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"Family Strong!"

03/06/2019 05:00:18 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

With this week's parashah, Parashat Pekudei, we end the annual reading of Sefer Shemot (the Book of Exodus).  It is interesting to note that there is a link between the first pasuk (verse) of Sefer Shemot and the last pasuk.  The first pasuk reads as follows: "And these are the names of the Children of Yisrael who came to Egypt with Yaakov; each man and his household came." (Shemot 1:1)  The last pasuk reads this way: "For the cloud of HaShem would be on the Tabernacle by day, and fire would be on it by night, before the eyes of all the House of Yisrael throughout their journeys." (Shemot 40:38)  It is interesting to note that the term "Children of Yisrael" is used nearly 400 times throughout the Torah while the term "House of Yisrael" is used less than ten times.  While Sefer Bereishit (the Book of Genesis) can be viewed as the book of the beginning of the world, Sefer Shemot can be viewed as the beginning of the People Yisrael.  It is in Sefer Shemot that we become a nation.  The people Yisrael, the Jewish nation, is not a conglomeration of millions and millions of people; it is a nation composed of families.  And it is the bayit (the household) that makes us the Jewish nation.  Just how important is the family, the household, in Jewish history?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that the halakhah (the Jewish Law) that exempts a chatan (a groom) from going out to battle and from fulfilling all other communal obligations during the shanah rishonah (the first year of marriage) seems to fly in the face of the "normal" halakhot of the Torah.  In general, when there is a conflict between a mitzvah d'rabbim (an obligation placed on the public) and a mitzvah d'yachid (an obligation placed upon an individual), the mitzvah d'rabbim takes precedence over the mitzvah d'yachid.  One can assume, then, that the obligation of the chatan to rejoice with his wife during their first year of marriage should be superceded by the obligation to go to war for the good of the nation.  Why, in this case,  is the chatan exempt?

Rabbi Hirsch answers this question by pointing out how important it is for the chatan and the kallah (the bride) to spend time together building and cementing their relationship.  By doing this, he says, they actually fulfill a mitzvah d'rabbim as each Jewish home contributes to the foundation of the Jewish nation.  Creating and building a Jewish home is indeed a communal obligation, because the People Yisrael can only thrive as a nation when we have strong Jewish families.  In other words, we must be "Family Strong!"  May we always be so!  Shabbat shalom!    


Sun, September 15 2019 15 Elul 5779