Parshas Ki Seitzei
Of Men And Women
Why is it forbidden for a woman who remarried after being divorced to
remarry her ex-husband?
Why does the Torah mandate that a husband is exempt from all military
service (see Rashi 23:5) during the first year of his marriage to a new
wife, except if the new wife was his old wife that he divorced and then
The Torah in Bereshis (2:24) states, “Therefore a man shall leave his
parents and cling to his wife” Why is the focus on the man? Why didn’t the
Torah state, “Therefore a woman shall leave her parents and cling to her
In the aftermath of Adam and Chava eating from the Tree Of The Knowledge
of Good and Evil, G-d defined the basic natures of man and woman. Not
surprisingly, the Torah’s formulation defined major differences between
the emotional and psychological makeup of men and women.
(Ber.3: 16) “Chava, I will greatly increase your suffering in bearing;
pain shall you bear children. Yet your craving shall be for your
(Ber: 3:17-19) “Adam, because you listened to the voice of the tree
accursed is the ground because of you; through suffering eat of it. By the
sweat of your brow shall you eat bread until you are ground from which you
Chava’s consequence was personal: physical pain and a need to depend on
her husband. On the other hand, Adam’s consequence was external to
himself: The land would be cursed so that he would have to work much
harder to produce much less, and he would be subject to frustration and
failure. True, it might be at the expense of physical labor and potential
pain; however, the source of that pain would be external to him.
Theoretically, if Adam could hire someone else to labor for him he could
avoid the direct personal consequence. Chava on the other hand did not
have the option of hiring someone else to have her children. Either she
would undergo the pain or she would not have children (epidural’s did not
exist in those days and Lamaze was an illusion that had not yet been
The personal nature of Chava’s pain and suffering was intended to focus
her inwardly on the needs of her family. The dependency she would crave
would be the protective embrace of her husband and home that would allow
her to accomplish the building of her family. Chava would know from
personal experience that family can only be accomplished through personal
sacrifice and suffering. Nine months of devotion was only the prelude to
the intensity of birth and the lifetime of almost divine attentiveness and
vigilance that child rearing demands. Regardless of Adam’s
accomplishments outside of the realm of home, their home would be a
reflection of Chava’s innate understanding that family is and will always
be their greatest responsibility and accomplishment.
The external nature of Adam’s consequences was intended to focus Adam on
his responsibility for the greater environment and society where in which
he and Chava would have to raise their family. He would confront long
hours of frustrating and often unrewarding labor for the meager means of
maintaining his home and family. He would dream of lush pastures and
prolific orchards while confronting the realities of thorns and thistles.
By contrast, he would return home every night to Chava and experience the
true accomplishment of wife, children, and home, a reality that was far
more fulfilling and much credit that it was Chava’s.
Chava’s sin was that she indulged herself by eating of the forbidden
fruit. Chava’s consequence / Tikun was to sacrifice herself for others
(husband and children) in hope of realizing personal fulfillment that she
would then have to selflessly share with her husband who seemingly had
done far less than herself in raising the family.
On the other hand, Adam’s sin was that he did not refuse Chava’s overture.
It was less his desire to eat the forbidden fruit than it was his weakness
in not standing up for what was right. Adam should have refused Chava’s
offering of the forbidden fruit. He was not as “attracted” to it as the
Torah’s description of Chava’s attraction. (See Ber. 3:6) Instead, he gave-
in to his wife. His consequence / Tikun was that he would have to focus on
the bigger picture, the picture outside the embrace of home and family. He
would have to become the protector of family and societal values. He would
be responsible for protecting the family by engaging the external world
and making it safe and conducive for raising the family.
The bottom line is that Chava’s Tikun was, “Ye your husband” and Adam’s
Tikun was, “bread” Chava was made to be dependent and Adam was forced to
be independent of G-d. Chava was made to be dependant on Adam, and by
extension, dependant on G-d. Adam was made to be independent of what
otherwise would have been G-d’s benevolent largess and support. G-d would
have given Adam everything he needed had he only not eaten from the
Forbidden Fruit. Instead, Adam had to work futilely to get less than what
he would have received had he only listened to G-d’s wishes. By
extension, he would realize that his real accomplishments were in the
realm of home where he did much less because Chava was present to take
care of it. By further logical extension he would realize that doing G-d’s
law, and not the myriad of other things he assumed were important, was the
only true work for which he would receive everything he ever wished for.
The reason the Torah states, “Therefore a man (rather than a woman) shall
leave his parents and cling to his wife,” is because a woman since the sin
of Adam and Chava is to focus on her family, home, and husband. It does
not suggest that a daughter will not or does not miss her mother and
father. Of course she will! In fact, she may miss them even more than her
husband will miss his mother and father. Nevertheless, she will still
desire to cling to her husband even at the expense of leaving the home of
her parents. (That is why the laws of Kibud Av V’aim -honoring parents-
are different for a husband and a wife.)
On the other hand, a man’s tendency since the sin of Adam and Chava is to
seek outwardly for his own misdirected sense of accomplishment. That is
not to suggest that he shouldn’t work hard to accomplish in the outside
world. Just the opposite! He must excel in the outside world and impact
his environment so that the world is a proper place in which to serve G-d
and raise a family. However, his real accomplishment will be in the
closed, protected embrace of his wife and children.
At first he will seek his fame and fortune outside of the home; however,
the Torah states, “Therefore a man shall leave his parents and cling to
his wife.” No longer can man take his “home” for taken for granted. The
refrigerator is always open and the shower always hot. From that assured
base, man ventures forth to acquire fame and fortune. Among those
acquisitions will be a spouse and eventually a family. They will be unique
among his possessions, but his feeling is that they are still possessions.
He doesn’t yet know that they are beyond possessions and acquisitions. He
doesn’t yet know that they are truly his only real and lasting
accomplishment. (That is why students are called children. They too are
counted as true and lasting accomplishments.)
A man must learn to cling to his wife and children. There is natural
dependency, love, and need; but more often than not, the man does not
realize or admit to the importance and profundity of those essential
dynamics. Instead, he focuses on the accomplishments outside the home
rather than the real accomplishments of the home. To help the man focus on
the primacy of wife and home, the Torah mandates that during the “First
Year” he must make his “new wife” his exclusive and primary focus. He
cannot go to the army and he cannot be involved in anything that will
distract him from recognizing the importance and primacy of, “therefore a
man shall cling to his wife.
Because of the fundamental differences between men and women regarding
dependency and home, the Torah allowed for men to have more than one wife
but forbade a woman having more than one husband. A man does not define
himself by his relationship with his home. He learns to respect and
appreciate the home as his ultimate contribution and purpose, but
nevertheless must continue to interact with the outside world. That
interaction provides sufficient space and distance so that he can
theoretically share himself with more than one family. On the other hand,
a woman’s tendency is toward dependency and commitment to home and self.
It’s beyond personal enjoyment and desire. It transcends pain and
sacrifice. Her fulfillment is the exclusive focus of husband and children.
Such a commitment cannot be shared or divided with more than one husband.
(That is why the relationship between Am Yisroel and G-d is described as a
relationship between a husband and wife.)
Once a woman has divorced and remarried, her new husband and family
redefine herself. No longer can she retain a responsibility and concern
for her ex. However, if she should divorce her second husband or be
widowed, she cannot go back to her first husband. The Torah calls it a
Toaivah, an abomination is a philosophical and symbolic perversity in the
reformulation of exclusivity that should exist in a loving relationship.
On the other hand, it is a Mitzvah for a man to remarry the woman he
divorced before she marries someone else. In essence he is stating that he
has grown beyond the limits of temporal, external, accomplishments and
wants to commit himself to the real lasting accomplishments of wife,
children and home. However, if he should remarry his divorced wife and the
country is at war, he is not given the same military deferment that
a ‘new” wife would provide. The “new” wife demands the exclusive attention
that focuses him on her and away from the outside world. On the other
hand, if married, then divorced, then remarried, the husband already
realized the importance and primacy of his wife and home and does not
require the additional focus of the “First Year.”
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.