Messianic Times and Climate Change Gittin 31
Our Gemara on Amud Beis discusses the “four winds” and their role in the physical and spiritual climate.
אֲמַר לְהוּ: הָכִי אָמַר רַב חָנָן בַּר רָבָא, אָמַר רַב: אַרְבַּע רוּחוֹת מְנַשְּׁבוֹת בְּכל יוֹם, וְרוּחַ צְפוֹנִית מְנַשֶּׁבֶת עִם כּוּלָּן; שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא כֵּן, אֵין הָעוֹלָם מִתְקַיֵּים אֲפִילּוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת. וְרוּחַ דְּרוֹמִית קָשָׁה מִכּוּלָּן, וְאִלְמָלֵא בֶּן נֵץ מַעֲמִידָהּ, מַחְרֶבֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כּוּלּוֹ מִפָּנֶיהָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: “הֲמִבִּינָתְךָ יַאֲבֶר נֵץ יִפְרֹשׂ כְּנָפָיו לְתֵימָן”.
He said to them: This is what Rav Ḥanan bar Rava says that Rav says: Four winds blow each day, and the north wind blows together with each of the other three; as, if this were not so and the northern wind did not blow, then the world would not survive for even one hour. And the south wind is harsher than all of them, and were it not for the angel called Ben Netz, who stops it from blowing even harder, then it would destroy the entire world before it, as it is stated: “Does the hawk [netz] soar by your wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?” (Job 39:26).
But of course, such teachings are hard to take at face value and can be understood as allegorical. Sefer Sod Yesharim (Chol Hamoed Pesach 11) explains this based on a Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra Rabbah 9:6).
אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי בִּנְיָמִין בַּר לֵוִי, לְפִי שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה בִּזְּמַן שֶׁרוּחַ דְּרוֹמִית מְנַשֶּׁבֶת אֵין רוּחַ צְפוֹנִית מְנַשֶּׁבֶת, וּבִזְּמַן שֶׁרוּחַ צְפוֹנִית מְנַשֶּׁבֶת אֵין רוּחַ דְּרוֹמִית מְנַשֶּׁבֶת, אֲבָל לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֲנִי מֵבִיא אַרְגֶּסְטֵס בָּעוֹלָם שֶׁמְשַׁמְשׁוֹת בּוֹ שְׁתֵּי רוּחוֹת.
The Midrash speaks of an ideal future where the winds (read as forces in the world) are able to work in complete harmony instead of in opposition. Such a state leads to the ideal messianic future. When our Gemara discusses these various winds, which seem in some way to cancel each other out, that is, they offer opposing forces which must be balance in this world, it’s really a discussion about the limits of physicality. Rav Leiner explains that the experiences we have in this world bring certain spiritual powers and redemption, but because of the limits of our physical existence, they act against each other, defeating their full effect. The power for the resurrection of the dead lies in the various spiritual forces working in concert with each other, which requires an ideal utopian state. Everything we do in Torah observance is an effort to bring these forces down to us and eventually harmonize them. In a play on words, he interprets the classic rabbinic teaching found in Mishna Sanhedrin (10:1) with a Chassidic twist:
וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא, הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים מִן הַתּוֹרָה, וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם, וְאֶפִּיקוֹרֶס
And these are the exceptions, the people who have no share in the World-to-Come, even when they fulfilled many mitzvos: One who says: “There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah,” and one who says: “The Torah did not originate from Heaven,” and an apikoros, who treats Torah scholars and the Torah that they teach with contempt.
The literal meaning of the heresy is, “There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah.” Meaning to say, the person doesn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead as a Torah principle. However, Rav Leiner asks, is it so terrible for somebody to believe in the resurrection of the dead but somehow not think that it is sourced in the Torah? Rather, Sod Yesharim says that it means to emphasize that one must believe that the power of resurrection itself comes FROM the Torah. That is, he must believe that the energy and the redemption will be derived spiritually through Torah channels. The heresy is to not believe the Torah can redeem and resurrect.
Sadistic Divorce Gittin 32 Psychology of the Daf Yomi
Our Gemara on Amud Beis considers a scenario where a husband appears to be canceling an agent who he sent to deliver a Get, but perhaps he is not really canceling, but only somehow sadistically teasing his soon-to-be ex-wife by pretending to renege on the agreement:
גְּמָ׳ הִגִּיעוּ לָא קָתָנֵי אֶלָּא הִגִּיעַ וַאֲפִילּוּ מִמֵּילָא וְלָא אָמְרִינַן לְצַעוֹרַהּ הוּא דְּקָא מִיכַּוֵּין
The Mishna states that if one sends a bill of divorce with an agent and then meets the agent and renders void the bill of divorce in his presence, then it is void. The Gemara points out: The mishna does not teach: He reached the agent after pursuing him; rather: He reached the agent, meaning that even if he reached him incidentally, without intent, he renders the bill of divorce void with his statement. And we do not say that in that case he intends only to vex his wife and does not actually intend to render the bill of divorce void.
Regardless of the halakha, we see that there is an old pattern of human behavior that can occur regarding a disgruntled, angry husband, who may be vindictive and abusive during the divorce process. (Disclaimer: No divorce is easy, and of course, it is a negotiation like any other. However, there is a line between negotiating and bargaining and advocating versus controlling and cruel behavior.) What makes some people behave that way, and how does one deal with it?
One essay could not possibly cover the complexities of various personality disorders and levels of conflict. I will attempt to discuss some broad terms and ideas.
For starters, assuming that you are not dealing with an irredeemable, sociopathic or narcissistic personality that only wants to hurt you, which we will discuss more a little bit later, it’s important to try to do what is wise and not necessarily what is right. The disgruntled spouse often is behaving in a nasty way because there is some kind of “ask” behind the behavior. Not all the “asks” are reasonable or could be gratified. But it pays to ask yourself the question: What is this person looking for from me? Why is he torturing me? I don’t mean, why existentially, because likely the reason why this person does it is they have a personality disorder. What I mean to say is, what is this person looking for? For one, it may be some kind of dignity or acknowledgment. For another, it may be a financial matter. For another, a particular term in the divorce. If it is possible to nail down and understand what that person is looking for, it just may be worth it, with careful negotiation and protections to consider fulfilling or validating that unarticulated need. But that’s practical advice for somebody whose divorcing spouse has some shred of decency and self-awareness. For the rest of this essay, we will study more about the origins and modus operandi and possible treatment for individuals that engage in this kind of abuse and cruelty with far fewer redeemable qualities and deeper personality and character flaws.
An excellent written resource, from which I derived many of these ideas, and even direct quotes, is the book “Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft. This is available online from the following link: (https://ia600108.us.archive.org/30/items/LundyWhyDoesHeDoThat/Lundy_Why-does-he-do-that.pdf).
Lundy clarifies: “The qualities that make up an abusive man are like the ingredients in a recipe: The basics are always present, but the relative amounts vary greatly. One man may be so severely controlling that his partner can’t make a move without checking with him first, and yet, oddly, he contributes substantially to the domestic work and childcare. Another man may allow his partner to come and go as she pleases, even accepting her friendships with men, but there is hell to pay if she fails to wait on him hand and foot or if she makes the mistake of asking him to clean up after himself. Still, other abusers are less overtly controlling and entitled than either of these men but mind-twisting in the severity of their manipulations. The tactics and attitudes of abusers can vary from country to country, from ethnic group to ethnic group, from a rich man to a poor man. Abusers from each culture have their special areas of control or cruelty.”
That last sentence is pertinent to us religious folks, as we can well imagine ways in which religious teachings are abused and taken out of context in order to enforce a particular narcissistic narrative.
Some abusive spouses are demanding and critical, others are insecure and need a lot of love, others cannot take in another’s opinion, and then there are those who are constantly hurt and feel like the victim, even though they are the ones often causing the damage. Of course, there is the physically aggressive and abusive spouse, but that’s easier to identify for obvious reasons.
One of the difficult challenges with abusers is that they can be intelligent and charming. Even when they are confronted by an authority (Rabbi, police officer, court system), they find ways to deflect through flattery, intellectualism, and “male bonding.” These are unconscious strategies to emphasize the irrational, possibly mentally ill behavior of their abused spouse, and why they really are OK and it is all a misunderstanding.
Lundy tells us, “An abuser is not born; he is made. In order to bring about change in an abuser, we have to reshape his attitude toward power and exploitation…Studies have found that nearly half of abusive men grow up in homes where their father or stepfather is an abuser. Home is a critical learning ground for values and sex-role expectations. Boys are at risk of absorbing the abuser’s attitude through his words and actions. Even if the dad never explicitly says that females are inferior, for example, or that the man should have the last word in an argument, his behavior can get the message across.”
While abusers most certainly can change, there are many layers of defenses and rationalizations. Often, at first, an abuser will see any type of therapy as a way to continue his controlling behavior but in a nicer, less abusive way. This represents superficial recognition that his modes of approach are not respectful, empathic, or helpful. But it still does not address the deeper disrespect and need to always be right, and the lack of understanding of the legitimacy of another person. In other words, this person can use improved communication techniques learned in therapy to actually control even more and get more of what he wants, instead of true collaboration and humility.
Here are a couple of signs that the abuser is not changing yet:
- He says he can change only if you change too.
- He says he can change only if you “help” him change by giving him emotional support, reassurance, and forgiveness, and by spending a lot of time with him.
- He criticizes you for not realizing how much he has changed.
- He criticizes you for not trusting that his change will last.
- He reminds you about the bad things he would have done in the past but isn’t doing anymore, which amounts to a subtle threat.
- He says, “I’m changing, I’m changing,” but you don’t feel it.
Let me add a caveat: As one of my great heroes and models in therapy, the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Freida Fromm Reichman, says, “The difference between mental illness and mental health is only a matter of degree.” Therefore, of course, it is understandable that somebody who is making changes needs support and recognition. It is also natural to believe that the other spouse has flaws as well, and this is probably accurate because nobody is perfect. The problem is that at this stage of the recovery, without realizing it, the abuser will overemphasize his own victimhood, and it will feed his denial. Tact, firmness, and a titrated degree of compassion are necessary to continue to confront these rationalizations. Essentially, the idea that needs to be communicated is as follows: “Because of the degree of the abuse that you committed, you will have to work for quite a while to earn trust and get consideration and appreciation to the degree that you wish for as an equal in the relationship. Yet, it still needs to be acknowledged that it is a human need to be understood and respected, and this must be dealt with some degree of warmth, benevolence, and understanding.”
Here are a couple of signs that the abuser is really changing:
- When you feel safe and that your opinions are respected.
- When you see that he deeply understands the damage he has caused to others, such as spouse and children.
- His neediness and insecurity is tempered to the extent that he is able to equally value, understand and have empathy for other people’s perspectives.
- He does not make excuses for his behavior.
- His moods are genuinely stable, well related with warmth and emotional attunement, and not just “on good behavior.”