||THE CENTRALITY OF TRUST IN MARRIAGE, PART TWO
- Thursday, January 4, '01 - Parshas Vayigash 5761
In [a classic book called]
"Oruch," a midrash is brought which elaborates this cryptic, incomprehensible
reference to the weasel and the well (which, of course, provides linkage to the Talmudic
statements, which also refer to this same weasel and well). [It starts out sounding like a
children's story. But, the way the Maharal ends up weaving it all together is nothing
short of profound and fascinating.]
THE MIDRASH ABOUT THE WEASEL AND THE WELL
Once there was a teenage girl who was traveling to visit her father. She erred in her
route and went to an uninhabited place. When it got to midday it was burning hot. She
became so thirsty that she was near delirious. Finally, in the distance, she noted a pit
and ran to it. She saw a bucket next to it and understood that there was water down there.
She rapidly lowered herself down to the bottom of the well and drank to her heart's
When she finished and was restored, she looked up and saw that, in her excitement, she
had climbed such a long way down that there was no way that she would be able to climb
back up. She started screaming for help.
A man came by and heard her voice, which he followed to the pit. When he arrived, she
was so far down, that he was not able to discern her or whether she was even human. He
asked if she was a human being, and, after she said she was, he asked her how she came to
this predicament. She told him. He said that he is a Jew and a Kohen, the holy people who
serve in G-d's Temple in Jerusalem. He asked her which nation she was from. She was also a
Jew. [Jewish law forbids a man and woman from touching when they are not married nor
immediate blood relatives.] He said that a Jewish man can't just shlep a woman on his
back. "If I rescue you, will you marry me?" "Yes," she replied.
When she had been saved, they each said their name, family name, and the name of the
town each lived in. They covenanted to be married in full accordance with Torah law, and
that he would come to her parents' home for her. He asked, "Who will be the witnesses
that we are committed to marry each other?" Just then, a weasel went by. She said,
"The Heavens, the weasel that just ran by and the well which you just shlepped me out
of will be the witnesses that we will not cheat each other." With this pact in place,
they both went home.
The young woman remained true to her commitment FAITHFULLY. As it worked out, she was
growing into a lovely young lady and courters started to come, seeking marriage. To every
man, she gave refusal. She was "spoken for," so "nothing doing." Young
men kept coming and coming and coming, trying to win her. It just wouldn't stop [she must
have been an extraordinary girl - both in character and in attractiveness]. When the
suitors just kept coming and coming, she conducted herself as if she went insane and tore
her clothes, until the men altogether stopped coming.
The Kohen, on the other hand, returned home and promptly forgot altogether about this
young woman and his commitment to her. "Out of sight, out of mind." [At this
point, the women in the audience say, "just like a man!"]
He married a different woman who became pregnant and gave birth to a baby. After the
birth, a weasel strangled the infant to death.
She became pregnant again and gave birth to a second baby. After the birth, this baby
fell into a well and drowned.
The wife said to her husband, "If my two babies would have died normal deaths, I
would accept the deaths as G-d's judgement. Since my babies both died unnaturally, this
cannot be without sin! Tell me your deeds! Why did my babies die through a weasel and a
It hit him and he remembered that the Heavens, the weasel and the well were the
enforcers of his marriage pact with the young woman whom he rescued. He recounted the
story. His wife said, "Go to this woman. She is the mate destined to be given to you
by G-d." He divorced his wife and left for the other woman's town.
When he got to the town and asked to be directed to this girl, every one told him that
she had gone crazy and that he should forget about her and return home. When he got to her
father, he told his betrothed's father the story and announced that he was here to marry
the girl. "But my daughter has 'lost her mind.'"
And his reply to the girl's father was, "I ACCEPT HER WITH ALL HER FAULTS!"
[He came around fully in his capacity to accept responsibility and commitment. He learned
his lesson. He became a relator in whom a spouse could, from now on, have unbending
He went to his betrothed, and she started her "crazy act." He reminded her of
the story of the weasel and the well, and her mind returned to normal [in the midrash's
going out of its way to say that her mind "returned to normal," this gives us
the additional message that if one becomes habituated or conditioned in any kind of crazy
behavior, it actually adds craziness to the mind - a profound message 1. in today's tough
and complex world and 2. in the context of serious or troubled man-woman relationships;
she had to actively and consciously restore her mind back to a normal state from a crazy
state]. She said, "I was always steadfast in our commitment."
They had many children, became wealthy and were faithful to each other for the rest of
their lives [end of midrash]. To be continued, with the Maharal's profound and essential
analysis of this midrash.