Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Spiritual Codependency, Off the Derech Olives and More Bava Metzia 103-105


In Families there are No Secrets 

Our Mishna on Amud Beis textually analyzes a Mishna which discusses the financial rights shared by a person who rents or uses a vineyard as a tenant farmer. The Mishna states:

כְּשֵׁם שֶׁחוֹלְקִין בַּיַּיִן, כָּךְ חוֹלְקִין בַּזְּמוֹרוֹת וּבַקָּנִים. וּשְׁנֵיהֶם מְסַפְּקִין אֶת הַקָּנִים:

Just as the halakha is that the owner of the field and the one cultivating it divide the wine, so too the halakha is that they divide the branches pruned from the vines and the poles (used to support the vines). And the two of them, i.e., the landowner and the one cultivating the field, both supply the poles.

וּשְׁנֵיהֶם מְסַפְּקִין אֶת הַקָּנִים: לְמָה לִי ? מָה טַעַם קָאָמַר מָה טַעַם שְׁנֵיהֶם חוֹלְקִין בַּקָּנִים מִשּׁוּם דִּשְׁנֵיהֶם מְסַפְּקִין אֶת הַקָּנִים:

And the two of them, i.e., the landowner and the one cultivating the field, both supply the poles. The Gemara asks: Why do I need the mishna to state this? The Gemara answers that the mishna is saying what the reason is for its ruling: What is the reason that the two of them divide the poles? It is because the two of them supply the poles.

The Mishna utilizes a syntactic system whereby the final clause connected by the word “and” signals that it is an explanation for the prior clause. Thus, the Mishna is not stating two separate facts, “They divide the poles – And – the landowner and the one cultivating the field, both supply the poles.” Instead it is understood as a statement and accompanying explanation. It reads as follows: “They divide the poles – due to the fact that both the landowner and the one cultivating the field, supply the poles.”

This way of understanding Hebrew prose is used by the Tosefes Beracha to explain a difficult verse in Bereishis (37:10-11). The verse narrates Yosef’s brothers and his father’s reactions to his seemingly grandiose dreams, suggesting that his family will one day bow down to him subserviently:

וַיְסַפֵּ֣ר אֶל־אָבִיו֮ וְאֶל־אֶחָיו֒ וַיִּגְעַר־בּ֣וֹ אָבִ֔יו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ מָ֛ה הַחֲל֥וֹם הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָלָ֑מְתָּ הֲב֣וֹא נָב֗וֹא אֲנִי֙ וְאִמְּךָ֣ וְאַחֶ֔יךָ לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֺ֥ת לְךָ֖ אָֽרְצָה׃

And when he told it to his father and brothers, his father berated him. “What,” he said to him, “is this dream you have dreamed? Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow low to you to the ground?”

וַיְקַנְאוּ־ב֖וֹ אֶחָ֑יו וְאָבִ֖יו שָׁמַ֥ר אֶת־הַדָּבָֽר׃

So his brothers were jealous of him, and his father kept watch over the matter.

One might ask, why were the brothers so jealous when clearly their father, the patriarch, strongly berated and ridiculed Yosef’s dreams? And, what is the sequitur, “So his brothers were jealous of him, and his father kept watch over the matter.”?

If we understand the second clause as an explanation for the first clause, like our Mishna’s text, we may then read the verse as follows: “So his brothers were jealous of him, due to the fact that his father secretly kept watch over the matter.” Meaning to say, Yaakov put on an apparently unconvincing show that he was outraged at Yosef’s dream. The brothers sensed this, and became even more jealous. They realized that their father thought that there was substance to the young upstart’s ambitions

The Hebrew word in this usage for “watch” is “shamor” which also has a connotation of watching in anticipation. That’s why the connotation that “Yaakov watched over the matter” is that he somehow was waiting to see what would happen, hoping to see what would happen. Similarly, in the Ten Commandments it states to “watch” or “guard” the Shabbos. The commentaries understand it to me to look forward to and anticipate the coming of Shabbos or anticipating, and looking forward to performing other mitzvos. (See for example, Ohr Hachaim Shemos 31:16 and Kedushas Levi, Vayetze 31.)

An important lesson here is that truly, there are no secrets in families. Even when secrets are successfully kept in a technical sense, family members pick up on emotions and attitudes. Despite Yaakov’s efforts to protect his other sons from feeling jealous over his future leadership, his sons sensed that he believed the dreams. 

When there are past or present traumas such as illnesses, losses, shameful events such as a relative who was convicted of a crime, or a suicide, they can have invisible but powerful effects on children. While certain facts and details are private and can remain secret, parents should be alert that somehow the child knows something. Increased anxiety, depression and acting out might be caused by picking up on a family legacy such as a shame or trauma. Unwittingly, a parent may pass along unconscious attitudes, attachment fears and other disturbances from their own unresolved feelings about the past. When a child encounters a mental health difficulty, parents should reflect on their own past experiences and how it may be affecting and bleeding over into the family emotional legacy and process.


Spiritual Codependency

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the oblative obligations that a man’s wife incurs, such as the sacrificial animals brought after childbirth, and that they are the husband’s financial obligation. Even though such sacrifices are subject to a substitution of a bird instead of a lamb if the person is unable to afford the latger animal (see Vayikra 12:6-8), we evaluate this based on the husband’s assets, and not hers.

The Shaalos Uteshuvos Binyan Shlomo (1:4) raises an interesting question. We know there is a post-Temple custom to fulfill sacrificial obligations via reading the relevant sections of the Torah. This is why we read the various sacrifices during the Mussaf prayer (see Mishna Berura 50:3 and 423:6). If so, after giving birth, who should recite the relevant biblical portions in place of the sacrifice? Should it be the mother because she gave birth and is obligated in the sacrifice, or perhaps the father since he is supposed to pay for the sacrifice?

Binyan Shelomo says that the husband’s obligations are strictly fiscal to procure the funds, however the spiritual restoration that must come is the wife’s responsibility. The actual worship and sacrifice, or the modern substitute of prayer and meditating on the laws of the sacrifice is still upon her.

We see from here the difference between financial dependence and emotional co-dependence. It is true that the husband bears the financial burden but this is unrelated to the wife’s own existential challenges in her relationship with God in processing the mortal experience of labor and childbirth. 

In a related manner, when it comes to infertility and having children, we also find this idea. After Rachel complains of her barren status, Yaakov pushes back, as if to say, “You must pray for this too. I cannot carry this alone and this is your demon to face.”

וַתֵּ֣רֶא רָחֵ֗ל כִּ֣י לֹ֤א יָֽלְדָה֙ לְיַעֲקֹ֔ב וַתְּקַנֵּ֥א רָחֵ֖ל בַּאֲחֹתָ֑הּ וַתֹּ֤אמֶר אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹב֙ הָֽבָה־לִּ֣י בָנִ֔ים וְאִם־אַ֖יִן מֵתָ֥ה אָנֹֽכִי׃

When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister; and Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die.”

וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֥ף יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּרָחֵ֑ל וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הֲתַ֤חַת אֱלֹקים אָנֹ֔כִי אֲשֶׁר־מָנַ֥ע מִמֵּ֖ךְ פְּרִי־בָֽטֶן׃ 

Jacob was incensed at Rachel, and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you fruit of the womb?” (Bereishis 30:1-2.)

Similarly, Elkana seems to be offering the childless Chana solace (Shmuel I, chapter one):

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָ֜הּ אֶלְקָנָ֣ה אִישָׁ֗הּ חַנָּה֙ לָ֣מֶה תִבְכִּ֗י וְלָ֙מֶה֙ לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְלִ֔י וְלָ֖מֶה יֵרַ֣ע לְבָבֵ֑ךְ הֲל֤וֹא אָֽנֹכִי֙ ט֣וֹב לָ֔ךְ מֵעֲשָׂרָ֖ה בָּנִֽים׃

Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why aren’t you eating? Why are you so sad? Am I not more devoted to you than ten sons?”

However, I heard in the name of Rav Soloveitchik that Chana reacted to Elkana’s acceptance as a form of resignation to her never having children. He let go of the dream. This catalyzed Chana to pray for herself with no holds barred. Until then she was subtly relying on her husband’s righteous activities and supplications to save her, but now she had to face God full force.

While community and family are important factors in prayer, in the deepest sense we all must encounter God alone, no one can do it for us.


Oily Intervention for Off the Derech Olives

Our Gemara defines what the Mishna means by the term “Paritze Zeisim”, literally translated as, “brazen, disobedient olives.

מַאי פָּרִיצֵי זֵיתִים? אָמַר רַב הוּנָא: רִשְׁעֵי זֵיתִים. אָמַר רַב יוֹסֵף: וּמַאי קְרָאָה – ״[וּבְנֵי] פָּרִיצֵי עַמְּךָ יִנַּשְּׂאוּ לְהַעֲמִיד חֲזוֹן וְנִכְשָׁלוּ״. רַב נַחְמָן בַּר יִצְחָק אָמַר: מֵהָכָא – ״וְהוֹלִיד בֵּן פָּרִיץ שֹׁפֵךְ דָּם״.

The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of unruly [peritzei] olives? Rav Huna said: Wicked olives, i.e., olives that barely produce any oil. Rav Yosef said: And what is the verse from which it is derived? “Also the children of the wicked [peritzei] among your people shall raise themselves up to establish the vision but they shall stumble” (Daniel 11:14). This verse indicates that the word peritzei means wicked. Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak said that the meaning of this word can be derived from here: “If he begets a son that is a robber [paritz], a shedder of blood” (Ezekiel 18:10).

There is a mystical idea that when there is physical corruption in the world it has an effect on the divine flow and therefore manifests symbolically and relatedly in the material world. There is a Midrashic teaching that due to the immoral sexual perversions of the generation of the Flood, even the beasts interbred (see Rashi Bereishis 6:12.) Ha’amek Davar (Bereishis 19:19) elaborates on this, stating that when laws of meat and milk or wool and linen are broken, this causes disruptions in the physical world and can affect the ecosystem. These so-called unruly olives are not just using a borrowed term, but they actually are a manifestation of human rebellious behavior. In a modern sense, what ills that affect the environment come from our spiritual desecrations? The rise in autism, allergies and autoimmune conditions might also be indicative of a societal lack of internal balance and integrity.

Sefer Daf al Daf in our gemara wonders why Rav Yosef uses one prooftext, and Rav Nachman bar Yitschok uses another: Rav Yosef’s verse is stated in a plural context regarding the entire Jewish nation, while Rav Nachman bar Yitschok’s verse relates to an individual. Though both Amoraim hold that perverse and evil behavior can affect the physical world and cause similar disruption and corruptions, Rav Yosef holds that the community holds this power, but not an individual. On the other hand, Rav Nachman bar Yitschok holds that even an individual’s immoral behavior can have a negative impact on his physical conditions. Rav Yosef holds that only a wicked society can cause the manifestations of rebellious olives, but Rav Nachman bar Yitschok holds that even a private person’s behavior will affect his orchard.

If we study Rav Nachman bar Yitschok’s personal history, we can see that he was especially vigilant about his own individual spiritual status, which may be a part of this middos and philosophy. There is a tradition (Shabbos 156a) that his mother was told by a fortune-teller that her son would be a bandit. In order to counter his natural tendencies and potential fate, she had him always wear a head covering (the progenitor of our custom to wear a yarmulke) to maintain mindful fear of God. The Gemara tells us that Rav Nachman’s personality was so sensitive to these inclinations that one day, when his head covering accidentally fell off, he became overcome with animal lusts and urges. Similarly, Gemara Sotah (5a) records a dispute between Rav Nachman bar Yitschok and his colleagues. While his colleagues held that a sage must at times tap into and utilize a sense of pride at a minimum level (presumably to promote respect for him and Torah), Rav Nachman held even the smallest amount of pride was spiritually toxic. We see Rav Nachman bar Yitschok may have had an overall ethic of greater personal responsibility for the spiritual and physical state of the world.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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