Blog Post


Parshat Bamidbar: Shavuot – A Lost Love

The holiday of Shavuot begins this Tuesday evening. Shavuot is a bit of an orphan among the Jewish holidays which is unfortunate because it’s a pretty essential one. Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. Yes, pretty important and central in defining who we are as a people and nation. 

I get why Shavuot is relegated to the bottom of the Jewish holiday hit-parade. There just isn’t much happening on this chag. No involved Pesach Seder. No camping-like Sukkah to dwell in. Doesn’t have the intensity of the High Holidays, nor the fun of Purim and Chanukah. It’s pretty much a bare-bones holiday when all is said and done.

When Jewish tradition talks of that monumental Mount Sinai moment, it often employs the analogy of a marriage; that God wed the Jewish nation like a man and woman under the Chuppah. This marriage  motif continues elsewhere in Tanach but in a negative light when the prophets compare the backsliding Jews to an unfaithful wife who leaves her husband for another, seemingly more attractive suitor in the guise of the non-Jewish nations and their values. 

We speak – both on a national and personal level – of a relationship that begins with so much promise and joy but ends up failing and unfulfilled. This dynamic of a couple starting off with so much love, passion and enthusiasm that wanes to the point where they no longer care nor love one another is a phenomenon that we see all too often. Is there any way to prevent it? And can the Shavuot holiday perhaps be a lesson in helping us to make sure we don’t end up as one of those couples who “grew apart”.    

I think I can probably guess how couples “grow apart”. It’s a slow, sad, painful and insidious process that many couples aren’t even aware is happening to them until it’s too late

It kinda goes like this:

When a couple first meet they are very excited about one another. There is energy and discovery in the relationship and they spend tons of time together getting to know one another. Remember those early dates until 2 am? The courtship process continues this way until the big day, the wedding, and then some. The first years are hopeful, energetic, dynamic and bursting with excitement.

But as the years go by and the young couple settles into a certain routine, new events enter and creep into their lives. There’s making a living, a child or two or three show up. They have their respective interests – some shared, others not. The jobs have their demands and so do the kids. When the kids are small there are many sleepless nights. But when they get older, there’s carpool, homework and after-school activities. The couple look to buy a home and that too takes much time, energy and effort. Not only is there the mortgage, but new furnishings, fixing old ones, a sprinkler system that always seems to be on the blink, redoing the bathroom, getting rid of the old smelly carpet and “shall we choose laminated wood, engineered wood or solid wood; how about bamboo – I hear it is ecological?”

The older the couple gets, the more stuff happens in their lives to involve their time and attention. And while all of these issues are certainly important, the couple finds that they no longer have the time nor the energy for each other. And so their relationship gets relegated to the back-burner because there are so many other imminent and important things to take care of right now!

And, lo and behold, before they know it, not only is that spark from their Chuppah been extinguished long ago, there is very little sharing happening between these two people as they become strangers to each other like two ships passing in the night. 

You see, if this couple who are now in their, let’s say 10th, 20th or 35th year of marriage would travel back in time and revisit those days of early courtship, they would find something very fascinating. They would see that when they excitingly told their friends that they had “just met the greatest guy/girl in the world!”, they didn’t describe him or her like this: “Hey, he is so terrific, he is going to make every mortgage payment on time and not only that but every car payment too! … and for two cars! … and both cars will be luxury vehicles!!” He certainly didn’t tell his friends, “She’s the best – she is going to be so good at car-pooling and making sure the house is clean and orderly and I just know that she is going to find the best pediatrician for our kids once we have some!” 

And while it’s true that making mortgage and car payments on time are important, and finding a good pediatrician and caring for the kids is as well – this is not why you married each other! You married him/her because of who they were as a person, because you enjoyed spending time and sharing yourself with them. You married them for their soul, for their spirit, for who they are and not for what they would do or accomplish. 

But couples forget this and they lose sight of it because when they first dated, it came naturally and effortlessly. But once real life happened and there was more on the table, they forget that they now have to make much more of an effort to be with one another. They didn’t shift gears and realize they have to fight for their time to be intimate – and I don’t just mean physically, although that too. They never told their kids, “No, it’s Daddy and Mommy’s time” and didn’t do the same to their jobs, to their phones, to their computers and to every other obligation that seemed more pressing and important. More pressing and important than each other. More pressing and important than their very relationship. 

Because if you don’t fight for your relationship, if you don’t nurture it, if you fail to constantly monitor it to ensure that it is healthy and vibrant – then like every other thing that is neglected, it wilts and it dies. Maybe not the first day or week or month or year, but eventually it will … ever so slowly, ever so sadly.

A couple “grows apart” because they failed to put in the care and time to ensure that they grow together and toward one another. And while every couple is guilty of this on some level, those who are aware of it have a fighting chance that it doesn’t harm their relationship beyond repair. 

Shavuot is pretty bare-bones because it’s the holiday that reminds us of where things all started and that we need to try to recapture that. It’s what the prophet Jeremiah, speaking for God, exclaims when he declares, “Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord, ‘I fondly recall the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you ran after Me in the desert, in a desolate land.'”

The love of your bridal days – even God misses those initial days of courtship and passion. He longs for them. And so should we. 

Let it go
Let it happen like it happened once before
It’s a wicked wind
And it chills me to the bone
And if you do not believe me
Come and gaze upon the shadow at your door
-Gordon Lightfoot

You are donating to : Greennature Foundation

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note