Marry God on Shavuot by Rabbi Allen Maller
For everyone who would love to have a personal experience of God's presence-Shekhinah or God's glory-Kavod, and is or was in a loving relationship, Shavuot (especially a Shavuot that falls on Sunday) is the best day to do it, because Shavuot is the anniversary of the marriage of God and Israel. On Shavuot, God the groom, is present to all lovers/Israel with seven times the potency of our weekly Shabbat. By focusing on your loving relationship with your spouse, you can feel the love of the One who enables you to appreciate and enjoy the blessing of your love. What follows is the why and how of it.
Shavuot is so special because it has evolved to include in its center all of the Jewish big three: God, Torah and Israel. In Biblical times the harvest of the first fruits of the Land of Israel by the People of Israel (Exodus 23:16 & 34:22), and their counting seven weeks and then offering the first fruits to God at the Temple (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) was central to the nation. In rabbinic times, after the destruction of the Temple, the giving of the Torah at Sinai on this day became central for the rabbis and the Jewish people. Then Kabbalists and Hassidim brought encountering God's love in a personal experience into the center of Shavuot. They taught that only on this day does the hidden Ayn Sof descend through ten Divine dimensions of Sefirot into our mundane reality, just as it occurred on the original day of Shavuot at Sinai. Thus, each year this day offers the best opportunity for you to love and be loved by the Holy One of Israel; for this day is the anniversary of the marriage of God and Israel that first occurred at Sinai.
Shavuot is both a non temporal experience like Shabbat, and a historical event like Passover, because Shavuot, the holy day that commemorates the revelation of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, is the only Jewish holy day where the Torah does not designate an exact date. Jews are simply told that starting with Passover, we should count each day for seven weeks and then the fiftieth day is Shavuot. But there are two ways to count. If you count seven weeks (Shavuot) and a day after the first day of Passover, the fiftieth day (Sivan 6) is Shavuot according to the Pharisees. If you count for seven Shabbatot and a day from the Shabbat that falls during during the week of Passover, the fiftieth day (Sunday) is Shavuot, according to the Sadducees. For the Sadducees, who take the word Shabbat that appears in the Leviticus 25:11&15 verses literally, Shavuot always falls on the same day of the week (like Shabbat) but not the same calendar date; for the Pharisees, who take Shabbat to mean the first day of Passover, Shavuot always falls on the same calendar date (like all the other holy days) but not the same day of the week.
Why is Shavuot the only annual holy day where the calendar date is not fixed by the Torah? Because Shavuot is both a specific event marking the covenant made between God and the nation of Israel; and a experiential process like falling in love or becoming wise, which rarely occur at a specific time or place. Their is a difference between celebrating a birthday and celebrating a life. A wedding ceremony is an important day that focuses attention on the much longer and complex process of forming and maintaining a loving relationship. When Shavuot falls on Sunday, both Pharisee and Sadducee views are united, and both Shekhinah and Kavod are available. Shavuot can become Shabbat sevenfold.
The best way to begin connecting to God's enhanced presence on Shavuot, is to focus on your feelings of love for your beloved. Focus on two or three of the gifts your beloved bestows on you. The many times your beloved was there for you. The different ways your beloved added to your life. Then begin to look at the ways you were able to grow in your own love in reaction to your beloved's presence and love. Your feelings of how fortunate you are. The new insights you have learned, and the wisdom and maturity you have gained, through this life of loving and giving. Feelings of gratitude and trust.
Give yourself at least a half an hour of quiet to do this. Then start to think about similar experiences and feelings you have had over the years, in the larger context of your life in general. Things taken for granted that you should be grateful for. Worries about things that never did occur. Blessings you received that you really did not earn or even expect. Open your mind to the wonders in your life; and the awareness that a loving presence may have been there for you and your beloved. When you feel it, even just a little bit: Thank God.
If your beloved is open to also doing this contemplative introspection (hitbodedut) you should both do it alone; and then share your discoveries (without embarrassment or self abasement) and if you feel it is right, become spiritually intimate. One way to do this is to follow ancient Kabbalistic forms of spiritual sexuality. These are intended for couples in traditional Jewish marriages, but in our day any fully committed couple desiring to experience Jewish forms of holiness may do them productively. Also, when you see the outcomes of these acts, you may become aware of God's active love.
Most Jews know it is a Mitsvah to make love to your wife on Shabbat. However, very few Jews know that the holy Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, developed several Tikunim- spiritual exercises, to enable spiritually aware Jewish couples to repair fractured hopes and intentions in those around them, to elevate broken spirits both near and far, and to re-energize efforts to make life holy through a couple's own lovemaking at night. These Tikunim are among those referred to as Tikunay Hatzot-mid night spiritual exercises. Exactly how personal private Tikunim are able to effect other people and situations is inexplicable, yet with patience, hope and trust in God, many impossible situations get resolved.
Every Jewish wife partakes of some aspects of Leah and some aspects of Rachel. Like Leah, every woman is potentially very fruitful, both emotionally and physically. Like Rachel, every woman is potentially spellbinding and enthralling. When her husband regards his wife as a gift from God and loves her totally, faithfully and submissively (egolessly), his lovemaking and partnership being more to give her pleasure than for his own pleasure, he realizes and actualizes her blessings and God's blessings. This is especially important when stress makes her weep openly or inside. All forms of Tikun Hatzot stress this.
Sexual activity prior to midnight increases the aspect of Leah. Sexual activity after midnight and in the pre-dawn or early morning hours increases the aspect of Rachel. Sexual intercourse with Leah, better known in Lurianic Kabbalah as the face of Imma the mother goddess, helps to reduce negative actions and situations in family and personal affairs. Sexual intercourse during the second part of the night is with the Rachel aspect, who ascends in the morning as Matronita, the ruling presence of Shekinah. Elevating Matronita helps avoid the worst case public scenarios we fear; and helps increases the number of small but important contributions we make to the improvement of Jewish and world society. One who regards his wife as a gift from God will pray in her intimate presence.
These Tikunim should be done every Shabbat for as Rabbi Judah ben Yakar (C.1200) said, “Our Mitsvah of marital coupling is derived from what the Holy One said to Shabbat, -the community of Israel will be your mate-” Thus Israel sanctifies the Shabbat, and a Jewish husband sanctifies his Jewish wife. If they desire he should also adore his wife at least once or twice during the weekdays. These Tikunim are not magic, but if done faithfully they always have a positive impact over time. A Hassidic mystic, Rabbi Nathan Hanover, adds, “After you perform Tikun Hatzot, prepare yourself and unify the Holy One with Shekinah by making your body, each and every limb, a chariot for Shekinah.”-Thus sexual activity should end with the wife above, feeling she is Shekinah-the ruling Matronita blessing her husband and rising to heaven; with her husband below her feeling that he serves as a mystical Merkavah-chariot (as did the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) elevating her to the heavens. This helps actualize their thoughts and desires and promotes remedies, rectifications, and blessings for those around them and throughout the world. Beginning on Shavuot increases these possibilities sevenfold.
Even if you have difficulty believing in the outcome of these concepts, you can only gain personally by practicing the Mitsvah of spiritual intercourse. In time, the effectiveness of these Tikunim may become apparent. You have nothing to lose but your secular ego. Rabbi Yitzhak Saphrin, a great Hassidic scholar, taught; “The Divine Spirit does not rest on an unmarried man, because Holy Inspiration is derived from one's wife.” If you are not yet ready for this level of inspiration, then remember the Talmudic (Berachot 57b) statement, “Three (experiences) adumbrate heaven: Shabbat, sunshine, and sexual union.' A sunny Shabbat morning with a wife who is God's blessing, is like winning the trifecta.