Circle and squares are found in every aspect of
life – both on earth and in the cosmos, in our psyches, our physics and our
metaphysics. The purpose of existence is to fuse the two; to join both structure
(the linear square) and beyond structure (the circle), the finite and the
infinite.Can a circle marry a square?
Two questions remained lingering: How is it possible
to synthesize two opposites – the square and the circle? And perhaps even more
pertinent: Can a circle marry a square?
These questions will be answered by first gaining a
better understanding of the circle/square dynamic. One place where circles play
a vital role is in a Jewish wedding ceremony. Two circles mark the ceremony: The
Chupah (canopy), which encircles and encompasses both bride and groom in
its all-surrounding embrace. And the spherical wedding ring placed on the
bride’s index finger. [In some Chasidic circles, the wedding band
is round on one side and square on the other!—Ed]
According to Torah law marriage entails two distinct
stages: The first stage, called kidushin or eirusin, is the
engagement and betrothal, when a couple commits to each other, establishing a
formal and exclusive connection. They have sanctified their union and bound
themselves to each other. However, the couple is still two distinct individuals.
The second stage, nisuin, marriage, is when they actually become one
entity – they become elevated (nisuin from the word elevated) to a higher
state of being; instead of two they are now one.
Stage one is traditionally achieved through the
wedding ring. Stage two is accomplished through the chupah, encircling
both bride and groom.
The wedding ring is a legal commitment, represented by
a monetary exchange. But it still is only a ring on a finger; a small gesture,
not an all encompassing commitment. The chupah, on the other hand, covers
and surrounds bride and groom completely – embracing their entire bodies and
The third Chabad Rebbe, known as the Tzemech Tzedek,
wonders about the difference between these two circles marking a wedding
ceremony: In mystical terminology the circles represent the level of makif,
a transcendent energy that surrounds, but does not fully enter. Since both the
wedding band and the chupah are circular, what, asks the Tzemech Tzedek,
distinguishes between them? (Ohr HaTorah Berocho p. 1845)The first initial circle proceeds to evolve into a "line"...
He explains the difference with the imagery of the
square and the circle. Though in the general cosmic structure the circle
precedes the square, the energy first surrounds then permeates, yet when we
break it down into finer detail, the "circle-square" structure repeats itself
continuously throughout the process. The first initial circle proceeds to evolve
into a "line" (yoshor), which in turn conceives a new "circle," followed
by another square and circle, ad infinitum.
By way of example, think of the
transmission process from teacher to student. Initially the ideas are "over the
student’s head," surrounding but not yet fully entering his grasp. Then as the
student acclimates himself to the ideas, he assimilates, integrates and
internalizes them, the circle becomes, in effect, a square, entering the "box"
of the students mind. But these same ideas (which have been internalized in a
square for the advanced student) remain over the head of a less advanced
student. And so it goes, level after level, in which the "square" (internalized)
energy on a higher level, remains a removed "circle," hovering above the level
below. "The internal (penimiyiut) of a higher level becomes the
transcendent (makif) of the lower level."
We thus have two types of circles: A circle that
precedes and is higher than a square. And a circle that is lower and follows a
square. Visualize a large circle, which contains a square within it, stretched
to the edges of the circumference, and then a smaller circle inside the square,
and another smaller square inside the circle. Keep going as far as you imagine.
Like reflecting mirrors you’ll have a certain picture of the inner workings of
existence and of our beings.
Using this imagery, the Tzemech Tzedek explains the
difference between the two stages in marriage: The first circle is a "relative
circle" – it is only a circle compared to the levels beneath it. This is the
circle of the wedding band. The circle of the chupah is an "absolute
circle" – one that totally encompasses and equalizes all those that stand under
the chupah, i.e. everything inside the circle.
What is the psychological and personal application of
this concept? Why do we need these two stages and what is the difference between
These two stages – two circles and the box in between
– capture the two components necessary in a healthy and enduring relationship:Love is a deceptively simple word.
Love is a deceptively simple word. What the elaborate
wedding process teaches us is the inner engineering of love. By dissecting it we
can make it work better, identify the areas that need reinforcement, and those
that may be hurt and need healing.
Love actually consists of two overriding dimensions:
1) Closeness and intimacy – internalization of the
as well as requiring:
2) a dimension of mystery and awe – a surrounding type
of aura of your partner that remains beyond you.
Eliminate (or compromise) one
of these two dimensions and the relationship will wither (we’re not talking
about a relationship of convenience, but a one of passion and life).
A relationship requires both the circle and the square
(line) – the transcendent energy and the internal one.
Breaking it further down, the circle itself divides
into two dimensions: If a relationship consisted only of the two elements,
closeness and awe, the two would possibly never converge. Ultimately, the goal
in a full relationship is the unification not just of the two people but also of
their "circular" and "square-like" dimensions. And this is achieved by the
so-called "relative circle. From one (the higher) perspective the "relative
circle" is actually a square, but from another (the lower) perspective it is a
"circle." In psychological terms: You sense mystery in your beloved, but in time
you gain entry and can somewhat internalize it and grow in the process, only to
discover, like the shedding petals of a flower, new and hitherto deeper
mysteries lying within.
The wedding ring serves this role, to remind you of
the ungraspable "circle" in your bride, but also to tell you that with devotion
you can access its power. The chupah serves the role of reminding you
that there are always new mysteries, and that ultimately there is a dimension
that transcends both of you.
We see from this that the concept of marrying "circle"
and "square" is not only possible but actually a necessary component in every
The question however remains: How? How is it possible
to unite these two opposites?
This brings us back to the chupah. Its
transcendent power, which equalizes everything inside its "circle," elicits a
sense of utter bittul – a nullification and suspension of self and
Bittul is the ultimate secret to enduring success
and to all lasting relationships.
Bittul is the ultimate secret to enduring success
and to all lasting relationships. When the two people in a relationship both
have bittul, and are driven not merely by personal gain and "what is in
it for me?" mentality, but they both share and surrender to a vision that is
beyond them both, to build a home and family, to generate an energy in this
world that transcends their immediate needs – this opens them up to receive the
full blessing and benefit that comes showering down from the "great circle,"
which transcends all ups and downs and all gradations, changes and vicissitudes
When a new couple stands under the chupah they
are in effect declaring exactly that: We submit to the ultimate mystery that
hovers above us like the canopy over our heads.
Yet, love cannot remain a hovering circle. It must
also enter their beings and affect their lives. When the bride and groom look at
the ring on her finger, it reminds them of the "circle" entering life, affecting
one finger (a line), and traveling onward. Slowly, one step at a time, the
circle energy permeates, only to reveal another circle. And so it goes in a
healthy relationship: Two people on one journey – a perpetual journey, that
brings them close as "one flesh," while also exposing them to the mysteries
With this bittul – one that transcends the very
difference between the infinite "circle" and the defined "square" – a circle and
a square can come together. When each partner feels that "it’s not all about me"
and my personality, but we have a mission to accomplish together, then their
differences become their assets: complementary forces driven to achieve a higher
goal. At the same time, the love becomes internalized, infusing them with warmth
and nurturing, nourishing their souls and bodies to thrive and grow.
So for all you lovebirds, remember the secret to
enduring and healthy relationships: Bittul. Go beyond yourself and you
will find true and everlasting love. If you are a circle learn and appreciate
the virtues of the square. If you are a square learn and appreciate the virtues
of the circle. Each has something to give. Each has something to learn. Each is
an equal part of a mysterious puzzle that is conceived in the cosmos but plays
itself out on earth.
In such a world, with such an attitude, a circle and a
square can indeed marry and enjoy a happy life together. Living happily ever
Yes, you have been sent here. Not to remain sheltered
in the circular world of spirit. But even as you fulfill your mission, always
retain your desire to break out, your drive to get out of the "box" and rise
Enter the "square," but remain a circle. With
dedication and bittul, you can join the two together.