Thought Tools by Rabbi Daniel Lapin: The Husband Always Rings Once

Feb 16th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Relationships
A couple we know was showing my wife and me around their newly built house.  I always feel a little awkward when proud homeowners display their master bedroom.    Because the bedroom is the special place for intimacy and privacy in a marriage, being there makes me feel like I’m trespassing. I don’t want to be in the sanctuary of someone else’s marriage. I usually can’t wait to escape the forced tour and get out to some other part of the house.

However, in this case, I stood in their master bedroom gawking.  I could not believe my eyes.  There was no wall between the master bathroom and the bedroom.  This wasn’t an en suite bathroom, this was an in bedroom bathroom.  No wall, no curtain, no fancy electro-chromic glass (yes, Agatha, that is glass that becomes opaque when you flick a switch turning off an electric current). No door, no nothing.  No privacy.  I gulped and fled.  Too much information.  TMI, as my kids say.

The public library was my next destination.  I perused some architectural and home design magazines.  It didn’t take long for me to discover that there was indeed an entire avant-garde movement for open plan bathroom bedrooms.  One particularly lurid example showed photos of a Hollywood couple (obviously) who placed the porcelain privy, tub, and sinks on a circular raised platform in the middle of their bedroom. “We have a very close marriage,” they smirked to the journalist.  I’ll say.  But I fear the duration of that marriage might be inversely proportional to its privacy quotient.

Getting married does not mean each spouse forfeiting all privacy.  Maintaining mystery and protecting privacy is vital to a durable and happy marriage.  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that no matter how close the relationship, boundaries still exist.  For instance, if their wives are home, husbands should announce their arrival by knocking or ringing the doorbell.  This little courtesy is a gesture of respect to wives and reminds husbands to give their wives necessary space.

Consider this section of Scripture describing the special vestments and garments made for Aaron, the high priest.

You shall make on the hem (of the robe) pomegranates

of turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool on its hem all around

and gold bells between them all around.

(Exodus 28:33)

It must be on Aaron in order to minister,

its sound shall be heard

when he enters the sanctuary before God…

(Exodus 28:35)

Now wait a moment. Only Aaron is to enter God’s holy sanctuary, so who needs to hear the sounds of the gold bells tinkling? Ancient Jewish wisdom’s explanation is that they are for God to hear.  Aaron needs some method of announcing himself so as not to walk in unexpectedly, and the sanctuary was not equipped with a doorbell.

Does this make sense? God would know what Aaron was doing and when he was entering.

Like so many other details in Scripture, the idea here isn’t to give dressmaking design minutiae; it is a message to human beings for all time.  If Aaron is forbidden from walking in unannounced upon an all-knowing God, how much more should all of us avoid marching in unannounced upon a human being?  It is for this reason that knocking on a door before entering has always been standard procedure in the western, Bible-based cultures although it was unknown in many other early cultures around the world.

New military recruits are denied privacy precisely to diminish the individual personalities and weld them all into a single unit.  A marriage is not a military unit made up of people who have willingly renounced their individuality.  A marriage is a holy unit made up of precious individualism and separate but complimentary identities.

Knowing when togetherness results in the unity of a couple and when privacy and individuality are necessary are among the many crucial marriage sculpting techniques that the Bible reveals.  I explore more ideas in my audio CD program Madam I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. I invite you to save money this week while putting yourself or someone you love on the path towards a more fulfilling marriage.

Thought Tools

by Rabbi Daniel Lapin