In this parashah, the laws of divorce begin with the phrase, "When a man takes a wife and engages in marital relations with her…" (Deut. 24:1) The laws of betrothal and marriage are derived from this passage. In Jewish law, "betrothal" (kidushin) is not simple engagement, but rather a legally binding relationship that establishes a quasi-marital bond between the betrothed couple. The marital bond is not fully actualized until "marriage" (nesu’in), which occurs when the couple first engages in marital relations.

Know that when a man betroths a woman, a certain spirit from the spirit of the husband is drawn down upon her. [This spirit] is an encompassing light.

There are two types of "lights," or spiritual energies. Encompassing light does not enter into the operative consciousness of the entity it encompasses. Rather, it serves as a source of inspiration or protection. In contrast, "inner" light informs the consciousness of the entity it enters and remakes its possessor’s world-view, changing the way the possessor lives his or her life.

Once the encompassing light has been drawn down upon her from his spirit, he can then engage in full marital relations with her. This imparts to her an additional level of spirit from him, an inner light. The inner spirit cannot enter her until the encompassing spirit of this same [inner] spirit enters her first

"Full" marital relations involve the union of the souls of the couple, not just their bodies. By the same token, full union is not possible without bodily union, either. But the ideal is that these two types of union enhance each other. Therefore, no matter how close the couple become by being betrothed, their full spiritual union is not possible until their marriage is consummated.

Betrothal must therefore precede [marriage], for the inner spirit cannot enter her until the encompassing spirit of this same [inner] spirit enters her first.

Note the use of the verb "to enter" for the encompassing spirit as well as for the inner spirit. This is because the "encompassing" spirit does not physically surround the entity to which it has been given, but metaphorically. It is present within the entity as is the inner spirit, but since it does not inform its consciousness, it is always "at a distance."

For the continuation, please see Light Which Transforms - Part 2.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Ta’amei HaMitzvot and Shaar HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.