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Ring, Round and Roof

Ring, Round and Roof

The three mysteries of marriage


The circle marks the boundary between the defined area within and the unquantifiable expanse without, between the measurable and the infinite, between the known and the unknowable. Indeed, the circle itself is a mystery, its value revealed only as the enigmatic π, which is not a number at all but a string of numbers that stretch on to fathomless infinity.

In the teachings of Kabbalah, the circle represents the encompassing light that frames our reality. Kabbalah differentiates between two types of divine light: a pervading inner light (ohr penimi), and a transcendent encompassing light (ohr makif).

Inner light describes a flow of divine energy that conforms to the parameters of our lives. The workings of nature, for example, or the processes of history, are in truth divine influences upon our existence; but these are divine influences that have assumed a form and nature that we can comprehend, relate to and internalize. The Torah, which is the divine wisdom and will made palpable to the human mind and implementable by human behavior, is another (albeit loftier) example of inner light.

But then there are the supra-natural, supra-rational manifestations of divine light. We call these miracles, existential mysteries, and mind-blowing experiences; we cannot understand them or assimilate them, only accept them and submit to them. This is not to say that the encompassing light is something that is outside of our being. In the words of the Tanya, it “penetrates our reality from head to foot, to its innerness and the inside of its innerness”: it is as basic (indeed, more basic) to our existence as the inner light. Yet, even as it suffuses our being, it remains aloof from us and beyond us, holding us in its embrace while eluding our attempts to grasp it and define it.

The soul of man, which was created in the image of G‑d, also emits both an inner and an encompassing light. It manifests itself via finite and definitive faculties, such as its senses, talents, intellect and feelings. But it also exhibits “encompassing” powers such as will, desire, faith, and the capacity for self-sacrifice. These are supra-rational and supra-natural powers which defy the constraints of physics and reason, and even the axioms of self-interest and self-preservation.

Three Circles

Marriage is the most supra-rational and supra-natural endeavor undertaken by man. For two individuals to become “one flesh” is to violate all the laws of ego and identity, to overcome the basic existential rule that one and one makes two. Thus, it is in marriage that we most emulate G‑d, creating life and eternalizing the temporal (by reproducing, man and woman create not only a child but also that child’s potential to have children, and for his children to have children, ad infinitum). When two become one, they transcend the finite and the mortal, unleashing the single human faculty that is infinite and divine.

Marriage thus requires the activation of the encompassing powers of all those involved. There are three partners to a marriage—man, woman and G‑d—and each party contributes the supra-existential dimension of its existence.

A marriage, therefore, consists of three circles: the feminine circle, the masculine circle and the divine circle. The wedding ceremony begins with the bride’s encircling of the groom. Seven times she walks around her husband-to-be, enveloping him in the encompassing light of her soul, committing herself to a bond that transcends reason and ego. The groom then does the same by encircling her finger with a ring, thereby consecrating her as his wife. And all this occurs under the chupah (wedding canopy), which represents G‑d’s embrace of the couple with His encompassing light, empowering them to transcend the confines of self and to unite in the eternal edifice of marriage.

From an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
Republished with the permission of If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email
Illustration by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik; click here to view or purchase Mr. Muchnik's art.
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yitzchakchaim November 26, 2015

When I was in 5th grade, my school had a contest for which student could accurately recall the most digits of pi aloud. One boy recited over 500 digits. When I asked him how he did that, he simply replied "I just kept going".
The human brain is really 3 brains in one. The cerebral cortex is the top layer that contains all of of our creative and conscious thought. The hind brain or animal brain is the inner structure of the brain that generates our animal instincts. The cerebellum is the sphere above our spine that is responsible for regulating unconscious functions. I believe that my formal school mate had activated his cerebellum to win the contest. He wasn't winning the contest himself, his cerebellum did it for him.
Instead of worrying about how we are going to direct our lives, we need to realize that Hashem already has everything planned out. We don't have to take responsibility of things that happen. As long as we submit to Gd, He directs our life. The Lord makes the weak mighty. Reply

Leibel Montreal, QC November 26, 2015

Source Chapter 48 Reply

Anonymous Germany October 29, 2015

Source Thank you for the article. Where in Tanya can I find the quote about the ohr makif, please? Reply

Stefanos Inglewood, CA via November 15, 2012

Lecha Dodi This was a wonderful lesson and to me, somehow ties in to the profound lyrics contained within the kabbalistic song 'Lecha Dodi'. Thank you ! Reply

Michelle uk November 10, 2012

thank you This was just so wonderful to learn! and read ~ and share

G-d bless you and thank you, for highlighting this lesson today Reply

Desiree L. Jeziorsky (my real name) Vancouver, BC Canada November 6, 2012

Ring, Round and Roof Your diagram reminded me of my own creation when my children were little just before the house had been torn down before 911. I'm creative so I'm always dabbling into creation expression of all kinds. Too bad this thing that you called Ring, Round and Roof looks like any connection to my art.

Yes it's a giant monster! Reply

Jan van Lochem Netherlands November 6, 2012

Love and her rings Seven times she walks around her husband-to-be, enveloping him in the encompassing light of her soul, committing herself to a bond that transcends reason and ego. The groom then does the same by encircling her finger with a ring, thereby consecrating her as his wife... Living in 2012 for me it would be complete and truly bond between two true human when husband and wife did the same: he walked 7times around his bride encompassing her in the light of his SPIRIT, committing himself to a bond that transcended also his reason and ego. She encircled his finger, thereby consecrating him as her husband. As in them both as well soul as spirit are existent, both humans, both masculine and feminine qualities bearing? In the way she is his wife, so will he be her husband, in G'd joined? Three partners in marriage, heaven on earth? Reply

Chaim New York July 22, 2010

so powerful Yanki Tauber does it again, incredible rendition of the Rebbe's holy work. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY November 13, 2006

The Circles of Marriage- the Kabbalah View I was not so aware until Ii read this text that there are so many circles in the Chupah Ceremony. What a beautiful, romantic and kabbalistic way to look at this. The circle of walking 7 times around the Chassan, the wedding ring, and if you look at the glass is round on th top that has the wine in it, and the circle of the chupah- the future house that the couple will have together.
If more people concentrated on this spiritual aspect of marriage- and not the material wedding- the wedding tappings- maybe people would respect marriage itself in a better light!
I feel if during my wedding/ for may former marriage- me and my ex had this in mind, maybe the spiritual aspect of our marriage would have been healthier, and the marriage would have survived all the obstacles that we encountered. Reply

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