Parshat Vaetchanan: The Love of My Life
Do you pray?
Let’s assume you do. So what do you pray for? Lemme guess. Health. בריאות in Hebrew. Yeah that’s a biggie. If you don’t have your health then the rest doesn’t mean much.
What else? Wealth? Parnasah – making a livelihood? Yup, that is probably also way up there. The Talmud says that a poor person is like a dead person. When the pressures of putting food on the table are ever-present, then, like not having your health, the rest doesn’t mean much. It’s hard to think of higher purposes in life when the most basic ones are not being met.
But once we move beyond those basics, there are other things we want out of life and pray for – often associated with family and relationships. Single people might be looking for a shidduch – a match; searching for their Beshert or zivug – a match made in heaven, literally.
Let’s continue talking about relationships and for good reason because it’s in the air right now. Thursday night and Friday, erev Shabbat, is Tu B’Av – the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av. This is like Jewish Valentine’s Day.
The Talmud relates that back in the day there was a major SpeedDating-like event on Tu B’Av. A massive matchmaking where single men and women would go out to the fields to meet one another. The event took place under a full moon, as is the case in the middle of the month, adding to the whole theme of Romance. The Talmud describes what took place on Tu B’Av:
The attractive women among them would say (to the men), “Set your eyes on beauty, for the main trait of a wife is beauty.” Those from a prestigious family would say, “Focus your attention on family, for the main trait of a women is producing children.” The unattractive ones would say, “Make your decision of whom to wed be ‘for the sake of heaven’ (i.e. for no ulterior motives) provided that you adorn us with golden jewelry.”
We will come back to this. But for those who are married, let me ask you a question. How often do you pray for your marriage? Have you ever prayed for your marriage?
You prayed very had to find the right one. But have you ever prayed that the relationship should be great, now that you have found the right one? You probably had a laundry list of traits you were looking for in another and hoped fervently that you would find someone with all or most of them. But now that you have and that person is in your life, do you just take him or her for granted and stopped praying and working on the relationship to make sure it’s not mediocre? You prayed for love and passion and connection so many years ago, do you still pray for it now that you are 5, 10, 20, 34 years into the relationship/marriage?
Well, I got news for you. If you aren’t, then that’s a problem. It shows that you don’t care. Because we only pray for those things that are near and dear to us and that we care about. We pray for kids. We pray for health. We pray for livelihood. Do we pray for our marriage? That is should be amazing? You don’t? Hmmm.
Getting back to that scenario the Talmud told us about Tu B’Av, this notion of caring enough about your marriage is actually hidden in the story. It’s right there at the end when it tells us the words of the unattractive ones to their potential mates. “Make your decision of whom to wed based on ‘for the sake of heaven’ (i.e. for no ulterior motives) provided that you adorn us with golden jewelry.”
What are those “unattractive ones” who don’t have so much natural beauty or famous family lineage telling us? That anyone can become beautiful. That anyone can become Royalty. You just got to make the effort to adorn it so. To dress him or her up. To drape her/him in gold.
We all know that prayer is not enough. It has to be coupled with our efforts to make what we pray for come about. It is a combo pack. A one-two punch. Prayer and Effort.
So if you’re not praying for your marriage, my guess is that you might not be making enough of an effort in your marriage. You’re not doing enough to adorn it in gold. And conversely, when you put in the work for a wonderful marriage, good chance you are probably praying for it too. We know this to be true with health, with our livelihood and with raising kids. We make the efforts and we pray. We do both.
Let’s make sure we do the same with the love of our life. To do everything we can, to provide whatever gold we have to make him or her beautiful. And to pray for our marriage as well.