Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Role and Value of "Ishah" in Marriage ("The Jewish Way")

Comparing patriocentricity to the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

Within the patriocentric movement, women who are unable to bear children or families that, for whatever reason, have not been able to comply with the moral imperatives of the ideology are often relegated to shame and are treated with disdain by followers. Because the movement focuses so heavily on the importance of large families and the concept of “militant fecundity,” the value of woman as “ishah” becomes diminished. Read what Maurice Lamm wrote concerning barrenness in marriage.

From Page 159:

An unsurpassed insight into woman’s role comes from the medieval Rabbi Isaac Arama. The Bible reports that Rachel was deeply distressed over her inability to bear Jacob children, while her sister Leah was able to bear children easily.

“And when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob: ‘Give me children, else I die.’ And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said: ‘Am I in God’s stead, who had withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’” (Genesis 30:1-2).
Rabbi Arama says that Rachel’s cry indicates that she did not fully appreciate her role in life. Woman has two names given her in the Torah, which represent two aspects of her personality and her goal on earth. One is ishah, woman, a person of integrity who stands opposite and equal to ish, man. This is what she was called by God when she was created out of Adam’s rib. She was given another name just before she gave birth to her first child. The name was chavah, which means “mother of all living things.” A woman is both chavah, a mother, and ishah, a woman. She is ishah in terms of her own personality, the integrity of her thoughts, and her relationship with God and with man. Because she is able to reproduce a human being, she also chavah, and additional glory that man can never know.

A woman who is barren and cannot fulfill her chavah role remains an ishah, a female person – alive, aware, concerned, and creative in other spheres. When Rachel says, “Give me children, else I die,” she denies the value of ishah. Man and the woman have the same value before God. Placed at opposite ends of the scale, unlike in terms of temperament and organic structure, each balances the other. Man and woman, bride and groom, Jacob and Rachel, ish and ishah.
From Pg 123:

It is true that in the Bible’s first account of creation (Genesis 1:28) the very first command is “Be fruitful and multiply.” In terms of the law, procreation is the major purpose of married life. In terms of life, however, the Torah does not consider it primary and certainly not exclusive.
Genesis 2 is the record of physical creation. Adam and Eve were natural beings, akin to the animals that surrounded them. But in the second account of creation (Genesis 2:7-24), Adam and Eve were endowed with spiritual dimensions. They rose above that natural environment, had metaphysical yearnings, and could relate to God. In Genesis 1, man and woman were simply ha-adam (undifferentiated hermaphrodites), while in Genesis 2 they were marriage partners. Humanity traces its history to the second chapter of Genesis, where God provides the motivation for the creation of woman: “It is not good for man to be lonely.”

Rabbi Isaac Breuer notes that with respect to His other and earlier works of creation, God speaks the word of approval, “good.” Only at the creation of man does He utter the negative judgment, “not good.” Loneliness is not felt by animals; only man can experience existential loneliness, the fragmentary and incomplete nature of this world. It is the genuine companionship of Adam and Eve that humanity requires, and which is the stated purpose for marriage in the scheme of creation.
In the next post:

Husbands neither answer nor account for the sins of their wives before religious authorities under Jewish law.

The teachings of the patriocentrics that support the ideal that husbands are intercessors for their wives under the law do not derive from the traditional practice of orthodox Judaism.

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980