Questions of the Month
By Aron Moss
My wife has no sense of humour. She says I make fun of her in public (and she's always happy to tell me just how bad I am - even in public). Shouldn't she be able to take a joke?
Jokes are serious. The line between a friendly jibe and a humiliating stab is often a fine one. You have to question whether the laugh you may get is worth the pain you may inflict. But between husband and wife, humiliation is simply criminal. It goes against everything that a marriage is supposed to be: an exclusive oneness.
In the Jewish wedding ceremony, after standing under the Chuppa, the bride and groom are taken to a private room, known as the Yichud room. Yichud means oneness and exclusivity. By entering this room, a secluded place where no one is present but the couple, they create a sacred space that is theirs and theirs alone.
The newlyweds leave the Yichud room after a few minutes, but in a way they should never leave it. The privacy and oneness of the Yichud room must be taken with them in their marriage. The relationship between husband and wife is a sacred and secluded place, and should stay that way. Any word or action that jeopardises the privacy and unity of a marriage must be erased from our repertoire.
When you make fun of your wife in front of your friends, you have momentarily stepped out of the Yichud room. You have abandoned your soul-partner, leaving her alone and isolated just for a few cheap laughs. To make a joke is fine, but never at the expense of your oneness.
When your wife publicly criticises you, she has allowed strangers into the Yichud room. She is inviting others into a moment that should only be between the two of you. There is a time and a place for criticism in a relationship, but not in the presence of others.
These mistakes are so common that to many they have become acceptable. But it is these little things that can erode a good marriage. For a relationship to thrive it must always remain an exclusive oneness. Once you get comfortable in the Yichud room, you'll never want to leave.
Did you read the news about a new-age "Kabbalah" teacher who was arrested for growing cannabis in her living room? This caught my attention, as I have always had two loves in my life: Spirituality (not always the Jewish type) and getting high on cannabis. I really believe that both of them are connected and they both need to be enjoyed together, but I never thought I could do that in a Jewish context. I know you teach Kabbalah - do you offer such a combined spiritual high, or would you consider trying?
Many spiritual paths promote escaping the here-and-now to find something higher. Whether it be heaven, nirvana, or some other transcendent state, the aim is to reach beyond the confines of the body and the physical, mundane world and enter another reality. Not so in Judaism.
The purpose of Jewish spirituality is to make this physical world into a G-dly place, a divine home. We resolve the tension between body and soul not by negating one over the other, but by fusing the two. This means facing reality as it is and rather than escaping this life, transforming it.
The technique we use is called Mitzvot - the divine commands of the Torah. They give us a holy way to do everything. There is a way to sanctify eating, business, relationships, dress, speech - every area of life. The purpose of it all is that this world, our physical body, our conscious mind and our human personality should all become aligned with G-d. Don't escape earth to go to a higher reality, make this reality higher.
Drug taking does nothing to contribute to this endeavour. We do not fulfil our purpose by altering our minds, but rather by refining them. A spiritual experience, no matter how high, that does not translate into productive action is a waste of time and energy.
If you seek authentic Jewish spirituality then you need to seek help for your drug problem. You will not be able to fully fulfil your soul's mission on this earth as long as you are playing with your mind. Your soul has all the power it needs to fulfil its mission. Drugs won't help. A Mitzva will.
from the September 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine