We have finally reached one of the dramatic scenes in the entire Bible. Joseph’s brothers had tossed him into a pit, then some passing merchants brought him out and sold him into slavery. When Reuven, the oldest brother retuned to the pit, it was empty. The brothers thought he (Joseph) was dead and didn’t know […]
Then there was an opportune day when he entered the house to do his work-none of the household staff were in the house-that she caught hold of him by his garment and said, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand and fled. (Genesis 39:11-12) This week’s Parsha contains one of the most […]
I read a story of an encounter that took place almost sixty years ago between American Rabbi and a wealthy congregant, who was bemoaning the lack of Judaism in his life. With deep nostalgia, he recalled the blissful days of his childhood in the shtetel (small village in Eastern Europe). There was a lump in his throat […]
Abraham and Sara as well as Isaac and Rebecca had difficulty having children but their grandson/son Jacob was the opposite. In a short period of time, he fathers many children (who ultimately become the Tribes of Israel). When Jacob’s wife Leah had her fourth child, she named him Yehuda (Judah), which means “thanks.” That means […]
And these are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac. (Genesis 25:19) For the past three weeks, the main character in each Parsha has been Abraham. This week, Isaac hits center stage but his appearance is enigmatic. Our first exposure to Isaac’s world is framed by his being the son of Abraham. […]
Abraham had a faithful assistant, Eliezer, who was so competent and trustworthy that he was put in charge of every aspect of Abraham’s household and possessions, and was the only one Abraham could trust to find a spouse for Isaac. Eliezer asks for Divine assistance in this endeavor. And he said, “G-d of my master […]
Question: Who is the oldest person in the Bible to have been circumcised and how old was he? Answer: Abraham was 99 years when he circumcised himself. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he was distressed that no visitors were coming his way. Finally, he noticed three people at the entrance to his […]
Abraham is instructed to leave the comfort of his hometown and go to a place, which has not been revealed to him. So Abram went as G-d had spoken to him and Lot went with him; Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and Lot, his brother’s son, […]
[Disclaimer: The essay below presents a Jewish perspective on the age-old subject of marriage. Although that word has become shrouded in controversy affecting politics, religion, economics, psychology, and sociology, since time immemorial Judaism has addressed this topic. The goal here is to show depth and understanding into some of the ancient wisdom as it relates to marriage-nothing else.]
This past week, Jews around the world completed the yearly cycle of publicly reading the Torah in shul. This week we begin the cycle again, starting with Genesis. The final beings of creation were Adam and Eve.
And man said, “This time, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ‘ishah’ (woman) because this one was taken from ‘ish’ (man).” Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24)
“Therefore” seems out of place. When therefore is used it means “for that reason,” but that would mean that because woman was taken (from a rib of) man, a man should (therefore) cleave to his wife. What connection is there between where a woman comes from and the instruction that a man should cling to her? The verses above are the first reference to the Jewish concept of sexuality and marriage.
The animals of the world are divided into sexes but, as it is related in Genesis, both sexes came at the same time. Neither the male nor female tiger was created first, they sprang forth simultaneously. So too with the elephant, rhino, weasel and all the other species. Each gender of the species was born with no connection to the other gender. As such, they come together to procreate, but not as soulmates. Male and female animals don’t need each other to fulfill their life’s calling; they need each other to procreate and perpetuate the species.
But humans are different. Both men and women are considered lacking when they don’t come together in a committed relationship called marriage. No doubt, some will take offense at that idea (or even the Frank Sinatra classic, “Love and marriage,” which “go together like a horse and carriage”) but it would be disingenuous to say that historically Judaism espoused anything else. Animals can mate and be done with one another but humans long for meaningful relationships built on commitment. I have spoken with countless singles over the years who are either on the career path of their dreams or have already reached it, who say that they long for a committed marriage partner but I have never encountered someone in a committed marriage who longed to be single. Furthermore, I have asked people who have been divorced-sometimes very ugly and painful divorces-if they had it all to do over again, would they have remained single? I can only relate my personal experience, which has been that no one has ever said they wished they had never been married. They say they would have been more careful in choosing a spouse or how they conducted themselves in the marriage, but even though their attempt at marriage failed, they realized how much they learned about themselves and about life. They would not be willing to give up the uniqueness of the husband/wife relationship even though it didn’t have a happy ending. And how about the people who have the good fortune to have found their soulmate and were wise enough to do their part to make sure the love not only remained but also grew stronger? Those people will tell you that this is what brings them their greatest joy.
Now we can understand the significance of “therefore” in Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. When a person understands that a man and woman were originally one body, one mind, one soul, and how this was never the case with animals, (s)he will understand the uniqueness of the relationship humans will have. The only way a person can find his soulmate, is to leave his father and mother. That means, you must leave you family if you want to find your soulmate. In fact, the Torah explicitly forbids incest and perhaps the reason why is so that a person leaves his family to find completion. The idea is that a couple must have different characteristics to one another. If they were from the same family, they might have the same virtues but also the same character defects; the same abundancies but also the same deficiencies. Their union might strengthen their good and bad traits, but they would not complement one another. Therefore, one must leave his house; a couple must come from two different homes if they desire to become one flesh.
This idea was succinctly stated by one of the venerable sages of Jerusalem in the mid-20th century, Rabbi Aryeh Levine. Once, his wife felt pain in her foot. They went together to the doctor, who asked, “How can I help you?” Rav Levine answered, “my wife’s foot is hurting us.” Achieving and they shall become one flesh is no easy task but at least we know what we are aspiring for. As long as we have that in mind that we have the potential to find a soulmate-and our completion.
(Source: The Hirsch Chumash Genesis 2:24)
Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: V’zos HaBracha Rejoice in the Book And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses, the man of G-d, blessed the Children of Israel before his death (Deuteronomy 33:1). Why is Moses called “the man of God” in this verse? The Midrash answers that, “Moses was not called ‘the man of God’ until he spoke […]
One of the most basic foundations of Judaism is expressed in this week’s Parsha. It is the idea that G-d’s judgements are just. The Rock [G-d] — perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice… (32:4) This concept is mentioned in the Jewish mourning process when the mourners are required to recite the verse […]
Yom Kippur: Four steps to real change The High Holidays are ironically a season of holidays many Jews aren’t too high about. “Repentance” sounds antiquated and it is a challenge to relate to the atonement process. A few years ago, I submitted the following article to aish.com and it can still be found on their website. It […]
This week’s Parsha is a continuation of the speech Moses gave before he died. He reiterates the choice G-d has given the Jewish people, a choice that each generation has made ever since. Will we stay true to Judaism or will we get absorbed in the host nation in which we find ourselves? The fact […]
[Note: We no longer can identify who the biological decedents of the ancient Egyptians are and therefore the commandment in this verse below no longer applies. Nonetheless, its underlying lessons are as applicable as ever.] …Do not despise the Egyptian, for you were a stranger in his land.(Deuteronomy 23:8) The Egyptians had enslaved Jews for […]
Do not plant an idolatrous tree – any tree – near G-d’s altar… (Deut. 16:21) Sacrifices occupy an outsize position in the Torah and are easily misunderstood. We reject the notion that these offerings give G-d anything. How could they? A perfect G-d cannot be made more perfect. We cannot “feed” or “sustain” Him. The Hebrew […]
You are children of the Almighty, your G-d. You shall neither cut yourselves nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For you are a holy people to the Almighty, your G-d …(14:1, 2) There is a Torah prohibition to against cutting oneself or tearing out one’s hair when grieving over the loss […]
Do not add to the word which I command you, nor diminish from it, to observe the commandments of the Lord your G-d which I command you. Your eyes have seen what G-d did at Baal Peor…(Deuteronomy 4:2-3) The verse above warns us not to add or subtract mitzvot. From an academic or empirical perspective, this […]
This week’s Torah reading is the beginning of the last of the five books of the Torah and was spoken by Moses during the last five weeks of his life. It begins with his giving rebuke to the nation. We can learn a number of lessons about rebuke by analyzing how carefully he chose his […]
One of the subjects discussed in this week’s Torah portion is the punishment for involuntary manslaughter, which is banishment to a city of refuge. You shall designate cities for yourselves… and a murderer shall flee there one who takes a life unintentionally. (Numbers 35:11) For example, if an axe head slips out of its handle (while chopping) […]
One of the topics in this week’s Parsha is the law concerning inheritance. It is taught because of an incident initiated by five remarkable women, all of whom were daughters of a man named Tzelafchad. This is what they asked Moses: And the daughters of Tzelafchad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the […]
This week’s Torah portion is about Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet hired to destroy the Jewish people. The ancient nations of the world complained to the Almighty that if He would give them a prophet like Moses, they too would be able to lead spiritual lives. G-d responded by granting prophecy to Balaam. Instead of using […]
[Introduction: Where did millions of Jewish men and women get water for themselves and their children (and their flocks) during their 40 year desert sojourn? They were nourished by the miraculous manna, which fell daily, but their water came as a result of another miracle; the well of Miriam. The entire nation was “watered” in […]
The last time a professional sports team from Washington DC won a national championship was 36 years ago when the Redskins won the Super Bowl-but that recently changed when the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup. The arena in Vegas erupted the second after the Caps won. While Alex […]
Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shelach (Numbers 13-15) A Student, a Prostitute, and a Sag We are introduced to the mitzvah of tzitzis at the end of this week’s Parsha. Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations…and when you see it, […]
[Rav Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, known as Sfas Emes,the title of his magnum opus, was one of the most prominent Chassidic masters of the 19th century. Many of his writings focus on helping the downtrodden and persecuted Jews of his time find meaning in their existence. He employs the deep mystical concepts of Kabbala in his compositions […]