For this you are willing to lose

The 15th of Av, Tu B’Av, brings us to a day of joy and peace. On this day the Jewish nation in the desert realized that they were forgiven for the sin of the spies who had maligned the Land of Israel. Just as Yom Kippur brings reconciliation with God, so too, does this day. We are free of division. The greatest sanctity can be found when there is an atmosphere of peace within our home, which is called a ‘mikdash me’at’ – a miniature sanctuary. A custom of celebration was established on this day so that sacred homes could be established and thrive.

The Talmud describes the scene:

“There were no greater days of celebration in Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. The girls of Jerusalem would put on borrowed white clothing so that none could demonstrate her personal circumstances. The daughter of the king would borrow from the daughter of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest), the daughter of the Kohen Gadol from the daughter of the deputy, the daughter of the deputy from the daughter of the Kohen anointed to accompany the armies to war….and all of Israel borrowed from one another so as not to embarrass one who lacked means.”

Matches would be made in a spirit of modesty. Beautiful homes would be created. A new generation would begin. Where there is peace and unity there is joy. And when strife enters a home, it is written the presence of God departs. Division and desecration enter.

Let’s plug in to the energy of peace that this day brings to couples. How can we keep the unity going when life has its ups and downs and marriage takes us on many unknown detours?

Especially today, when this pandemic has brought the world to its knees and there is chaos on the streets, we need more than ever to keep peace alive within the shelter of our homes.

Sometimes you are brought to a moment where, if you are wise, you take a pause and make the message part of your internal vocabulary. For me, every time I search my mind for ‘shalom bayit – peace within the home, this is the memory that comes up.

It was Erev Yom Kippur, the eve of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. I had made up to meet my husband in the city where our annual Hineni High Holiday services were to take place. My job was to pack us and the children’s bags, my husband had left earlier in the day.

A few hours before going to prayer services, we were in the hotel room, getting ourselves ready for the solemn day. That night would be standing before God, asking for forgiveness for all our mistakes we accumulated throughout the year. Kol Nidrei would bring us to focus on words we may have said, promises we did not keep. My husband, coming from work, was in a blue shirt. He asked me where I had put his white shirt for synagogue.

“It’s there in the closet,” I said.

“I don’t see it,” he replied.

I gave a sigh. Somehow husbands and children don’t see the ketchup bottles and juice containers standing right there in front of them in the fridge.

I walked over to the closet. The shirt was definitely not there.

It must be in the luggage, I thought to myself. I zipped open the suitcase. Empty. I opened every compartment, even the ones for little items like socks. Empty.

Uh oh. The room was quiet.

I know that my husband was thinking: I asked you for one thing, just to remember to pack my shirt, and nada. And I’m thinking, Well, you should be packing your own shirt at this age.

We looked at each other. Now what?

A thought popped into my head.

Here we are coming to Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. We are asking God to accept us, to forgive us, to see the good that lies within us and give us another chance. How could I possibly ask God to make peace with me if I am not coming from a place of peace?

And then the question that changed my life blurted out of my mouth:

“For this? For this I lose my Shalom Bayit?”

For a shirt? For not filling up the car with gas, for not remembering to take the suit to the cleaners? How many times do we lose our peace in the little moments that become huge craters that sever our connection? How often do we not even recall what divided us but we are stuck in a dark place and cannot seem to find our way back?

When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they were given a world of blessing. In one moment they lost it all. Hiding under the trees, God called out one word “Ayekah? Where are you?”

Didn’t God know where Adam and Eve were?

Of course He did. “Ayekah” can also be read as “Aicha”, meaning “How?” How did you get to this place? In the morning you were with the angels and now you are cowering on the ground! How did this happen to you? “Ayekah – now look where you are!”

God is giving every couple the wisdom to pick ourselves up and find our way back to a place of peace. Don’t just blindly keep going, treading in waters of disagreement and bickering. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a mindless black hole where you are never able to communicate and overcome challenges together.

In case you’re wondering, what did I do about the shirt?

I said to my husband, “Here we are in New York City. How hard is it for us to find a white shirt?”

We ran together and even though we were rushed and pressured, we saved the moment.

The shirt has since become frayed and worn. But to me it stands proudly with a message that speaks to us all: “For this? For this you lose your Shalom Bayit?”

On this Tu B’Av, a day of harmony, let us hold on to those we love and build homes filled with peace and joy.