The Mishna states that Tu B’Av (the 15 of Av, July 24 this year) was a joyous holiday in the days of the Second Temple in Jerusalem when the unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white went out to dance in the vineyards. The day of love is its current name in Israel and in its honor I offer this essay.
Some men feel they are blessed because the women they marry are gifts from God. I know I feel this way. Not all marriages are arranged in heaven but if you are in one of them you should thank God every day. I do.
At first, I thought it was just love that made our relationship so great. But as the years have passed (we were married in December 1966) I realized more and more that my wife Judy is a gift from God. Since I am a Rabbi, it is not surprising that I think about life in religious terms. I am also a student of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) so I often use Kabbalistic concepts to explore and understand the most profound of life’s personal experiences.
Christians may base my Kabbalistic references on Philippians 2:1-4: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests; but each of you to the interests of the others.
Although I always thank God for my wife, it is when we make love that I feel closest to her and to God. Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic movement said, “Prayer is intercourse with the Shekeenah” (the feminine presence of God). I would add that intercourse with a God-given Shekeenah-wife is a divine service because one is always aware of God’s presence and blessing. As Rabbi Akiba taught, “Husband and wife: if they are worthy, Shekeenah abides between them; if not, fire consumes them.” (Talmud: Sotah 17a)
Most Jews know that sexual activities between a husband and wife are a Mitsvah- a Jewish responsibility. Many Jews know that lovemaking on Shabbat is a double Mitsvah. Some Jews know that the Kabbalah (the Jewish mystical tradition) teaches that the Shekeenah (the feminine presence of God) rests on a Jewish man when he makes love to his Jewish wife on Shabbat.
Very few Jews know that Jewish couples who make love with an awareness that the Shekeenah is present through the wife’s love and the husbands reverence can repair fractured hopes and intentions in those around them; thus helping to elevate broken spirits both near and far. This is called a Tikun, a spiritual repair.
This Tikun also enhances the spiritual bonds of their own marriage. As Rabbi Shim’on teaches in the Zohar (2:46a) “Then (in the early morning hours) a woman unites with her husband, conversing with him, and entering his palace. As morning approaches, Kenneset Israel (Shekeenah-wife) comes and converses with the Holy One (Tifferet-Yesod-husband) and he extends to her a scepter of love, not over her alone, but over her and over all those participating with her.”
This refers to all Jewish couples that engage in late night/early morning lovemaking with the holy intention of unifying their spiritual sexual commitment to each other. Each time they enact this Tikun helps repair or elevate another relationship that is a participating part of the couple’s, especially the wife’s, relationships.
When I make love with my wife, I always do so with the awareness of the Jewish mystical teaching about the Shekeenah- the feminine presence of God resting upon a man who makes love to his wife on Shabbat. Actually, the Shekeenah can rest on a man whenever he makes love to his wife with a sense of reverence, tenderness, adoration and love. Shabbat adds holiness and chosenness to their feelings.
The key attitude for each husband is the feeling that my wife is God’s gift, the source of my blessings, and a most wonderful manifestation of God’s holy presence in my life.
If, in addition to this attitude, a man also makes love to his wife with the intention of unifying the heavenly realm as he unifies the earthly one, he and his wife enact a great Tikun- a spiritual mending or uplifting which can also affect other people. This Tikun is woven together with similar Tikunim from other married couples into a crown for the Divine One who also unites with His Shekeenah on Shabbat and Yom Tov-Jewish holy days. Just as the prayers proclaimed in each Synagogue are woven into a crown for the Holy One of Israel, so too are the holy unifications (Tikunim) of each married couple woven into a crown.
The active intention of the husband is required to start the Tikun process, although it is the Shekeenah wife who provides the transforming energy. As the Zohar says, “A male desiring to cling to a female emits a seed of anointing (his holy intention) from the top of his brain into his phallus; it pours into the female who thus conceives. Thus, every smooth member of his body joins the female, and the female embraces all.”(2:86a)
A Shekeenah wife embodies and radiates joyful holiness to others, elevating and inspiring them over time.
In the past the esoteric details of how to elevate their lovemaking into a Tikun (spiritual healing) were transmitted orally and very discretely from mother to daughter. We are the first generation to live in a world that is being transformed by gender equality. The 2,500-year-old prophecy of Jeremiah is being fulfilled before our eyes. “God will create a new thing on the earth- females will surround males.” (Jeremiah 31:22)
Now that female Rabbis are all around us, these details based on the seventh chapter of the Song of Songs, a Biblical book that Rabbi Akiba proclaimed the holiest song in the entire Scriptures, can be revealed and understood.
A wife who desires to enable her husband to fulfill the Mitsvah of Tikun coupling should direct him to begin by kissing and creaming her feet (Song of Songs 7:2). Then she should direct him to slowly and reverently work his way up to her crowning flowing hair that entangles a King/God/husband, (7:6) thus allowing him to climb the palm tree (7:9) and perform the unification below which is woven into the unification above. Over the years the spiritual uplift of this Tikun becomes greater and greater.
If you have difficulty believing in the outcome of these Kabbalistic concepts, you can only gain personally by practicing the Mitsvah of mutual spiritual intercourse. In time, the effectiveness of Tikunim may become apparent. You have nothing to lose but your semi-secular ego. Rabbi Yitzhak Saphrin, a great Hassidic scholar, taught; “The Divine Spirit does not rest on an unmarried man, because Holy Inspiration is derived from one’s wife.”
If you are not yet ready for this level of inspiration then remember the Talmudic (Berachot 57b) statement, “Three (experiences) adumbrate heaven: Shabbat, sunshine, and sexual union.’ A sunny Shabbat morning with a wife who is God’s blessing, is like winning the trifecta.