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In Parshat Bereshit, the yetzer hara's relationship to man is described in very similar langauge to the woman's relationship to man.

  • Regarding the woman, it says (Gen. 3:16) וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל-בָּךְ - Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.
  • Regarding the yetzer hara, it says (Gen. 4:7) וְאֵלֶיךָ תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל-בּוֹ. - It's desire will be toward you, but you can rule over it.

What's the connection?

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Excellent observation. Here are some quick thoughts.

I would say that the description of the wife as "ezer k'negdo" might give you an insight. It's usually translated as "help mate" ("helpmeet" in OE), but that is somewhat ambiguous. If you look at the words they are exactly translated as "help against him." The question is, what is the antecedent of him?

I would say that him refers to the Yetzer HaRa, and that the wife's job is to help the husband battle his Yeter HaRa. Since women are on a different spiritual level than men. they are not as subject to the same level of temptation, and can be a great help to their husband in resisting it.

Again, if you look at the pronouns, you can read the passuk 3:16 as "Your desire will be for your husband, and your husband's Yetzer Tov will rule over you."

Thus, if the wife helps the husband, she can help him rule over it, and her husbands good nature will reinforce her own, ruling over her more limited Yeter HaRa.

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Akiva, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for this fascinating interpretation! Have you seen any support from the Midrash or classic commentaries for this assignment of antecedents? – Isaac Moses Jan 7 '11 at 18:39
+1, great answer! Thanks – Adam Mosheh Jul 4 '12 at 18:04

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