Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mishpatim: Two Wives

A man called Jacob was once married to a very difficult woman. Still, despite her many faults, Jacob loved her. And when she passed away, he missed her greatly.

Jacob later remarried to a much nicer and more refined woman, whom he respected and loved. One day Jacob praised her. "My dear, when I see your beautiful face, it is as if my first wife has risen from the grave and is standing before me!"

The second wife was understandably quite unhappy with this "compliment."

"If your first wife is so vividly engraved in your memory," she retorted, "why do you claim to love me so much and insist that I remind you of her? We both know that my personality and character traits are very different than hers were!"

The Mistake of the Elders

It is written that during Matan Torah, the Torah's Revelation at Sinai, the elders of Israel "had a vision of the Divine, and they ate and drank" (Exod. 24:11). What does this mean? What was this meal about?

At Mount Sinai, the elders merited witnessing an amazing prophetic vision. They experienced the incomparable sweetness of Divine revelation. And yet this otherworldly experience reminded them of worldly pleasures, of eating and drinking!

Certainly, there is something terribly wrong with this comparison. It indicates that the elders had failed to attain true Ahavat Hashem, love for God. Despite the wonderful gift of prophetic vision, the elders lacked a genuine love and reverence for God. For this error, they deserved to be punished; but their punishment was postponed until a more opportune time.

(Adapted from Mishlei Yaakov, pp. 129-130)