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After the Engagement

The Torah portion of Mattot begins with a discussion of “oaths” and the various ways they can be annulled. One can annul an oath by asking a rabbi for an annulment. Furthermore, a father can annul his daughter’s oath, and a man can annul his wife’s. If a woman is engaged to be married, her oath can be annulled by her father and her fiancé.

In a certain respect, the fiancé’s power to annul an oath is even stronger than a husband’s. A man can only annul an oath that his wife made after they were married. He has no power over oaths that were made before then. But a fiancée can annul an oath that was made before they became engaged. The reason for this is that while a woman is engaged the power to annul her oath is shared by the fiancé and the father – and just as the father has the power to annul an oath made before the engagement, so does the fiancé.

Every aspect of Torah, even these seemingly technical, dry, legal details, contains a lesson for us in divine service. In our divine service, there are two stages, one corresponding to engagement and one to marriage. When we reach the “marriage” stage, we become one with G-d. There is no higher level than this. Through this relationship we produce “children,” our mitzvot, as our sages say, the children of the righteous are their good deeds.

The level of “engagement” is somewhat lower. We still retain our own independent identity. However, in a sense it has an advantage over the married state. The husband can annul his wife’s oath on his own, without her father’s input. The fiancé can annul his bride’s oath only because he shares this power with her father. In spiritual terms, this means that when we are in the “engaged” state, we are keenly aware of our dependence on G-d. We are not fully one with Him – we haven’t reached that stage yet – but we know that whatever we do, whatever we wish to accomplish, we can only do so through the power of the Father – our Father in heaven. 

A spouse can annul only those oaths his wife took before marriage, while a fiancé can annul even oaths from before. Because he has the power of the father, he is above the limitations of time.

In a similar vein, when we have the power of G-d Himself, we are able to complete the work of refining the world and elevating the sparks of holiness. With G-d’s direct support, we can accomplish this and we are freed of the limitations of time and space.

The important point to remember is that we can’t do it on our own. In order to rise in our service of G-d, we need to connect with a higher source of power. And once we elevate ourselves a bit, there is yet a higher level to reach, and another, and another... the distance to climb is truly infinite. The only way to bridge that gap is with the power of G-d Himself.

It may seem, on our path to Redemption, that we have been in the “engaged” state far too long. We are awaiting the time when we will finally have complete unity with G-d and consummate this marriage. There is no doubt, though, that the moment is fast approaching. We have completed our mission, we have elevated the sparks, and now we await for G-d Himself to lift us up.


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