Sunday, November 19, 2006

Parashat Chayei Sara: The Marriage of Mild & Strict

>From MM:

With the third word of the Hebrew Bible, G^d makes His first appearance with
one of his Holy Names. He uses the one that connotes Strict Justice (Din):
Elo-heem. Only in the forth verse of the second chapter do we see a change
in the Name(s) that G^d uses, to teach us how He started everything. There
He introduces, together with the former Name, the Name that implies Mildness
(Rachamim): Ado-nai, together emerging as: Ado-nai Elo-heem. This is what we
call: Mildness in Strict Justice (Rachamim baDin). The Rabbis teach us that
provides a lesson for us: G^d wants us to know that He would have liked to
have made a world in which all was sound and worked as it should have, but
such perfection cannot exist outside of Him. So G^d "had to" introduce
Mildness to make the whole thing kind of stable, able to survive long enough
to be worked on towards perfection - giving Man both a purpose to exist and
the space to fail, to learn, to grow, to make mistakes, to repent, to
repair, to make up, to perfect and to be (good enough) as we are.

Similarly, in marriage both Strict Justice and Mildness are needed. So
Abraham, whose Loving Kindness for all was world famous, had to marry Sara
who could say about Hagar: out. Isaac, know for his dedication to Strictness
had to marry a girl who would not only quench the thirst of the stranger but
also of his camels. Eli'ezer left water in the bucket after drinking on
purpose. What could Rivkaleh do? Take the rest home - but who knows if this
guy wasn't sick? Throw it out - but that might insult the chap. She gave the
rest to his camels. (This doesn't mean, Heaven forbid, that Abraham and
Rivka were spineless pushovers and that Sara and Isaac were callous
bulldozers. They were each well balanced, wonderful people, but each with
their primal reaction and bias, for which it's great to have a counterweight
handy. As it says (Genesis 2:18): "Ado-nai Elo-heem said: It is not good
for Man to be alone with himself - I'll make him a helper opposite of him" -
in opposition of his Evil Inclination.)

And so is it till this day in marriage. Reb Shlomo Carlebach explains that
the Western idea of marriage seems to be to leave each other alone, while
the Jewish ideal about Marriage is to balance each other. Rav Eliyahu
Shlesinger says that if both parents have as their default mindset Strict
Justice the kids have no life. Everything is constantly judged and everyone
has to do their very best all the time. Vacations, free time, sleep and even
breaks are a waste of time. Mistakes have to be avoided at all costs and fun
is idleness. But if both parents are always mellow, their children have no
life either. All is OK, no limits are ever set and they grow up in total
insecurity of the workings of this world and even in doubt if anyone loves
them at all. The trick is to create a duo in which both spouses balance each
other. Both appreciate the amazingly fresh impute and vision of their soul
mate, and as a team they make life as great and human as it should be, and
help each other to become more balanced in themselves. Some people are
easily mild about one thing while tend to be more strict about another. It's
great if in each case one has a partner who will be there with you to create
a united and balanced approach.

MM

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