The Bridesmaid

Friday, 19 February, 2016 - 8:05 am

The Bridesmaid

Marriage is complicated.

Take two people who are very different from each other, who grew up in different environments, who have their own unique way of living their lives, put them under the same roof and eventually there will be a clash. Love will get them under the same roof, but, as many a couple have discovered to their terrible disappointment, it won’t prevent the clash of two distinct people, each with their own personality, quirks and perspectives.

The secret to lasting relationships is joy. The Kabbalah teaches that joy has the unique power to destroy barriers. When people are happy, they tend to  go beyond themselves in order to be with other people. When feeling sad, people want to  avoid interacting with other people; conversely when people feel joy they want to get out and celebrate with other people.

When a home is filled with happiness, when the hearts of a man and woman are filled with joy, they can easily transcend their differences.. The happier a person is the more open he is to the perspectives and feelings of another, the more he can see the world through the eyes of his beloved.

That is why a wedding should be, more than anything else, a joyous occasion. Yes, the flowers are significant, the food, the wedding cake and the tuxedo are important. But the main ingredient must be joy. Friends and family, bridesmaids and groomsmen are necessary, not for the pictures and the dessert, but rather to rejoice with the bride and groom. Indeed, it is a Mitzvah to bring joy to the bride and groom, to assist them in experiencing an intense measure of joy, which they will, hopefully, capture and recreate in their relationship over many happy years to come.  

The detailed biblical story of the construction of the portable temple in the desert, a story that spans four complete portions of the Torah, is, in fact, a story of the wedding between G-d, the groom, and his beloved wife, the people of Israel. Like any wedding, much thought and care goes into every detail of the celebration, from the food on the menu (the various offerings and sacrifices), to the color of the curtains and tablecloths (the detailed description of the precise materials and colors of the curtains which served as the roof and the partition of the temple).

The actual Mishkan, the portable temple, consisted of a structure divided by a partition. The partition represented the divergent perspectives of the bride and groom. The inner chamber, the “holy of holies” represented the Divine perspective. There stood the ark with the ten commandments engraved in stone. In the “holy of holies”, awareness of the Divine was engraved into the fabric of existence. In the “holy of holies” one felt that the physical reality had no independent existence,  it was but an expression of the Divine. The “holy of holies” represented what the kabbalists call the “supernal knowledge”, it represented the perspective of the Divine.  

And then there was the perspective of the bride. The bride, the people of Israel,was “outside the partition”, in the outer chamber called the “holy”. She was unable to experience reality from the perspective of the groom. The bride had her own perspective. From her point of view, the world was often a dark place that seemed void of the tangible presence of spiritual light. In her world there were ups and downs, moments of confusion and moments of spiritual ecstasy. In her life there was both “bread” and “incense”, both matter and spirit. In short, her life was a struggle between light and darkness.  

And this is where the bridesmaid came into the picture. The bride had a dedicated friend who helped her prepare for the wedding. When the bride experienced some anxiety about the marriage, the bridesmaid reassured her. It was her job to ensure that the bride would “be in the moment” and enjoy the wedding, that she not be distracted and overwhelmed by the enormity of the event. That she would actually experience the joy necessary to ensure the success of the marriage.

Every bride needs a bridesmaid, and the Jewish people needed  Aaron.

In the the opening verses of this week's portion the Torah commands:

In the Tent of Meeting, outside the dividing curtain that is in front of the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall set it up before the Lord from evening to morning; [it shall be] an everlasting statute for their generations, from the children of Israel.

The Jew is “outside the dividing curtain that is in front of the testimony”, the Jew is outside the perspective of the “tablets of testimony”. The Jew lives in a reality where there is “evening” and “morning”, where there is darkness that must be transformed to light. It is Aaron who kindles the flame in the outer chamber, who inspires the Jew to draw close to the Torah, and experience the Joy inherent in fulfilling the Divine commandments.

Each of us has an Aaron within ourselves. We must seek to light the candles of our soul, to fill our hearts with joy. For joy is the ingredient that allows us to overcome the barriers of separation, and cleave to the Divine.

Each of us must be an Aaron. We must work kindle our own light, and the light of the people around us.


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