Shavuot is an anniversary of the ultimate Jewish marriage, between our people and God. We celebrate having a partner in the Divine and that we are committed to one another and to the partnership. The Jewish people entered this marriage with a huge leap of faith (na’aseh v’nishma), a theme that recurs in the Book of Ruth when Ruth takes a leap of faith to follow Naomi.
Each year on Shavuot, we rejoice in our bond and affirm our commitment to a unique relationship that gives meaning to our lives. For our part of the relationship, we agree to take responsibility for our choices and our actions and to have faith that our ‘partner’ will take responsibility and care for us and for our world.
Marriage between two people is also entered into with a leap of faith, with hope and optimism that the life ahead will be one of shared meaning and happiness. Each person has full responsibility for the relationship as it evolves. Together, two partners create a shared space that is generous, compassionate and caring.
Disconnected partners fill their shared space with criticism, blame and withdrawal – and in the worst scenarios inflict pain and suffering on one another. Emotionally connected partners look out for one another, truly listen to each other and make the other’s happiness their priority.
Marriage experts recommend that new couples check out their partner in a variety of ways, to be sure that the match has real potential for success. For example, couples are encouraged to explore the imprints each partner received in their family related to spending money and handling conflict. They are advised to look into their partner’s beliefs about parenting and their views on individual autonomy within a marriage.
Shavuot teaches us that these (and other) questions are not only relevant to new marriages, but need to be asked again and again, with the curiosity of newlyweds. Vibrant, dynamic couples continue to blossom as individuals and ask each other important questions to be sure that they are growing together as a couple.
Couples who have been living together in the intense realities of 2020 are particularly aware that boundaries and expectations of marriage are severely tested in a time of crisis. Our emotional connections and commitments need to be recharged, especially when our environment and status quo change beyond recognition.
Before we move back into our (semi) normal routines, let’s take advantage of the long Shavuot weekend to reflect on our marriage and how it has been affected by the imbalance of this season.
Let’s re-commit to renewal by asking ourselves and our partner a few basic questions:
In what ways did we enter into our marriage as a ‘leap of faith’?
What new ‘revelation’ have we had about our relationship over these last months?
What are the new commitments each of us is ready to make to keep our connection strong?
What are we grateful to our partner for?
What is our most optimistic dream and hope for our relationship between now and next Shavuot?
Marriage is a life-long conversation. Marriage is a living, breathing organism that shifts and changes along with the inevitable highs and lows of families, careers and – as we now see so clearly – events in our local and global environments. Successful marriages evolve and are refreshed and renewed again and again. This Shavuot, let’s commit to renewal.