The Power of Repair
Our Gemara on Amud Beis references the principle that only kings from the Davidic lineage were granted the privilege of sitting in the courtyard of the Temple. Most rishonim hold that this is a Torah law (halakha Lemoshe Misinai, see Rashi Sanhedrin 101b), and no other prominent figure is granted this same privilege.
The simple explanation is that a divinely ordained monarchy symbolizes God’s glory on Earth and, as such, deserves a similar degree of respect. Much like we saw earlier in Kiddushin 57a, where the commandment to fear God includes a directive to show deference to Torah sages. This seems to be what the Meiri (Sotah 32a) means when he says it is to “show that David’s kingdom is the kingdom of heaven.”
Rashi (Sotah 40b) says that this is to honor David by acknowledging the completeness of his kingdom. Rashi’s choice of words is distinctive, and it appears he was emphasizing a different point. Notes by Rav Hartman on Maharal (Nesiv HaTorah 15:56) explain that sitting implies completeness because one no longer needs to be on the move. Allowing the Davidic king to sit signifies that the pinnacle of human character development has been exemplified and achieved through the kingdom of David. Therefore, the ability to sit in front of God conveys the message that the full aspirations and expressions of mankind’s duty toward God have been, or can be realized, through the messianic and Davidic dynasty and mission.
Sefas Emes (Devarim Succos 10) offers a different and powerful explanation for why the monarchs of David were allowed to sit in the temple courtyard, with implications for us regular folk. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 3) speaks of Aharon initially being chosen by God, then pushed away (due to the sin of the Golden Calf), and finally being brought back and drawn close to God to serve as the high priest and enter the Holy of Holies. Sefas Emes says this is not an accident, but a result of the special status a penitent achieves beyond the righteous, who have never sinned (Berachos 34b). Similarly, David, having sinned with Batsheva and spending much of his life in repentance, benefitted that his descendants were granted a special status, allowing them to sit in the courtyard of the Temple. This implies a certain intimacy granted only to those who have reached such a high level, paradoxically through sin and penitence.
Sefas Emes further states that after the Jews go through the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they have reached a special status as penitents, granting them even greater intimacy with God. This is symbolized in Succos, akin to dwelling in the Shekhina.
Patterns continue to repeat themselves, spiritually and physically, throughout time and across worlds. Although it’s challenging to comprehend, we can intuitively relate to the idea that a relationship that went through considerable difficulty, but ultimately repaired, becomes stronger and more intimate than before. Many couples that I have had the privilege to work with in helping them through painful conflicts, deep anguish, and dysfunction, can testify to this. When they reach that point of deep empathy, care, and repair, all the pain of the past pales in comparison to the special connection and ecstasy achieved through this newfound closeness.
Maternal and Paternal Attachment
In our Gemara on Amud Beis, there’s an intriguing phrase used to describe young children’s attachment to their mother: כרוכים אחריה, which I would translate as “wrapped up with her and following behind her.” Rashi here employs a word that literally translates as attached, נדבקין.
The Gemara in Shabbos (141b) uses a different idiom to describe paternal attachment: געגועים, which translates as “pinings or longings” and is likely an onomatopoeia for a kind of wail, repeated over and over, as “ga-a, ga-a.” (Two interesting points: In Hebrew, when a root is repeated, it signifies something that happens cyclically or repeatedly. For example, מפעפע for bubbling, אדםדם for very red, or גלגל for a rolling wheel. Secondly, Hebrew abounds in onomatopoeia because it’s an original language. For instance, זבוב for a fly, which makes a buzzing zvuv noise. Or, to combine both repetition and onomatopoeia, we have the word for flask, בקבוק, because when you pour, it repeatedly makes a “bak-buk” noise, or in English, we might say, “glug, glug”).
Reflecting on the different words used for maternal versus paternal attachment corresponds with the psychological differences between maternal and paternal attachment. In the case of the mother, young children are literally attached, wrapped around her, and following her everywhere. However, in the case of the father, the child is detached and pining to once again find and be attached to his father. In other words, the child ventured into the world and is now seeking to reunite with his father. The situation described in the Gemara Shabbos regarding paternal attachment involved a young boy holding a muktzeh object on Shabbos. In certain circumstances, it is permitted for the father to pick up the boy, even though he is holding a muktzeh object, because otherwise, the child would grow ill from the געגועים, the pining for his father. (See Rashi in Gemara Shabbos ibid.) Notably, the son is out and about in the world and discovers an object that puts his sense of personal agency in conflict with his father’s agency. He wants to hold onto the rock but also wants his father to pick him up; the father faces a dilemma because it is forbidden for him to hold the rock. In at least some circumstances, the son’s conflict must be respected, and thus the father is allowed to pick up the boy.
From a psychological perspective, attachment to the mother is based on emotional support. When the child receives empathy and emotional regulation from the mother, the child begins to internalize and develop self-soothing and regulation. In turn, attachment to the father supports taking risks, exploring the world, and being more adventurous (Bretherton I. Fathers in attachment theory and research: A review. Early Child Dev. Care. 2010). Think of a typical mother’s behavior with a baby, cooing and reflecting each emotion and expression the baby has. On the other hand, the father throws the baby up in the air, and the baby is scared but also thrilled to take the risk and fall back into his father’s arms. This process symbolically repeats itself throughout childhood in similar age-appropriate behaviors for both fathers and mothers, along gender lines.
Pure biblical Hebrew is fascinating because since the words originate from internal roots, each word tells a story. Here we see how the child psychologically attaches to the mother differently than to the father, and how these nuances are reflected in the Hebrew language.
Intellectual Differences Between Men and Women
In our Gemara on Amud Beis, there’s a discussion regarding the vulnerabilities of women compared to men:
גְּמָ׳ מַאי טַעְמָא? תְּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ: הוֹאִיל וְנָשִׁים דַּעְתָּן קַלּוֹת עֲלֵיהֶן.
What is the reason that a man may not be secluded with two women, but a woman may be secluded with two men? The school of Eliyahu taught: Women are of light mind.
The phrase דעתן קלות has been a source of offense for some women, as it implies a certain intellectual inferiority. Some contemporary explanations I have seen strike me as apologetics or forced interpretations. It’s essential to acknowledge that there are equal numbers of intelligent women and men; you can observe this in the couples you know. While men may often be more assertive and vocal in expressing their opinions, the idea that women inherently possess less intellectual acuity than men is questionable. So, how do we reconcile this statement from our tradition?
Moreover, in Gemara Niddah 45b, we find a contrasting sentiment that attributes intellectual superiority to women:
Ben Yehoyada and Iyun Yaakov (ibid) address this contradiction by suggesting that it applies to the primordial woman before her consumption of the forbidden fruit, which distorted her due to physical desires. Ritva (ibid) argues that this Gemara refers to earlier intellectual maturation but not overall intellectual superiority. Regardless of the interpretation, the Talmudic stance suggests that women may be lacking in some intellectual capacity as compared to men.
Let’s explore a different interpretation that takes into account the text, context, and insights into feminine and masculine psychology. In the context of our Gemara in Kiddushin, it refers to a greater susceptibility to sexual persuasion. Rashi clearly states this. However, this notion is not always supported by experience. Are we to believe that men are better at managing their desires and lust, especially in sexual matters, than women? The answer lies in understanding that this is not just about sexuality, although desire plays a role, but it’s primarily about the intellectual quality of women to be persuaded. This interpretation is also supported by Rashi in Bereishis (3:15), which mentions that the Serpent chose to engage with Chava because “women have light intellect and can be more easily persuaded.” The simple non-Midrashic interpretation was that this was not a sexual overture, yet the Serpent believed Chava to be more vulnerable
The perspective of the Gemara Niddah could be rooted in the concept of “Binah” or intuition, which comes from the root בן B-N, meaning to build, infer, or derive ideas from existing data. In essence, it suggests that women may possess greater intuition and can arrive at conclusions with less linear and analytical thought. On the other hand, they may be more easily persuaded, which is the “lightness” attributed to their intellectual capacities. This susceptibility to persuasion is tied to their inclination to seek safety through bonding and maintaining relationships, valuing relational connections over rationality and logic.
Men, on the other hand, tend to set boundaries, differentiating themselves and being less conciliatory. They find safety in these boundaries and are more analytical in their approach. The feminine character focuses more on attachment and intuitive, emotional factors, while the masculine character, driven by aggression, seeks differentiation, leading to more black-and-white analytical distinctions. Of course, it’s important to note that these traits and tendencies do not define individuals, as there are men with more feminine character traits and women with more masculine character traits.
Rav Sorotzkin (Oznayim Le-Torah, Bereishis 2:22) shares a similar idea, emphasizing that women often engage in nurturing, which is a matter of the heart. This allows them to intuit things based on emotional impressions that are non-verbally transmitted. This strength and weakness simultaneously apply to women. They can be more easily persuaded because they prioritize collaboration and connection over intellectual differentiation. Yet, their ability to empathize and tune in to others provides them with insights and intellectual leaps that go beyond mere data analysis.
Emptiness and Longing
Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses how during the festivals, because it was a time of overall rejoicing and mingling of many people, there was a greater susceptibility to sexual transgressions. (Some say this is the source for the custom of fasting “Behaab” after Pesach and Succos.)
Tiferes Yosef (Shavuos 15) provides a spiritual and psychological insight. Yom Tov induces a joyful state that, when properly channeled, leads to attachment to God. God is the source of all completeness, thus feeling joy and completeness logically lead to spiritual attachment. However, he cautions that when this state is aroused but not properly directed, it can lead to a greater downfall due to hedonistic indulgences.
In general, this is an important point about the potential for good and evil in everything we experience. Any emotion or experience that arouses us can pull us in either direction. We can be drawn closer to God or toward our own selfishness. The state of joy, pleasure, or excitement is simply part of the human experience that needs to be properly harnessed.
We find another powerful psychological example in the divergent paths chosen by Rus and Arpah. The Gemara and Midrash tell us that once Arpah decided to return to her people and not follow her mother-in-law and Rus, she ended up participating in a sexual orgy (Sotah 42b and Tosafos). How did Arpah go from considering a profound sacrifice and conversion to Judaism to the extreme of complete hedonism? This phenomenon is a powerful aspect of human nature. Once something is aroused, the void it leaves must be filled. Because Arpah had initially sensed a great moment and was at least partially aroused to attach to God, and then repressed that urge, the unconscious longing and emptiness remained active, driving her to seek oblivion.
It’s important to recognize that even those, and perhaps especially those who succumb to sexual temptations, may harbor deep longings for attachment and connection within their psyche. Unfortunately, in the midst of their desires and impulsive behaviors, they have not been able to channel their aspirations toward spiritual goals. Yet, the potential for attachment and connection remains.
The Benefits of Marriage for Men
In our Mishna on Amud Aleph, a bachelor is referred to as a Ravak, with its Hebrew root being רק, meaning empty. As I’ve emphasized numerous times in the Psychology of the Daf, Hebrew is a language rich in meaning, and delving into the roots of words provides extraordinary anthropological and psychological insights.
According to the Wikipedia entry, the English word “bachelor” has an unknown origin, with its first attestation in the 12th century, where it referred to a young knight. The word in English carries connotations of a young person who is not yet fully initiated, both professionally and personally, into adulthood, often through marriage. (It’s worth noting that some secular dictionaries, when encountering words with an apparent Hebrew origin, tend to stop at Greek and other ancient languages without considering Hebrew at all. Since the word “bachelor” lacks a known origin, the phonetic similarity to “Bochur,” meaning a young student in Hebrew, leads to the fairly obvious conclusion that it has Hebrew roots.)
The Greek word for bachelor is ἄγαμος, “Agamos.” It’s a compound word with the prefix “A” meaning “not” and the suffix “Gamos” meaning “marriage,” indicating one who is not married.
However, Hebrew uses a term that implies emptiness. A man who is not married is described as empty. What is this emptiness about? Koheles Rabbah (9:9) conveys: Anyone who does not have a wife is without goodness, without a helper, without joy, without blessing, without atonement.
From a psychological perspective, marriage rounds out men and teaches them to be more empathic and self-aware. Men, being naturally more extroverted due to their aggressive instincts, may lack self-reflection without input from a woman who is more attuned to bonding, empathy, and affection.
According to researchers Monin and Clark (“Why Do Men Benefit More from Marriage Than Do Women? Thinking More Broadly About Interpersonal Processes
That Occur Within and Outside of Marriage”, Joan K. Monin & Margaret S. Clark, Published online: 27 May 2011, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011):
- Although marriage is associated with health benefits for both men and women, research has consistently shown that men derive more benefit than women (Goldman et al. 1995; House et al. 1988; Kaplan and Kronick 2006; Kiecolt- Glaser and Newton 2001).
- Men typically benefit from the reduction of daily hassles for men due to wives’ provision of more household maintenance (Bolger et al. 1989; Greenstein 1996; Hochschild and Machung 1999; Thompson and Walker 1989).
- Since men and women differ in how much support they give and receive outside of their marriages or romantic relationships. If women have more mutually responsive communal relationships outside of marriage, they may need marriage less than men do in terms of maintaining their health. Multiple lines of research provide evidence for the idea that women benefit more from close relationships outside of their marriages than men do. Research shows that women feel closer to others (Monin et al. 2008), give (Wellman and Wortley 1990) and receive more social support (Turner and Marino 1994), and are more likely to have confidants (Booth 1972) outside of their marriage.
- Additionally, women are more likely to express their emotions outside of their marriages than men are (Monin, Feeney, & Clark, unpublished data). Although marriage is still an important source of support and intimacy for both men and women, men may be relying on this source of support more than women do.
- In another study, men’s wage earnings, increased by 22% if they are married. (Leslie S. Stratton, “Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men,” Economic Inquiry 40 (April 2002): 199–212.) This is similar to the Gemara’s teaching (Bava Metzi’a 59a): “A person must always be careful about respecting the honor of his wife, as blessing is found in a person’s house only because of his wife.
Considering all these opportunities for relational wholeness and growth that marriage provides, the Hebrew term for “bachelor,” meaning “empty one,” succinctly expresses this concept.