Sunday, May 18, 2008

Woman Retains Her Individuality While Profoundly Blending Her Personality With Her Husband's ("The Jewish Way")

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

Eric Wallace cites the writings of a late 19th Century Confederate Presbyterian pastor in his own book “Uniting Church and Home.” Benjamin Morgan Palmer, whose book on the family was originally published in 1876, pastored the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, giving insight into some of the beliefs of those within neo-confederate movements today. Within this text I was able to find nearly every doctrine embraced by the modern patriarchy movement and the “hard complementarians” associated with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (save for the concept of the eternal subordination of Christ the Son within the Trinity).

Concerning a woman's independence and personality, Palmer stated:
“The woman, by the law of marriage, is reintegrated into the man, from whose side she was originally drawn. She never exists afterward as an independent person. By her voluntary act she is merged, civilly and legally, into the man. With her office in the household perfectly defined, her status in the same is determined by her relation to her husband. All her privileges and rights flow from her association to her head” (pgs 102-103).

Contrast the writings of Palmer and his ideal of a how a woman “reintegrates” into a man through the disappearance of her “existence as an independent person” with what Lamm cites about traditional views of women within the traditions of orthodox Judaism.

Pg 125 -126

Mature intimacy requires a deep, interpersonal relationship in which both people retain their individuality. Mature love enables one to merge with the other, but not to become submerged. Erich Fromm points up both the beauty and paradox of love: “Two beings become one and yet remain two.”

The Torah, in requiring the end result of basar echad (one flesh), requires ezer, an overcoming of loneliness, a mutual completion of the selves, and also ke’negdo, an opposite, independent person with whom one chooses to side at will. True yichud love embraces, never stifles, one’s individuality.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said of marriage that it is not a matter “of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries... Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them.”
To further our understanding of the intimacy of Adam and Eve, it is necessary to note that the merging of the two beings was a merging not only two independent partners, but also of two equal personalities. Sforno interprets ke’negdo as the opposite balance of a scale” equal in value and dignity. Adam and Eve, ish and ishah, have equal worth, through different qualities and functions.

From Pgs 126-127:

In Malachi (2:14), a wife is referred to as chaverte’kha, your chaver, companion as Chatam Sofer explains: one who is involved in a joint venture, or a “joint partner,” as in the Aramaic translation. Not “one body, one thought” but one joined body retaining two thoughts. This is also reflected in the Kabbalistic term for sexual relations referred to earlier as chibbur (joining), from the same root as chaverim. Chibbur refers to a joining of equals, a mutuality, a reciprocal love.
Successful marriage requires the act of intimacy. It is a joint life venture not only in the passion of brief sexual excitement, but in the profound blending of personalities.

In the next post:

How Jewish law provides for a woman to work outside the home and can be granted a divorce if her right to work is restricted.

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

Other quotes noted from
The Family in its Civil and Churchly Aspects:
An Essay in Two Parts

by BM Palmer. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1991.