Before hurtling the long jump, you take a few steps back to take a running leap. You need to gather enough steam to bridge the divide and cross the gap. You need momentum and energy. Love is the momentum between couples. It generates the energy to take the leap.

When couples are together, they grow close and their intimacy flourishes. But when they are apart, at a distance, they have a wider chasm to cross, and therefore require more intensity. Couples at a distance never take each other for granted. They constantly yearn for each other; their desire blossoms until it reaches bursting point and they travel to see each other. It is either that, or they grow apart. There is no middle ground.

A couple living together can fall into the funk of routine boredom. They are together, but living seperate lives. A couple apart can’t afford that mindset because they know it will kill the relationship. They are at a distance, and must generate the enthusiasm and intensity that allows them to remain connected.

Angels and Souls

This is the difference between angels in heaven and souls on earth. Souls on earth love G-d from a distance. Angels in heaven like G-d from up close. Angels like G-d because they are just like G-d. Angels have no ego, no personality beyond the task that G-d assigns them.

When Jacob asked the angel, with whom he had wrestled, to tell him his name, the angel replied, “Why do you ask for my name?” Our sages explained that the names of angels depend on their task. With each task, they receive a new name.[2]

A name is a description of our inner being. G-d brought all created creatures to Adam to be named because Adam had the wisdom to recognize the essence of each creature and devise a name that describes its essence. The essence of angels are their missions. When their mission changes, their essence changes, and with it, their name. They have no purpose, meaning, or existence beyond their mission. So, when you ask an angel for his name, he will tell you that it depends on what he is doing.

When you ask people for their name, they tell you their name no matter what they are doing. Whether they are praying or playing, driving or striving, it is the same person doing what they are doing. Angels are different. They have no personality (or angenality?) outside of their mission. Their entire being, their whole existence, is the fulfillment of the tasks they are assigned. Thus, their task, is their name.

Thus, the angel told Abraham, “by myself I have sworn.”[3] Ordinarily we swear by G-d, but the angel could swear by himself because his essence is his G-d given mission. The angel is synonymous with G-d.

Although souls on earth don’t have that seamless connection with G-d, they have their own being and they perceive G-d at a distance, souls can yearn for G-d. If you are a part of G-d, so to speak, you can’t yearn for G-d. It is the very distance, as it were, between the soul on earth and G-d that allows the soul to yearn for G-d, to draw closer to G-d, and to engage in a loving relationship with G-d.

Thus, it is true to say that angels like G-d because they are like G-d. Souls in bodies love G-d because they are at a distance from G-d.

Bridging the Distance

This is what makes the miracle of splitting the Red Sea particularly astounding.[4] Even little children were able to see G-d. They could point to G-d and say, “This is my G-d and I will beautify Him.”[5] They were at a distance where the yearning for G-d is palpable, and yet they were able to glimpse G-d.

This was the best of both words which is ordinarily impossible in a relationship. Usually we have a choice. We can either be near each other or at a distance. If we are near, we are close, but we are not as passionate. If we are far, we are at a distance, but we are deeply passionate. Achieving both, closeness and intense yearning, is an astounding feat. When it occurs, it does it lifts the relationship to a new stratosphere.

This occurred between G-d and the Jewish people at the Reed Sea. It was not just the splitting of a sea and the salvation of a people. It was a revelation of the divine on the highest and most intimate level. The Jew could literally look and see G-d. There was both a closeness, and a passion.

This set the tone and paved the way for the experience that Jews would have at Sinai only six weeks later. At Sinai, Jews received the Torah which made it possible for every Jew, at any time and in any place, even you dear reader as you sit and read these words, to gain a level of intimacy with G-d even as we reach for Him from a distance. And when we reach for G-d, we split our sea. We discover a store of spiritual potential that we never knew we had.

So, dear reader, don’t waste time. Go split your sea.[6]

[1] It is a feat when couples learn to like each other, but liking is not essential to the relationship. Love is.

[2] Genesis 32:30. See Rashi ibid and Bereishis Rabbah 78:4.

[3] Genesis 16:22.

[4] The Talmud (Sotah:2a) declares that this miracle was particularly difficult.

[5] Exodus 14:2.

[6] This essay is based on Sefer Hamamarim, 5654 pp. 139-147.

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