Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • Marriage and Relationships
To dedicate this lesson


Populating the planet and maintaining the chain of generations. These acts are grounded in the first Torah precept given to us by the Almighty in His holy Torah - the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” The entire Torah hinges upon this.


Rabbi Mishael Dahan, ztvk”l

Populating the planet and maintaining the chain of generations. These acts are grounded in the first Torah precept given to us by the Almighty in His holy Torah - the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply." This is because God wants the earth to be settled and He does not want the chain of generations to be broken. The entire Torah hinges upon this single commandment.

Therefore our sages, aware of the distinction and sacred value of this commandment, and the lofty commandments that derive from it, teach us that man without woman is called "half a body." Moreover, they have given us some excellent advice in this regard to benefit us both in this world and the World to Come. One who follows their advice will merit lasting happiness and will enjoy a life of spiritual equanimity, as we shall see.

Some wives are wise and insightful and always act prudently. Blessed with exemplary character traits, pure faith, innocence and humility, they say little but do much. They "anticipate the ways of their household" (Proverbs 31), and their one desire is to help their husbands raise their children according to the Torah and its commandments. Such women are worth more than gold, and fortunate is he who marries such a woman.

Some wives, however, have adverse character traits and ideas. They are full of pride and irritability. One should distance himself from such a woman. Even if one has already become entangled in her net, the Torah advises divorcing her (see Yevamot 112b). Hence, the sages tell us that when choosing a wife, a person should be deliberative and prudent so that he not end up with such an undesirable woman (see ibid. 63a)

Some women are willing to make due with little. They are satisfied with their lot, and they do not make demands that their husbands cannot meet. As a result, the two of them lead a happy life together. Other women demand luxuries that the husband is not able to provide, and since he is not able to satisfy her desires, strife develops between them. In this vein the sages teach, "Dispute is like a broken water pipe; once it cracks, it breaks open more and more" (Sanhedrin 7a).

The belief in the equality of the sexes, because it leads to the question of who dominates who, causes senseless dispute between husband and wife. There can be no doubt that both are mistaken, for Jewish law categorically negates any such idea. In the words of the Rambam (Ishut 15:19-20):

"And the sages commanded that a man should honor his wife more than himself and love her as himself. And if he has wealth, he should magnify her good according to his wealth. And he should not put too much fear upon her, and his speech with her should be gentle, and he should be neither sad nor angry. And they commanded the wife that she should honor her husband more than is required, and that his awe should be over her, and she should perform all her actions according to him. And he should be in her eyes like a minister or king, going in the desires of his heart and keeping away everything he hates. And this is the path of the holy and pure daughters of Israel and the sons of Israel in their marriage. And in these ways their community will be nice and praised."

Therefore, an intelligent, self-respecting woman who desires a good marriage appreciates her husband. For her respect and obedience to her husband is a natural thing, not an insult. There must likewise be true love and respect and complete understanding of the wife’s needs by the husband. The sages, well acquainted with the workings of the human mind and its propensities, teach "Go down a step, and marry a woman," (Yevamon 63a), i.e., that one not become proud, for this is the beginning of strife.

In sum, if a person seeks to establish a Torah-based household, he must pray to the Almighty that He help him find a good wife with noble character traits and fear of God, for a wife can help a person reach great heights in his service of God, or she can cause a person to fall to the deepest depths. One must beware not to be misled by outer beauty, for, in the words of King Solomon, "Grace is false and beauty is vain; a God-fearing woman, she should be praised" (Proverbs 31).
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