If you were the perfect man, and your marriage was the perfect marriage, what would it look like?
Food for thought, and fantasy maybe. But this question – and its answer –is really much, much more.
That’s because we actually have a picture of that marriage, passed down through the millennia and waiting for us to tap into its wisdom to make our own marriage just as great.
The Torah book of Genesis tells us of the first man – Adam. He was formed directly by God and was the perfect prototype.
His marriage to Eve (Chava in Hebrew), the first and archetypal woman, is recorded in Genesis not only historically and allegorically, but to give you and me a paradigm of what it truly means to be a man, the nature of a woman, and the secrets of a sublime, successful marriage.
I’d like to briefly share a number of these secrets – these ‘Genesis Principles’ (or GP’s), based on the Torah and its Talmudic and mystical commentaries* that clearly illustrate the essential characteristics of a man, and how that knowledge can bring him true peace, happiness, and satisfaction in his relationship with his wife.
GP#1 TWO ARE REALLY ONE
The key to the entire program is to realize that a man and his wife, while appearing to be two separate, independent beings, are in essence a unit – two halves of a whole.
This is hinted to in the verse in the Torah that says: “…male and female, He created them.” (Gen. 1, 27)
Rashi, the classic Torah commentator, cites a Midrash that the first human was originally created androgynous, being both fully male and female, and at a later stage was separated into two discrete beings of different genders.
Only then did they later come together, reuniting as man and wife.
This process, a single being divided into two ostensibly autonomous halves and then reuniting, was not merely a one-time phenomenon.
Every married couple is actually one soul divided between two bodies, yet connected at a higher unseen point. That means that one partner is able to influence the other not only a conscious level, but on a deeper spiritual plane, which then manifests itself in day-to-day life.
Understanding how this subliminal spiritual influence works and accessing its power is a key to a happy and successful marriage. Our second ‘Genesis Principle’ shows us how…
GP#2 THE SPIRIT MOVES HER
The real-time subliminal soul connection between a man and his wife is hinted to in the Torah verse: “And G-d said; ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make for him an Ezer K’negdo’”. (Gen. 2:18)
Those last two Hebrew words, ‘Ezer K’negdo’ can be translated as a ‘confronting supporter’.
Rashi, citing a Talmudic teaching on the verse (Yevamos 63a), explains this mysterious term: “If the man is worthy, she will be his supporter; if he’s unworthy, she will confrontationally battle against him.”
Therefore, we see that the way a wife treats her husband is actually a subliminal reaction to and function of his worthiness.
When the Torah refers to worthiness, it means spiritual worthiness. This means that if a man chooses to sincerely behave in a spiritually worthy way, as defined by the Torah, his wife will be his pleasant and admiring ‘supporter’. Conversely, if he chooses to behave unworthily, she will become confrontational and put him down.
It’s important to note that this dynamic takes effect subliminally on the spiritual plane. The wife needn’t be consciously aware of her husband’s worthy or unworthy behavior, and she herself is often unaware what’s influencing her to adopt one mood or the other. Therefore, if the husband wants to change the dynamic for the better, he needn’t (nor will it help to) criticize, complain, or retaliate, but rather simply increase his spiritual worthiness.
So we see that the tenor of the relationship is entirely in the husband’s hands. This is tremendously empowering – and a tremendous responsibility.
But how can we say that this awesome spiritual power/responsibility is really in the husband’s hands? Our third ‘Genesis Principle’ will make it clear…
GP#3 HE’S GOT HER WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS
After the unfortunate fruit-eating incident in the Garden of Eden, God told Eve that from then on: “… to your husband will be your yearning and he will rule you.” (Gen. 3:16)
This concept of ‘ruling’ applies to ruling a wife’s emotions and self-esteem. An essential part of a man’s spiritual worthiness or the opposite is measured by how he treats his wife. The Torah places supreme priority on interpersonal relations, and the closer the relationship is the greater its spiritual import. As we see, a husband is his wife’s ‘yearning’. She subliminally craves to be beloved and esteemed in his eyes. If he adopts the spiritually worthy path of treating her that way, she will be happy and content, and therefore respond as a ‘supporter’. If he fails to do so, his spiritual unworthiness will earn him a ‘combatant’.
Even if how a husband treats his wife determines his spiritual worthiness and the dynamic of his marriage, how can we know how to give her what she needs? ‘Genesis Principle’ number four tells us how…
GP#4 TO GIVE IS TO LIVE
Later in the Genesis narrative, we’re told: “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and gave birth…” (Gen. 4:1)
The procreation process is based upon a man giving his portion of the potential child to the woman, who in turn receives it. There’s a basic axiom in Jewish mysticism that the physical world and all of its processes reflects a spiritual counterpart.
So if on the physical plane, in man’s defining interaction with his wife, he gives and she receives, this implies that the same dynamic is meant to exist in the higher emotional and spiritual realms.
When a husband focuses on unconditionally giving to his wife – physically, emotionally, and financially – he’s in line with his male spiritual essence and thus ‘worthy’. But if he’s focused on what she is or isn’t giving to him on any of these levels, he’s effectively usurped a female spiritual role, which is unworthy of a man.
Maybe it’s a man’s spiritual role to give. But what does giving mean? Our next set of ‘Genesis Principles’ gives the answer…
GP#5 SHE’S NUMBER ONE
What is a man’s primary relationship? Where should his primary loyalty lie?
The Torah answers this: “…A man shall leave his father and his mother, and unite with his wife as one…” (Gen. 2:24)
Honoring and being close to one’s parents is a major spiritual value. Yet the Torah hints to us that a man’s relationship with his wife takes precedence even to this.
When a man relates to and treats his wife as if she’s the most important person in his life, bar none – even his parents, children, or boss – he gives her an inestimable gift, fulfills her subliminal yearning to be cherished by him above all others, and his worthiness flourishes. If he fails to do this, his spiritual unworthiness will produce its predictable results.
GP#6 IT’S NOT HER PROBLEM
Life has its challenges. A man out on the stormy sea of the marketplace trying to forge a career can come to feel wave-battered and barracuda-bit. Or maybe he’s an idealist, who’d rather to devote his life to some lofty cause than the mundane matter of earning a living. It’s tempting to share his burden with his wife. Urge her to chip in to make ends meet – or maybe even take on the lion’s share of the load.
It might sound like a good idea, if the Torah hadn’t already told us it isn’t.
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (Gen. 3:19) is what G-d specifically told Adam and not Eve. Rashi tells us that a man will have to work hard for his livelihood. It’s the husband’s responsibility to make a living and not his wife’s.
Sure, some wives voluntarily chip in, which is great, but a man should never even hint that it’s expected or desired by him. He shouldn’t even speak to her of his stresses and concerns in this area. Share it with a friend, or better, with God. Livelihood a man’s burden and to be a man is to bear (at least in the presence of his wife) it with quiet, cheerful dignity.
All of this may be great, but what if she messes up? Isn’t it up to us to set her straight? Our final, and perhaps most important ‘Genesis Principle’ gives us the key.
GP#7 ZIPPER YOUR LIP
There was never a bigger mistake in the history of the world than the one Eve made at the dawn of creation, compelling Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Jewish mystical sources tell us that every pain and sorrow suffered in the world since then was rooted in this humongous cosmic mess-up.
If ever a husband had the right to let his wife have it, it was Adam after this.
The Torah recounts his choice words about her right after G-d had cursed him with a life of hard work and then death. He called her…are you ready for this? “…the mother of all life.” (Gen. 3:20)
He praised her! Although her blunder had caused all death and suffering, including, eventually their own, he spoke nicely to her and tried to make her feel good!
Nothing a man’s wife could possibly do or say could even come to the toenail of such an error. And there’s nothing that can ever spiritually justify a man criticizing his wife in the least. As we said, if he wants her to improve, there’s only one surefire, simple (but not easy) way to make it happen.
He should improve himself!
Each of these ‘Genesis Principles’ is a world unto itself, and the sample that I’ve offered here only skims the surface. I hope to elaborate in the future, and would be happy to meet with any man ready to retain or return his marriage to the ‘Garden of Eden’.
(*There are numerous authentic explanations of the Torah. It could well be that there are divergent explanations from those that I present here. I make no claim to being an accomplished Torah scholar, therefore please view the sources I cite not as ‘proofs’ per se of any absolute way of viewing things, but rather hints that serve to illustrate what I and numerous other men have found to be a uniquely effective and satisfying approach to a peaceful and happy marriage.)