Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Kavvanah, 7/12/2011 - Spiritual Betrothal

While applying tefillin this morning prior to Shaharit (the morning service), I recited the customary verses from the prophet Hosea (2:21-22):

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי, לְעוֹלָם; וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט, וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים. וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי, בֶּאֱמוּנָה; וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת-יְהוָה
Ve'erastikh li le'olam
Ve'erastikh li betzedeq uvmishpat, uvhesed uvrahamim
Ve'erastikh li be'emunah, veyada'at et Adonai

I betroth you to Me forever
I betroth you to Me with righteousness and justice, with love and compassion
I betroth you to Me with faithfulness; then you shall be at one with Adonai

In biblical context, Hosea's imagery reflects his metaphorical marriage to an unfaithful wife, and the pair together symbolize the fraught relationship between God and the people Israel. When binding tefillin to one's arm on weekday mornings, these verses are recited as the strap is wrapped three times around the middle finger of the weak arm; the action suggests marriage, and so do the words.

I have never heard these verses recited at a wedding, although I think that they would work well. Binding tefillin is, however, just as much about betrothal - of course to God, but as well to one another as a community. Those of us who gather early in the morning to daven are bound together in qedushah / holiness and camaraderie.

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