This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota. Read Rabbi Da-vid’s weekly dvars on his blog.
In my opinion, weddings are quite overrated. The amount of time and money invested in weddings, all for it to be forgotten very soon after. Many may disagree, but that’s the way I see it.
If you look however into Jewish law, there is a distinctly different view taken. Torah study is one of the most important mitzvos that one can fulfill. And yet, if one has a choice between Torah study and going to a wedding, the halachic preference is to attend … the wedding.
Why is this? There doesn’t seem to be anything major going on at a wedding. They don’t get to know each other all that better. It basically boils down to a ring giving ceremony and some blessings. What is so significant?
Let’s take a short detour.
What exactly happened at Mount Sinai? What did we get there? The tablets that Moshe received ended up being broken 40 days later (by the incident of the golden calf). We didn’t receive the Torah then (the entire Torah was given to the Jewish people shortly before Moshe’s death – 40 years later). We experienced the 10 commandments from Hashem, but that was it.
Shavuot (the upcoming festival celebrating the Mount Sinai experience) is not about the commandments. We don’t start thinking about how we have fulfilled or transgressed in the year past – that’s for Yom Kippur.
Shavuot is about the relationship between us and Hashem.
On Shavuot, we committed ourselves to Hashem. We said “I do” to G-d (the actual words we used were “naaseh venishman – we will do, and we will understand”). It was our commitment which was the key part of this day. We loyally accepted to learn and live G-d’s Torah, no matter what it entailed.
That is what is so important about a wedding. The public commitment to our partner. We announce to the world that this person is the one that we are dedicated to, come what may. Everything else is just to celebrate that one fact. We don’t necessarily know all the intricate details about our partner yet, but that is irrelevant – we are devoted to make it work.
On Shavuot, we must ask ourselves, what is my relationship to Hashem like? Even if it may not be perfect, am I at least committed to working on it?
Torah study is the number one way to develop our relationship with Hashem. It is our way of getting to know Hashem, understanding His likes and dislikes, just like we would in a regular relationship.
Committing to a set amount of regular Torah learning is a great way to cultivate that relationship.
May we all merit to renew our “vows” with Hashem this year on Shavuot, and have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Rosenthal sums up the premise of Shavuout, comparing it to the public commitment of a wedding, beautifully! Of course, I disagree with his initial premise that, “There doesn’t seem to be anything major going on at a wedding. They don’t get to know each other all that better. It basically boils down to a ring giving ceremony and some blessings. What is so significant?” Planning a wedding or other major life cycle event is an undertaking in values clarification and compromise. You begin to see what is most important to you as an individual and as a couple: who should be invited is just one example which will determine the value of money vs. intimacy and the balance of the two. How much religion and ritual will be involved? How important are family traditions and sentiments about location, dress, food? These are all decisions which when made with thought can help all of us become closer to our partner, our families and thus to God.
You make a really good point Michele. All the preparation for the wedding definitely forces couples to come together and make decisions about some major issues. I never thought of it that way, thanks for the input.