The ultimate destination for the Jewish people after leaving Egypt was the Land of Israel. At the burning bush, G-d promised to Moshe (Moses), “I come to take [the Jewish nation] from the hand of Egypt… to a land that is good and spacious, to a land that flows with milk and honey.. [Ex. 3:8]” When the actual Exodus occurred, however, they were first brought to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and all the Commandments of the Torah. If they were headed to Israel, why didn’t G-d take them there first, and wait until they arrived there to give them His Torah?
At every Jewish wedding there’s a very special part of the ceremony that gets very little attention. Many are not even aware of it, as it does not occur in front of the assembled guests at the pre-wedding receptions for chosson and kallah (bride and groom) or at the Chuppah (wedding canopy) where the main ceremony takes place, nor at the reception that follows.
It is, nonetheless, one of the most essential stages of the wedding. After the Chuppah, the new couple proceeds to a private room for “Yichud – seclusion.” No one else is allowed into the room with the bride and groom, and two people are given the honor of standing guard outside the locked doors to ensure they have complete privacy.
What is the purpose of the Yichud? After the wedding they will live as every other new husband and wife with many years of privacy and special moments together. Why must this be done at the wedding itself?
Every home, especially a new one, comes with a myriad of responsibilities. The utility bills, furnishings, meals and linens, all occupy the time and attention of every homeowner. A newly married couple will quickly be thrust into the business of managing a home, with barely a moment to just spend time together devoted only to one another. For this reason, it is essential that the couple spend a few moments together, at the wedding hall as their families and guests wait, to finalize their marriage with nothing between them but themselves.
The Talmud understands King Solomon’s metaphor of “Wearing the crown that his mother gave him the day of his wedding” in Song of Songs (4:11) as a reference to the giving of the Torah at Sinai. G-d was the groom, as it were, and His bride was the Jewish people. The Ten Commandments were the marriage document (the Kesubah), representing the principles of all 613 Commandments of the Torah. Once they entered the Land of Israel, all the responsibilities of settling the new land — the conquest, the distribution of land, farming and building — would come upon the Jewish nation at once. So had we only received the Torah at that time, the loving Covenant that our commitment to the Torah created between us and G-d would not have had the required time to take hold. For this reason, we first met G-d in the secluded desert at Sinai, to consecrate our precious bond so that the relationship would hold firm as we later entered the Promised Land.
Shavuos is the time to renew our wedding vows. This holiday, which we will celebrate this Thursday night through Shabbos, has only one Mitzvah – celebrating our covenant of study and observance of G-d’s Torah. Upon renewing your covenant this Shavuos, I wish all of you, many years of love and happiness together! (Sichos of Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt”l)