Updated: Jul 15, 2022
Which relationship is stronger? The one that remains steady and firm, unchallenged and consistent? Or the one that has been tested, brought to the brink of destruction and reborn from the ashes?
This Shabbat is the 17th of Tammuz, a day of fasting and mourning (observed on Sunday this year). The earliest event that occurred on this date was the breaking of the tablets by Moses upon his descent from heaven. Greeted by the sight of the Jewish people dancing, bringing sacrifices and worshiping the golden calf, caused him to drop the tablets to the ground, where they shattered to pieces.
A mere 40 days after entering into an eternal bond with G-d at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people severely ruptured this covenant by turning to idol worship. The second of the 10 commandments that had been the "marriage contract" between G-d and the Jewish people had been violated. Seeing this, G-d vowed to destroy the entire Jewish people and dissolve the relationship. In the aftermath of the golden calf, Moshe pleads with G-d not to destroy our nation, ultimately prevailing and obtaining forgiveness on Yom Kippur.
And this is how the bond between a Jewish soul and G-d took on a new, eternal status. The original one was bound by terms and conditions, the new one unbreakable. Although the 17th of Tammuz is a day of sadness, it also highlights that no matter how we have showed up in our relationship with G-d, it is an essential part of us, always there and ready for repair.
In the relationship with our spouse, partner or friend, there is no knowing if it will survive the challenges that threaten the bond between two people. While some may dissolve, a relationship that is reborn after being on the brink of extinction, will be stronger and grow deeper roots that will weather the most powerful of storms.
For a Jew, even the mightiest of storms cannot extinguish the soul flame that burns inside and the corresponding love and warmth that G-d has for us.
One of my favorite teachers, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, expressed it beautifully:
"When does a relationship become real? Once it has broken down.
As long as each fulfills the other’s expectations, there is no relationship, only a contract and its transactions. Once trust is breached, a new depth must enter: The depth of the human being.
If there is truly a relationship—if it is the person inside that matters—then there is a search for forgiveness, for return, and for healing.
So it was that within forty days of entering into a contract with the One Above, the children of Israel broke the deal. And the soul below and the One Above discovered they could not part from one another."
P.s. Seeing the new images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope this week was emotional and awe inspiring. I felt the awesomeness of the universe that we are just beginning to scrape the surface of. I decided to use it for this piece since it opens our eyes to the brilliance of the unseen. The soul and spiritual worlds are unseen but are certainly infinitely more beautiful and awe inspiring.