Job’s wife was the righteous one

The Book of Job is not actually about a perfectly righteous man who loses everything and yet retains his faith in God. It is really about a perfectionist husband and dad who disrespects his wife and children.

We are told that Job’s seven sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for his children to be purified. Early the (next) morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. (Job 1:4-5)

So Job is continually and unjustifiably suspicious of his own children’s purity. Job has no direct evidence that any of his children are sinners. He hears no reports of sinful behavior. Yet his regular custom was to assume some or all of his children needed to be ritually purified for sinning in their hearts.

To the world outside his home Job appears to be an extra-pious, frum Yid who is just being extra careful.

To his children, who he never trusted, he must have appeared like a zealous perfectionist who could never be pleased.

After his children lose their wealth, their servants and even their lives, and Job’s body itself is struck by boils, he remains unchanged. “So the Satan went out from the presence of Hashem, and afflicted Job with shekhin rah (bad boils, one of the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians) from the sole of his foot unto the top of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself and sat down among the ashes.

“Then his wife said to him, Do you still retain your (strict self-righteous) integrity? Curse Elohim, and die. But he said to her, “You speak like a fool speaks. What? Shall we receive good (fortune) from God, and not accept bad (fortune)? In all this Job did not sin in what he said.” (Job 2:7-10)

No man who slanders and disrespects his wife by calling her a fool (the word in Hebrew actually means a dried up corpse) can be considered a righteous Tsadeek or a Hasid. True, Job is under tremendous stress; but so too is his wife who has also lost all her children; and whose husband is now sorely afflicted.

Job’s wife seems to have a husband who is totally unaware of her parallel suffering. His wife tells him to give vent to his despair (as King David did on hearing about the death of his son Absalom) and stop acting with perfect, emotionless faith.

His reply is to scapegoat and slander his wife as a nasty fool. Of course, even a self-righteous perfectionist does not deserve to have all his children die. The fable of Job uses dramatic overkill to make plain that neither Job or his wife deserve what has happened to them.

Yet Job totally ignores the Torah teaching that God created females to be help-mate partners for their husbands. Psalm 45:10 says, “A royal consort stands at your right side” This is why the bride stands at the grooms right side in a Jewish wedding ceremony.

The “royal consort” woman built by God is described as an “ezer k’negdo”- a helper corresponding to or equal to him i.e. a partner or a teammate. The right side does not differ greatly from the left side in bilateral creatures; but the two different sides of the human brain are complimentary psychologically, so perhaps she is the ‘inside’ and he is the ‘outside’.

This would symbolize a greater difference. Good partners bring different abilities and talents together. Thus, as partners, one plus one is greater than two. Even a skeptic like Kohelet declares, “If two lie side by side, they keep each other warm; but how can one keep warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:11)

This is why God says, “ It is not good for a male to dwell alone. I will provide a helpmate/partner for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Genesis 2:18 says God made an ezer k’negdo for Adam (a Hebrew phrase meaning a helpmate opposite or against him); but the word ezer connotes strength and is usually used in reference to God’s power to help (Psalms 33:20, 70:6, 115:9 and 146:5); so a better understanding of the term is that God created woman as a gift for mankind; she is to be a helpful force advising, guiding and when needed, restraining or chastising her partner.

Thus the rabbis taught that the term ezer k’negdo was used to teach all males that when her husband was right, his wife would be there to support him with her strength…. and when her husband was wrong, she would be there with her strength, to oppose or restrain him.

In public, Job may be a frum Yid, but his hidden, and perhaps even unconscious, faults as a ridged, perfectionist parent and a disrespectful and insensitive husband, were well known within his family.

May all the Job like pious Jews today learn a lesson from Job about the sins of being constantly suspicious and critical of other people, and their inner motives and thoughts. May those who think that ‘stricter is better’, become more flexible. And may all husbands be guided by the Talmud’s statement;\: “A man should always be careful to honor his wife” (Baba Metsi’a 59b).

Or as the biblical Book of Proverbs says: “A house and wealth can be inherited from ancestors, but an intelligent wife is from God.” (Proverbs 19:14)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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