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Levi Ben-Shmuel

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Shavuot: Love Lessons from a Cosmic Marriage

Posted: 06/ 7/2011 11:16 am

Shavuot, the Jewish holiday marking the anniversary of the Israelites receiving the Torah, is also the anniversary of the cosmic marriage between God and the Jewish people. Underlying their collective choosing to say "yes" to this marriage is a love story anyone can learn from.

The biblical narrative relates how difficult the journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai was for the newly freed Israelites. Yet by the time they reached the mountain, they had become clear on one thing. As they trembled at the awesomeness of God revealing Himself to them, the Israelites declared in Exodus 24:7, "We will do and we will hear." In that statement, the people were saying, "Because we trust in You and Your love for us, we will love You in return and demonstrate it by doing whatever you ask of us and understand it later."

The Israelites spoke a truth that is part of any committed relationship. Going into one, it is impossible to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. No matter how well you think you know someone, there will be revelations about who they are that might challenge you. Plus, the twists and turns of life guarantee rocky times where you will question whether or not you made the right decision in entering the marriage or relationship. Isn't it true that any of us who marry with good intentions declare, "I say yes then I will understand what I have committed to"? That has certainly been my own experience!

Even with all the unknowns entering into a committed relationship entails, the joy and promise in choosing to make a life together is worthy of great celebration (there is a reason why no matter how a marriage turns out, the wedding is usually a great party!). The Jewish tradition of staying up all night in study to commemorate Shavuot might not seem as much as fun as other forms of revelry, but for those whose hearts are into it, it gets the job done!

Love is about choosing time and time again to stay in the relationship (assuming the core values of love and trust are still possible to reclaim if they have been lost). Shavuot returning in its annual cycle is an opportunity to renew the marriage vow that was made the previous year. It is a time to get clear on what really matters and celebrate the "yes" made the previous year again. Perhaps if more of us renewed our own marriage vows on a yearly basis we would be happier and healthier couples.

Shavuot teaches us that committing to love is a big responsibility. By doing so, we are called to act out of love, in particular when we don't understand exactly why we are doing something that is important to our partner. Through saying "yes" to something greater than ourselves, we are elevating ourselves and our partner as a reflection of the divinity that lives in each of us. The love relationship between God and the Israelites illustrates that committing to love for eternity is a precious, sacred act that needs great attention or it can wither.

What is your experience in a committed relationship? What have you needed to let go of to keep love alive? I welcome your sharing your own love stories and lessons of how "I will do and understand later" has worked out for you.

 
 
 

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