A Lesson For the Children – Anybody who did not attend the wedding of Yosef and Rachel has absolutely no idea what true happiness is. The new couple, with their friends and family, reached the level of the heavens in their song and dance. They were all inspired by the spirit of the great rabbis, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Akiva, and their colleagues, who continued to plant the hope in the hearts of all the people that one day the Roman enemy would leave, the nation of Yisrael would be redeemed, and everything would return to its proper place.
Rachel hoped very much to become pregnant. But G-d did not want this to happen. Days passed, and then weeks, even one month after another, leading to a full year, but they had no sign that they could expect a baby. Yosef began to worry. Could it be that they would remain barren? Wouldn’t they ever have the privilege of hugging their own offspring? The two of them poured their hearts out in many prayers, and they turned to many physicians. But nothing happened. Years went by, and the two of them grew older. As time went on, their love for each other grew and grew, but they still did not have any children.
Ten years went by. The hopes had dimmed, and they were overtaken by despair. “Who knows,” they said to each other. “Could it be that we were not really meant for each other? Perhaps if we married other people we might be helped. We have been taught by our sages that if one is married to a woman for ten years without children, they must get a divorce and marry other people.”
They were greatly upset at the very thought of having to separate. They loved each other so much, and they really did not want to separate, but their desire for a son increased, and they decided to take this drastic step. Unhappy and upset, they went to their mentor, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and told him that they wanted a divorce.
“Okay,” Rabbi Shimon replied, “But you cannot have a divorce, just like that! I can still remember the great happiness at your wedding. If you became attached to each other out of such joy, you must also separate with happiness! Organize a banquet, and there I will perform the ceremony.”
The two were very surprised, but they decided to fulfill the command that their rabbi had given them. They prepared a huge banquet, invited musicians and friends, and organized a “divorce celebration.” The man said to his wife, “Before we are separated permanently, you can take from this house whatever it is you most love. At least you will have something by which to remember our wonderful years together.”
The strange happiness grew at the party. The woman gave her husband many glasses of wine, seemingly in order to increase his joy. It did not take long for him to fall into a deep sleep. And the woman commanded several very strong men: “Take my husband’s bed and move it to my father’s house.”
In the morning, the husband woke up, sober, and he found himself in the home of his father-in-law and mother-in-law. “What is going on?” he asked, confused. “Shouldn’t I be in my own home? What about our divorce? Where is everybody?” And his wife answered, gently: “Take it easy. I am the one who asked to bring you here. You said that I could take whatever I most loved from the house. What do I love any more than you, my precious husband? Can I ever give you up?”
The couple returned to Rabbi Shimon, and they said: “We cannot get a divorce, Rabbi, it is too difficult for us to separate.” And Rabbi Shimon prayed for them with even greater emotion. This time he knew that his prayer would be answered. “Go home, my precious couple, and with G-d’s help you will have a son.”
That year, the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
(Source: Based on the Midrash, Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:31). Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.