As One Soul

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd century CE)

As they set out from their place above, each soul is male and female as one.

Only as they descend to this world do they part, each to its own side.

And then it is the One Above who unites them again.

This is His exclusive domain, for He alone knows which soul belongs to which and how they must reunite.

(Zohar, Book I, 85b.)

Oneness of Mind

Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman ("Nachmanides," 1194-1270)

Begin with words that draw her heart, settle her mind and lift her spirits. This way, your mind and hers will be in one place and bond together in harmony. Speak to her of different things, some of them to awaken her desire and love, so to draw her to an awe of heaven, towards goodness and modesty. Tell her the legends of great women who merited special children through their deeds and modesty.

For if both of you will focus your minds and hearts towards heaven at this time, you will be granted children whose character permits entry to spirituality and purity.

(From a letter to his son)

Two Half-Bodies

Rabbi Isaac Luria, ("The Holy Ari," 1534-1572)

The person to whom our Torah speaks is neither a man nor a woman, but both combined. For this is how Adam was first created and this is how we are in essence: Two half-bodies that are truly one. The minds are two, but the bodies, the souls and the very core of these two people are one and the same.

This is why the character and responsibilities of a man and a woman differ, for each side of the body does its part to compliment the other. It would be redundant, after all, for both sides to do the same.

(Taamei HaMitzvot, Braishit)

Man as a Divine Channel

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522?-1570)

There is another issue about which you must take great care, and that is to ensure that the Shechinah be always with you and never part from you. Now, before a man is married, obviously the Shechinah is not with him at all, since the principal element that draws the Shechinah to a person is the feminine element. In fact, each man stands between two females: The corporeal woman below to whom he must provide food, clothing and affection. And the Shechinah which stands over him to bless him with all these things so that he may turn around and provide them to the woman of his covenant.

(Compiler's note: The Shechina is the Divine Presence. When we refer to G‑d as transcendent, infinite and beyond, we call Him, "He". When we refer to G‑d as immanently here, now, in a nurturing, inner way, we say She is the Shechina.)

(Tomer Devorah, ch. 9)

The Children

Rabbi Elijah de Vidas (1518-1592)

The child is tied to the parents' minds and the parents' actions, from conception throughout life. Especially to those matters from which the child is born. The parents' modesty of dress, where they place their eyes and mind, the care they take with the purifying waters of the mikvah and the time of separation — all has a great effect on children yet to be born and on those already grown.

(Reshit Chochmah, Shaar HaKedusha, chapter 16)

For Her Alone

Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz ("Shelah," 1565-1630)

In each of us, there is an urge to climb higher, to satisfy the yearnings of our soul. And there is an urge to indulge in pleasure, to satisfy the yearnings of the flesh. Both were planted in us by the same Creator and both are good. It is only that they must be used in very different ways.

Awaken the yen to spiritual delight and do good deeds to satisfy it — you will awaken a flow of blessing from Above. For this urge is of the right side, which is a positive side, a side of kindness.

Awaken, however, the urge towards physical pleasure and satisfy your own self, this will awaken harsh judgment from Above and cause harm to the world, may G‑d protect us. For this urge extends from the left side, the side of severity and judgment. This is why anger, as well, is so harmful — as it is also of the left side and brings harsh judgment into the world, heaven forbid.

Rather, the Zohar tells us, this urge is not created for your own sake, but for the sake of your spouse. For a man will provide a home, clothing and affection to his wife and he will do all he can to beautify her — all for the sake of this urge. And when doing so, he will then awaken his spiritual urge and he will focus his mind and heart, saying that in this way he is beautifying the Shechinah. When he dresses her in beautiful clothes and adorns her with precious jewels, he will say, "In this way, I am enhancing the Shechinah with Understanding." So, too, when he beautifies the home, for all the necessities of the home are for the sake of creating a dwelling for the Shechinah and all the benefits his wife receives are for the glory of the Shechinah.

Therefore, a man should not indulge in any pleasure except that which beautifies and benefits his wife.

This is the path we are taught, "His left hand is under my head and his right arm embraces me" (Song of Songs 2:6). First, the left urge is awakened with passion for his wife to bond with her. And then the right hand awakens to provide for her and rejoice her in a mitzvah for the sake of a higher unity. In this way, he will sweeten all the severities and repair them with the right side.

This is the way he must deal with everything that comes from this urge: All of it must be directed for the sake of the woman that G‑d has shown to be his partner and all must then be transformed to spiritual service, to bond in the embrace of the right hand.

(Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Shaar HaOtiot, Maamar 7)

The Voice of the Bride

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812)

Look also at the last two blessings of the marriage ceremony: We first say, "He rejoices the groom and the bride" — placing the groom before the bride. But then we conclude, "He rejoices the groom with the bride." We imply that the groom's rejoicing is of secondary significance to the bride's.

This is because now the bride receives from the groom, but in the time yet to come, they will be equal in their stature with a single crown as it was before the moon was diminished.

So, too, we say, "Once again, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride will be heard." For in the future, the bride will also have a voice. The inner light of the feminine will come outward and be revealed. For then, as we said, "A woman of valour will be the crown of her husband" — even beyond the groom. For then, the feminine element will shine a delightful, secret light of the Hidden Mind.

Therefore, in our time, prayer is said quietly, since the bride does not yet have a voice — because presently the realm of Divine speech has no significance before the higher realms of thought and emotion, as a woman is treated as secondary to her husband. But in the time-yet-to-come, after all is purified and healed, when the Hidden Mind of Delight and Consciousness will be revealed, then the bride will have a great voice without limitation. We will say what is now the Silent Prayer in a loud voice. The sefira of Royalty — which is the sefira of womanhood — will be dominant. As is said, "A woman of valour will be the crown of her husband."

(Likutei Torah, Shir haShirim)

Finding Essence

Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch ("The Mittler Rebbe," 1773-1826)

The heavens kiss the earth with rays of sunlight; they awaken her with droplets of rain. Impregnated, she delivers life, she nurtures life, she sustains life.

The most spiritual heavens, the worlds of angels and souls, they do not have this power — to create being out of nothingness, to transform death into life. For the earth, in her source, is beyond the heavens. They are of G‑d's light, but she extends from His very Essence. And from His Essence comes this power to cause being.

That is why it is the man who chases after a woman and not the other way around. For the soul of a man sees what he is lacking: the very essence, the core of being. And he sees that only in a woman can that be found.

(Shaar HaEmuna, p. 55)

Good Talk

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch ("Tzemach Tzedek," 1789-1866)

Love is best expressed by that which you do not do. Hillel the Elder said this when he summed up the entire Torah, "If you do not like something, don't do it to someone else."

What is it that you most dislike? You don't appreciate when someone pries into your faults, underlining each one with a red pen. So if you truly wish to express love to someone else, don't even look at that person’s faults. Find whatever is good about this person and talk about that.

(Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Ahavat Yisrael)

Uniting Spirit and Matter

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch ("Maharash," 1834-1882)

As a man loves a woman, so the One Above loves His world.

As a man desires to live with the woman he loves, so the One Above desires to be found in all His essence within His world.

As the union of a man and woman brings children in their own image, so whenever there is oneness between creation and Creator, between earth and heaven, between body and soul, between spirit and matter, there you will find the Divine Presence in all Her glory.

(Torat Shmuel, Drushei Chatuna, p.161)

A Home Built of Wisdom

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch ("Rashab," 1860-1920)

"A home," wrote Solomon the Wise, "is built with wisdom."

And not with a hammer.

Because wisdom is the glue of beauty. Wisdom, meaning the ability to step back and see all of the picture, the past and, most important, the future to which all this leads. To see the truth inside each thing.

Without wisdom, there are only fragments. With wisdom, there is a whole. And there is peace between all the parts of that whole.

(Quoted in Sefer HaSichot 5704, page 93)

Speak as Friends

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, 1880-1950)

Harsh words, demands and ultimatums — these shake the very foundations of a marriage and a home, tearing its walls apart until each one stands alone.

Gentle words, understanding words, listening words — this is the trunk from which a marriage grows, the foundation upon which a home stands.

A home cannot be repaired unless its foundation is firm. Once a couple learns to speak as friends, their marriage can endure everything, forever.

(Sefer HaSichot 5703, page 233)

Conquer With Nurture

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe)

A king without a queen, the Zohar says, is neither great nor a king. For it is the woman who empowers the man to conquer his space.

And it is the man who empowers the woman to penetrate and nurture hers.

And then the man will learn from this woman that he, too, can reach within others and provide nurture. And the woman will learn that she, too, can conquer.

(From a talk, Shabbat Parshat Noah, 1991)

A Note on Kabbalah and Translation

The deed is the body of Jewishness. Kabbalah is the soul.

Kabbalah is our native cosmology, our unique way of expressing what stands beneath the surface of reality and why we do what we do. Nowhere is this uniqueness so outstanding as in the Kabbalah of gender and marriage. Where else will you find such transcendental heights enwrapped within the most visceral experiences of life, the deepest secrets of the cosmos unfolding into a fruitful existence on planet Earth?

When we receive much at once, the most precious jewels can fall away unnoticed. So I have collected a small but pithy selection from the masters of the Kabbalah. Some provide glimpses of the depth of the inner wisdom. Some provide the practical advice that extends from that wisdom. All can be read many times and each time will uncover something new.

I have not translated literally. In many cases, that would be unintelligible. Rather, I have strived to bring the teachings of the great masters of the Kabbalah alive in our spoken language of today while preserving their voice within those words.

The responsibility is very great, for the enlightened masters live within their teachings and travel with them. I pray that they will approve of my work and that each of these lofty souls will enter your homes and marriages as you read and ponder their words from time to time. Plant them within your lives and allow them to grow and blossom.

May we all be blessed with peace between one another and between the One Above and His Presence below in an era of harmony and peace when all the world will be filled with this wisdom.

Tzvi Freeman