Marriage tips

This week's Torah reading on the cherubs above the ark is a primer for marriage.

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Rabbi Lazer Gurkow,

Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

The Cherubs


Perched atop the Holy Ark that Moses built, were two golden cherubs that faced each other with their wings extended forward to meet at the center of the ark. When King Solomon built the Temple, he made the Holy of holies twenty cubits in breadth. He then fashioned two additional cherubs, which stood upright on the floor. They flanked the ark on the north and south ends, standing five cubits from the ark. Their wings expanded from their bodies to the north and south. Since each wing spaned  five cubits, the combined wingspan of the two cherubs covered the full twenty-cubit breadth of the room.

The Talmudic sages asked a simple question. If the combined wingspan covered the entire breadth of the room, there would have been no space left for the bodies of the cherubs. How did the cherubs fit into the room? The Talmud thus concluded that they could only fit by miracle. This was one of the examples of G-d fitting something into a space that was too small for it. However, several sages disagreed and offered simpler solutions.

Abaye suggested that the joint of their wings might have been fashioned at the center of their back, opposite the heart, similar to a hen.

Raba suggested that rather than standing beside each other, one might have stood a few inches forward of the other.

Rabbi Achab ben Yaakov suggested that might have been standing diagonally, facing each other kiddy corner, which would have given them ample space.

Rabbi Papa suggested that their wings have been bent inward and did not take up the full twenty cubits.

Rabbi Ashi suggested that Their wings might have overlapped, holding hands, as it were, at the tip.

Rabbi Huna, son of Rabbi Yehoshua, suggested that the Holy of Holies might have been wider than twenty cubits at the bottom and narrowed as the walls rose.

Despite these perfectly reasonable solutions, the consensus seems to be that the cherubs stood by miracle.

The Relationship

The two cherubs represent G-d and the Jewish people. And since our sages compared our relationship with G-d to a marriage, we can learn much about this when we analyze the marital relationship.

We can all say with honesty that it takes a miracle for a marital couple to get along. Two people with two sets of needs that tend to be very different from one another, somehow make it work. If you ask an elderly couple how they came to care more for each other than for themselves, they won’t be able to explain it. They will simply say that it happened over time. Yet, we can point to several important tips.

The bond begins and end in the heart, and when there is room in the heart, there is room on the hearth. Marriage doesn’t come from the ego and thus can transcend the ego.

Yet, the ego can’t be dismissed because it is always there, and we must contend with it. The first rule in marriage is to overlook. Don’t notice the things about your spouse that you don’t like. If your gaze is removed just a few inches from your spouse when he/she is doing something you don’t like, you will be much happier.

Sometimes, you can’t help but notice. When you need to do something together, and you can’t do it both ways, you need to decide. In that case, it is best to stand diagonally rather than opposite each other. Instead of digging in our heels, we need to seek solutions that satisfy both sides at least a little.

Sometimes you can’t find an adequate compromise. In that case, one of the two needs to bend a little and let the other have their way. If one bends today, the other might bend tomorrow.

A constant diet of bending does not do the trick. The long term key is to discover that making the other happy, also makes us happy. Sometimes we need to grasp our spouse’s hand and hold on until his/her happiness becomes our happiness.

Finally, it is true that time solves all problems. In the beginning, husband and wife each needs their space. But the longer the marriage lasts, the less distinctive space each requires. They find their mutual comfort zones and learn to share their space. The merge into a rhythm of oneness that allows them to be happy together.

These are essentially the points that our sages made, but despite these points, the fact remains that it is a miracle that man and woman, distinct and often opposite people, can find a measure of oneness.

G-d and The Jew

The same can be said of our relationship with G-d. There are many tips that can help us bond and find a measure of oneness, but in the end, the idea that the created and creator might bond, is a miracle.

The first tip is love. G-d loves us, and we love G-d. With love, much can be overcome. G-d can overlook our frequent indiscretions and we can forgive our frequent suffering. Ultimately, those Jews who came out of the Holocaust with their faith in G-d intact, did so because they were in love. As our sages wrote, love blinds us to our beloved’s betrayals.

But sometimes our love is tested, and we need to overlook. When we feel that we cannot be happy unless we have X or Z and G-d continually deprives us of X and Z, then we need to shift our focus and find happiness elsewhere. We need to trust that G-d knows what is best for us and while we think X or Z would make us happy, the fact that G-d withholds it, is a message that it would not make us happy. We need to shift our gaze and look elsewhere for happiness.

Sometimes G-d adjusts and does what we want, and sometimes we adjust and do what G-d wants. G-d wants this relationship to work, but He doesn’t want to force it to work. He wants us to be willing partners. He wants us to invest in the relationship as we invest in our marital relationships.

However, ultimately, no matter how many tips we learn and how many strategies we employ, in the end we must recognize that any relationship between ourselves and G-d is made possible only by way of miracle. We must do our part, we must show loyalty, dedication and tenacity, love, fervor and passion. If we do our part, G-d will do His part, and allow us, finite beings, to fuse with Him, the Infinite. Thereby, we can become part of infinity.






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