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Three Forms of Love
By Yanki Tauber
 

The hallmark of a loving marriage is each partner’s readiness to do the will of the other. If one partner expresses a desire for something, the other will do everything in his or her power to bring about its fulfillment.

A greater love is demonstrated when each partner also strives to fulfill the implied will of the other. To the truly devoted spouse, it makes no difference if a desire has been explicitly expressed or merely hinted at—he or she will carry it out with the same devotion and commitment to the loved one’s gratification.

Finally, there are those very special marriages in which there is no need for even the merest of allusions. So deep is the bond between husband and wife that each intuitively knows what the other wants of him or her. Indeed, when two people love each other to such a degree, there is no greater joy than that experienced when one has succeeded in sensing and satisfying the other’s desire all on one’s own.

Three Degrees of Commandment

The month of Tishrei is a month replete with mitzvot—with opportunities for carrying out the divine will. For thirty days, the Jew’s every thought and moment is filled with praying, repenting, fasting, feasting, dancing, building a sukkah, acquiring a lulav and etrog or a bundle of hoshaanot, and dozens of other mitzvot, customs and observances.

The observances of Tishrei fall into three general categories. There are “biblical precepts”—commandments that are explicitly stated in the Torah. These include mitzvot such as sounding the shofar, fasting on Yom Kippur, or eating in the sukkah. There are also a number of “rabbinical mitzvot”—observances instituted by the prophets and the sages by the authority vested in them by the Torah. For example, the five prayer services held on Yom Kippur and the taking of the “Four Kinds” on all but the first day of Sukkot are all rabbinical institutions.

Finally, the month of Tishrei has many minhagim or “customs,” such as eating an apple dipped in honey on the first night of Rosh HaShanah or conducting the kapparot in the wee hours of the morning on the day before Yom Kippur. The minhagim are not mandated by biblical or rabbinical law, but by force of custom: these are things that we ourselves have initiated as ways to enhance our service of our Creator.

The climax of the month of Tishrei, the point at which our celebration of G-d’s festivals attains the very pinnacle of joy, is during the hakkafot of Simchat Torah, when we take the Torah scrolls in hand and dance with them around the reading table in the synagogue. Most amazingly, the hakkafot are neither a biblical nor a rabbinical precept; they are “merely” a custom.

For it is with our observance of the customs that we express the depth of our love for G-d. The biblical commandments might be compared to the explicitly expressed desires between two people bound in marriage. The rabbinical mitzvot, which G-d did not directly instruct us but which nevertheless constitute expressions of the divine will,[1] resemble the implied requests between spouses. But the minhagim represent those areas in which we intuitively sense how we might cause G-d pleasure—and in this lies our greatest joy.

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[1]. Before performing a rabbinical mitzvah, we recite a blessing that begins with the words, “Blessed are You, G-d... Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to....” For since G-d commanded us to fulfill the mitzvot instituted by the sages, these are divine commandments; the difference between the biblical and rabbinical mitzvot is only in that the former are more explicitly the expressed will of G-d. Thus, fulfilling a rabbinical precept is a greater show of commitment, for we thereby exhibit our equal devotion to those divine desires which G-d has not directly related to us.

Posted on October 3, 2007
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