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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Pekudey II

You And Your Spouse Are One

And they brought the Mishkan to Moshe, the Tent, and all its furniture, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets.

SHEMOS 39:33

One of the great people who lived in Jerusalem was Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Baharan Levy. He was constantly doing chesed for people.

Once, his neighbor gave birth to a baby boy but was unable to nurse her child because of an illness that she had. She also did not have enough money to pay for another woman to nurse the child. Several days went by, and Rabbi Levy heard through his neighbor's walls the constant crying of the hungry baby.

At that time, Rabbi Levy's wife was nursing their own baby. He said to his wife, "Listen to me, my dear. G-d does not send a malady, before He sends its cure. Now that you are nursing, we can help our neighbor and her son. I will take your place and do all the chores that have to be done at home. You will eat more and rest a lot, so that you will have enough milk to feed our own child and also our neighbor's child." His wife, who was as eager as her husband to do chesed, readily agreed to her husband's proposal. Whenever she heard her neighbor's child crying, she would go next door and nurse him.

This worked well during the day and in the evenings, but at night the neighbor was too embarrassed to come in and disturb the rabbi and his wife. To solve that problem, Rabbi Levy changed his sleeping habits, and retired early every day. He would wake up and begin his Torah learning at the time when everyone else was just retiring. In this way, since he was awake, he could easily hear the neighbor's baby crying, and he would then awaken his sleeping wife. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, D. 93)

Rabbi Levy understood the importance of doing chesed and spared no effort to complete these tasks. Marriage is based on performing chesed for one another, and we must do our utmost to succeed in this area.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai asked Rabbi Eliezer teen Yossi, "Perhaps you have heard from your father what is the explanation of [the verse]: 'In the crown that his mother adorned him with?'"1

He answered, "This is what my father said: 'It can be understood through a parable of a king who had an only daughter whom he loved too much. He could not refrain from adoring her until he called her 'my sister.' He could not refrain from adoring her until he called her 'my mother'. He could not refrain from adoring her until he called her 'my daughter,' So G-d adored Israel and called them 'My daughter,' as it is written, 'Listen My daughter, and see.'2 He did not stop adoring them until He called them 'My sister,' as it is written, 'My sister, My beloved one,'3 He did not stop adoring them until He called them 'My mother,' as it is written, 'Listen to Me My people and My nation.'4 'My nation' contains a similar sound [in Hebrew] as 'My mother."'

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai stood up and kissed him on his head and said, "If I would have come only to hear this, it would have been enough for me.
(YALKUT 417)

What was bothering Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai so much about the verse, "In the crown that his mother adorned him with?" 5 What is the meaning of the various names that the king called his daughter?What can we learn from the parable which was compared to the love of G-d for Israel? Why was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai so excited by the answer he was given? Why is the love of a man for his wife not mentioned in the above parable?

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was bothered by the verse "In the crown that his mother adorned him with," since he understood that G-d was referred to as a mother. How could He be called a mother which seems as a derogatory term when G-d is commonly referred to as "our Father?"

According to the explanation of Rabbi Eliezer, the verse Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai asked about is referring to the Jewish people as "the mother" who had given a crown to G-d. This crown was the Holy Temple, which was lavishly adorned and thus similar to a crown, as mentioned in the above midrash. The Holy Temple was built to honor G-d, just as a crown is made to honor the king.

In the parable the king loves his daughter so much that he finds three different names for her: my sister, my mother, and my daughter. The love for each of these women is of a different nature.

A sister is loved as a sibling, and there is a special affection that siblings have for one another which is unique to that relationship. The king was saying that the special love one has for one's sister was also felt by him towards his daughter.

A mother is also loved in a special way. She is loved because of the great depth of unselfish love that she bestows on her children, and the protectiveness that she constantly shows them. The king was saying that his daughter had the qualities of a mother even though she was not one.

In the end the king called his daughter, "my daughter." By that he was saying that besides all the extraordinary qualities that she had, he still felt for her the normal love that fathers have for their daughters. This love comes from giving, since a father always gives to his children, and through that a special love grows.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was so excited by the answer he was given because he now understood what was meant by G-d calling Israel "My mother." This was a term of endearment which expressed G-d's affection for his people. The idea was that all the qualities that cause one to love a mother were found in the relationship between the two. And so there was nothing derogatory in the verse, since one might think it arrogant or presumptuous to call Israel the "mother" of G-d. Rather the opposite was true, that there could be no greater way to express the love of G-d for the Jewish people than the way it was expressed in the verse.

Husband and Wife: Two Parts of One Whole

The king does not call his daughter "my wife" since the love that a person has for his wife is in a different sphere than the love he has for his blood relatives. The love between husband and wife is more than simple love, it is the merging of two human beings into one, as the verse says: "And they shall become one flesh." 6

When a person realizes that his spouse is an integral part of himself, then there can be no room for impatience, anger, or frustration towards one's partner. A person does not become infuriated at himself when he makes a mistake, and if one's spouse is just a part of himself, there is no justification for anger when he or she errs. The verse in the Torah is hinting to us that it is not enough to live with our spouses side by side, but rather we must try to blend into one another emotionally and spiritually. Try thinking of your spouse as a part of yourself, instead of someone else.

The idea of being one is that both husband and wife have spiritual tasks that they need each other to complete and cannot do alone. Therefore, they are really one, since whatever is lacking in one can be found in the other, and together they make up one spiritual whole.

To reach this level of love one must constantly be giving to the relationship. Always think of ways to make your spouse happy and to be thoughtful and kind to your spouse. A shining example of giving is seen in the story of Rabbi Levy and his wife. They worked together as two parts of a whole to do an outstanding chesed. When being one with your spouse becomes your constant concern, you will begin to realize that there is no one in the world like your spouse. The love you feel for your spouse should be as strong as the love you feel for yourself. This should form a model for our relationships with every other Jew as well, as it is written in the Torah, "And you shall love your friend as you love yourself."7 But we must begin by feeling that love towards our spouses, and from there we can gradually build on that precedent until we learn to love every one else.

Marriage is just like a spring. The more you give it, the more it gives back. In marriage too, the more you care for your spouse, the more you will receive.

1. Shir Hashirim 3:11
2. Tehillim 45:11
3. Shir Hashirim 4:9, 4:7
4. Yeshayhuhu 51:4
5. Shir Hashirim 3:11
6. Bereshis 2:24
7. Vayikra 19:18

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