Turning Towards Each Other

One of the challenges with Parshat Ki Tisa is that it deals with turning away from the proper path rather than turning towards it. After our ancestors made the golden calf, G-d said to Moses “They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I enjoined upon them.”[1] Because they turned away from G-d, G-d turned away from them, proclaiming “I see that this is a stiff-necked people. Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them…”[2] Moses, however, intervenes, refusing to let G-d destroy Israel. He says words which we repeat every fast day: שוב מחרון אפך והנחם על-הרעה לעמך; “Turn away from Your blazing anger and renounce the plan to punish Your people.”[3] In so doing, Moses makes two very important points: Israel remains G-d’s people as opposed to a “stiff-necked” people independent from G-d, and G-d does not need to turn away from Israel just because they have turned away from Him at this particular moment.

The term “turn away” struck me because of the work done by marriage therapist Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman writes that the married couples he see who turn towards one another at times of conflict stay together 86% of the time, whereas those who turn away from each other stay together only 33% of the time.[4]  In our tradition, G-d and Israel are a couple, bound together by a ברית, or covenant, just as a married couple is bound by a Ketubah. In our portion because Israel has forsaken its end of the bargain, worshiping other gods, G-d is going to follow suit and strike them from the earth-that is until Moses intervenes. He says to G-d, ‘calm down; take a chill pill,’ and he gets G-d to refrain from forsaking the covenant. וינחם ה על-הרעה אשר דבר לעשות לעמו, “G-d forsook the evil that G-d had said he would do to His people.”[5]

There are two reasons to speak about this today. First we are celebrating the dedication of Robin Schaffer, who is always willing to step up at Bet Shira, from leading the Tu B’Shvat Seder to Sisterhood Shabbat. She is a hallmark of dedication, a regular at morning minyan, often from work. She has taught the Bet Shira minyan so many new tunes over the years.

The second is to celebrate Robin and Ed’s aufruf in honor of their marriage tomorrow here at Bet Shira. Marriage is a brit, a sacred covenant between two people in a relationship. Each relationship is a give-and-take, whether the work-family balance, the public-private life or the sacrifices versus benefits. Robin and Ed model an essential truth of Judaism-that we get up each and every day attempting to grow in our relationship with G-d while concurrently striving to make the world into a better place.

Marriage is one of if not the most important relationship in life, a partner with whom one forms a team. There are benefits as well as responsibilities with marriage, many of which are detailed in the Ketubah. I know that in continuing to grow together in your Jewish observance you will also grow in your relationship with one another.

My prayer for you, Robin and Ed, is that you always turn towards each other, recognizing that your relationship supersedes any specific issue at hand, and in so doing may you strengthen your true love each and every day. Mazal Tov on the celebration of your aufruf. As we are at Bet Shira, House of Song, let’s sing siman tov u’mazal tov again.

[1] Exodus 32:8

[2] Exodus 32:9-10

[3] Exodus 32:12

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/turn-toward-instead-of-away/

[5] Exodus 32:14

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s