You may be familiar with the Talmud's statement that when the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, 2448 years after the creation of the world, "G‑d held the mountain over the Israelites' heads like a barrel, and said, 'If you accept my Torah, good; if not, here will be your graves.'" One could legitimately protest that this elicited a forced acceptance on the part of the Jews. Were they really coerced to accept the Torah? How are we to understand this account?

Chassidic teachings explain that the mountain that was held over their heads has deep allegorical significance. Actually, the Jews were enthusiastic about receiving the Torah—they counted the Omer for 49 days in anticipation of the giving of the Torah, the moment of their true redemption. There was no need to force them to consent. On the contrary, the revelation at Sinai was so overwhelming that G‑d simply and easily elicited the "Yes" – "We will do and understand" – from the Jews. Their extraordinary experience and G‑d's magnificence "blew them away." The drama and electricity of the moment was what "compelled" them—physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was, almost, as if there truly was no voluntary choice—and thus the seemed "coercion."

It was not until 800 years later, at the story of Purim, that the Jewish people collectively and willingly accepted the Torah—without "coercion." In the Megillah (9:27) it states: "[The Jews] affirmed and accepted..." The Covenant that began at Sinai was finally ratified. They affirmed now what they once accepted many years before.

The circumstances during the Purim saga were polar opposites from the Sinai scene. The Jews in Persia were aware of the threat of annihilation for an entire year. They knew that if they renounced their Judaism the threat would be lifted. No one even considered the option. And no natural laws were abrogated (as at Sinai). No overt miracles. In fact, the whole Purim story is shrouded in mystery and concealment. G‑d's name does not appear in the Megillah. The name of the heroine, Esther, is rooted in the Hebrew word "hester," hiddenness. Despite their disconnection from revealed G‑dliness, the Jews recommitted themselves to Torah. So, in a sense – and in essence! – Purim completes the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

These two accounts of "receiving the Torah" – first the experience at Sinai, and then in Persia – are strikingly paralleled in marriage.

Marriage is actually not a natural thing. It's highly illogical. One person forever? Objectively, it doesn't make sense. It's not a rational idea, rather it's a sacred idea.

Our relationship with G‑d is likened to a marriage. G‑d is the Divine groom, and Israel, the bride.

At Sinai, we said "Yes" because we couldn't resist. The excitement of feeling love, connection and protection filled us with hope and gratitude. We were simply swept away by the experience. That's often how marriages begin. At that point, it's not about sacrifice and devotion—because there's not yet something to sacrifice for. Initially we're impressed with someone simply because he/she seems to elicit in us such wonderful feelings. We don't work on the feelings when we're dating. We automatically feel valued and focused on each other's virtues. We are convinced that "I could live with this person forever."

Not so at the "Purim stage" of marriage. Here we move to an entirely different mindset. The original reasons why we got married are quite different than what actually keeps us committed for the long haul. In the pre-marital phase we are focused on "what am I getting" (everlasting security, freedom, love, understanding, etc.). In the post-marital state our focus shifts from "what am I getting" to "what am I giving"; from "how am I feeling?" to "where is my devotion?"—both quite counterintuitive to our "natural" inclinations of ego-centric selfishness and immaturity.

Where in the celebrations of Purim do we see this most apparent? Charity to the poor? Exchange of gifts? Hearing the Megillah? All of these are important—kindness to your spouse, gift giving and listening. But the greatest gift – especially when the love seems hidden – is represented by the Purim feast where one is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah: "Drink until you don't know the different between 'cursed be Haman and blessed is Mordechai.'" Until you don't know, until the lines blur. Perhaps it is "until you don't have to know"—to get to a place beyond your own opinions, demands, and expectations. In other words, even when the love seems to be hidden, you keep giving because of the commitment you made.

Another theme of Purim – indeed its very name – is "lottery"; "chance," ambivalence as to the outcome. Many people feel that their marriage was the result of some "chance" occurrence, or that perhaps there was some mistake. What we come to realize is that, in the face of the divine, we have only a limited understanding of what our true needs are. If this is what G‑d chose, then we have to trust that it is good. A Jew doesn't give charity only because it's moral, or honor parents only because it's the right thing to do. No, it's because it's the G‑dly thing to do. And therefore we call it good. G‑dly comes before good. Once He chooses, it has value. If G‑d would command us to chop wood every day—that, too, would be sacred, simply because G‑d commanded it.

At Sinai we submitted to the values of the Torah. At Purim we affirm what G‑d chose, beyond finite human understanding, often beyond reason. Emunah, trust, means simple belief and acceptance of G‑d's choice. Why do we stay committed to the marital relationship? Not because I'm swept off my feet, not because it feels right, essentially because marriage is sacred, a divine commandment.

You may ask, what happens when one feels that there's no mutuality? When only one partner is aware and willing to invest in this commitment process? This certainly is not easy. The situation has to be evaluated rationally—preferably with an objective, understanding, knowledgeable third party (rabbi, counselor, etc.). This is especially so if there is a suspicion of any physical/emotional/financial/sexual abuse.

The couple must also decide what is "tolerable" and what is not tolerable. This differs widely among people and depends on many variables. Sometimes the acts and attitudes of devotion can bring about change. Seeing the marriage as sacred is the first step. Honoring this covenant has the potential to bring humanity to its most perfect state.

Perhaps this is why Purim is the one holiday that, we are told, will exist "eternally."

Thanks to Rabbi Moshe New, from Montreal's Torah Center, whose tape on this subject was the catalyst for this article.