I pinch off a piece of dough, separating that which is a sacrifice, holy, from that which is allowed to me. Likewise, my kitchen is carefully arranged to keep meat and dairy separate. A barrier separates men from women in the Synagogue. Judaism is a religion of carefully, intentionally categorizing and separating things.
Wool from linen.
Meat from milk.
Men from women.
We live in a world where boundaries are blurred and lines crossed, differences downplayed. Judaism steadfastly challenges this, creating fences to separate this from that, defining what this is versus what that is. Order upon chaos.
And so it is that for about half of a month, my beloved and I are separate. While I don’t get go to the mikvah at the end, we observe the laws that Orthodox Jews do as practice. To me, it’s more challenging than koshering my kitchen or following the laws of Shabbat. Even more challenging is that we don’t *completely* separate during this time. It would almost be easier if the men went off somewhere, to contemplate life on a mountaintop. Instead, we’re encouraged to maintain a connection…just without touch.
How do you comfort someone who has had a bad day if a hug is off the table? How do you express devotion if you can’t reach for a hand? These are things that we have to wrestle with. How do you even sleep well without the steady sound of your other half’s breathing?
I think that’s why it’s even more crucial that we practice these laws than most, because those answers take time to work out. Finding words and actions that can soothe and calm and steady without touch isn’t always easy.
Then there is the time when we’re reunited and sometimes, it’s actually hard to overcome the barriers within ourselves that we’ve build up. When you awkwardly remember that now you can hug…when touch becomes an afterthought.
Throughout the Torah, G-d himself separates and reunites with the Jewish people, just as they constantly separate from the land of Israel and are reunited. This back and forth takes time to learn to do gracefully.
At least we often seem blessed with an abundance of time to practice.