I love weddings, especially when I adore the bride. It's been a week since Sheva's wedding but I still have this sweet and pleasurable sensation just thinking about it. I loved life a little more this week. But that sensation is fading and I wish I knew how to preserve it.
She was a glowing bride and she danced with innocent excitement. Everyone danced around her, as if she were a celebrity. I remembered how her now groom had vied for the opportunity to date her. And then, when she met him she recognized that she'd finally met a man she could love and respect.
That sensation is fading and I wish I knew how to preserve itFor both of them this would be the first romantic relationship of their lives. It was deeply exciting and everyone who loved them rejoiced. Finally they'd have the gift of each other and the pleasure of marriage. Witnessing the transition from a single life, a girl who's never had a boy-friend, into a married women, was exhilarating. There was a vicariously pleasure that everyone absorbed. It was simple pleasure; and it colored life with appeal.
There is nothing quite as dramatic as that transition into marriage. Yesterday I was alone. Today I am married. New love is tingles with energy. The first few times you hear 'I love you' you just don't take it for granted.
There were two strong sensations coming from the bride and groom. 1. I'm grateful to have him (her) in my life. 2. I'm grateful for being able to experience the pleasure that comes from marriage.
What's so mysterious is how quickly these sensations can vanish. Excitement deflates like a punctured balloon. Even worse, in its stead often grows resentment.
Gratitude rusts and expectations blister. Of course you are my husband (wife), and as my husband (wife) I expect my needs to be met. Of course I'm entitled to a pleasurable relationship, I expect it. I'm not grateful for the simple pleasures, I expect them. Now I need something more stimulating to get me excited.
It's one of the most frustrating pitfalls of life. When we transition from have-not to have we can access the simple pleasure of gratitude. But once that pleasure becomes ours, we expect it. Once we expect it the pleasure begins to deflate.
It's a marriage killer. Two people can be great together, compatible on many levels. But as time progresses it becomes harder and harder to retain that dramatic excitement. The feeling of 'I can't believe I have you as my spouse' is now a vague memory. Instead it's like, 'of course you're my spouse, and I expect you to be a better spouse'.
So you get divorced, or have an affair. But aside for the enormous emotional repercussion, the obvious reality is that with time the cycle is bound to replay itself.
How does G‑d expect us to stay married if he programmed us to crave the pleasure of a fresh relationship?
There is a manual for this program. It's called the Torah. In it G‑d tells us to keep to the cycle of family purity. G‑d says, for two weeks don't have a physical relationship with each other. Don't even touch each other. During that time you are not romantically available to each other. You are not 'entitled' to his (or her) physical affection. Nothing is taken for granted.
You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it's just not availableSure you're still married. You still talk about your day and plan tomorrow. But you can't experience physical intimacy. It's almost like dating. You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it's just not available.
And then you go to the mikvah and you can reunite. The first touch after two weeks of separation is charged with sensation. There's an innocent excitement, even after all those years together. You walk around with a secret twinkle in your eye the morning after.
Jewish writers explain that the mikvah water to be like the embryonic fluid. Entering the mikvah is like regression to a fetal existence. When submerged we are surrounded by water again, sheltered and protected. Emerging from the water of the mikvah is like being reborn.
When a baby is born everyone celebrates life. They don't consider whether it will be a good life, or a difficult life. There is a humble gratitude for health. The simple pleasure of living becomes remarkably exciting. Later, when life become scarred with expectations and inevitable disappointment, it looses some of its excitement.
When a couple gets married everyone celebrates marriage. They don't consider whether it will be a good marriage or a difficult one. The simple pleasure of being together tingles with excitement. There is a humble gratitude that the other person is available to you. But when gratitude inevitably turns to expectation, we get disappointed with each other.
So G‑d says, for two weeks out of the month you will not be physically available to each other. You just can't take your relationship for granted.
And then when you immerse in the mikvah you have the opportunity to feel like a bride again. Every month!