Stages of a Relationship

Whilst defined stages of a relationship seem to be inconsistent with the idealised spontaneity, it will become clear from this lesson, that they are essential in ensuring success.

By focussing on implicit knowledge built into the Pesach (Passover) experience, we discover some fundamental insights into relationship development and maintenance.

Stages of a relationship - joining 2 pieces of a puzzle

Stages of a relationship in the Pesach Haggadah

When studying the three chagim (festivals,) Pesach (Passover,) Shavuos and Sukkos, one can find underlying themes behind each which teach a great deal about the meaning and observance of that chag.

Pesach is all about the creation of the Jewish People through the exodus from Egypt. As such, it is a social festival and all the numerous practices of the chag allude to this.

The Torah says in regards to Pesach (Shmos 13:8) vehigadeta levinecha (and you will tell it to your child.) The concept of the seder (order of the night’s activities and festive meal) and the Korban Pesach (Pesach offering) being eaten only in an allotted chabura (group) are about social gathering and interaction for the sake of the chag. 

The Torah and Chazal (Chachamim zichroinam livracha – sages of blessed memory) therefore built into Pesach a slew of social aspects.

By following the seder through the Haggadah (festival manual,) we can discover at least twenty three essential stages of a relationship.

Stages of a Relationship as found in the Haggada

Pesach Observance

Social Observance

Biur chometz (destroying leaven)

Chometz represents arrogance (all puffed up). The first step to a relationship is to rid oneself of arrogance. The more arrogance, the more difficult to accommodate the other.

Seder (order of the night)

A successful relationship requires a common goal and ideally a common path to get there

15 steps of the seder

True kindness is a combination of judgement and mercy (15 is the numerical equivalent of Hashem’s (God’s) two letter name consisting of yud and heh which respectively represent judgement and mercy.) For example if one is too judgemental, one isolates the other; if one is too merciful one could burn oneself out.

Kadesh Urechatz…15 steps

A relationship should progress (not stagnate) 

Kiddush (sanctification of the day)

Sanctify the relationship (dedicated to higher goals and objectives – eg raising a family with values)

Brachos (blessings) of the seder

Although we normally have a concept of berov am hadras melech (with more people (unified) the King is glorified,) and therefore one person covers all the others in brachos such as kiddush (according to minhagey - traditions of) Ashkenaz, the seder practices are done by each individual themselves – in a relationship, each party must be allowed the respect of having their own say. 

Arbaah Kosos (4 cups - of wine)

Wine in appropriate amounts enhances social connection

Karpas (vegetable dipped in salt water to inspire children to ask questions)

Inspiring the other to ask about you encourages a two-way relationship

Maggid – Story of the Haggada

Conversation is essential to building a relationship – talk and listen 

Yachatz – break middle matzoh

See oneself as incomplete without the other

Ha lachma anya – kol ditzrich – This is the bread of poverty… whoever needs …

Recognise the other

Recognise the needs of the other

Endeavour to accommodate the other’s needs

Mah Nishtana (children ask how this night differs from others)

Being curious about the other leads to real knowledge of them which is what a relationship is about

Yehi Sheamda (Let it stand…) affirmation that many have stood to destroy us and Hashem has saved us from their hands

Recalling mutual overcoming of past difficulties strengthens the trust and faith in each other. 

Arbaah Banim – 4 sons

Deal with the other based on who they are not on who you want them to be


Thanks for everything is thanks for nothing – true gratitude requires detail

Rabban Gamliel (outlines three mandatory elements to be said at the seder)

Prioritise and communicate important issues in the relationship with appropriate weight according to importance

Matzah (unleavened bread)

Humility (same ingredients as bread without the leaven to puff it up) – positive expression of lack of arrogance

Matzah (essence of bread)

Truthfulness is the basis on which trust is built

Pesach (Passover offering,) Matzah, Maror (bitter herbs)

Reliving past experience both positive and negative allows for proper reflection on and gratitude for what one has in the present and thus joy in the relationship

Pesach experience

Look for the positive outcomes of negative experiences ( less focus on the blame of the other)

Shulchan Orech – set table

Eating together is a shared experience of an essential activity – shared pleasure. Ideally should be done with respect and healthy formality

Tzafun – Afikoman (literally, hidden,) (last food of the seder)

At first not all should be revealed to build the relationship – ultimately (in the greatest relationships) nothing need be hidden

Nirtzah – assumption that Hashem is pleased with our avoidah (service,) because we have done according to His will

The ultimate level of a relationship is -  Your will is my will. This is beautifully illustrated by a famous story of Rav Arye Levin (ZTK"L - zecher tzaddik vekadosh livracha - the memory of the holy for blessing) going with his wife to the doctor and saying: my wife's foot hurts us.

Based on the above stages of a relationship, this section focusses on practical application in developing and maintaining relationships:

  • Husband And Wife Relationship - The husband and wife relationship in the Torah is completely different to any other. Two strangers come together and through marriage, create the closest familial relationship to the point where they become one. How does this work?

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