[I]t was Purim afternoon. Shlomie had finally managed to borrow the car from his father-in-law and had double parked outside their duplex in their busy Brooklyn neighborhood.
Calling his wife Dina on her cell, he heard cellophane crackling. “I’ll be out in a minute!” She guaranteed, “Just finishing to curl the ribbon!”
Shlomie waited a minute. Then five. Then ten. He was beginning to lose his cool. As his wife ran into the car, he glared at her. “What took you so long? Who cares about the silly ribbon anyway? It’s Shkiya in half an hour and we still need to drive all around town!”
“Do you want our Shalach Manos to look like we picked them up from the dump?” She asked tearfully. “I want them to be delivered before next Purim!” He retorted.
Looking at this conversation, or any dialogue between an ordinary couple for that matter, could make us think that men and women are truly species from different planets.
Yet we know that things are different according to Torah. Torah provides us with a way to live our lives that is eternal and never-changing. “…The A-lmighty’s Torah is a G-dly law that creates life. G-d’s Torah is the Torah of truth, the same in all places, at all times. Torah is eternal” (R’ Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)
According to Judaism, a man and woman are not two separate beings that unite in a marriage rather they are two halves of one unit that reunite through marriage.
If that is indeed the case, why are men and women so different?
Man of Action
Let us begin by discussing the man. As explained in the last article in this series, men are sourced in the divine Midos. The Midos are the channels through which G-dly energy is expressed. The Midos have incredible energy which they then need to transmit into the world.
The man is also known as the Mashpia, the giver. He gives and provides for his family – in the most physical sense when it comes to creating a family, to the wheat and flax he brings home.
A man, in general, is a doer. He likes to take his hammer and build. He likes to go out and make a living. A man’s nature is to conquer. A man is strong and enjoys giving and providing for his family. He focuses on getting the job done and doesn’t necessarily concentrate or pay attention to the detail.
Yet the man is only half the soul. The Midos have energy but they need a transmitter to take that energy and make it useful. A man has what to give. But he needs someone to be able to give to. A man likes to do but he needs someone to appreciate his actions and to make him raise his standards even higher.
And that is where the woman comes in.
Women are sourced in the divine attribute known as Malchus. Malchus takes that divine energy from the Midos, transmitting it through the different spiritual worlds and ultimately to us.
The woman is also known as the Mekabel, the receiver. She takes what is given to her and has the unique ability to nurture and develop it. She is the one who develops the fetus inside of her, forming a beautiful newborn. She is the one who takes the wheat and flax, grinding and sewing to create delicious meals and elegant clothing.
A woman, in general, develops and appreciates. She likes decorating, and designing. She likes the pretty details, the ribbons and the frosting. She enjoys family time – taking what we have and stopping to appreciate. Unlike the man who needs to do, she enjoys just to be. She spends the time with the children, nurturing and developing.
“R’ Yossi found Eliyahu Hanavi and asked him: ‘[the Torah says about the creation of Chavah] “I will make him a helpmate.” How does one’s wife help him?”
The Gemara brings Eliyahu’s fascinating answer: “If a man brings wheat, does he chew the wheat as it is? If flax, does he wear the flax as it is? No! Does she not then [by her turning the wheat into bread and the flax into clothing], bring light to his eyes and put him on his feet!” (Yevamos 63a)
R’ Yossi surely knew those facts, and he also knew that a woman can join the workforce too and bring wheat and that a man can stay home to grind it into flour! What then is the woman’s contribution to the Jewish family? What is unique to the woman that made Adam complete, as we know that “a man without a wife is incomplete.” Eliyahu’s response was: look at even the most basic act of a family’s performance, cooking food and sewing clothing – the man brings the raw material and the woman then makes it into nutritious food and warm clothes.
Yet the woman alone is not enough. There is no use of a transmitter without the energy to transmit. A receiver is useless if there is nothing to receive. If you don’t have material, there is nothing to appreciate and develop. And that is why the woman needs the man.
A Peek into the Classroom
So indeed we are two halves of one soul. One half is the giver, the doer. The other half is the receiver and the developer. Yet with our different roles, how can we see eye to eye?
To help us understand, let’s take a visit to a classroom and examine the relationship between a teacher and a student.
A teacher is filled with wisdom – like a man, he wants to give. A student is filled with the desire to learn – like a woman, he wants to be able to develop ideas.
A true man seeks a wife, for he knows that only she will allow him to give in a productive manner. Similarly a true teacher seeks students, for he knows that only that will allow him to utilize his G-d given talents of pursue of the wisdom to their fullest extent. The famed Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi said “I have learned much from my teachers and my contemporaries, but I have learned most from my students”! (Makos 10b) for a true man of wisdom seeks the wisdom itself and not its side gains of riches and glory, and the wisdom is best enhanced when taught to and challenged by the students!
On the other side of the coin, a true woman seeks a husband from whom she can receive. Similarly, a true student seeks a teacher who can quench his thirst for wisdom.
Yet, what makes them into a team, what makes them able to work together in harmony, both the husband and wife and the teacher and student; is the fact that they are mutually committed to their goal.
In the classroom, the goal is for the knowledge to be understood. When contemporaries challenge each other the ideas also go through clarification, but because each sage is primarily involved with his own opinion they could agree to disagree, whereas in the teacher-student relationship there is a commitment of the teacher to the student to give over the core of the concepts, and of the student to receive these core teachings. This mutual commitment calls for a selfless analysis of the matter which creates a true pursuit of the truth, which finally emerges clarified and shining!
In the home, the primary concern of both of the parties is the preservation, continuity and enhancement of the future generations of the family.
The teacher couldn’t teach without a student. The student couldn’t learn without a teacher. The husband can’t give without a wife. The wife can’t nurture without a husband.
Each one needs the other and when our focus is nothing but our goal, we will leave no mountains unturned for that goal to be completed!
The teacher will teach the same information 400 times, the student will be totally receptive; not comparing what he learned now to what he knew beforehand and the husband and wife will be totally committed to each other because they are all focused on their mutual goal.
Two halves. One whole. Same goal. Yet we can still be caught up in the twists of day to day life and find it hard to see things in the same way as our spouse.
The trick now is to change your glasses. Instead of looking at things from your perspective of a half a family, try to see it from hers too, – as a whole unit. Realize that as much as a man isn’t focused on aesthetics and details, he still appreciates that his material is processed and doesn’t remain as he brought it, and a woman must realize that as much as she is focused on the development and aesthetics, she also needs material to work with and mustn’t get carried away with the details on the account of the main thing.
It was Purim afternoon. Shlomie had finally managed to borrow the car from his father-in-law and had double parked outside their duplex in their busy Brooklyn neighborhood.
Calling his wife Dina on her cell, he heard cellophane crackling. “Thank you for getting that done!” She complimented his actions, “I’m just finishing to curl the ribbon! Do we have another 2 minutes?” She asked, realizing the value of time for him and his need for things to get done when he wants them to.
“Sure,” Shlomie said. He waited a minute. Then five. Then ten. He was beginning to lose his cool. As his wife ran into the car, he paused to notice the effort she had put into the detail, making sure everything was just so. “Wow,” he commented. “You could open a Shalach Manos store!”
“Maybe when we retire!” She giggled, “Sorry I took so long!” And together they quickly drove through the busy streets, their faces matching the setting sun.