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Bava Kamma 76



Our Gemara discusses the concept that certain actions that are pending can be considered, in a legal sense, as if already performed.

Rabbi Shimon holds that any blood that is ready to be sprinkled is considered as though it had already been sprinkled, and likewise, any animal that is ready to be redeemed is considered as if it had already been redeemed.

The idea that potential becomes actual is a symbolic spiritual notion. The Shelah (Vavey Ha’amudim 27:2) uses this concept to explain the verse about the waters at the time of creation (Bereishis 1:9):

G-d said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear.” And it was so.

Why does the verse describe the water as a gathering “into one area?” Why not simply say, “The waters shall gather as one?” Shelah says this implies that the waters actually did not fully and completely become one, because in potential, they needed to be ready to have a grand splitting, upending the programming of nature at the Red Sea. The fact that potentially the waters would split so dramatically in the future, baked-in a lack of unity even at the first moments of creation.

Union of water also represents marriage, as seen in the Gemara Sotah (2a): Hashem makes the matches between man and woman, and it is as difficult (or as great a miracle) as the splitting of the Red Sea. Maharal explains this further: It takes equal force to accomplish opposites. Just as the waters of the sea were naturally joined, and it took such a supernatural miracle to separate them, so too a marriage between two people is equally miraculous. People naturally resist giving themselves over fully to another, and therefore the miracle of a marital union takes the same force to combine that which normally is separate.

The Maharal’s idea that the water of the sea is naturally connected, seems to be saying the opposite of the Shalah. The Shalah says the world’s water was never fully connected at creation, because in potential they would ultimately be separated, while Maharal says they had a natural draw to be connected to each other. In truth, there is no contradiction, because water does naturally stay together as Maharal says, and G-d may need to have programmed a certain potentiality for it to separate, in order for that miracle to occur at the Red Sea.

I will add that in another way both are true. Water has an interesting quality that when you separate it into drops, each drop appears self-contained and complete, as if it never was joined. The reverse is also true. If you take two drops of water and join them together, they will look seamless and complete as if they always were together. These two opposite potentialities exist in human relationships and marriage. It is a miracle to get together, but if you do it right, you remain in a powerful way, as you always were meant to be.

Finally, just as the potential for separation remained inside the water from the very beginning, affecting its ability to separate millennia later at the Red Sea, certain marriages have fault lines that hold back achieving full connection. If these fault lines are not addressed, they continue to recur over and over again in different fights that are really the same fight. The potential for separation causes separation – even when there is a moment of connection. Some matters must be dealt with at their root. Yet, when they are properly healed, the connection is so strong, it looks as if it always was this way.


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