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    Aunts & Nephews
    “Amram took Yocheved)
    his aunt as a wife, and she bore him Aaron
    and Moses.”
    This is the story recorded in this week’s
    Torah portion, Vaeira . Amram, in other
    words, married his father’s sister. Both
    Amram’s father (Kehoth) and his wife
    (Yocheved) were daughters of Levi, the
    third son of the Jacob-Leah dynasty .
    Now, as we know, the marriage of an aunt
    and a nephew would, in time, become
    prohibited for the Jewish people and would
    be defined in the Torah as an immoral and
    un- Hashemly union. An uncle may marry
    his niece (3*), but an aunt cannot marry her
    nephew. So why would Amram and
    YochVbed, two of the great people of Israel
    at the time , enter into a relationship that
    would later become forbidden for all of their
    True, during that time, prior to the giving of
    the Torah, this type of marriage was not

    forbidden. Still, Amram and Yocheved were
    fully aware that this union would one day
    become forbidden and that their grandparents
    observed the Commandments even before
    they were officially presented to the people
    of Israel . Why, then, would they subject
    themselves to a problematic relationship ?
    The enigma deepens considering the fact
    that it was this marriage that gave rise to
    little Moses, the messenger who would
    transmit Hashem’s law to Israel, including
    the instruction against marrying one’s aunt.
    Yet Moses himself is born precisely from
    such a relationship ! How do we understand
    the fact the giver of the Torah was the child
    of a marriage forbidden in the Torah?
    Give and Take
    To understand this, we must first attempt to
    comprehend why the Torah permits the
    marriage of an uncle with his niece while
    prohibiting the union of an aunt with her
    One of the answers to this question has to do
    with some of the physical, psychological
    and mystical differences between the
    masculine and feminine genders.
    Jewish mysticism teaches that a woman’s
    uniqueness lies in her ability to accept and

    internalize, while a man’s
    fulfillment lies in his ability to
    project and bestow.
    This is expressed, of course, in the
    physical structures of their bodies
    and in the nature of their physical
    union, where the man protrudes and
    projects while the woman accepts
    and internalizes. But the biological
    differences reflect their
    psychological and spiritual
    structures as well.
    One of the most fulfilling
    experiences for many a woman is the silent
    but powerful moment of welcoming and
    taking in another person’s soul. Women,
    more than men, naturally crave and cherish
    the experience of a genuine relationship.
    The Talmud, written around 1,700 years
    ago, states that women instinctively feel an
    inner void that compels them to seek a
    relationship that fills that emptiness. While
    men often deceive themselves that they are
    complete in and of themselves, many a
    woman needs no more than a moment’s call
    to become fully emotionally present to
    embrace the loving or aching heart of
    another human being.
    A man’s primary satisfaction lies in his
    power to give, to bestow and to project,
    while a women experiences deep joy and
    serenity in her ability to be there and take
    it in. Man often feels the urge to change a
    situation and rectify a problem, while
    women see the experience of “receiving”
    as an end in and of itself.
    This does not mean to say that a woman
    does not cherish the opportunity to
    influence, give and transform. Yet women
    accomplish these objectives by
    internalizing rather than by
    overwhelming; through silence more
    than through noise; by being rather than
    by projecting. The Kabbalah states that
    the souls of most men originate within
    Hashem as a creator, while the souls of
    most women stem from Hashem as an
    essential being . For man to feel fulfilled
    he must create, transform, rectify; for
    woman to be fulfilled she must be.
    Respecting the Difference
    The solution to this conflict of nature lies
    not in denying that there is a difference,
    but rather in each party knowing that
    there is a difference, and respecting the
    space and individual nature of the other
    This is the deeper, mystical reason for the
    Torah’s prohibition against the marriage
    of an aunt with her nephew. A marriage
    between an aunt and a nephew, which
    would by nature and instinct place the
    husband in the role of recipient and his
    wife in the position of the projector and
    giver (she is the aunt and he is the
    nephew), may hinder the full expression

    of both the wife and her husband. A man
    must be allowed to project and give, while a
    woman must be allowed to “be there,” to
    accept and internalize.
    How to Become a Teacher
    This is true about most marriages. Yet our
    teacher Moses needed to come from a very
    different type of relationship—a relationship
    in which the recipient (represented by the
    woman) will be the giver (the aunt), and the
    projector (represented by the man) will
    become the recipient (the nephew). Why?
    Because Moses, the “man of Hashem,” ,
    was chosen as the Divine messenger who
    would, for the first time in human history,
    share with the Jewish people and the world
    the Divine perspective on life and reality, the
    G-dly blueprint for life embodied by the
    Torah. Moses served as the ultimate teacher,
    mentor and leader, sharing the eternal truths
    of morality and G-dliness with an otherwise
    directionless universe, giving human history
    the dignity of having a moral and Divine
    What is the primary quality that made Moses
    who he was? His complete humility and
    absence of ego in the presence of truth.
    The main characteristic required to become
    a conduit for Hashem’s word is surrendering
    the ego. In Moses’ transmission of Torah
    from Hashem to the Jewish people, a
    fundamental change was required: The
    “woman” needed to assume the role of
    leadership and seniority over the “man.” The
    “woman” needed to be the aunt, and the
    “man” the nephew. The prerequisite for
    becoming a conduit for Torah and Divine
    wisdom lies not in one’s ability to project
    and give, but rather in one’s power to accept,
    receive and internalize.
    This is true for every teacher of Divine truth.
    A rabbi who sees his primary role as a
    teacher rather than a student—a student of
    truth and a recipient of ideas and feelings
    that transcend him—is not qualified as a
    rabbi. If I wish to be a teacher of Torah, I
    must acknowledge that I do not own this
    wisdom. I am merely a humble recipient
    who craves to learn from everybody and
    from everything the truths of life, of
    Hashem, of justice.
    Moses, the ultimate teacher and leader of all
    time, needed to be born from a marriage in
    which the recipient reigned supreme.