Monday, November 13, 2006

Sacred Marriage - A Jewish Kabbalist's View

This emailed article from Gershon S. Caudill, the ECOREBBE to his email list, made me begin considering marriage all over again in more light. Many these days appear to be reconsidering 'sacred sexuality' in direct and indirect ways. I have witnessed a few who attempted practices of 'sacred eroticism' fall into obsession and disfunction and even apostasy - denial of Spirit(s) - or madness or even perpetrate harm. Yet if someone were called to a spiritual path of direct sacred sexuality and saw no wise way to follow along and found no sound teachings and repressed the calling, would not such an individual fall into disfunction, obsession, madness, and destruction also, or possibly even more so? ~ Alan

I suppose yes. I had a shamanic dream-journey-vision of a 'desire organ' that was a golden and silver musical bowl upon a stem of all the sacred metals, growing between the stomach and mouth, rotating upside-down and back, inside-out and back. The hand of the mind played around the rim to vibrate it and the hand of the body grasped the stem to guide energies welling through from below and above. A desired 'child' appeared within the vessel. This was a powerful and healing marriage joining yet all action was symbolic and all took place within the shamanic journey. Shamanic journeying might drive a few individuals mad but I opine it is a safer path than direct sacred eroticism and sacred entheogen consuming or other extremely intense spiritual methods - safer for more to dream their own ways to ecstasy and the realms of heaven on earth at a natural, cosmic pace. ~ Sharon

Here is the article:

A Marriage Made In Heaven?
Isaac and Rebekah serve as a paradigm for Jewish marriage, and yet, their
relationship is more complex than it may appear.
By Rabbi Stephen Cohen
Rabbi Gershon S. Caudill writes, 'The following article is reprinted with permission from The Union of American Hebrew Congregations.'

Parashah Overview

a.. Abraham purchases the cave of Machpelah in order to bury his wife
Sarah. (23:1-20)
b.. Abraham sends his servant to find a bride for Isaac. (24:1-9)
c.. Rebekah shows her kindness by offering to draw water for the servant's
camels at the well. (24:15-20)
d.. The servant meets Rebekah's family and then takes Rebekah to Isaac,
who marries her. (24:23-67)
e.. Abraham takes another wife, named Keturah. At the age of one hundred
and seventy-five years, Abraham dies, and Isaac and Ishmael bury him in the
cave of Machpelah. (25:1-11)

Focal Point
Isaac had just come back from the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi, for he was
settled in the region of the Negev. And Isaac went out walking in the field
toward evening and, looking up, he saw camels approaching. Raising her eyes,
Rebekah saw Isaac. She alighted from the camel and said to the servant, "Who
is that man walking in the field toward us?" And the servant said, "That is
my master." So she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac
all the things that he had done. Isaac then brought her to the tent of his
mother, Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus
found comfort after his mother's death (Genesis 24:62-67).

Your Guide
After Abraham's death, Isaac settled in Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 24:62). This
was also the place in which Hagar encountered an angel when she first fled
from Sarah (Genesis 16). Is there a possible hidden significance of this
place for Isaac?

When they meet, Rebekah and Isaac both exchange words with the servant but
say nothing to each other. Why?

Prior to their meeting, the text says about both Isaac and Rebekah that
"she/he raised up her/his eyes." Does this phrase suggest just a physical
raising of the eyes or an inner emotional shift as well?

Isaac's dead mother, Sarah, is mentioned twice in verse 67. Is Isaac's
awareness of his mother's presence excessive, or is it to be expected at the
time of his marriage?

By the Way.
"From the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi." He had gone there to take Hagar to
his father Abraham, for him to marry her (Rashi on Genesis 24:62). [Note:
According to midrashic tradition, Abraham's new wife, Keturah, was actually

"From the vicinity of Beer-lahai-roi." To pray in that place, in which was
heard the prayer of the slave woman [Hagar]. And even before he prayed, the
matter had already been concluded in Haran, and his wife was on her way to
him. As it says, "Before they call out, I respond" (Isaiah 65:24). He left
the road to pour out his prayer to God in a field so that passersby would
not interrupt (Sforno on Genesis 24:62).

"To the tent of his mother, Sarah." He brought her [Rebekah] to the tent
and, behold, she was Sarah, his mother! That is to say, she followed Sarah's
example. For as long as Sarah lived, a candle burned from erev Shabbat to
erev Shabbat, and there was a blessing in the challah dough, and a cloud was
attached to the tent. When she died, all these things disappeared. And when
Rebekah came, they returned (Rashi on Genesis 24:67).

"After his mother's death." The way of the world is that as long as a man's
mother is alive, he is bound up with her. And when she dies, he is comforted
by his wife (Rashi on Genesis 24:67).

Rabbi Jose says: For three years, Isaac mourned for his mother, Sarah. After
three years, he took Rebekah and forgot the mourning for his mother. From
this you learn that until a man takes a wife, his love follows his parents.
When he takes a wife, his love follows his wife, as it is said, "Therefore
does a man leave his father and his mother and clings to his wife" (Genesis
2:24). But does a man depart from the mitzvah (commandment) of honoring his
mother and father? Rather, his love clings to his wife (Pirkei d'Rabbi
Eliezer, chapter 32).

"Rebekah saw Isaac." She saw him majestic, and she was dumbfounded (Rashi on
Genesis 24:64).

What Rebekah sees in Isaac is the vital anguish at the heart of his prayers,
a remoteness from the sunlit world of chesed (kindness) that she inhabits.
Too abruptly, perhaps, she receives the shock of his world. Nothing
mediates, nothing explains him to her. "Who is that man walking in the field
toward us?" (Genesis 24:66) she asks, fascinated, alienated. What dialogue
is possible between two who have met in such a way?

A fatal seepage of doubt and dread affects her, so that she can no longer
meet him in the full energy of her difference. She veils herself, obscures
her light. He takes her and she irradiates the darkness of his mother's
tent. She is, and is not, like his mother; through her, his sense of his
mother's existence is healed. But the originating moment of their union is
choreographed so that full dialogue will be impossible between them (Aviva
Gottlieb Zornberg, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, pp. 142-143).

Your Guide
It is poignant to imagine the relationship between Isaac and Hagar, the
woman who had been banished by his own mother. How does Sforno's view of
Isaac's connection to Hagar compare with Rashi's view of their relationship?

Rashi, commenting on Genesis 24:67, cites the death of a man's mother as the
turning point in his emotional life. Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer identifies it as
the moment of a man's marriage. Which view resonates with your own

Zornberg considers the meeting and marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as
profoundly troubled from the start. Do you agree?

D'var Torah
In the Jewish tradition, we take the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah as our
paradigm. From this wedding come our customs of the veil, the blessing of
the bride, and the halachah (Jewish law) that a woman must be asked if she
consents to the marriage. In the Torah text itself, the elements of the
field, the setting sun, Isaac's prayer (the mysterious verb lasu-ach), and
the train of camels create a romantic, mystical mood. Our Sages and medieval
commentators looked beyond the surface of the text to read the more complex
emotions inherent in this first meeting between a man and woman who would
become husband and wife and to explore the complicated history that each of
these individuals brought to that encounter.

Rabbi Stephen Cohen is the executive director of the Hillel Foundation at
the University of California, Santa Barbara, California.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is the central body of Reform
Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900
synagogues. UAHC services include camps, music and book publishing,
outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and
the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.

Kol brakhot tobot (May you be blessed with good)
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill


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