Tag Archives: bride

Naso: Bridegroom of the Sabbath

The Torah portion of Naso discusses the law of Sotah: (Bamidbar 5:11-31) When a husband warns his wife not to be alone with a certain man and she disobeys him, then even if she did not sin with that man, the very fact that she was alone with him causes her to become a sotah — a woman “straying from the path of modesty.” (Rashi, ibid., verse 12.)

The relationship between husband and wife in this world is analogous to the relationship between the A-lmighty and the Jewish people, who are deemed “husband and wife.” (See Likkutei Sichos , Vol. III, p. 984.) Thus all the laws of sotah apply to the relationship between G-d and the Jews.

The “warning” that G-d issues to the Jewish people is the command: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Shmos 20:3.) This is similar to the warning: “do not conceal yourself with a certain man.”

The Chassidic Dimension
Commentary on Torah Portion Naso
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1032-1034
and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

The Bible is replete with marriage metaphors, usually contrasting God and Israel as husband and wife. We also have a great deal of similar imagery in the Apostolic Scriptures depicting Jesus as husband and the church as his bride.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. –Ephesians 5:22-27 (ESV)

Many Christian women take great comfort in these metaphors but more than a few men struggle with the role of “bride” relative to the Messiah. But let’s not be incredibly literal, since the Bible writers are using metaphors to describe a level of close intimacy between the Messiah and his disciples that can only be likened with the closeness and love experienced by two people who are intertwined by devotion. But Israel and the church aren’t the only “bride” metaphors we know of.

The chorus of the classic Sabbath hymn Lekhah Dodi states in part:

Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride,
and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.

But in this instance, if the Shabbat is the bride, who is the bridegroom? The traditional Jewish tradition casts God in that role, but we also have this:

Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” –Matthew 12:5-8 (ESV)

The oldest text we have for this passage is in Greek, but if we try to “retrofit” these verses back into the Hebrew thoughts of the Jewish writer of Matthew, when he says “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath,” what word did he use for “lord?”

“Adon” seems to be fitting under the circumstances, but a week ago, I heard a different interpretation by a young Jewish scholar (yes, I’m “borrowing” this from you, Nick) who offered a sort of midrash on this topic.

The word Baal is derived from the common Hebrew verb (ba’al), own, rule, possess. The verb is even used to indicate the husband’s relationship to his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1) and is applied to the relationship between God and man, “For your husband (ba’al) is your Maker…” (Isaiah 54:5).

-quoted from the
abarim-publications.com website

ShabbatBaal can mean both “lord” and “husband” but by deliberately applying the latter meaning, we can discover something about the relationship between Messiah and the Shabbat as well as something about the Messiah and us.

When we read the passage as “‘lord’ of the Shabbat”, we think of someone in charge or in command or with authority. These are very powerful images, but they don’t fit very well with how a loving groom should be approaching his bride. However, if we say, “‘husband’ of the Shabbat,” we completely change the meaning. Suddenly, we have an intimate, warm, caring interaction between the Messiah and the Shabbat.

Some Jewish sages state that the Shabbat is actually a small taste of the life in the world to come; Paradise, if you will. Creating the picture of a husband, the Messiah, welcoming his beloved bride, the Shabbat, into his arms, we can see something of the peace we will experience when he finally returns and fixes our broken world and our broken hearts.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. –Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

This also fits very well back into what we saw in Ephesians 5 in comparing Jesus and the church with a husband and wife.

I know I’m being more than a little poetic here, but I take a certain amount of comfort in applying the lessons of both this week’s Torah Portion and the Shabbat to my walk of faith, and realize that Shabbat is not only a way for God to comfort us in the midst of our weekly trials, but His promise that He will always love us and, through the Messiah, grant us eternal peace.

Why should we stray after others to be alone with them when we can be the bride of the Moshiach and receive boundless intimacy with our bridegroom.

Good Shabbos.


Ki Teitzei: The Bridegroom is Approaching

Ki TeitzeiThe vast majority of laws relating to Jewish marriage and divorce are derived from verses in the Torah portion Seitzei.

The relationship between husbands and wives is similar to the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. It thus follows that marriage and divorce as experienced between mortal spouses derives from the “marriage” and the so-called “divorce” between G-d and the Jewish people.

The marriage of G-d and the Jewish people took place when He gave them the Torah, as the Mishnah states: ” ‘The day of His marriage’ — this refers to Mattan Torah. “

The Chassidic Dimension: Ki Seitzei
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
from Likkutei Sichos Vol. IX, pp. 143-150.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.Matthew 25:1-13

I’m still trying to figure out how God can be married to the Jewish people as a whole while Christ is married to the church. The former is easier for me to comprehend since Judaism as a whole has a relationship with God more so than any individual Jew, based on the Sinai event. Even through there are religious Jews and secular Jews, because each are part of the Jewish whole, regardless of their personal beliefs, God must consider them His “bride”.

Jews are an ethnicity and a community, not just a religion. To be sure, that’s true of other religions, to some extent. Part of what it means to be an Italian, Polish or Irish American is being Catholic, and the Black church is at the core of the African-American community. So Jews are not alone in being partly an ethnic grouping, but community bonds play an unusually prominent role in our religion. I’m a Jew by choice—I converted 50 years ago, and I’m even more satisfied with that choice now than I was a half-century ago. That’s partly because being Jewish is mostly not about beliefs, but about connections with other people, sharing values and a collective destiny. Even for non-observant Jews, Jewish values are embodied in the Torah. Most Jews, unlike most Christians, don’t take the Torah literally, but it’s an exceptional account of the shared history and values of our people. Those values include respect for learning—we’re the “People of the Book”—respect for the individual, and pervasive concern about the fate of the community. It’s not an accident that Jews are among the most generous people in America philanthropically, and not just for Jewish causes; this trait embodies tikkun olam. Sociologically, Jews behave in a way that’s consistent with putting a high value on caring for other people, as well as on respect for learning. Even the atheists among us share those values.

Robert Putnam is the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University.
Quoted from Moment Magazine

Compared to Judaism, there really isn’t a “Christian people”. We refer to Christians collectively as “the church” but Christians don’t comprise a people group in the way that Jews do since Judaism transcends the definition of a “religion” and extends to a community, a people, an ethnicity (depending on how you look at it) and a culture. You can be a devoutly religious Jew or your can be a Jew who is an atheist, but you are always a Jew.

By contrast, a Christian is only a Christian because he or she has made a conscious faith decision. A person can decide to become a Christian and they can decide to surrender their faith and become an atheist. There’s no such thing as a secular Christian and once you leave the church, you have given up that identity.

When people describe themselves as Christian, they imply some element of belief. The beliefs may vary, but it would be hard for them to say, “I am a Christian,” if they don’t believe in God. In Judaism, there is a vibrant Jewish community separate from the theological underpinnings of the Torah. You don’t have to believe God made a covenant with our ancestors—where He gave us the land of Israel and commanded us to live by His teachings—to be Jewish.

Jason Rosenhouse is an associate professor of mathematics at James Madison University, writes EvolutionBlog for the Science Blogs network, and is the author of Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolution Frontline, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
Quoted from Moment Magazine

Christians are called “believers” because the essential element for being a Christian is belief; the acceptance of a certain set of propositions with an unerring certainty. It has nothing really to do with who you are, where you were born, who your parents are, or even anything that you do in life. You are a Christian because you believe in Christ. A Jew isn’t a Jew because of what he or she believes, a Jew is a Jew because of who they are. Even a religious Jew isn’t really religious because of a set of beliefs but instead is considered “yare Hashem”:

According to Heschel, “Awe rather than faith is the cardinal attitude of the religious Jew. In Biblical language, the religious man is not called ‘believer,’ as he is for example in Islam (mu’min) but yare hashem (one who stands in awe of God).”

Quoted from MyJewishLearning.com

RainbowI think we can argue that God is still “married” to any individual Jew because that Jew is always part of the Jewish whole. Not so a Christian since a Christian can accept or reject their faith at will and it is faith and belief, and nothing else, that defines the Christian. So it seems that a Jew remains part of the tribe regardless and thus is “married” in a way that they cannot be divorced, but not so the Christian.

I know what you’re thinking. God did “divorce” the Jewish people and we have scripture to prove it. We also have this:

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD your Redeemer. –Isaiah 54:7-8

God continues to address Israel as a corporate entity rather than commenting on the behavior of any individual Jew. God briefly and temporarily divorced all of Israel and He has promised to gather all of Israel to Himself again.

Paul re-enforces this commitment here:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. –Romans 11:25-26

As much as I try to find one, I can’t discover the solution or reconciliation between the two marriage metaphors: the one involving God and Israel and the one depicting Christ and the church. As I read over what I’ve written, it’s almost as if I’m saying that all Jews merit a place in the world to come no matter what they’ve done by virtue of being Jews. However, there are conflicting points of view involved:

And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. –Matthew 3:9

All Israel has a share in the World to Come, as is stated: “And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever. They are the shoot of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” –Sanhedrin, 11:1

How can I put all of this together in a way that makes sense? How to I reconcile God’s relationship with the Jewish people vs. His relationship with Christianity? I know that what we do, Jew and Christian alike, matters to God and that there are consequences, both in the present and in the world to come, for our behavior, but how can that be applied to the identity of Jew vs. Christian in terms of being a “bride”?

(Yes, I know I could take the Christian “hard line” and say that God replaced Israel with the church, but if I ever believed in such supersessionist nonsense, I’ve long since given it up. There has to be another answer)

I don’t know the answer. I’m inviting comments from anyone who has an opinion to share. I do want to leave you with one more quote for this last morning mediation of the week.

Fire can be dangerous – but nothing is as dangerous as ice.

If a fire burns inside you, keep going, just turn the fire towards G-d.
But if your path is of cold, lifeless intellect, you must stop, turn around, and warm yourself with the fiery coals of the sages.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Hot and Cold”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson

Being cold to our bridegroom is a dangerous thing for anyone as we learn here. But how is it different for a Jew than a Christian against the vista of eternity?

Good Shabbos.

Making Room for the Beloved

Engagement RingThe Chofetz Chaim, zt”l, explains the importance of keeping Shabbos with a parable. “God calls Shabbos a gift. Can you imagine a bride receiving a ring from her groom to symbolize their engagement and returning the ring? Everyone understands that this is a definite sign that their engagement is over. Shabbos is like an engagement ring since keeping Shabbos shows that we are betrothed to God. One who violates Shabbos is like a bride who breaks her engagement by returning her ring. How can a person act in a way that breaks his engagement with God, heaven forbid?”

We have no idea of the greatness of Shabbos. The Ohr HaChaim, zt”l, explains that no non-Jew — or even an angel — can fathom the deep connection to God that is imparted to Jews on Shabbos. But many wonder when they will actually come to feel this deep connection on Shabbos themselves.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Our Betrothal with God”
Chullin 36

One who is full of himself fills all the space around him. There is no room left for anyone else. Therefore, he despises another person by virtue of the space that other person consumes. He may give reasons for his disdain, but the reasons are secondary.

This is called wanton hatred. It is the reason given for our exile. It is the core of all evil. It is balanced and cured by wanton acts of love and kindness.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
“Wanton Love”

It is said in Jewish mystic tradition, that before Creation, God filled all areas of existence and there was no room for anything else but God. This is to be expected from a God who is infinite. When God desired to create the universe for the sake of our world and for us, He had to deliberately withdraw some portion of His infinite being; to “humble” a part of Himself, in order to make the room available for Creation.

God made room for us.

Compare this to the words of the Rebbe I quoted above. People who fill the world around them with only themselves have no room to love others and in fact, the Rebbe calls this “wanton hatred”. This is the very opposite of what God did for us. The quote from the Daf is also an example of making room for the sake of love.

When God created the Shabbat, he “made room” in time, setting aside one-seventh of our week so we could be able to totally devote ourselves to Him. He sanctified that day and made it holy (Genesis 2:2-3). From the Ohr HaChaim’s point of view, the Shabbat is specific to the Jewish people and is a sign of His deep love for the Jews, His beloved, His treasured splendorous people (Deuteronomy 14:2). As we’ve seen, a Jew who rejects the Shabbat is like a woman who throws her engagement ring back in her suitor’s face.

A little over a week ago, I suggested that there could be benefits for Christians to keep the Shabbat in some manner or fashion, in order to honor God and to observe a day when we can be totally devoted to Him. While Jewish sages do not consider non-Jews to be “betrothed” to God and, as we’ve seen, do not believe we are able to comprehend the depth of meaning that Jews experience when observing the Shabbat (and probably we don’t), we are indeed betrothed:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. –Ephesians 5:25-27

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” –Revelation 19:6-8

The church is sometimes called “the bride of Christ” based on these verses and this indicates that those of us who are grafted into the root of Jesse, and who are joined to the God of Israel through the Covenant of Jesus. also are especially loved. I’m not suggesting that God has two brides and I don’t know how this will all work out in the end, but we can see that God dearly loves both the Jewish people and the non-Jewish disciples of Christ.

Before the coming of Jesus, non-Jews had no way to enter into a special covenant relationship with God. Even the Gentile God-fearers attending synagogues in the Second Temple period, no matter how devoted they became, could not enter into a fully-realized relationship with God unless they converted to Judaism. Christ came and opened the door for the rest of us. He made it possible for us to completely access God and to totally benefit from a “treasured” status with Him through Christ. We were locked out of the promises but He made room for us.

If someone asked you to marry him or her and gave you a ring to symbolize their love, would you throw it back in their face? God made room for us in the Universe and He made room for us in His Kingdom. If He also made room in time for us so we can honor Him and to rest from our cares, shouldn’t we also make room for Him?