Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't let your passion cool off!

In times of old it was customary for one to betroth a woman (eirusin or kiddushin), and then consummate the marriage twelve months later (nisu’in) in order to enable the bride to work in order to pay for her wedding jewelry (today we do both on the same day). Eirusin is not just an agreement to marry, which today would be called an engagement or shidduch; rather, it changes the girl’s status into that of a married woman. Thus, if she has relations with another man during this twelve-month period, she has committed adultery.

Now, when a man betroths a girl, he does so assuming that she is a virgin, unless he is told otherwise. If she was not in fact a virgin at the time of the eirusin, the onus lies on her to reveal this to him. So if, on the “wedding night,” i.e., the night of the nisu’in, when the marriage is consummated, the groom finds that his bride was lacking a hymen, he has reason to think that she may have been unfaithful during the 12-month period. Another possibility is that she lost her virginity involuntarily, by being raped during this period. A third possibility is that she was promiscuous before her betrothal, and foolishly neglected to reveal this to her prospective groom. If she was indeed unfaithful, he must divorce her, and it is forbidden for him to delay doing so.

Thus, the sage Ezra instituted that marriages take place on Wednesday, so that if the groom finds his wife to lack a hymen, he can go immediately the next morning to the Beis Din, which would hear cases in the small cities every Thursday. After hearing his complaint, they would publicly declare that anyone with testimony that points to this woman’s untoward activities during this interval or before should come forward. In this way, her status would be clarified. However, if the nisu’in is held another day, we are concerned that if the groom finds that his wife lacks a hymen, he will lose his zeal to run to the Beis Din to establish whether his wife is innocent or guilty, and he may end up living his whole life in sin, married to a woman who is forbidden to him.

Lesson: When we first learn that something we are doing is wrong, and we need to change, or that something around us is being done wrong, and we need to take appropriate action to change it, we can be filled with fiery passion, righteous zeal, and unappeasable outrage. We will not stand for anything less than a full rectification of the area that is lacking.

But as soon as we procrastinate and delay our response, it becomes more and more difficult to feel that same passion. Because if it had really been so important to us, we would have “seized the day,” and done something about it at the very first opportunity. The more time passes, the more our fervor cools off, and the more we become slowly but surely corrupted to accept the unacceptable, until no end is in sight. Let’s not allow ourselves to fall into this trap.

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