Sustaining Relationships

A bit of Torah, which I learned from Cantor Lorel Zar-Kessler this past week and shared in my d’var Torah this morning.  It is based on the following passage:

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not be freed as male slaves are. If she proves to be displeasing to her master, who designated her for himself, he must let her be redeemed; he shall not have the right to sell her to outsiders, since he broke faith with her. And if he designated her for his son, he shall deal with her as is the practice with free maidens. If he marries another, he must not withhold from this one her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. If he fails her in these three ways, she shall go free, without payment.”(Exodus 21.7–11 JPS)

שְׁאֵרָהּ כְּסוּתָהּ וְעֹנָתָהּ

Three things are obligated to to the woman sold into servitude:  Food, clothing, and ona, which might mean ointment, but which has been understood by most commentaries as (sexual) pleasure.

We can read each of these three things as metaphorical instructions for what we need to do within our marital or other relationships to sustain them.  Consider the three questions below.  I’ve suggested answers for each of them, but you might find your own ways to express the concepts of food, clothing, and pleasure in your relationships.

In our relationships, what do we give/receive that is nourishing?  We give:

  • Simple attention.
  • Loyalty. The assurance that the other is a priority in our life.
  • Support and encouraging the other’s growth as a human being with unique talents.

… how do we give protection, how do we need to be protected? We provide the clothing of physical and emotional support:

  • We can be a provider in a financial sense.
  • We give support when our partner fails, we give a hug, an encouraging word.
  • We can also honor accomplishments, affirm a sense of self-worth.

… what makes the relationship pleasurable and fun?

  • How do we laugh together?
  • How do we create moments in which we enjoy each others company?

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