Volume 6 Issue 1
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
The creation of man was no simple feat. In fact, Hashem seems to be
disappointed with his less-than-perfect creation. He looks at Adam and
declares, "It is not good for man to be alone I will create an ezer k'negdo."
The word ezer means helper, and the word k'negdo takes on various
explanations, each defining the role of woman in completing and perfecting
Simply put, the word k'negdo means opposite him. It can even mean against
him. Rashi quotes the Talmud that explains that there is no middle ground
in relationships. If one merits than the spouse is a helper; and if one
does not merit, then the spouse is a k'negdo, against him.
Though the word k'negdo may mean opposite him, it need not mean a negative
connotation. Opposite him, however, defines a relationship. One can not be
opposite of no one. Why, then, does the Torah define this helper in such
intersting terms? Why would it not have sufficed to call the new spouse a
helper and leave it at that?
With the baseball playoffs fast approaching, a therapist in our community
told me a fascinating story that reflects upon the strange state of affairs
in some households.
A couple came to him for counseling in their predicament.
"My husband is only interested in the baseball playoffs! All he's
interested is in that stupid baseball! Yankees, Shmankees! That's all he
wants to do each night. "
"That problem," thought the doctor, "is not so unique. It occurs pretty
often in households across the country."
He was expecting to hear the husband defend himself with lines like, "it's
only once a year," or only when New York is in the playoffs."
He didn't. In response the husband put his hands on his hips and faced-off.
"And what about her? All she wants to watch are the evening sitcoms and
serials! They are meaningless fantasies! How does she expect me to see
real men earning an honest living playing ball, when she wants to watch
those silly dramas?"
The therapist pondered this modern-day struggle and offered his
suggestion. "I see that your interests in televised entertainment are
quite polarized. But I think there is a simple solution."
He smiled broadly and with the confidence of responding with Solomonic
wisdom he continued. "You are quite an affluent couple, and," he added,
"you have a large home. Why don't you just buy an additional TV set, and
each of you watch your desires in different rooms!"
The therapist's smile faded as the couple stared at him in
horror. "DIFFERENT ROOMS??" they shrieked in unison. "How can we watch in
different rooms? That's the time we spend together!"
Through its contrasting definitions of a spouse's capacity, the Torah does
more than warn us of problems. It explains what the best helper is. The
appropriate helper and mate is not one who spends his or her time in a
different world with different interests and no concern for the
other's. Rather, it is one who stand opposite the spouse and faces
him. The shared enjoyment of each other's company , the companionship of
k'negdo, should outweigh a set of four eyes glued to an event in the
distance. The Torah wants two sets of eyes facing each other. Sometimes
in agreement, sometimes in disagreement as long as they are k'negdo,
opposite the other.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
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Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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