I served as shaliach tzibbur this morning at Tiferet Israel in northwest DC. In my usual playful manner of acknowledging (nearly) all things, I overlaid the love song • L-O-V-E • while I chanted the paragraph that begins with Kulam Ahuvim, all are beloved. Much to my delight, this being Valentine's Day, the drash given by TI member Iris Lav was dedicated to love, especially of the romantic kind, not a frequent topic for the either the Torah or for Chazal. Iris presented three stories, two from the Talmud and the other from the commentary to Shir haShirim, the Song of Songs. I plan to use all of these stories in my meeting tomorrow with a lovely couple who are getting married in June.
All three stories are worth mining for their deeper meaning. I'd love (pun intended) to hear your take on any of the stories. So if that is your desire (what, another pun?) please comment below. I added Hebrew below in places where there is a likely play on words.
• From Babylonian Talmud Bavli 62b
Rav Rehumi (רב רחומי) used to learn in Rava's yeshiva in the town of Mahoza. He was accustomed to coming home every Yom Kippur eve. One day he lost himself in his learning.
His wife was awaiting him: "Now he's coming, now he's coming,"she thought. He did not come. She grew weak. She let a tear (אחית) fall from her eye. At that moment Rav Rehumi was sitting on the roof. The roof collapsed (אפחית) underneath him. And he fell to his death.
(Go back and re-read A Year of Stories #30. Are these two stories related in their underlying message?)
Translation from Ruth Calderon, A Bride for One Night
• from Shir haShirim Rabah 1:31
(In Babylon) it was taught: If a man has taken a wife and lived with her for ten years, but she has not borne a child, he is nonetheless obligated (to "be fruitful and multiply," and therefore to marry another woman.)
R' Idi said: The story is told of a woman from Sidon who lived with her husband for ten years and did not have children. They came before R' Shimon ben Yochai and asked to be divorced from one another.
He said to them: "Look here, as you married each other with food and drink, so too may you separate only with food and drink."
They went on their way, and made a holiday for themselves. They made a great feast, and she got him too drunk.
This brought him back to his senses, and he said to her: "My beloved, if you see anything that you want in my house...
ראי כל חפץ טוב שיש לי בבית
...take it and go to your father's."
What did she do? After he fell asleep, she called to her servants, saying, "Carry him in his bed to my father's house."
At midnight, when the effects of the wine had worn off, he awoke, and said to her,"My beloved, where am I?"
She said to him: "In my father's house."
He said to her: "What am I doing in your father's house?"
She said to him: "Is that not what you said to me last evening, "anything you desire in my house take it and go to your father's house"? There is nothing I desire more in the world than you!"
אין חפץ טוב לי בעולם יותר ממך
They went before R' Shimon ben Yochai, and he stood and prayed over them, and they had children.
(Translation from Ido Hevroni, Midrash As Marriage Guide
• Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 66b
A son of Babylon went to the land of Israel and took a wife. He said to her: "Cook me a couple of lentils." She cooked him two lentils. He was angry with her.
The next day, he said to her, "Cook me a se'ah of lentils (approximately 14 liters). She cooked him a se'ah of lentils.
He said to her: Go and bring me two botzinei (can mean either pumpkins or oil lamps) She brought him two oil lamps.
He said to her: "Go and break them against the head of the baba (gate)
Baba ben Buta was sitting at the city gate and giving judgment. She went and broke them on his head, He said to her, "What have you done?"
She said to him, "What my husband bade me to do."
He said, "Because you did your husband's bidding, G!d will give you two sons like Baba ben Buta."
(translation from Ido Hevroni, The Midrash as Marriage Guide)
Please consider offering a tax deductible donation to support this project and the work of DC's Jewish Renewal community Minyan Oneg Shabbat.
If you would like to be added to the growing list of
"Year of Stories" followers, let me know at RebMarko@gmail.com,
with "Year of Stories" in the subject line.
2/15/2015 04:27:44 am
I loved the story in #30—about how essential it is to be attuned and present to what’s important—baby and study/meditation. The first story in #31 is much more disturbing—on 2 counts- 1- that he’s so absorned he forgets Yom Kippur and his obligation to family and community. But 2- it implies that his wife’s worry and then tears weaken the roof and he dies. I do know that sending “worried caring” rather than “open caring” is harmful, but the consequence is too severe. (I know it doesn’t actually blame her and is probably more as a tale to caution other Torah scholars, but I don’t like it)
Hi Ellen, thanks so much for writing, I really appreciate you taking the time to put your thoughts into words. I always first read these kinds of stories for the pshat, and then sit with them for a few more readings, because there's more to unpack on the other levels of Pardes scheme. The first and last story are, as you say, particularly challenging.
2/16/2015 12:52:24 am
I once had an elderly widowed dressmaker who had lived many places, including France and New York City. She and her husband were young adults in Eqypt, before the expulsion. She was unable to give birth to live children, so she went to the cave of a man with special powers and spent the night in an isolated place in this cave. She then went home with the blessings of the seer and conceived very shortly thereafter. The daughter that was was born to the couple was a great help to this dressmaker throughout her life, and especially in her later years in Northern Virginia as her caregiver and decision-maker.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Mark Novak is a "free-range" rabbi who lives in Washington DC and works, well, just about everywhere. In 2012 he founded Minyan Oneg Shabbat, home to MOSH (Minyan Oneg Shabbat), MindfulMOSH (Jewish mindfulness gathering), and