Vayomer Hashem Elokim, lo tov heyos ho'odom l’vado; e'eseh lo ezer k’negdo.
It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a compatible helper for him.
(Braishis 2:18, translation from The Living Torah, Rav Aryeh Kaplan, Z”L)
The verb l’nagad means “to oppose, to contradict.” This implies that the preposition neged means “opposite” in the sense of “in opposition to.” Thus, Chava was created to be a helper who would be both “compatible” and “opposing, contradicting!”
How can that work out?
A helpmate who will be equal to him, also reflecting the Divine Image… The reason the Torah added the word k’negdo is that whenever one confronts someone of equal power, moral and ethical weight, such a confrontation is termed negdo. It is negdo b’kav yashar, a head-on collision of will. (Sforno, ibid.)
It is known that love between people can have two forms. Sometimes the love is the result of their similarity in temperament, values, and interests. But sometimes it is just the opposite. The love and the sense of oneness come from the opposing quality of their temperaments… This is what it says in the pasuk, e'eseh lo ezer k’negdo, an ezer who is opposite him in temperament. This will be a help to him.
(Shaloh Hakadosh, Asara Maamaros, Maamar 10, page 259 in volume 1, Oz Vehadar edition, 1993)
Opposite temperaments, but shared values and interests, often result in healthy, sustained relationships.
The expression opposites attract in terms of human relationships has been around since 1850. We are naturally attracted to individuals who are different from ourselves and therefore somewhat exciting. But it's not just the exciting differences which attract us to our opposites, it is also a natural quest for completion. We naturally are drawn towards individuals who have strengths which we are missing. When two opposites function as a couple, they become a more well-rounded, functioning unit. There is also the theory that our natural attraction to our opposites is a subconscious way of forcing us to deal with the weaker aspects of our own nature. While we are highly attracted to our opposites, two opposites in a marriage often have acceptance and communication challenges to overcome. Our attraction to the opposite personality can be seen as our subconscious minds driving us towards becoming a more complete individual, by causing us to face the areas in life which are most difficult to us…
Although we are attracted to people who are very different from us in the way we deal with the world in temperament and style, we are most attracted to others who share our values and interests. (from: personalitypage.com)
According to the Sifrei, this ability to work with individuals of all types was the criterion for the selection of Yehoshua as the successor to Moshe Rabeinu. Ish asher ruach bo, she’yochol la’haloch k’neged ruchos (ruach, al pi girsas ha’Gra) shel kol adam v’adam, a man who has spirit in him, one who can accommodate himself to the spirits (or spirit) of each individual. (Sifrei Bamidbar, Piska 9)
Ish asher ruach bo. It is certainly difficult to take this wording literally since every person has a spirit in him… According to the Sifrei, it means that the spirit of each and every person was found in Yehoshua so much so that Yehoshua was able to work with every person in accordance with their nature and propensities, even though each person is different. It is hard for a leader to work with people whose natures’ are unlike his, whose thoughts are foreign to him. But Yehoshua was able to work with each person according to that person’s nature. (Eimek ha’Netziv, ibid., d.h. she’yuchol [sic] la’haloch etc.)
In the standard text of the Sifrei, the word is Ruchos, the spirits of each person.
In the Gra’s version of the text it is Ruach, the spirit of each person.
What are the spirits of each person?
Each of us experiences a variety of thoughts and a range of emotions. Some of those thoughts and emotions are easier for others to accept and accommodate; others, far more difficult. Yehoshua was able to work with everyone throughout the range of intellectual and emotional responses to the vicissitudes of their lives.
When a parent says to a child, I can’t deal with you when you are this way, he is acknowledging that he is not Yehoshua. None of us is.
The next thing I hope he says is, I’ll be back when I can work with you.
Not, therefore you must not be this way.
In the Mishna, Rabi Shimon ben Elazar says not to try to work with someone when she (or you; see the Rav, ibid.) are intensely upset. (Avos 4:18) The implication is that when you and she have calmed down, you should work with each other. The goal of that work may often be to come to a higher level of understanding and acceptance rather than the acquiescence of either to the other.
Two more thoughts.
Rabbeinu Bachya taught that we can understand the expression Ish asher ruach bo to mean that Yehoshua had the emotional fortitude to brave all opposition.
You must teach your child that sometimes she needs to marshal the emotional fortitude to withstand pressure from inappropriate adults and peers. She has to know she has the right to maintain her safety even when younger than or outnumbered by others.
And finally, this:
Have you or your child ever had the experience of meeting someone for the first time and having a vague sense of familiarity?
The Seforim explain the reason that sometimes two people see each other and feel very comfortable with each other even though they’ve never met before... The reason is that they were next to each other in Gan Eden [before they were born]. Now that they have met again, they [unconsciously] feel the love they shared in Gan Eden. (Noam Elimelech, Parshas Vayachi, first paragraph)
With everyone, especially with your spouse and children, embrace the familiar and learn from the unfamiliar. You’ll both grow in many ways.
Rabbi Ackerman is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time
Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575