Chesed Shel Emes
Rivka Olenick
According to the Raavad: "Marriage is man's natural state." Without a mate, human beings are incomplete; through marriage man's completion is achieved. Marriage and family are essential to God's divine plan and reflect an important part of man's nature. Marriage is not an arbitrary institution created by society. In Genesis 2:18, we read: "It is not good for man to be alone." "It is not good." Listen to the Ramban: "The meaning expressed in 'it is not good', is that it cannot be said of man that "it is good" when he is alone for he will not be able to so exist. In the work of creation, "the good" means existence. And God saw that it was good." Man was alone for a time although according the Ramban: "It does not appear likely that man was created to be alone in the world and not beget children since all created beings, male and female of all flesh were created to raise seed." When woman was created from him she was brought to him. Adom could not be satisfied unless he had woman and so God put Adom to sleep and from one of his ribs God created her as a helper to man. When she was brought to him, he desired to be with her. "The calling of the names" of the animal species, by Adom was done to reflect the concept of "the help". However, his need for "help" was to be satisfied by the one who could "help" him live the right existence. Since existence is the "good" woman was created and brought to him as part of the "good." She is the good as far as man's existence is concerned.
Man needed to identify with her intellectually, physically and psychologically. He needed to realize that without her he was lacking, as he proved to himself by the naming of the animals. Although their natures are different or opposite, only by conforming and directing their energies together to the will of God, could they live harmoniously. In Genesis 2:24, we read: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh." The concept of "one flesh" is completely unique to man. Animals procreate with whatever mate of their particular species and then go their separate ways. This is not so with man. Man "cleaves" to his wife, as woman is literally taken from him, from a part of his body and so he cleaves to her, takes her to him as his own and with her creates children. Their flesh is united into one.
So, where does chesed fit into all of this? The Sifre says: "Chesed begins with those who are closest to us and then to encompass our neighbors and then finally the rest of the world." Jewish law requires that a man be as concerned about his wife as he would be about himself. However, it is only when each is concerned for the other, will happiness fill their lives. The most important component for building a happy home of Torah through marriage is kindness, chesed. A friend of mine said: "The greatest gift I can give my children is my peaceful marriage built on chesed." This is totally true because the foundation of chesed can only be built by husband and wife, and ideally should be the primary focus of marriage, that is then transmitted to one's children by example. Marriage is the beginning of chesed, because each one is obligated to shift the focus from the self to their spouse and children. Our natural inclination is to live by and for ourselves. A person who pursues true chesed, is sincerely concerned for the other's well being. For most people this does not come easy and requires so much patience and thought. Once the person satisfies his or her emotion of "well, what will I get out of this?" then hopefully he or she will gradually be more involved in chesed based on emes, truth.
Often we forget and/or ignore the concept of "created being" selem elokim. We forget that this "other" person is also created in the image of God. This person was also created for the specific purpose of complying to the will of God. This person also needs every opportunity for spiritual growth and potential. This person was not created to satisfy my needs alone. (read that statement again!) Men and women become easily caught up in the anticipation of "what will I get out of this marriage?" However, the purpose of marriage is to live harmoniously by living a life directed by God's will, the emes, truth according to law and the appropriate philosophy. A life of emes that satisfies the needs of both husband and wife should be directed to the middle path with an appropriate philosophy. The appropriate philosophy is not the philosophy of what car to buy or what style of house we must have. I'm referring to: "What is the purpose of this marriage and our life?" Thinking about this idea seriously and then internalizing it will foster kindness based on truth. Both will understand that truth translates into human "existence" which is "the good" and the good can only be achieved through chesed or kindness based first on truth, not based on selfish needs first. If a woman would think more about the fact that she and her husband will be the transmitters of Torah, she might be less preoccupied with what her material gain might be. She would hopefully be less demanding of her husband to make more money and encourage him more to invest time in his learning as she would invest in her own. She will see the potential they both have and can achieve, since woman naturally has a better sense of reality. At the same time, if a man would see that his wife will create a calm, peaceful home and nuture the children that they will give Torah over to, wouldn't he be more appreciative of her? He would be much more concerned about her needs and would offer to help her since he is to love her as himself and honor her more than himself. This is certainly the ultimate chesed.

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