Let the loving couple be very happy, just as you made your creation happy in the Garden of Eden, so long ago. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride happy.
These are the words of the fifth of the seven blessings recited under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, at a Jewish wedding. The married couple should be like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
So what was unique about this first couple? They were the only two people on earth so they only had eyes for each other.
They weren't distracted by men or women outside their marriage. They didn't think that maybe there was someone prettier or brighter or more successful. He knew she was the only one for him, and vice versa. Neither was tormented by thoughts of "if only..." or any other more subtle insinuations.
We live in a world where people discard their spouses when a "better model" comes along.
We are not so fortunate. We live in a world where whatever is new is valued, where people discard their spouses when a "better model" comes along, leaving emotional devastation in their wake.
Since we can't be Adam and Eve in Paradise, Judaism offers some tools to help maintain that connection, to help sustain that moment under the wedding canopy where we felt we were like them, where no one existed outside the two of us and our new marital unit.
One of these ideas is the prohibition of physical contact with members of the opposite sex –- except of course your spouse.
The word "prohibition" tends to provoke immediate rebellion but let's try to explore the issue first.
If something is precious, you try to build a fence around it to:
- demonstrate how special it is, and,
- make clear that it is uniquely yours, not available to anyone else in the world. (Like those lovely "keep out" signs that my children are always taping to their bedroom doors!)
You want to notify the world and remind yourself that the physical and emotional intimacy of marriage is not for sharing. You don't want to weaken its intensity or give intruders a hole to climb through.
This is unfortunately a foreign concept to many people. Physical intimacy has become trivialized. Giving a kiss has become synonymous with saying hello and in so doing has lost its power.
KISSES THAT COUNT
In the Jewish world, we don't want our kisses to lose their power. So we're a little stingy with them.
Physical contact with friends, acquaintances, and most relatives of the opposite sex is off limits. This has powerful repercussions.
When a kiss becomes "only" a kiss, we've lost one of life's great pleasures and opportunities.
Do you want that moment of closeness between you and your spouse to be intense and deeply moving? Do you want it to be electric and passionate? If you're saying to yourself "She's really crazy, it's only a kiss," then this article is for you. Because it shouldn't be only a kiss. It should be a time, however brief, of bonding, of grounding, of true oneness. And it should be exciting.
When it becomes "only a kiss," we've lost one of life's great pleasures and opportunities. If it's "only a kiss," our marriage is the poorer for it.
Everyone has had enough experiences of boundaries trespassed to know there is wisdom in this strategy.
Debbie and Bill were at a banquet. Bill was introducing Debbie to a business acquaintance, and when they shook hands, this colleague of Bill's stroked Debbie's palm.
As they turned to walk away Debbie exclaimed to her husband "Yecch! What was that?!"
What was it? At the very least it was a violation, it was a trampling of the precious borders that Debbie and Bill had erected to make their marriage special.
Felicia and Jim had an equally unpleasant experience. At a wedding dinner, an older, slightly inebriated woman sat down next to Jim and began to rub her leg against his. Not attuned to those types of social cues, Jim wasn't sure how to respond. But one thing he did know. This was inappropriate, unpleasant and although normally articulate, all he could say later was "Yecch!"
These are particularly egregious examples of trespass. However, every time you connect physically with the opposite gender outside your marriage, a crack in the wall occurs. "But it creates distance between myself and others." You're right, it creates distance. It's supposed to. That's the proof of its effectiveness.
In a culture of smokers would you risk social isolation by refusing to smoke?
Does this way of behavior put you out of step with society? No question. But in a culture of smokers would you risk social isolation by refusing to smoke? You would because you know the dangers.
We know the potential risk to our marriages if we allow chinks in the armor, if we don't make an impenetrable barrier. It's not just that we may be tempted into inappropriate relationships. It's that our relationship with our spouse will lose some of its power and intensity and uniqueness.
Is it worth the price? Keep your hands (and lips) to yourself and you too can have a marriage like the first couple on earth. You can be as happy, as connected; you can experience the oneness of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.