I like to share. Of course, I have to flesh it out more than I did in my notes, but that’s okay.
I was asked to say a dvar Torah in honor of a young woman getting married, who I’ve known since she was a little thing in my preschool class. She’s still a little thing, but she’s getting married! And she appreciates a good word or two of Torah. So here’s basically what I said:
Thank you for holding this shower the week before Shavuot and next week’s parashah Beha’alotcha [Bamidbar 8:1-12:16]. I have been thinking a lot about both and I will try to bring together a few themes from each part and even get them to relate to your upcoming wedding, b’sha’ah tovah umutzlachat.
I have been reading an amazing book called The Burnt Book by Marc-Alain Ouaknin [I previously wrote about this book here when I ranted about the Glass Bead Game]. A large part of the book discusses the 2 nunim that are in this week’s Parashah. They surround these 2 verses:
לה וַיְהִי בִּנְסֹעַ הָאָרֹן, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה: קוּמָה ה, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ.
לו וּבְנֻחֹה, יֹאמַר: שׁוּבָה ה, רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Rabbi Ouaknin says:
The journey of the Ark is actually the dynamism of meaning. The word “journey” is no longer simply a word. It is the journey itself.
He notes that this section, according to Tanna Kamma in the Gemara, makes up its own book. And the point of this book is to say that the Aron is always travelling [since the word בִּנְסֹעַ becomes a gerund]–so that the Torah is always changing and evolving.
But the ark does not travel by itself. The contribution of man is necessary.
This is the bridge to talk about marriage—how you always have to be moving and evolving.
Back to Shavuot—of course, Shavuot is compared to the marriage of Hashem and B’nei Yisrael. And receiving the Torah is considered the high point of the relationship. And yet, it is not the end of the relationship—it’s just the beginning. But our relationship with Hashem is developed through hard work, learning the Torah in depth, always going further than we did before. For if we stop working at our Torah, it gets stale and our relationship with Hashem gets stale. And the celebrations, the hagim, can appear empty if we do not keep imbuing them with more meaning and deeper connections.
Just like the wedding is a fixed point that you will be able to look back at and celebrate year after year, you cannot have a party every day. You have to work. This is the same hard work you have to put into your marriage to keep those celebrations meaningful. And the more work you put into your marriage, the farther you will go.
The second part of the pasuk reminded me of the brachah that Rivkah’s family gives her before she takes off to go to meet Yitzchak:
ס וַיְבָרְכוּ אֶת-רִבְקָה, וַיֹּאמְרוּ לָהּ–אֲחֹתֵנוּ, אַתְּ הֲיִי לְאַלְפֵי רְבָבָה; וְיִירַשׁ זַרְעֵךְ, אֵת שַׁעַר שֹׂנְאָיו.
So that also is part of the brachah that we all offer you—that you should have multiple brachot and that your marriage help B’nei Yisrael. We traditionally wish that you build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael.
The word neeman, today used to mean faithful, trustworthy, is used frequently in the Bible to mean “lasting, enduring”…
The subject of neeman (past tense) is bayit in 2 Samuel 7.16, and the phrase bayit neeman appears in 1 Samuel 2.35, 25.28, 1 Kings 11.38. In all of these the meaning is “long-lasting house = enduring dynasty”. Not “faithful”, but enduring, abiding, stable, constant. That’s what we are wishing the newlyweds: that they establish a “house”, i.e. a line of descendants, that endures and continues to be a part of the “house” of Israel.
What your job is, is to learn how to make it enduring while moving it along always.
Ken Yihi Ratzon.