During these months of the COVID crisis, many of our relationships have been tested – whether between parents and children, siblings, friends, neighbors, or co-workers; the list goes on and on.
But perhaps no relationship has been tested more than that of husband and wife.
Unfortunately, domestic abuse is on a global rise; a pandemic within a pandemic.
What does the Torah think regarding nurturing and strengthening the most important relationship in our lives during times of high stress and anxiety?
Let’s go back to the roots of marriage in Jewish thought.
The Talmud in Massechet Kiddushin declares “קיחה קיחה משדה עפרון”, that one of the ways to formalize a relationship between bride and groom in the institution of marriage is derived from Avraham’s purchase of a burial plot for his beloved wife, Sarah – as we read in this week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah.
This is based on the fact that the verb “לקח”, to take, is used in the context of that event: “נתתי כסף השדה קח ממני”, “I will give you money for the field, take it from me,” and is also used in the Torah’s description of the act of marriage in Parshat Ki Teitze: “כי יקח איש אשה”, “When a man formalizes a relationship with his wife.”
Why is the Talmud wedded to the verbal analogy between these two manifestations of the word “קיחה” – taking?
By choosing this verbal analogy, the Rabbis wish to share with us a deeper message.
The fact that Avraham goes above and beyond in order to purchase a prime location to bury his beloved wife highlights the intensity of the relationship between the two of them.
Their deeply intense connection is what we wish to emulate in marriage.
Marriage is a wonderous process that begins with a loving rendezvous underneath the chuppah.
But with time, these feelings can fade. It takes a tremendous effort and will to ensure that the love and connection between spouses grows and evolves in the years to come.
It is for that reason that the Rabbis never legislated a specific bracha on the institution of marriage.
Because a bracha is recited on an act that has an immediate beginning and an end. But the institution of marriage is an ongoing medium through which one can achieve sacred moments in time with loved ones and God.
So in this age of COVID, when our marital relationships may be challenged and pushed to new limits, let’s keep this idea in mind.
As we study the verses of Chayei Sarah, let us be reminded of humanity’s treasured gift of marriage and pledge to work at strengthening the relationship between ourselves and our spouses.