The Branch doesn’t Fall Far from the Root

RABBI WAGENSBERG
PARSHAS BEREISHIS
The Branch doesn’t Fall Far from the Root

In this week’s parsha it states “And Hashem God said, ‘It is not good that man be alone, I will make for him an Eizer K’negdo (a helper corresponding to him)” (2:18). On the words “Eizer K’negdo,” Rashi quotes Rebbi Elazar in a Gemara in Meseches Yivamos (chap. 6, “Haba Al Yevimto”, pg. 63a) who comments on the seemingly contradictory words “eizer” (helper) and “k’negdo” (opposite him). He says that this phrase means to say that if man is deserving, then his wife will be an “eizer,” however if man is undeserving, then his wife will be “k’negdo” to wage war against him.

The implication of this explanation is that the spiritual level of a woman, with respect to her relationship with her husband, is dependent on her husband’s actions. It sounds like it is saying that if the husband is involved in doing good deeds, his wife will be his helper, but if the husband is not involved in doing good deeds, his wife will become his opponent and try to tear him down.

We must ask ourselves why Hashem would create such a reality? Why is a woman’s spiritual level (with respect to her relationship with her husband) dependent on her husband’s spiritual level? How does this even work? What are the mechanics?

To address this difficulty, let us explore what Hashem asked Adam Harishon after he sinned with the Eitz Hada’as (forbidden Tree of Knowledge). Hashem said, “Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam’s response was, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I ate.” (Parshas Bereishis, 3:11-12).

Regarding Adam’s response, Rashi cites a Gemara in Meseches Avoda Zara (chap. 1, “Lifnei Eideihen”, pg. 5b) which says that Adam had denied the goodness that Hashem had provided for him. Meaning that Adam was ungrateful for the wife that Hashem had given to him.

This comment raises another question. How was Adam ungrateful for Chava? Adam merely stated the truth. It was Chava who gave Adam to eat from the Eitz Hada’as (Parshas Bereishis, 3:6). Why was Adam criticized for speaking the truth?

In order to tackle these difficult questions, let us share another Talmudic passage which discusses how soul-mates are matched up.

The Gemara in Sota (chap. 1, “Hamekaneh”, pg. 2a) quotes Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak who said that when Reish Lakish would begin teaching about a sota (a wife who was suspected of being unfaithful to her husband), he would say that Hashem only matches a person up with a wife in accordance with his deeds. This means to say that a modest woman is given to a righteous man. Whereas an immodest woman is given to a wicked man.

Reish Lakish quotes a verse in Tehillim (125:3) which supports this idea because it says there, “The rod of wickedness will not rest upon the lot of the righteous.” This verse indicates that when God pairs a woman with a man, it is done in accordance with the spiritual level of the man.

Rabba bar bar Chana went on to quote Rebbi Yochanan who said that it is as difficult to pair such a couple as was the division of the sea where the laws of nature had to be altered.

The Gemara continues by asking how Reish Lakish can suggest that a woman is paired with a man according to his deeds when we have a teaching from Rav Yehuda in the name of Rav who said that forty days before the creation of a child, a heavenly voice proclaims, “The daughter of so and so will be married to so and so?” This teaching indicates that matches are made in heaven, and they are not determined based on the man’s actions.

The Gemara answers this question by saying that there is no contradiction whatsoever. When Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav that wives are matched up with husbands forty days before the creation of a child, he was referring to Zivvug Rishon (a man’s first wife). However, when Reish Lakish said that a woman is paired up with a man according to his deeds, he was referring to Zivvug Sheini (a man’s second wife).

This shocking Gemara begs us to ask, “Why should there be a difference between Zivvug Rishon and Zivvug Sheini? Either both wives should depend on his deeds, or both wives should be decreed upon him from heaven regardless of his deeds. What is the logic behind this distinction?”

These questions will be addressed by a teaching from the Ba’al Ha’akeida (Rabbi Yitzchak Arama, 1420-1494, Spain). He says that “Zivvug Rishon” does not refer to the first woman whom a man marries. Rather, “Zivvug Rishon” refers to the match that Hashem had made between a person’s body and his soul. A verse in Parshas Bereishis (2:7) teaches us that man is made up of body and soul. The soul of a person is likened to a “man,” whereas the body of a person is likened to a “woman.”

When the body helps the soul carry out the will of God, she (the body) is called a “kosher wife” who fulfills her husband’s (soul’s) wishes. However, if the body goes against the wishes of the soul by running after the pleasures of this world, then the she (the body) is called a “foreign wife” who tries to pull the soul down to engage in sinful activities.

So, it turns out that “Zivvug Rishon” is referring to the match made between a body and a soul. However, “Zivvug Sheini” is referring to the woman whom a man marries.

Now we can understand the Gemara’s answer when it made a distinction between Zivvug Rishon and Zivvug Sheini. Zivvug Rishon refers to the body and soul. That Zivvug Rishon was decreed upon a person forty days prior to his creation.

Before he was an embryo, Hashem already chose which type of body he would have in order to facilitate the type of soul he would be given. There are different types of bodies and there are different types of souls. Each soul requires a certain type of body to help it carry out its mission on Earth. Forty days before the formation of the embryo, this match between body and soul was decided upon by God.

After all, the Gemara in Meseches Niddah (chap. 2, “Kol Hayad”, pg. 16b) quotes Reb Chanina bar Papa who said that Hashem decrees if the body will be strong or weak, or wise or dumb. However, he will still be able to choose to be a righteous person or a wicked person because everything comes from heaven except for the fear of heaven. Therefore, Zivvug Rishon refers to the pairing of body and soul.

But Zivvug Sheini refers to the woman whom a man marries. It is about this Zivvug Sheini that Reish Lakish said, “They are matched up according to his deeds.” Meaning, if the person serves Hashem properly where the body helps the soul do God’s will, then he will be given a wife who will compliment that. In other words, if a person’s Zivvug Rishon (between body and soul) are working together well, then he will be given a wife (Zivvug Sheini) who will work together with him also.

This also explains why there is a difference between Zivvug Rishon and Zivvug Sheini to begin with. Above, we asked “let both zivvugim be decreed upon by God, or let both zivvugim be dependent on man’s actions. Why the distinction?” The answer is that Zivvug Rishon does not refer to a husband and wife. Rather, Zivvug Rishon refers to the match between the body and soul. Regarding this Zivvug Rishon between body and soul, Hashem decrees which type of body should be matched up with that type of soul.

However, concerning Zivvug Sheini between husband and wife, the woman will behave in accordance with the husband’s spiritual level.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that a verse in Parshas Bereishis (2:21-22) tells us that Hashem took one of Adam’s sides and fashioned it into a woman. So, it turns out that women (Zivvug Sheini) are fashioned from the body of men. It is the body which is the Zivvug Rishon to man’s soul.

Therefore, the body incorporates both zivvugim. The body is a Zivvug Rishon to its soul, and the body is the source of the Zivvug Sheini which is a woman who becomes her husband’s wife.

It turns out that the body is the root of the woman, and the woman is a like a branch which grew out of that root. Now, a branch will be drawn after its root. A good root produces good branches, but bad roots produce bad branches.

Therefore, if man purifies his root, his body, his Zivvug Rishon to assist his soul to do God’s will, then his wife, the branch of his root, his Zivvug Sheini will follow the root and also assist her husband in doing God’s will.

However, if man ruins his root, his body, his Zivvug Rishon by allowing the body to pursue the lustful passions of this world, then his branch, his wife, his Zivvvug Sheini will follow the root and also not assist her husband in carrying out his mission that Hashem sent him on Earth to do.

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that this explains why Hashem said that it was not good for man to be alone (Parshas Bereishis 2:18). It means that it was not good for man to be left alone just with his Zivvug Rishon between body and soul because there would be no way in telling if that Zivvug Rishon was truly doing Avodas Hashem properly. Man could have easily fooled himself into thinking that he was doing God’s will when in fact he could have been the furthest thing from doing Hashem’s will in this world.

Therefore, Hashem said that He would make man an Eizer K’negdo which is his wife, his Zivvug Sheini who would be created from man’s body. Now there would be a way of finding out whether or not man was doing God’s will. If man would be doing ok with his Zivvug Rishon by forcing his body to serve his soul, then his wife, his Zivvug Sheini, the branch of his body would follow suit and help him do what he is supposed to do in this world.

But if man would damage his body by having it rebel against what the needs of the soul are, then his wife would also rebel against him. Wives are like acid tests. The way a wife treats her husband serves as a barometer to identify how man causes his body to treat his soul.

Now we can understand the mechanics as to why a woman’s spiritual level is dependent on her husband’s spiritual level. It is because the wife is the branch of her husband’s body, the root, and branches follow their roots. A good root produces a good branch whereas a bad root produces a bad branch.

It is important to point out that when we say that a woman’s spiritual level is dependent upon her husband’s actions, this is only true with respect to their marriage. This formula only applies concerning their relationship to each other. However, when it comes to behavior which is outside of their relationship to each other, a woman’s spiritual level depends upon her own choices because she also has her own free will.

In any case, the Shvilei Pinchas explains why we criticize Adam for blaming his wife for giving him the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as to eat, even though Adam spoke the truth. It is because if Chava gave the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as to her husband it is a sign that, deep down, Adam himself wanted to eat the fruit of the Eitz Hada’as. Since Adam’s own body, his root, was being drawn to the Eitz Hada’as, Adam’s wife, his branch, was equally drawn to the Eitz Hada’as.

Chava’s sin of eating the Eitz Hada’as was actually Adam’s fault. If Adam would have controlled his body from lusting the fruits of the Eitz Hada’as, then Chava would have never even entered into a negotiation with the serpent about the possibility of eating from that tree. She would have flatly rejected it.

So, if Chava did eat from the Eitz Hada’as, it was proof that Adam did not purify his body sufficiently. Adam’s failure had an impact on his wife and she also failed. Therefore, since Adam placed the blame on his wife, he denied the goodness which Hashem had provided for him. Hashem had created his wife from his own body in order that she should be of service to him. Hashem gave Adam a gift which would serve as an acid test to see where he himself was holding.

But Adam did not appreciate that gift. Instead, Adam abused that gift by blaming the gift for his own failures.

For this teaching, we have a one practical application for women and one practical application for men.

For women:

Women, please realize that one of your jobs is to help your husbands serve Hashem even better. Know that they (the men) cannot do it without you.

However, I was bothered by a question regarding women who are not currently married, for whatever reason. I do not have a good answer for this question, but maybe we can make a few suggestions.

First of all, women can always support other men in their Avodas Hashem. For example, by financially supporting men learning Torah.

Alternatively, women can tutor young boys in Limudei Kodesh or they can mentor young women by inspiring them to be the types of wives who will support their husbands.

For men:

Men, appreciate your wives even more so. Never let a day go by without a thank You to Hashem for them. Similarly, never let a day go by without a thank you to them for who they are.

If your wife ever insults you or hurts your feelings, think that maybe, just maybe, it is a sign that there is a flaw in your own personality which made her behave that way. So, if it does happen, sit down, say some Tehillim, do teshuva, and apologize to your wife for making her misbehave. B’ezras Hashem, things will improve.

Note:

I must mention that we are not talking about cases of mental illness, and we are not discussing cases of abuse. Those issues must be brought to a competent Rav and to competent professionals.

Rather, we are talking about healthy normal situations, and the message is as we stated above.

So, may we all be blessed to appreciate our spouses even more so, and may we have the strength to improve upon ourselves which will thereby have a positive impact on our zivvugim, whether we are talking about the zivvug between body and soul or the match between husband and wife, as these two sets are intertwined with each other, and may we thus experience Techiyas Hameisim when we will be reunited with our loved ones and return to Gan Eden Mikedem.