In the beautiful journey of marriage, every step matters, and no aspect should be overlooked. Compared to last week’s Torah portion, Yisro, where we received the sublime Ten Commandments, this week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, which governs commerce and compensation for injuries and losses (the subjects taught in the first year of law school), may seem unrelated to the lofty spiritual ideals found in the Ten Commandments.
However, upon closer examination, we discover that these laws are not mere cut-and-dry guidelines for societal order, but that they hold profound lessons on the interconnectedness of love, marriage, and spirituality. It reminds us that true connection with our partners and the divine lies in our everyday actions and choices.
But First, What is Love?
In a few days, people around the world will celebrate Valentine’s Day. Shops will be adorned with vibrant bouquets of flowers, delicious chocolates will be carefully selected, and romantic dinners will be booked in advance. Some may even go to great lengths to express their affection through extravagant gifts of expensive jewelry. However, amidst all the material expressions of love, how many will take a moment to pause and reflect upon the true essence of love itself?
When I lived in Philly, I used to hear a TV advertisement for a nearby jewelry store that would play during this season, proclaiming, "Nothing says love like a diamond ring from Kay Jewelers." Really? Here's my revamped rendition of that jingle: “Nothing says love like your spouse filling up the tank of your car, so you do not have to get gas on the way to an early morning doctor’s appointment in rush hour traffic (when you’re not a morning person).” “Nothing says love like taking my husband’s favorite mug out of the dishwasher to handwash it because, for him, coffee takes better in a 20-year-old mug with Donald Duck’s face on it.”
And Sometimes, Love is What You Don’t Do
Nothing says love, like when we take the time to listen to each other deeply without interruption and refrain from defensive comebacks or self-referential comments. And nothing says love like when we bite our tongues and do not take it personally when we may say things to each other under stress, fatigue, or anxiety from some external pressure source.
When we adopt the right perspective, no act is ordinary, and everything is significant. That is the message of Mishpatim, that love, and connection are not found solely in the grand gestures or extravagant displays but in the everyday acts of kindness and devotion. It is in these small moments that relationships are nurtured and strengthened.
But Why, Exactly?
Years ago, I was coaching a couple, and the wife discovered that the husband had a secret cell phone and had girlfriends with whom he had cyber relationships. This man thought his behavior was completely harmless to his marriage, as it was behavior he engaged in “on the side” and had nothing to do with his love for his wife. But there is no such place “on the side. Not if you want to be happily married, because taking a compartmentalized approach to marriage is to consign it to a very low priority.
Holiness is Whole
When Mishpatim begins with the phrase, “and these are the laws,” we should understand that the laws set forth in Mishpatim are intrinsically connected to the divine principles taught in the Ten Commandments. Holiness cannot be segregated; every part of the Torah contributes to its wholeness. Just as there is no division between the sacred and the mundane in Mishpatim, no matter how seemingly insignificant, every moment holds the potential for love and connection.
While certain occasions may bring about highs and peak experiences, God's vision for love highlights the importance of responsibility, compassion, and integrity in our interactions with others - and their belongings. In Mishpatim, God tells us what love looks like – “be responsible with people and their possessions, if you hurt someone, make it right, be exceedingly careful, honest and kind in this world…” Through this lens, even the smallest actions become meaningful expressions of love and connection.
My husband and I celebrated our 27th anniversary by seeing Tim McGraw in concert. He brought the house down with his last song, “Humble and Kind.”
Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb butAlways stay humble and kind
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind
Don’t expect a free ride from no one
Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why
Bitterness keeps you from flyin’
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleepin’ with someone
And sleepin’ with someone you love
“I love you” ain’t no pickup line, so
Always stay humble and kind.
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you goin’
Don’t’ forget, turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind
Mishpatim teaches us that the laws, seemingly mundane but integral to the divine teachings, hold significant value. Similarly, our day-to-day actions and choices in our relationships are not to be underestimated, as they reflect our love, care, and connection. By embracing the holistic nature of love and marriage, we can create profound and enduring bonds that bring meaning and fulfillment to our lives.
Internalize and Actualize
Reflect on a small act of love or kindness your partner has done for you recently. How did it make you feel? Why do you think these small gestures are important in nurturing relationships?
How can you show love and appreciation to your partner in your everyday actions? How might these small moments contribute to a stronger bond between you?
Have you ever underestimated the value of certain actions or choices in your relationship? How can you start recognizing and appreciating the significance of even the smallest acts of love and connection?
P.S. I am offering a one-on-one 90-day relationship coaching program for singles on, How to Live the Life you Love with the Love of Your Life. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more.