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Home » Chayei Sara, Family Life, Marriage

Chayei Sarah: Man and Woman

Submitted by on November 13, 2011 – 3:18 amNo Comment | 3,060 views

Who Does the Chasing?

Mazal Tov, they’re engaged, soon to be married. When is the wedding? The date hasn’t been set yet; the invitations aren’t even printed. And how did they meet? Actually, he caught a glimpse of her one day and from that very first moment he knew she was the one. He pursued her until she agreed. Ah, so who made the proposal? Do you even have to ask? It was him of course!

So why is it that men, who thrive on appearing confident and in control, traditionally get down on a knee and beg? (1) Women tend to be much more comfortable with asking for what they want. Women don’t perceive the ask as a weakness. Men, especially successful men, are almost always uncomfortable with begging so why do they love to beg this one time?

No man enjoys the feeling of submission as he gets down on a knee, his heart in his throat, secretly dreading the possibility of rejection. Yet, given the chance, no man would give it up. To be sure, in the modern day, many women are thrilled to make the proposal, but it is still true that the traditional proposal with all its inherent fanfare is the secret wish of every romantic heart. Why is that?

The very first courtship the Torah describes was between Isaac and Rebecca. Rebecca didn’t pursue Isaac. Isaac pursued her. The servant Eliezer, embarked on a long journey to find a bride for his master’s son. He didn’t wait for brides to come knocking, he went looking for them. Further, when Rebecca was finally found, her consent was solicited. She never proposed to Isaac, it was Isaac, through Eliezer, who did the proposing. Why did Abraham set it up like that? Why not the other way around? (2)

Until today, a proper Jewish wedding entails a single ring ceremony given by the groom to the bride. The bride doesn’t betroth the groom. The groom betroths the bride. There are those who take umbrage, thinking this a slight to the bride, as if she were purchased like chattel. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The man seeks out the woman, asks for her hand and betroths her because the woman is a gem. And the gem doesn’t seek out an owner. The owner pursues the gem.

Builders and Makers

Our sages, in their inimitable way, put it thusly. The nature of a man is to conquer, not so the nature of a woman. (3) To conquer means to make what is not mine, mine. To leave my mark on something that was once different from me. What is mine, reflects me. Conquering means to bend it to my will. To make it reflect what I cherish and value.

What does the man conquer? Not his bride, but the world. G-d commanded Adam fill the world and conquer it. From whom would Adam conquer the world considering that he was the only human alive? From G-dlessnes. Adam’s task was to take a world that was unaware of its creator and teach it about G-d. It was his task to make an unholy world holy. To remake the world in G-d’s image. By doing so Adam would conquer the world for G-d.

He would do it by building a home for him and Eve and by creating a family unit. He would teach the family about G-d and together, as a unit, they would become exponents of G-d’s warmth, love and benevolence. They would become ambassadors for G-d in this world, reshaping it and remaking it till they bent it to G-d’s will. They would conquer the world.

This was an awesome task for Adam, but what was Eve’s role? After all, when G-d instructed Adam to have children He surely intended for Eve to be involved.  man and woman - innerstreamThe answer is that Adam was tasked to build a house for G-d and Eve was asked to turn the house into a home for the difference between a house and home is the touch of a woman. (4)

Though men build strong and beautiful houses only the woman can suffuse it with warmth. The spark of life that spells the difference between hard fact and true living is the woman. Bare walls are adorned with beauty, empty cupboards are filled with life. Where there was silence there is now sound, where there was stillness there is now heart. This is the touch of a woman.

A man builds the home. A woman is the home. Our sages described women as the mainstay of the home. She sets the tone and standard, she establishes the values and aspirations for the entire family. She fills life with heartfelt moments that will  be cherished for decades to come as precious gems of memory.

This is why the man seeks out the woman. The builder must take action to build. The mainstay of the home, its foundation and spirit, doesn’t take action. It already is all it needs to be. All she requires is a home in which to be it. She sits back and allows herself to be courted and when she finds the right person she consents and makes them both happy. He, for the spark of life around which he will build a home. She, for the house he will build that she will enliven with her spark.

Special and Valid

This is why a woman values a man who treats her like royalty and makes her feel special. The woman is special, she is the gem, the core of the family and the life of the home. When she finds a man who understands her and appreciates her value, she is happy. There can be nothing more miserable for something of value than to have no outlet and there can be nothing more uplifting than to have one.

Men don’t need to be made to feel special, they need to be validated. It’s ironic, but true. The man, strong and hardened as he is, enjoys nothing more than to be validated by his wife. Man seeks validation because his life’s lot is to build, but his building serves no purpose until the woman completes it. Nothing is more disheartening than to build an empty shell. When a woman fills his home with life and love, he feels validated; his sense of value and self worth are restored. He has made a contribution. He has fulfilled his purpose. (5)

The woman needs to feel cherished for what she is, the man needs to feel accomplished for what he does. Neither is complete without the other. A house that is not a home is a cold and useless shell. A home without a house has no anchor. It is only when man builds and woman fills that the synergy of marriage is created. It spins its magic and waves its wand sparking happiness forever more.


  1. To be sure, getting down on a knee is a common rather than a particularly Jewish tradition.But it is a Jewish tradition that the man does the pursuing and the proposing as our sages wrote (Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 2b.) it is the nature of man to pursue the woman, it is not the nature of the woman to pursue the man.
  2. Genesis Chapter 24.
  3. Babylonian Talmud, Yevamos 65b.
  4. Men are good at seeing opportunity. He sees an
    empty lot and envisions a building. He sees gloom and envisions change.
    Men build a better tomorrow. Women see today’s potential. Where things
    seem unpromising women see promise, where a woman sees misery she
    nourishes joy. Where men see hard facts, women see soft angles. Where
    men see straight lines, women see subtle curves. Men are good at
    changing the status qous. Women are good at revealing how good the
    status qous actually is. Where men want to build a house for G-d in this
    world women like to reveal that G-d is already at home in this world.
  5. This essay is based on the concept that the
    beginning is wedged in the end. Man contributes the brute effort that
    building a house entails. But the woman adds the finishing touches that
    turn it into a home. The original vision that spawned the entire
    building effort was of a finished home. It is only when the woman puts
    the finishing touch to the home, the family or to G-d’s home as
    discussed in this essay that the highest point of all, the seminal point
    of origin that inspired the entire undertaking, is reached. This is why
    the man’s contribution, though larger when measured in terms of sheer
    effort, depends on the woman to be made complete. Her contribution
    brings the project to its conclusion and fulfills the vision we had (or
    in the world’s case, that G-d had) in the very
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