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Family Purity

Family Purity

The Jewish Couple: A Circle and a Line

Published on Wednesday September 26th, 2018

Couple relationships constitute one of the most controversial topics of debate and discussion, regardless of religion, ethnicity, era, ideology or generation. How is it humanly possible to expect that two diametrically opposed people live together harmoniously and love and respect one another?

There is no shortage of imagery to depict men-women relationships, such as, for example, water and fire, or Venus and Mars. The one I particularly like and would like to focus on today is the image described by the Kabbalah, namely the circle and the line.

We do not need to earn a Ph.D. or carry out elaborate experiments in human behavior to realize that man and woman are fundamentally different. Nothing can guarantee a harmonious union between them. Moreover, if a couple does not invest permanent efforts in maintaining their marriage, their union is doomed to fail and can quickly become a nightmare both for him as for her.

If we try to understand how men and women are differently wired, then we might learn what to do and what to say, or rather, what to avoid doing and saying to preserve and thrive in our marriage. So, let's try to understand this parable of the circle and the line.

Firstly, let's agree that we are going to address two different ways of thinking and behavior, the feminine and the masculine. This does not mean that women have exclusivity on the feminine dimension and vice versa ... Each man and woman can manifest these two currents of behavior and thought, obviously in different ways and levels of predominance.

The circle represents the feminine way of thinking and behavior, while the line represents the typical straightforward masculine behavior. In Tu B'Av, the festival of love of in the Jewish calendar, the circle and line symbols gain momentum as the girls dance in circles in the fields, while the young men come to meet them in a resolute and focused trajectory, making no detours. Their goal is to find a wife, not to waste time, wandering around. 

Simply put, a line is the most direct way to get from point A to point B. This is a masculine trait. Why procrastinate and consider every viable option if a choice appears to be suitable? On the other hand, a circle may also travel from point A to point B, it just takes a little longer. In the interim, our mind opens to different possibilities that would have been ignored if we had travelled in a straight line. It's the way of a woman. (Hashem, in his endless bounty, understood that a woman, who is predominantly responsible for the care of her children, needs a 360-degree view to keep an eye on them and ensure their needs are met.)

A balanced couple alternates between methods, each at the appropriate time. Sometimes it is necessary to be quick and efficient in decision-making. At other times, a situation needs to be thoroughly examined and evaluated. When a husband and wife learn to balance their power of discernment, such as when to make a thorough evaluation and when to push through in a straight line, their home becomes stable and harmonious. Smart decisions and choices are made at the appropriate time. Each manifests trust in the other. Each allows the other to maintain his/her own vital space. And by trusting that our spouse will make the right choice, we discover an entirely innovative way of doing things, a way that is neither masculine nor feminine but symbolizes the "us" in the relationship. We would have never achieved this fusion of minds is we had failed to tolerate our apparently irreconcilable differences to begin with.

The beauty of the concept of the circle and the line is pictured in Jewish wedding ceremonies. The bridegroom stands motionless under the Chuppah. He symbolizes the line. When his future wife joins the wedding canopy, she walks around him seven times. This custom is widely practiced by many young couples and symbolizes that the woman is the protector of the home, erecting a barrier around her husband.

Then, she suddenly comes to a halt by his side. This is a sign of her strength to annul her own nature when the situation demands flexibility and compliance. They no longer represent two separate units; they are now one. Still, they maintain their own individual identities, and give each other the necessary space to express them. They will unite symbolically through a ring (a circle), representing both their strengths and their weaknesses. When the husband slips the ring on his bride's finger however, the roles are reversed. The man offers the circular ring and the woman accepts it by stiffening her index finger, like a straight line. She accepts their differences, and agrees to proudly wear a ring on her finger. She commits to make the best out of these apparently incompatible contrasts.

Finally, this union is sealed by a ketubah, a contract written on a rolled parchment. The Ketubah also represents the circle and the line. When it is rolled, it looks like a circle, and when it is open and flat, it looks more like a line.

The Ketubah seals the relationship of the newly consecrated couple with an eternal stamp. For the marriage to survive and thrive, both the circle and the line are equally indispensable.

This message is critical for young couples. Regardless of how their union will evolve, and whether the actions will be predominantly circular or straight forward, it is fundamental that they engage in thought and action to achieve a healthy and integrative fusion to succeed in their new life together.

Myriam H. - © Torah-Box

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