imagine this happening in Meah Shearim

Friday, 19 August, 2016 - 6:20 am


Dear Friends,

the 15th of Av is a fascinating day. The Mishna tells us about the Jerusalem maidens who would go out to dance in the vineyards in front of the single young men. I’m trying to imagine this happening in the streets of Meah Shearim – I don’t know for sure, but it probably wouldn’t go over very well… And the truth is that at first glance it really does not sound very respectable. How could it be proper for a good Jewish girl to go out and, as it were, market herself publicly? Sounds a bit demeaning.

But if we go into the details in the Mishna more deeply, we will notice a few extraordinary points. First of all, the maidens would all go out in “borrowed white clothes.” In other words, the rich ones and the poor ones, those that had and those that didn’t have – all wore white dresses. And, in addition, they all wore dresses that weren’t theirs – dresses borrowed from a charity shop or from a friend. Rabban Shimon says that they did that “so as not to embarrass those that didn’t have.” How beautiful!

I see in this one central message aimed at all those looking for their intended match: when you go looking for a spouse, don’t focus on the external things. Look! We’re all wearing white – the least eye-catching color – and, besides, the dresses are not ours, but borrowed.

So what should we focus on when looking for a spouse?

The Mishna goes on to say: “And what would they say? Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose. Don’t focus on beauty; focus on family.” So: First of all, lift up your eyes, that is, lift your eyes and your vision above material, earthly matters. And when your viewpoint becomes slightly spiritual, when you’ll know to focus on why one builds a home and a family, and on what the goal of marriage is, then you will really know what is more important and what is less so.

“Don’t focus on beauty; focus on family,” they say. Of course, external looks are important as well, but when you come to “focus” – in other words, to decide on your priorities, what’s more important and what’s less important regarding the future spouse – “focus on the family.” Simply understood, this means that it is definitely important to know who the family of the intended spouse is. In a deeper vein, they are actually saying: We are all of the same family: oriental and occidental, Sephardim and Ashkenazim. We are all the sons of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, the daughters of Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah. We all arrived here with the best Yichus – lineage – possible. There is no place for arbitrary divisions and schisms.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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