At this point in the calendar, it almost seems like a let down, to come to services and nothing special will be occurring (aside from 2 Bnai Mitzvah – it seems that every week at Emanuel Synagogue is special!). To aid in the post holiday blues, we are treated this week to the beginning of our story, Bereshit, the first portion of the first book of the Torah.
Probably the most famous part of this week’s portion is the actual story of creation. Many of us recall the words at the end of each day of creation, v’yar Elohim ki Tov, that the work that God had accomplished was good. In fact, for every act, that phrase is repeated. However, there are 2 notable exceptions. The first, at the conclusion of creation, God says, it was very good. The second example occurs when God observes that Man is alone, and God reacts saying, “lo tov heiot adam levado” it is not good for man to be alone.
The response then is for God to create an “ezer k’negdo” typically translated as a fitting helper. Looking closely at the actual words, the translation seems to indicate two opposing ideas: ezer meaning helper, k’negdo has a connotation of being against, opposite or counter to something. How is it then that these two ideas together connote the ideal partner?
Relationships wherein one party acts in an unbalanced manner are not healthy relationships. Think of a relationship in which one person always acts in a helpful manner, is always complicit, and dutifully fulfils the other partner’s requests. Is this a healthy relationship? It is almost as if the relationship lacks free will on the part of the helpful participant. It runs the risk of ploughing ahead on paths that will not lead to good places. One person becomes more in control of the other; the partners are not equal. This is not a healthy relationship.
Likewise, think of a relationship in which one person always challenges the other partner, is always playing devil’s advocate and disagreeing, who always has a better idea. Is this a healthy relationship? This type of relationship is destined for fights and hurt feelings. It is destined to stagnate, since agreement is impossible. This too, is not a healthy relationship.
In a healthy relationship, one partner is able to recognize when to be helpful and when to challenge. Is able to be the cheerleader and assistant at times and is able to push the other onto a better path at other times. The one side creates a sense of support while the other side pushes the partner to be better. This balance over time allows for honesty and integrity in the relationship without dooming one partner to submission or the relationship to argument. In this relationship, when one partner takes the side of acting counter, both parties know that it is from a place of love and care, and not from anger or a need for control. In this relationship, when the helpful side is chosen, both parties know too that this is from a place of love and care and not submissiveness.
Let us strive, in this new year, to be that healthy, balanced partner, and in that way, create the healthy relationships that will sustain us.
Rabbi Rafi Kaiserblueth