The Torah and Kabbalah see the relationship between every couple as part of an ongoing process fixing the cursed relationship of Adam and Eve thereby receiving the light of love back into the world. One of those curses is dominance. A relationship of dominance does not express love. The Kabbalah teaches that love is making a space within yourself for an other and giving of yourself to that other. Only when two people give to each other and help each other within a relationship of mutual respect and inclusiveness can they experience the power and miracle of true love.
You are probably wondering how all this fits with the well known verse in the Torah stating that “He will rule over you.” Is this not the very source and justification for man’s dominance over woman? The answer is, “No, on the contrary.” The Torah is telling us that this is a curse, not the norm, and not the ideal to strive for. We are responsible to nullify this curse, just as modern technology in agriculture is nullifying the curse of “cursed is the ground for your sake …thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you…..by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread.”
We see how the curse of male dominance was nullified in the loving relationships of all the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the Torah.
G-d tells Abraham in Genesis Chapter 21 verse 12, “all that Sarah has said to you, hearken to her voice.” The Oral tradition teaches that this verse indicates that Sarah’s prophetic sense was stronger than Abraham. Rebecca too, could hardly be described as subordinate to her husband Isaac. It was Rebecca who courageously coaxed her son Jacob into disguising himself as his manipulative brother Esau and coming before blind Isaac to get the blessing. She took this initiative in order to show Isaac just how blind and vulnerable he could be. Rebecca had the insight to know that it was truly Jacob who deserved the blessings and she needed to orchestrate this play in order to help Isaac realize the sad truth regarding Esau’s manipulation. We also find when Jacob wanted to move out of his father-in-laws house he needed to earnestly convince his wives Rachel and Leah to agree. He clearly did not rule over them, announcing his decision to move irregardless of their opinion or consent.
True love is not achieved through dominion it takes mutual respect for each other’s unique strengths and giving to each other.
A student of mine, while she was dating, had an encounter with a fellow who took the curse of male dominance as an ideal standard for a relationship. On the first date, he asked her, “Do you like to cook?”
And she said, “No, I hate it.”
“Well,” he says, “do you like to clean?”
“What about laundry.”
She sees that her answers are shocking him, so she says, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” he nods.
“Is this a job interview?”
It was clear the guy wasn’t looking you a wife, but for a housekeeper. Women tend to make the same mistake by asking about the man’s money making status and how good are his chances for advancements.
A friend of mine from Toronto was visiting New York and was set up on a date. He called her up for instructions on how to get to her place. She began to explain which highways he should take, but then he interrupted, “I am looking for directions to your place by bus.”
“What? You don’t have a car? Well, then forget it.”
This woman wasn’t looking for a husband, she was looking for a chauffer. And if so, that’s just what she’s going to get, and he’ll drive her crazy.
One fellow who was contemplating a divorce, told me mournfully why he thought
the marriage went wrong. He said, “I know what my mistake was. I was looking for a Ferrari and I got a Ford.”
I said, “I think the problem was you were looking for a car.”
It is not a pet you are looking for. It is not a subordinate. It is not a housekeeper. It is not a
possession. When you seek a spouse, whether you are a man or a woman, you are not looking over a resume; you are not hiring to fill a vacancy. And you are not buying an appliance.
Sure we need a helpmate to help with the practical responsibilities of daily living, but we need a soulmate for the spiritual responsibilities of daily loving. To succeed in living and loving we need someone we respect equal to ourselves.
And the joy, the ecstasy and the mystery of being in love is this: we are one and yet not one and the same. I can include you, you can include me. We seem almost to share a single identity, and yet, simultaneously, we are not one and the same.