Shalom everyone and welcome to the Okie Hebrew Podcast Episode 7. I’m Ken Lane, aka Yefet ben Ezra of OkieHebrew.com.
You probably haven’t heard from me in a while and I do apologize. I’ve been fairly busy with an upcoming wedding as well as various events. I recently kept Shavuot with the warm and loving members of B’nai Israel Synagogue in Daly City, California. Many thanks to them for being such amazing hosts to me and the other out-of-town members of the tribe. I’ll never forget their kindness.
This is a very special podcast to me as it will be my very last podcast as a single man. Yes, the beautiful and virtuous Shakhar bat David agreed to be my beloved wife last Shemini Atzeret and in just a few days, we will meet under the chuppah and become husband and wife. In preparing myself for this spiritual amalgamation, I revisited a dvar Torah that I gave when I officiated a wedding between two dear friends on the nature of marriage according to the Jewish tradition. I’d like to share this at this time. Feel free to steal it for any Jewish weddings you may be attending in the future where you’d been asked to give a few words. I know this can be a daunting task so hopefully I’ve made this time a little less stressful!
Not a Ladder Rung: L’Besar Echad
If you are attending a Jewish wedding, you were called to be witnesses to not the next rung in a relationship ladder as society has made many to believe, but rather to bear witness to sealing of a holy covenant between two people and the God of Israel. This covenant is, as Genesis 2 says, the reason a man ever leaves the home of his parents – to hold fast to his wife so the two may become “l’basar echad” – one flesh. The term “echad” is the same expression Moses uses to express to Israel the very nature of their God – a holy unity that binds the universe together: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad. “Hear O Israel, HaShem is God. HaShem is One.”
Ve-Ahavta Le’reaka Kamoka
In becoming “l’besar echad”, this brings about a unique responsibility as expressed the command of “ve-ahavta le’reaka kamoka” to love your neighbor as yourself. Within the unity of marriage, being l’basar echad, caring for the other is caring yourself. It is in your best interest to care about their wellbeing from the depths of your heart because they are, in a sense, you. You have been unified.
May You Have the Simcha of Adam and Chavah
In the seven traditional wedding blessings, one of the blessings is that you may be blessed with the simcha, the perfect joy, of Adam and Chavah, Adam and Eve that they shared in Gan Eden. What is so perfect about this simcha, this kind of joy? It is because they, beyond a shadow of a doubt, knew that they were literally made for each other. This is the kind of simcha, the kind of perfect that everyone who loves you wants to bless your marriage with this day and every day of your marriage.
Ahavah – Giving, Not Love
You know, oddly enough, though we think we’ve been taught these concepts from a Biblical perspective, there is Hebrew word for the Western concept of “love.” It’s not lovey dovey, mushy gushy puppy dog tails and butterfly kisses. It’s not fluffy. It’s work. The word for “love” in Hebrew is “Ahavah.” Many translate this as love, but that’s not what it means. When you break it down, the root of the word “hav” simply means “give.” Ahavah is the expression “I will give.” Ahavah is the promise of action. It is the promise of giving.
Nesuin – Not Marriage, Carrying
By the same odd coin, there is no Hebrew for marriage. You won’t find a wedding ceremony spelled out in the Bible – it’s usually a man taking for himself a wife. The closest word we have is “Nesuin” – but “Nesuin” doesn’t mean marriage – rather it expresses the nature of it. The root of it is “nu-say” – “to carry”. The whole word is plural and means “carryings.”
To marry is to carry. To love is to give. May everyone here shower this “nesuin” this marriage, with their own “ahavah”, their own givings of love just as you two are giving yourself to one another as a source of blessing on the life of the other.
This has been another episode of the Okie Hebrew Podcast. My name is Ken Lane aka, Yefet ben Ezra. I hope that this has been a blessing to you in providing some meaningful explanation of marriage according to the Jewish tradition.