My Body, My Wife

Men refer to their wives in many different ways (as do wives, their husbands) but one of the more interesting traditional Jewish terms to describe the husband-wife relationship is: ‘Ishto k’Gufo’ – ‘one’s wife is like oneself’.

This refers to the closeness of the marriage bond and its ramifications in Jewish practice and law. However, the literal translation of the term ‘k’Gufo’: ‘like one’s body’, can also allegorically open a door into the nature of the relationship and how to succeed within it.

Torah and Kabbala characterize the body and the soul as two opposites, each with its own values and viewpoints. Because of this, there’s a constant tension or ‘tug of war’ between them—and thus within us.

The path of spiritual perfection largely consists of embracing this struggle, with the goal of making peace between one’s body and soul. This consists of a ‘win-win’ arrangement of providing the body with its legitimate needs, while at the same time co-opting its energies toward the soul’s higher, eternal aspirations.

One who struggles with, and ultimately brings harmony between body and soul can be considered a spiritual warrior.

But that’s only phase one.

A man and woman, husband and wife, are also in a sense ‘two opposites’. Besides the obvious physical and documented neurological differences, men and women also differ spiritually.

Women think, feel and react in ways that often differ from men. In that respect, one’s wife is indeed ‘like one’s body’, mirroring the dynamic of the native tension between them, the inevitable struggle, and the goal of ‘win-win’ peace, love and harmony.

In a person’s relationship with their body, if one treats it well, both physically and spiritually, diligently providing for its needs within Torah-permitted parameters, it will ‘return the favor’ granting vigor and health and aiding the person in their spiritual pursuits. If one mistreats the body, either though overindulgence or neglect, it will ‘rebel’, causing suffering.

Likewise, the Torah describes a man’s wife as an ‘Ezer K’negdo’ – a ‘confronting supporter’. When a man is spiritually meritorious (which to a large extent consists of treating his wife with due caring and respect), she will naturally tend to be supportive of him, and when he’s not, she’ll rightly be confrontational.

Thus, marriage is, in essence, an opportunity to ascend the ladder of spiritual growth. Not only has one harmonized the dichotomy within their own being, but has reached the higher level of harmonizing the natural dichotomy between oneself and one’s life companion.

Yet this too is a springboard toward the even greater ultimate achievement of universal human harmony. Achieving peace, first within ourselves, then with the people closest to us, are the initial steps in an outward spiral of harmony encompassing ever greater segments of the one ‘body’ of humanity, leading us to treat one another not as the ‘other’…but as part of us.

Nesanel Yoel Safran has been involved in life-counseling for many years, mentoring others to overcome hurdles of destructive habits, relationship crises, mood issues, low motivation, etc. He has particular experience in the “12-Step Approach” to overcoming obstacles to growth and well-being. Nesanel believes that healing ultimately is rooted in a re-invigoration and re-centering of one’s spiritual life. https://soulfoodiecom.wordpress.com/

About the Author
Nesanel Yoel Safran, US born and a graduate of Brandeis, now living with his wife and family in the Judean Hills, is a writer, chef, and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen — and for living.
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