“Constant Union”

The essential quality and substance of a proper marriage is “cleaving to one’s wife and becoming one flesh”1 ; which is to say, that one is in a constant state of acquisition and cleaving, rebuffing anything and everything that leads to and causes the cessation of this cleaving and unity.

When, however, the acquisition and context of the marriage is such that there is an aspect and trait that is opposite to “cleaving,” whether this be at the beginning of the marriage or later on, then something essential is lacking in the marriage itself.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIV, p. 138)

A “Parapet” in Preparation to Marriage

“If you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof; you will not bring blood upon your house if one falls from it.”2 This verse applies not only to building physical structures, but to the erection of spiritual edifices as well:

There are many steps to erecting a structure, beginning with the initial stage of drawing the blueprints, continuing through actually building the structure, until finally the building with all its many varied details and components is truly completed.

Having completed the house and having lived there for a time, it is distinctly possible that the person may eventually decide to build himself an even bigger and better new dwelling.

In the spiritual sense, “building a new house” refers to an individual who has already achieved a modicum of spiritual completion — he has in the past fully erected a personal spiritual edifice. Having done so, he is now ready to go on to “bigger and better” spiritual degrees and levels, building ever newer and greater spiritual dwellings.

Having gone through the trials and tribulations necessary for erecting his first spiritual home, the person may well think to himself that he need not fear future spiritual impediments and stumbling blocks on the way to his new spiritual abode.3

In other words, unlike his previous dwelling, his “new home” doesn’t need the protection from a “fall” that a parapet offers. After all, thinks the person to himself, hasn’t he already overcome everything there was to overcome during the time he built his first house?

The Torah therefore tells us that when one builds a “new” home, he must build it with a parapet. That is to say, when an individual embarks on a new and higher level of service, he is once again subject to the various challenges and difficulties — albeit on a higher plane — that he was subject to when he erected his first spiritual abode. He must therefore erect a “parapet,” a protective barrier, which will prevent a spiritual fall.

If a “parapet” is necessary even when a person embarks on a higher level of spiritual service, how much more so when his “new” manner of service involves a descent within the physical world. In this instance, it is obvious that the trials and tribulations the person is about to face are so much greater, and additional measures of spiritual protection are a must.

The above is particularly true with regard to marriage, when one leaves the spiritual confines of the Beis HaKenesses and Beis HaMidrash, the Houses of Prayer and Study, and is about to build a new edifice through one’s service within the physical world. Such an edifice must be built with a spiritual “parapet” so that the person does not “fall.”

But of what exactly is this spiritual parapet composed? A roof-parapet is not only higher than the actual house, it is even higher than the roof.

Spiritually as well, for the “parapet” to prevent any untoward spiritual occurrences, it is necessary for the parapet to emanate from an even higher level than one’s actual service, higher even than one’s spiritual “roof.”

The concept of a new “parapet” applies equally to when one begins any new form of service. Thus, whether it is leaving one’s life as a Yeshivah student and entering the working world, or whether it is the daily entrance into the world of commerce following one’s morning prayers and Torah study, a “parapet” must be built.

This is accomplished by measurably enhancing one’s level of spirituality and practice whenever one commences the construction of a newer and better spiritual abode.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, pp. 384-386)

A Wife as One’s “Home”

In describing the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the Torah portion Acharei tells us that the Kohen Gadol “shall atone for himself and for his home.”4 Our Sages explain5 that “his home” means his wife.

By stating that the Kohen Gadol is to atone for both himself and his wife, the verse implies that the High Priest must be married.

However, the requirement that the Kohen Gadol be married is germane only to Yom Kippur; during the rest of the year, aKohen Gadol may serve even if he is unmarried.

Yom Kippur represents the acme of spiritual service, when the holiest of the Jewish people — the Kohen Gadol — served in the holiest place — the Holy of Holies — on the holiest day of the year.

Why was it necessary for the Kohen Gadol to be married in order to perform this most sacred service? This is even more puzzling in light of the fact that it was necessary for the Kohen Gadol to separate from his wife during the week preceding Yom Kippur.6

The fact that the Torah refers to the Kohen Gadol’s wife as “his home” rather than simply “his wife” shows that not only must the Kohen Gadol be married, but that at the time of his service on Yom Kippur he must also have a wife that is “his home.”

But what superior quality makes a wife one’s “home”? Furthermore, what exactly does it mean that the Kohen Gadol’s wife was his “home”?

The great Sage Rabbi Yossi once said:7 “I have never referred to my spouse as ‘my wife,’ but rather as ‘my home.’” R. Yossi’s statement about how he would refer to his wife was one of a number of statements concerning how careful he was to conduct himself in an exemplary fashion. What was so special about his always referring to his wife as “his home”?

In referring to his wife in this manner, R. Yossi sought to indicate his awareness that the ultimate purpose of marriage is to fulfill the commandment “be fruitful and multiply” — to establish a Jewish home filled with children. He therefore saw his spouse not as “his wife” but as “his home.”

Rabbi Yossi’s conduct differed from the conduct of the other Rabbis who would refer to their spouses as their wives. The other Sages would not relate to their spouses only as “their homes,” for they realized that to have a wife — even without children to make her “one’s home” — is a desirous end in itself.

Thus we find that during the first year of marriage — when there are no children — a husband is exempt from military service so that he may “gladden his wife.”8 So too, a husband is freed from certain obligations during festivals so that he will be able to “gladden his wife.”

Clearly, the Torah recognizes the value of the relationship between husband and wife in and of itself.

R. Yossi’s degree of sanctity, however, was such that his view of married life centered around the fact that marriage would enable him to have children. Thus, when thinking of his wife, he would envision the result of his marriage — a Jewish home replete with children.

On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol was charged with the awesome responsibility of achieving atonement not only on his own behalf and on behalf of his “home,” but — most importantly — on behalf of all Israel.9

Understandably, in order to accomplish this, he had to rise to the greatest of spiritual heights. Part of this process lay in sanctifying himself to the degree that he — like R. Yossi — viewed his wife solely as “his home.”

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVII, pp. 172-176)

“Guarding” a New Home

In the Torah portion of Seitzei we learn:10 “If you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof.” The purpose of the parapet — as the Torah itself goes on to say — is to keep people from falling off an unenclosed roof.

In a spiritual context, the meaning of this commandment is as follows:

Our Sages tell us11 that “One’s wife is [considered as] one’s [entire] home,” so much so that Rabbi Yossi said:12 “I never called my spouse ‘my wife’...but ‘my home.’”

In this context, “when you build a new home,” refers to the beginning of one’s marriage. When a person marries and sets up a home, he must take upon himself the yoke of earning a livelihood. At such a time a person’s spiritual status may easily plummet.

The Torah therefore reminds the individual that since he is beginning a new home and a new lifestyle, with a greater degree of immersion in physicality, he must build a parapet. Clearly his previous manner of spiritual service will not suffice, and he must take upon himself additional parapets so as not to take a spiritual tumble in thought, speech, or deed.

At times man’s body is also referred to as his home.13 In terms of man’s spiritual service, this alludes to the general service of birurim, wherein man seeks to purify and elevate his body and his portion in the physical world.

This manner of service is known as a “new home,” for prior to the soul’s descent into this world, it did not have the foggiest notion as to what the physical world and the spiritual service within it entails.

Furthermore, since the corporeal is infinitely distant from the spiritual, the service of purifying and uplifting this physical world is truly something new. When a Jew serves G‑d in this manner, the world itself becomes an abode for G‑d.

This concept of an abode for G‑d is also something “new.” Prior to this manner of service, the degree of G‑dliness that manifested itself in this lowly world was restricted. However, as a result of this manner of service, this physical world becomes an abode for G‑d — G‑d Himself is manifest within this world.14

Understandably, building such important new edifices has a tremendous impact upon the builder. He, too, is refined and uplifted in a “new” and infinitely greater manner — to a point that his soul reaches an even higher state of existence than it enjoyed prior to its descent within a body.15

The “vessel” that must serve as a receptacle for this new and lofty level of elevation is the act of self-nullification. For the only way one can attain a degree of infinite elevation is to totally nullify oneself before G‑d, thereby freeing oneself from the limiting encumbrances of one’s previous level.16

This, then, is the inner meaning of a parapet. The protective and preventive measures — the “parapet” — that the person undertakes in the course of his spiritual service are an expression of his self-abnegation and acceptance of the Heavenly Yoke. This enables him to be a fit vessel to the “new home.”

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, pp. 208-214)

Making a Marriage “Heavenly”

From the passage in the Torah portion of Seitzei:17 “When a man takes a wife and lives with her ... and she goes out ... and she becomes ..,” we learn18 that a man may marry his wife either with money, with a marriage document, or by having marital relations.

Although all three forms are valid, the prevailing custom is to acquire a wife with money (kessef), or with an object that has monetary value (shavah kessef).19

There are two ways of viewing the obtaining of a wife with money: that the woman acquires the money, and through this acquisition becomes married, or that by becoming married, she acquires the money that is given her.20

In a spiritual context, these two views have equal validity. For in the mystical sense, the phrase “a wife is acquired by her husband”21 refers to the union of G‑d and the Jewish people.22

Just as in a physical marriage there are the joint aspects23 of the husband’s acquisition of his wife and her concomitant prohibition to anyone else, so too with regard to the marriage of G‑d and the Jews.24 The Jewish people cling to G‑d, and are simultaneously separated from mundane pleasures that would impinge on this relationship.

And just as in a physical marriage these two aspects cannot be separated, so it is in the spiritual marriage of G‑d and the Jewish people. In the words of Chovos HaLevavos:25 “It is impossible to implant the love of G‑d within our hearts while love of this world [still] resides within us.”

In light of the above, we can understand the inner reason for the prevailing custom of marrying with money or an object that has monetary value. For the Hebrew word for money, kessef, is also indicative of love and desire — the spiritual service of love of G‑d26 — the main purpose of which is to achieve union with Him.

We can also understand how both above-mentioned views of marriage — that through the acquisition of money the woman is wed, or that by becoming married, the wife acquires the money — are equally valid in the spiritual sense.

The acquisition by money (kessef or love) alludes to the union of a Jew with G‑d. The Hebrew term for marriage, kiddushin (from the term meaning separation or detachment), implies that a Jew’s marriage to G‑d is connected to his separation from mundane matters.

Within this marriage of the Jewish people to G‑d, there are two kinds of service with regard to the first stage of union: from “below to above,” or from “above to below.”

In the service of “below to above,” kiddushin comes first: a person must first remove himself from worldly pleasures. He is then roused with a love for G‑d — the “acquisition of kessef.” In other words, with this form of service, a person begins by “turning away from evil” and thereafter achieves the positive result of “doing good.”

In the service from “above to below,” the order is reversed. Once a person loves G‑d — the “acquisition of kessef” — this emotion will bring about a state of kiddushin, wherein he distances himself from mundane pleasures.

The underlying reason for the difference in approach — from “below to above” or “above to below” — lies in the fact that these are two different types of spiritual service. The first kind is that of serving G‑d in a logical manner, in an orderly progression. A logical and orderly kind of service implies that a person cannot attain a love for G‑d without first divorcing himself from a love of corporeal matters.

The second kind of service, however, transcends the bounds of logic. Here, notwithstanding the person’s current spiritual state, he utterly devotes himself to G‑dliness. This in turn will cause him to become separated from the desires and delights of the physical world.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, pp. 215-219)