Daf Yomi Yevamos 63
Abraham was confused. His older son Ishmael was having a bad influence on his younger son, Isaac. Sarah made her demands clear: Hagar and Ishmael had to go. But how could Abraham evict his own flesh and blood? The Almighty’s instruction was unambiguous: “Everything Sarah says to you, listen to her voice.”
Isaac had grown old and was ready to bless his favoured child. No matter what Rebecca said about the true characters of her twin sons, Isaac was intent on bestowing the blessing upon Esau. It wasn’t until Esau exploded upon hearing of Jacob’s victory that Isaac finally understood that Rebecca had been right all along.
After the Almighty created Adam, He declared, “It is not good for man to be alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.”
Rabbi Elazar taught: If a man merits, his wife is his helpmate. If he does not merit, she is oppositional to him.
Rabbi Elazar’s teaching implies that marriage is a dichotomous relationship that pivots between the binary poles of helpmate versus opposition. The Rabbanit explains that the two features of the spousal relationship actually exist simultaneously! The ideal relationship exists when your spouse is both oppositional and a helpmate. The problem, however, is that few are willing to admit it and embrace it.
You can imagine Abraham’s consternation when Sarah insists on Ishmael’s rejection. In his mind, she is the oppositional wife. You can picture Isaac’s feeling of contempt when Rebecca constantly attempts to impress upon him that Jacob deserves his attention. In his mind, she is the oppositional wife. But when we read the stories, we know that the opposition is ultimately there to help them and we want to scream out, ‘Abraham, Isaac, please just listen to your wives! They’re not pushing their personal agendas. They want what’s best for you and the family!’
That’s the meaning of, “I shall make him a helpmate opposite to him.” The Almighty gives you your spouse to challenge you to become a better person. You are comfortable with your own shortcomings. You are happy taking the easy route in life. Your spouse is there to question and challenge you.
And you have two choices. Either you can dismiss them as being oppositional and decide that you know best and they should mind their own business. Or you can give their opinion serious consideration. Will they always be right? Of course not. But unless you’re open to hearing their challenge, you will never grow.