Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: 50 Years Is Eternity

I was zocheh to attend a kiddush given in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of my good friends Miriam and Joel Newlander; they should merit continued success and nachas on their life together as they continue to grow together in Torah.  I told them, though, that I was not impressed.  After all, they are both amazingly nice people; how hard is it to stay together when you are both so compatible and nice.  "You want to know something worth praising?  Look at my wife; she has had to put up with me for almost 36 years!"  My wife nodded in enthusiastic agreement.  In fact, I can't remember when she has shown such heartfelt and enthusiastic agreement for something I said.  Hey... wait a minute...

Any way, it is no longer "almost 36 years"; today marks a full 36 years since her first marriage.  R' Plotnik explained a strange passage in the Torah and used it to explain the significance of a 50th wedding anniversary.  The Torah says that if an eved ivri at the end of seven years says he does not want to leave his master, then he gets his ear pierced and becomes an "eved olam" -- a slave forever.  However, as Rashi notes "offen ort" (on the spot; though I've never figured out the praise of that... where else is he likely to note it?), this can't possibly mean that he will be a slave to this master forever because the Torah in another place tells us that he goes back to his ancestral land at the Yovel.  (That's the 50th year; see the connection?)  Rather, it means that he becomes an eved for the "world of that yovel".  The obvious question is: so why does the Torah call that l'olam/forever?

R' Plotnik suggested the following.  Why does someone become an eved ivri?  He was down on his luck and either sold himself or stole and was sold by beis din.  Either way, circumstances forced him into the position of having to give up his freedom to another human being.  When the Torah releases him, however, and he chooses to continue as a slave, he is making much more than a financial decision.  He is declaring himself to be a slave.  He has gone from "eved b'mikra" to "eved b'etzem".  He is no longer a free person who has been forced to temporarily give up some freedoms to pay a debt.  He is now made himself into a slave; a permanent change to what he is -- an even olam.  Even after he leaves his master and goes back home, he is still a slave; forever.

You can make all the jokes you like noting the similarity between slavery and marriage (heaven knows, I certainly have).  After 50 years of marriage, however, a permanent change has been wrought.  The two young (ie, selfish) people who entered that marriage are now two people who have learned to make the needs of another at least as important as their own needs.  Instead of doing chesed because "you have to give to get", to people who do chesed  because; just because.  In other words, they have become more like their Creator.

In truth, the Torah is not at all against slavery or being a slave.  The Torah does look down on a Jew being a slave to another human, but the Torah lauds being a slave of HaShem.  A Torah marriage, then is really a beautiful vehicle to achieving divinity.  And that's no joke.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Thanking HaShem Each and Every Day for Solid Land Near Water

Each and every morning, a Jew is supposed to view himself as a new/renewed creation, ready for a new day of building his eternal self through Torah and mitzvos.  We begin the day with 16 brachos to praise/thank/acknowledge HaShem for giving us all the tools we need to succeed.  We have a body, soul, and intellect.  We have vision, mobility, and protection from the elements.  Among those brachos, we have one that perhaps seems a bit out of place: רוקע הארץ על המים/Who spreads out the land on/over the water.  After all, it's nice to have a dry place to walk, but does that compare to the gratitude I have for a working body and vision?  As it turns out, I should; as explained by the R' Rajchenbach, rosh kollel of Kollel Zichron Eliyahu (aka, Peterson Park Kollel).  Your best bet is to listen to the shiur; very distant second is to continue, which I hope will whet your appetite for the real thing.

First... since we have dry land, I don't have to slog to work through even a foot…