Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

The Jewish Home: The Final Frontier

The question of whether there will be a “dreaded Lockdown” or not seems to be a matter of intense speculation according to most major news sources. What is fascinating to me is the underlying implications which such a discussion evokes  that the place of “confinement which a Lockdown necessitates” is not a desirable and may even be a contentious place to be for any number of reasons. And in effect it is putting a magnifying glass on “the Jewish home,” since this is the likely domain for those who would be subject to the Lockdown.

The Torah’s Jewish Home

The Jewish Home also achieves prominence in this week’s Torah portion of Ki Teitzei. In the space of the first five sentences of one chapter, Chapter XXIV, the Torah turns the spotlight on the Jewish home in featuring the two areas synonymous with Jewish home life – marriage and divorce.

The Chicken or the Egg

One of the oft debated considerations of human nature, is whether we need to be told the bad news or the good news first as the motivation for our actions. And in the instance of divorce and marriage, some would argue that discussing divorce first before marriage provides a greater incentive for marriage.

In the Torah portion, divorce is actually discussed first. The sentences describe the circumstances which necessitate a bill of divorce (a get) and references an adulterous relationship (according to the commentator Rashi). In fact these few sentences become the basis for the divorce laws elaborated at length in the Gemara’s tractates of Gittin.

By presenting the laws of divorce first, the Torah is indicating that there is an “Exit” route for circumstances which cause a marriage to terminate. However, there has always been a hope that such a route would be a last resort and the focus of efforts would be in building a Jewish home where marriage thrives.

The Home is the Hearth

The Torah continues the chapter by focusing on what is considered the antidote for establishing a foundation for the Jewish Home. In the words of the portion:

“When a man taketh a new wife, he shall not go out in the host (defined by Rashi as neither to provide water and food nor to repair roads); neither shall he be charged with any thing; he shall be free for his house for one year, and shall cheer his wife whom he hath taken.”

What the Torah is stating is the best pre marriage education advice that could be provided – a new couple needs to focus their energies on building the sense of the couple and establishing the home as the environment for such a relationship to thrive. Being divested of any outside obligations is making the statement that each Jewish home matters and is essential for our society. And by taking the time to invest in the relationship – the message for the society is that the Jewish Home is of paramount significance in establishing our identity as a people and that the value of Shalom in the Home is our hallmark and prescription for a healthy and happy Jewish nation.

The Home as the Final Frontier

One of the historic notes that came across my purview this week, was the fact that September 8 marks the 55th anniversary of the first airing of the classic science fiction show of Star Trek . This show spawned a number of versions, but the upcoming anniversary gave pause for reflection on the importance of having a home that is a solid foundation from which to explore other places. In the case of Star Trek, the final frontier was the exploration of the universe for other planets and life forms. And in the case of the new couples referenced in our Torah portion, solidifying the home as the safe place from which exploration can be conducted is a key component.

ELUL – All About Love

We are currently in the month of Elul, which is also predicated on solidifying our own foundations as a precedent to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The theme of Elul is also all about Love. As I cited in an earlier blog, Elul and 9/11 – All About Love, Elul is the love month – the only month where weddings may occur all month long. The acronym of Ani L’Dodi V’ Dodi Li – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” – Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) depicts Elul as the month where we can dedicate ourselves to connecting with ourselves and our loved ones.

Focus on Holistic Marriage

It is time that we examine what is going to be our focus for the year ahead – Corona counts or how to inject our homes with the same enthusiasm as the Torah encourages the newlyweds – to re inoculate ourselves with more booster shots of harmonizing topics and building marriages that can withstand the external challenges that are pulling us apart. Marriage has to be viewed in a positive light of offering hope to those who feel beleaguered by the endless variants of Corona or the enemies waiting to attack us.

Our amuta Together in Happiness is once again after the chagim, offering Free online marriage education courses known as ePREP for engaged and newly married couples and our in person upcoming workshops known as I-PREP.

Our mission is to spread awareness of how the home is the foundation for the Jewish future and it is a communal responsibility to see that our booster shots inoculate the home for re-connection. And once we re-ignite our homes, then we also can continue to explore Final Frontiers with confidence that we are ambassadors of light to the nations.

Wishing you Ktiva v’Chatima tova.

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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