The first time the Torah mentions love in context of man and woman is in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Chayei Sarah, when Yitzchak marries Rivkah.
And Yitzchak brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rivka, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Yitzchak was comforted after the loss of his mother.
The Torah seems to link Yitzchak’s love for Rivka with the fact that she was able to fill a void in his life left by the passing of his great mother, Sarah.
Rashi expounds on this by making reference to an amazing Midrash:
For as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Shabbat to the next, blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rivka arrived, they returned.
Our commentaries link the three blessings Sarah brought to the home with the three mitzvot that are unique to the Jewish woman: Lighting Shabbat candles, separating Challah when making dough, and immersion in the Mikvah. The connections between Sarah’s candles and the Shabbat candles, and between Sarah’s dough and separating Challah are obvious. The cloud above Sarah’s tent is symbolic of the Divine presence residing in the home, a symbol of the holiness generated when there is purity, peace and intimacy between husband and wife, hence the correlation to Mikvah.
The juxtaposition between the first time the Torah ever mentions love between man and woman and this allusion to the three mitzvot and the three blessings is certainly no coincidence.
So let’s try to understand the deeper essence of the three mitzvot.
The Shabbat Candles
The candle’s light is symbolic of a woman’s wisdom. The Talmud teaches that a woman is blessed with a special wisdom called Bina. Bina is defined as deep understanding, an intuition, the ability to sense things that are beneath the surface, an awareness of what isn’t obvious, a sensitivity to feelings and emotions that perhaps can’t be articulated.
I heard from a great Jew who spent much time in the presence of a great Torah personality and head of the largest Torah institution in the world, that before he would make any significant decisions about the institution he would consult with his wife. If she didn’t give him the green light, if she had a “bad feeling” about it, all other advice from his board, advisors and supporters would be for naught. And the Torah institution soared and continues to soar!
The Challah Dough
The combination of flour and water represents the uniting of physicality (flour) and spirituality (water), symbolizing how even the most mundane can be elevated and made holy. The Torah teaches us that a woman has a greater capacity than a man to see the hand of God in day-to-day life, to constantly stay connected and to remain aware of God even during the most mundane activities. This is why the Hebrew word for Mother is Eim or Ima, which is the root of the word Emunah, which means faith in God. Children learn more about trusting in Hashem from hearing their mothers conversations with God throughout the day than what they learn from any formalized and structured service.
It is no secret the emotional connection between husband and wife rides the waves of their intimate life together. The laws of family purity and Mikvah bring into the home a special way to express intimacy by renewing that connection time and time again, consistently reigniting the romance in a marriage in the holiest of ways, and ensuring that no matter how busy life is or how distant spouses might have drifted from one another, the date night of all date nights must happen!
So we see that these three mitzvot - and the three blessings of Sarah’s tent - all point to the three blessings that a woman brings into the world, the blessings of clarity, connection and purity.