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Love is a battlefield


First paragraph: If you go out to battle and see a woman fair of form, don’t be a brute. Take her home, let her mourn for 30 days, and only then can she be yours to marry. If after that you tire of her, she is not to be sold, but set free.

Next paragraph: if you have 2 wives, one you adore & one you hate, you are not allowed to favor the son of the adored-one if he is the second-born. You must leave your property to the first-born, even if he is the son of the unloved wife.

These are the beginning commandments of Ki Teitze, the portion marking the week of my stepdaughter’s wedding, and the text from which words of Torah were to be gleaned at the men’s tish/”table”. In more traditional communities, the tish involves a roomful of semi-drunken men catcalling, singing, and otherwise disrupting the nervous groom as he attempts to share his hard-won knowledge of Torah before signing the marriage contract and going before the rabbi. Nica & Joey did something a little different, but in the general spirit — each was surrounded by close family and friends in separate rooms, basking in blessings, advice, and an occasional laugh. Alcohol was not consumed. Catcalling was not encouraged.

Anyway, as the leader of the women’s tish, I did not go anywhere near the Torah text because the gender politics, even if enlightened for their time, make me a tad crazy (as I’ve written about here). Also, I didn’t want to work that hard. My spouse, however, father of the bride, took his traditional role more seriously. I wasn’t there, but I did hear about about the general goings-on. Here I share 2 very sweet pieces of wisdom, paraphrased.

1. We all have 2 wives. Well, this is true (though I don’t know for sure, I suspect the men all nodded knowingly at this, forgetting for a moment that this rule also applies to them). Every one of us in a long-term partnership is actually having multiple relationships — with the lover we love & the lover we don’t love so much. The affectionate spouse. The snarky spouse. The reasonable and patently unreasonable beloved. The person who puts us at the center of the universe & the person who whacks our head off every so often for no good reason. The man or woman we stood under the chuppah for and the Frankenstein we would gladly take to divorce court. This is what makes marriage – straight, gay, legal, or not – so damn interesting.

2. We are the ones who have been captured. This is courtesy of my dear friend Robert. Let’s put aside our testosterone-fueled fantasies of conquest, he advised, and realize that we have been swept off our feet by the person we love. She (or he) has captured our heart, reeled us in, changed us forever. We can pretend that we’re in control, but we ain’t. We need to give up that ridiculous illusion.

Many of us love weddings because they remind us of the expansiveness of love, the fairy tale of infinite proportions. But as Pat Benatar sang, love is also most definitely a battlefield. None of us remains unchanged or unscathed by it. We get knocked about and upside the head. And if we’re lucky, we spend a lifetime going back for more.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bruce Solomon permalink
    09/08/2011 1:05 pm


    • sue swartz permalink*
      09/08/2011 2:15 pm

      Today I’m the spouse that kisses you back — mwah!

  2. Dan Price permalink
    09/08/2011 2:09 pm

    We may have been swept off our feet, but love is also a choice; a daily choice; a choice without which we lose the beloved spouse.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      09/08/2011 2:18 pm

      On this perhaps we disagree. I don’t believe love is a choice. You feel or you don’t. Our choice is how we behave towards those we love, whether we protect, respect, honor that which is dear to us.

  3. 09/13/2011 3:54 pm

    i love weddings. everyone holds hands, everyone cries, our hearts swell, and we realize all is possible.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      09/13/2011 4:01 pm

      Agreed. Weddings are lovely, filled with possibility. Then there’s what comes afterward. Also filled with possibility, but far more complicated. As I’ve said elsewhere more than once, if we spent as much energy on preparing for marriage as we do on preparing for the wedding, there might be many more successful marriages and less weddings.

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