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Love, Marriage and Hakafot

Love, Marriage and Hakafot


Men usually don't sit over coffee talking about their marriages. That's why a particular conversation between three males stuck in my mind — we were discussing the joys of wedded life.

"I love my wife," said Berl. "That's why I do everything she asks me to do. She says, 'Berl, please take out the garbage,' and right away, I take out the garbage."

We all agreed that Berl loves his wife.

Not to be outdone, I said: "I also do everything my wife asks me to do. In fact, she doesn't even have to spell out what she wants. It's enough that she says, 'Whew! That garbage bag is sure smelling up the kitchen!' for me to understand that she wants me to take out the garbage. Which I do, of course."

We all agreed that I love my wife even more than Berl loves his.

But in the end it turned out that Shmerl's marriage was the most loving of all. Shmerl's wife doesn't have to ask her husband to do things for her. She doesn't even have to drop hints. "I wake up in the morning" Shmerl explained, "and I just know that she wants me to take out the garbage. Or buy her a diamond ring. She doesn't have to crinkle her nose or mention the ring her cousin Sarah got for her birthday. I just know what she wants me to do for her, and I do it."

It is with our observance of the minhagim that we express the depth of our love for G‑d

The month of Tishrei is replete with mitzvot—full of opportunities for carrying out G‑d's will. For more than three weeks, our days are filled with praying, repenting, fasting, feasting, dancing, building a sukkah, acquiring a set of Four Kinds or a bundle of hoshaanot, and dozens of other mitzvot, customs and observances.

The observances of Tishrei fall under three general categories. There are biblical precepts that are explicitly commanded in the Torah, such as sounding the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, fasting on Yom Kippur or eating in the sukkah on Sukkot. There are also a number of rabbinical mitzvot—observances instituted by the prophets and the sages by the authority vested in them by the Torah. For example, the five prayer services held on Yom Kippur and the taking of the Four Kinds on all but the first day of Sukkot are rabbinical institutions.

Finally, the month of Tishrei has many minhagim or customs—such as eating an apple dipped in honey on the first night of Rosh HaShanah or conducting the kaparot in the wee hours of the morning on the day before Yom Kippur. The minhagim are not mandated by biblical or rabbinical law, but by force of custom: these are things that we Jews have initiated ourselves as ways to enhance our service of our Creator.

Most amazingly, the climax of the month of Tishrei—the point at which our celebration of our bond with G‑d attains the very pinnacle of joy—is during the hakafot of Simchat Torah, when we take the Torah scrolls in our arms and dance with them around the reading table in the synagogue—a practice that is neither a biblical nor a rabbinical precept, but merely a custom.

For it is with our observance of the minhagim that we express the depth of our love for G‑d. The biblical commandments might be compared to the explicitly expressed desires between two people bound in marriage. The rabbinical mitzvot, on which G‑d did not directly instruct us but which nevertheless constitute expressions of the divine will, resemble the implied requests between spouses. But the minhagim represent those areas in which we intuitively sense how we might cause G‑d pleasure. And in these lie our greatest joy.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous NYC October 20, 2016

An answer for Anonymous' brain teaser How about: On a planet Earth - where a mother of four grown sons attends each of their homes to prepare their favorite foods for their weekly card night which rotates to each of their homes. Mother also cleans up and since it's almost time for the card playing to break up and the mother has already asked for the garbage to be taken out, naturally, when she speaks, a bit exasperated, all of her boys, who want her to attend their card game next week, stand to attention! No? Reply

Anonymous February 5, 2014

What planet do these Jews live on? There are four Jewish men playing cards at one of their homes. From the kitchen a woman's voice shouts out in a not soft tone "I told you to take out the garbage!! All four men stand up. Reply

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