The month of Elul is a month of introspection, a time when we are supposed to look deeply at ourselves and our world and ask ourselves what we can do to improve. It is a time when we must look at our relationships, both with the Almighty and with other human beings, and challenge ourselves to make them better. Even if we view ourselves as generally good, kind-hearted and generous people, often when we think about how we relate to the people that are the closest to us, the people who need us most, we are faced with the painful realization that are relationship with them has slipped to become less than satisfactory.
For those who are married, certainly the first place to look when taking inventory of our relationships is to our spouses. Are we living up to our potential in how we treat our significant other? Are we sensitive to their needs? Do we show them enough love? Do we show them the right amount of love? Do we really love them or do we just convince ourselves that we do, when really we just love… ourselves???
Hidden in the words of this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Ki Teitzei, there is a beautiful message about marriage and about relationships in general. But to extract this message, we need to turn to a fascinating Talmudic passage that reveals a most romantic idea, through a seemingly technical law.
In several places in this week’s portion, the Torah refers to the act of marriage as an act of “taking” a spouse. As the Torah never explicitly tells us exactly how to create a marriage between two people, our Sages interpret the language of “taking” as a transaction that can be created through a gift of value, either money, an object or, as is our custom, a ring.
But where do they see that the word “taking” means a monetary-like transaction? The Sages explain that the term “taking” is found when Abraham purchased a burial plot for himself and his wife Sarah in Parshat Chayei Sarah. Just as taking in that incident was referring to a monetary transaction, so too the taking of a spouse can be completed through a monetary-like transaction.
Now, our immediate reaction to this might be some surprise. Of all the places in the Torah to create a connection that will teach us a law about marriage, the best place our Sages could find was an incident of a purchase of a burial plot?
And, yet, as we think about it more we realize how beautiful of a connection this is! Here we find Avraham teaching us an amazing lesson about marriage. He purchases a burial plot for himself next to his wife Sarah, demonstrating that he viewed his connection with Sarah to be one that would endure even after the physical bond has seized to exist. He saw his connection with her as being eternal. That powerful message, demonstrated by his transaction is such an important perspective, the Torah wants us to learn specifically from there what should be on our mind when we enter into a marriage and one that should be on our mind all the time. Our Neshamos, our souls are one, not in this world, but forever.
While this is certainly central to marriage, the concept holds true with all our relationships. The people in our lives are placed there for a reason. For reasons beyond what we can understand, the Almighty is constantly pairing our souls with the other souls that we encounter and we are somehow forging connections that have profound effects on our souls and theirs.
Do we look at every interaction as leaving an eternal impression? Do we feel that the people in our lives are somehow an extension of our souls? Would we treat them any different if we viewed it that way? Would that make us better people? These are certainly important questions to ask ourselves during the month of Elul.