As a lawyer, I have a particular way to read Torah. Let me share with you a line from this week's Torah portion and see if you hear it the same way I do.
“God said: I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God.”
It sounds like a contractual offer! “I will take you to me and I will be to you…” In fact, this sounds to my ear, and to the ear of many sages, like a marriage proposal. The One Power of the Universe calls out to us saying: “Hey, ISRAEL. I’m thinking we should get together, make it a permanent thing.” Now even in the ancient world where the bride was often in a less powerful position, nonetheless, her consent is essential. She has to approve of the deal, even if it is God doing the asking. The people Israel, the bride in this proposal, says “well yes that sounds nice but let’s see what you’ve got going for you. What are your prospects? Will you stand up for me and stand by me?”
And after a most unusual series of dates, that include events like a frog infestation, cattle disease and a hail storm, the people Israel are ready to go with God. They hurry out of the ‘house of bondage’ where Israel has been living in an abusive relationship, and rush out like elopers into the Sinai desert. It is what today we might call, a “destination wedding.”
And what a complicated wedding contract! It’s a long one– so long it takes a year to read – now we call it the Torah. In this ketubah we learn that to keep the relationship with God going strong, we need reminders of the mutuality of our love. Love that ONE who is your God today and every day, in everything you do, from the moment you wake, to the moment you lie down again. Keep the relationship passionate!
My work, my service -- my avodah as a rabbi ---is to find ways to keep the passion in the relationship going. Many people today feel estranged from God and some are already divorced. My role is to rekindle the passion. It is like being a spiritual marriage counselor. And the role of the Jewish Studio is to help infuse your life with the quality of joy one feels at a wedding.
R’ Evan Krame
(adapted from my remarks at my ordination January 11, 2015)