Contagious Love

Parshas Ki Tzitzei

When man has two wives; one is loved and the other hated and both of them bear him sons. The elder of his two children – his firstborn – is born from the spouse that is unloved. The Torah rules that when the father apportions his inheritance he may not give preference to the son of the loved wife and allocate him the right of the firstborn. The father must recognize that it belongs to the son of the unloved wife.

Question

This law comes to teach us that the right of the firstborn is just that – the right of the one born first. One cannot select from a favorite inheritor amongst one’s sons. Why is this framed by the fact that one wife is preferred over the other, couldn’t the same point be conveyed by discussing the sons themselves i.e. one son is loved and the other despised?

Answer

The relationship one has with one’s spouse will impact the bond created with one’s children. A loving marriage will produce a loved family. The resulting offspring will be preferred, favored and desired, but if one’s other half is unloved the link to one’s children will be weaker.

The Torah presents a case where a man has two wives who both bear him sons and the boys in of themselves are equal. Yet he prefers to favor the son of his loved wife to give him the rights of the firstborn solely because he is the product of the woman who is most dear to him. Having a favored wife will lead to children who are more loved.

Lesson

Every increase in marital harmony strengthens connection within the family.

Story

In the city of Tzidon there was a couple who were married for ten years and unfortunately were not blessed with children. They came to Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai for guidance, as they wanted to separate from one another. Perhaps each might yet raise children with a different spouse.

Rabbi Shimon counseled them and instructed: Just as you celebrated your marriage with a banquet, so you shall celebrate your separation with a banquet. Listening to the sage they prepared a festive feast. At the party the husband promised his wife that she may take any object of her choice back to her father’s house. The wife caused her husband to become intoxicated, and he fell asleep. 

Whilst he was slumbering she summoned her slaves and maids and instructed them to carry him lying prone on his bed back to her father’s house.

In the middle of the night he awoke somewhat sober and, not recognizing his surroundings, asked his wife “Where am I?”

She replied “In my father’s house”.

“What am I doing here?” asked the husband incredulously.

She responded “Didn’t you tell me that I can take one valuable article back with me to my father’s house? Well, I could not find anything in the world more precious than you.”

Not knowing what to do they returned to Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai. When Reb Shimon saw the devotion that existed between this loving couple he trustingly prayed to Hashem that they should conceive. It wasn’t long before Hashem granted them children. (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1 Nagilah)

Weekly Halachah

A moribund man who has taken a turn for the worse may divorce his wife on Shabbos to prevent her falling to Yibum (Shulchan Aruch 339:4).

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