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    Who’s Doing the

    Talking? “Does

    marriage change

    one’s personality?”

    Greg asked his

    buddy Mike. “In a

    way,” says Mike.

    “You see, when I

    was engaged, I did most of the talking and

    she did most of the listening. When we just

    got married she did most of the talking and I

    did most of the listening. Now we both do

    most of the talking and the neighbors do all

    of the listening.”

    Firstborn Rights.

    This week’s Torah portion (Ki Seitzei) states

    the following law: “If a man will have two

    wives, one beloved and one unloved, and

    both the loved and unloved wives have

    sons, and the firstborn son is that of the

    hated one; on the day that this man wills his

    property to his sons, he cannot give the son

    of the beloved wife birthright preference

    above the son of the hated wife, the

    firstborn. “Rather, he must recognize the

    firstborn, the son of the hated one, to give

    him the double portion in all his property.”

    On the most literal level, these biblical

    verses mandate that a firstborn son shall

    inherit a double portion of his father’s

    estate, while each subsequent son shall

    inherit an equal portion of the property. A

    father does not have the power to bequeath

    the double portion reserved for the firstborn

    to one of the other sons he loves, and any

    attempt to do so is ignored by Judaic law.

    As the Talmud makes clear, a person is

    certainly empowered to distribute his entire

    estate to one of the other sons (or to any

    other individual for that matter), as long as

    he conveys it as a gift. But if he chooses to

    bequeath the estate to one of the sons as an

    inheritance and so deny his firstborn son’s

    rights as a natural heir, then the father’s

    attempt has no legal validity in the Jewish

    judicial system. What is disturbing,

    however, is the Torah’s need to state the

    point via a shameful example of a man who

    loves one of his wives and loathes the other.

    Why was it necessary to use a crude and

    offensive illustration in order to make the

    simple point that the firstborn son is entitled

    to a double portion of the inheritance

    regardless of the father’s preferences? A

    spiritual Manual One of the most essential

    factors to bear in mind during biblical study

    is the idea that each mitzvah, law and

    episode described in the Torah contains—in

    addition to its physical and concrete

    interpretation—a psychological and

    spiritual dimension as well. In his

    commentary on the Bible, 13th

    century Spanish sage, Nachmanides,

    writes: “The Torah discusses the

    physical reality, but it alludes to the

    world of the spirit.” Another great

    Kabbalist went even further. 17th

    century mystic Rabbi Menachem

    Azaryah of Fanu (in Italy) states that

    “The Torah discusses the spiritual

    reality, and it alludes to the physical

    world.” This means that stories and

    laws in the Torah ought to be understood

    first and foremost as events and laws in the

    spiritual realm, and this is actually the

    primary method of Torah interpretation.

    But in its communication of spiritual truths,

    the Torah also lends itself to be interpreted

    from a physical and concrete vantage point.

    What then is the spiritual meaning of the

    seemingly coarse description in this week’s

    portion, of “a man who will have two wives,

    one beloved and one hated, and both the

    loved and unloved wives have sons, and the

    firstborn son is that of the hated one”? How

    are we to understand this verse in the

    universe of the spirit? The Struggling Vs.

    the Romantic Soul Judaism teaches that the

    relationship between each husband and

    wife in this world reflects the cosmic

    relationship between G-d (the Groom)

    and the Jewish people (the Bride). The

    entire book of “Song of Songs” by

    King Solomon is based on the notion

    that our human and flawed

    relationships are capable of reflecting

    the Divine marriage with Israel. There

    are two types of human beings who

    enter into a marriage with G-d: the

    “beloved spouse” and the “despised

    spouse.” The “beloved spouse”

    represents those unique individuals

    who enjoy a continuous romance with

    G-d. Their souls are overflowing with

    spiritual ecstasy, selfless idealism and

    fiery inspiration. They cannot stop

    loving G-d, and G-d cannot stop loving

    them. On the other end of the spectrum

    stand the “despised spouses,” all those

    human beings possessing numerous

    qualities that ought to be spurned and

    hated: immoral urges, vulgar passions

    and ugly temptations. These are the

    people whose hearts are not always

    ablaze with love toward G-d; rather,

    they struggle each and every day to

    remain married to their Divine soul

    and not fall prey to the lure of their

    animalistic tendencies and the array of

    confusing paradoxes filling their

    psyches. Throughout their life they

    must battle not to become a victim of

    many a natural instinct and craving.

    Egotism, fear, selfishness, arrogance,

    corruption, short-sightedness, guilt,

    shame, threaten to overcome their

    daily living patterns and they must

    constantly stand on guard to preserve

    their integrity and innocence. The Torah

    teaches us that G-d’s “firstborn son” may

    very well come not from His union with the

    beloved spouse but rather from His

    relationship with the despised spouse. This

    means that the spiritual harvest that a

    struggling human being produces as a result

    of his or her grueling and stormy

    relationship with G-d, may often be far

    deeper and more powerful than that of the

    spiritually serene person. For it is precisely

    in our daily struggle against the forces of

    darkness within ourselves and the world

    around us that we generate a powerful

    explosion of G-dliness and holiness in the

    world, unparalleled in the tranquil life of

    G-d’s “beloved spouse.” The morality and

    the integrity that emerges from the midst of

    a battle between good and evil contain a

    unique depth and splendor not possessed by

    the straightforward spirituality of the saint.

    Thus, “On the day that He wills His property

    to His sons, He cannot give the son of the

    beloved wife birthright preference above the

    son of the hated wife, the firstborn. Rather,

    He must recognize the firstborn, the son of

    the hated one, to give him the double

    portion in all His property.” On a spiritual

    level this means, that on the day that

    Moshiach will come, when humanity will

    finally taste the full-Divinity in the world, a

    “double portion” of G-dliness will be

    revealed in the arduous labor and sweat of

    the individual who never stopped fighting

    for his soul. During the Struggle You might

    recall the moving poem written by a

    profound heart: One night I had a dream. I

    dreamed I was walking along the beach

    with G-d. Many scenes from my life flashed

    across the sky. In each scene I noticed

    footprints in the sand. Sometimes there

    were two sets of footprints, other times

    there was only one. I noticed that during the

    low periods of my life, when I was suffering

    from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see

    only one set of footprints. So I said to G-d,

    “You promised me Lord, that you would

    walk with me always. But I have noticed

    that during the most difficult times of my

    life, there has only been one set of footprints

    in the sand. Why, when I needed you most,

    you were not there for me?” G-d replied,

    “My precious child, I love you, and would

    never leave you. The times when you saw

    only one set of footprints, was when I was

    carrying you.