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Two Wives!

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
September 11, 2019

Are you married? No? What you waiting for, join the club!

Yes – for how long? Has it been a while since you were under the chupa with your spouse to be? How’s married life treating you?

When we are young we all desire to settle down with the perfect spouse. Yet when we hear adults talking about married life, it doesn’t seem all that desirable. In a generation of high divorce rates and many singles around, how can we put the impetus back into marriage?

This week’s parsha relates the law of a man who married two wives. The Torah hints that in such a case, one of the wives will be loved and the other despised. It’s not an ideal situation.

The Torah continues to discuss the laws of the children of these two wives. When both these wives have children and the father wishes to give his inheritance to the Bechor (first born), it is to the first born of the despised wife – Vehaya Ben Habechor LaSenia. The Torah does not say ‘Im’if the first born is born to…, rather it states ‘Vehaya’ –  the first born will be born to the hated wife.

What is the Torah teaching us?

Hashem is Kel Rachum Vechanun, a merciful G-d. He is a G-d full of love and care. We are taught VeHalachta Bedrachav – that we should emulate His deeds, just as He is loving and merciful so too should we be. Hate should not exist between us, especially between husband and wife.

The Sefer Tomer Devorah is relatively small yet it is embalmed with potent words of wisdom. The Sefer authored by the Saintly Rabbi Moshe Kordovero is built on the 13 attributes of mercy mentioned at the end of Micha. (Mi kel Kamocha). The Tomer Devorah explains that the twelfth mida is Asher Nishbata Lavotenu – The Merit of our Forefathers – Zechut Avot. Hashem looks down towards us with certain aspects of mercy. There are times that we are not worthy, and all we have going for us is the Zechut Avot. Our forefathers merits’ have weight until today, and help carry through even those that are not worthy.

We are taught to emulate Hashem’s attributes. Thus we are also obligated to view others, (even if we think they are not worthy) as worthy. For they carry the merit of their fathers. This is how Hashem’s mercy extends towards us and this is how we should view others. When we don’t like a certain person, when we think that they are worthless, we should remember that they too descend from Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, they too carry this merit and we must love them as Hashem loves them.

There exists a further attribute of mercy. The Thirteenth attribute is Mimei Kedem.

What does that mean? Mimei Kedem refers to the early years. Observing children can be fun. They are so cute and innocent. Their early years and limited understanding cause us to look favourably upon them. It’s difficult to really punish a cute kid.

Hashem says, when you sin, I don’t punish you straight away, I take into account your youth. I remember your cute early years – when you were relatively innocent and free from sin.

Similarly we too are taught to look favourably at others. To remember that not long ago in the early days of our relationship we viewed them differently.


Do you remember the first date? The man probably got out of the car and opened the door for the lady. He listened to every word she had to say that night. She was so excited to speak to him. They saw the potential of building a great family together. That potential several years later still exists and should be close to reality.

Hashem deals mida keneged mida (Sanhedrin 90). In the same way as we judge others, we will be judged. Thus, when we look favourably upon others, Hashem looks favourably upon us.

When we get into an argument with our spouse, children or friends, do we look at them with the eye of these attributes. Do we remember their Zechut Avot, does it enter our minds at the heat of an argument to remember that these are holy individuals who were once free from sin (mime Kedem).

Does a husband remember the days when his wife followed him with trust of his every move. Does he remember the difficulties she went through to serve him and respect his every wish. Does he recall the pain of pregnancy. Does the wife remember the way the husband turned his timetable upside down to please her, how he spent his monthly salary delighted to please his wife?

These are the Yemei Kedem. This is the way Hashem deals with us. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible. If we look at people with a different light, then many of the futile arguments and problems fall aside.

When Yaakov was conned into working seven years for Rachel, the Torah states (Bereishit (29:20)) they were in his eyes like yamim achadim – they passed by quick with his love for her.

Our sages are surprised by this statement. If you love someone and are told you have to work seven years, then time passes by very slowly, it should have said that the years were like forever for Yaakov who was eager to get married. Why does it say they passed by quickly?

The answer is that for Yaakov, due to his love of Rachel, seven years for him were a cheap price to pay for such a wonderful kalla! He appreciated her so much that the time was worth it and passed by quickly.

Rav Dessler Ztsl used to give sound advice to every Chattan and Kalla. So long as you think about giving to the other person, your marriage will be constantly steady and successful. The moment either side thinks about taking that’s when the challenges come.

In an age where singles are the norm and marriages need fortifying, let us take the message from the Torah; let us emulate Hashem. Open your eyes, remember that first love, remember the merit of our forefathers, respect our spouses and build wonderful families for the next generation. Let us shine new light on our marriages and may Hashem deal with us in kind. Amen.

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