The Talmud says:

Rabbi Tanhum stated in the name of Rabbi Hanilai: A man who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness. (Yevamot 62b)

Is there a parallel quote anywhere about a woman who has no husband? Note that, unlike a man, a woman is not commanded to get married and have children.

So does Judaism subscribe to the feminist slogan, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle"? :-)


4 Answers 4


The line that comes to mind is "טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו" - "It's better to sit as two than to sit as a widow," which is asserted on Kiddushin 7a:

... דאי אשמועינן קידושין משום דהא איתתא ניחא לה בכל דהו כדריש לקיש דאמר ר"ל טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו ...

... The Gemara elaborates: As, had he taught us only the case of betrothal, one would have said that this halakha applies specifically in that case, because a woman is amenable to be betrothed with any form of benefit, in accordance with the statement of Reish Lakish. As Reish Lakish said: There is a popular saying among women: It is better to sit as two bodies, i.e., be married, than to sit alone like a widow. A woman prefers any type of husband to being left alone. Consequently, she would be willing to commit herself to betrothal by any form of benefit. ...

I believe that this Aramaic aphorism is familiar to Modern Hebrew speakers, or at least to literary-minded ones. It has its own Hebrew Wiktionary and Hebrew Wikipedia entries.


What could probably be considered the best parallel to your quote would be a quote from Reish Lakish in Ketubot 75a:

דאמר ר"ל טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו

As Reish Lakish said: It is better to dwell together as two [tan du] than to dwell alone as if a widow.

(See also several other similar phrases in that section of the Gemara)

Of course (and this applies also to the saying in the question, as well as just about all maxims in general), this can't be applied carte blanche. While it may be trying to share an important idea, practical situations are usually more complex and nuanced to be summed up by a pithy expression.


R. Isaac Arama writes as follows:

The two names "woman" (isha) and "Eve" indicate two purposes. The first teaches that woman was taken from man, 'stressing that like him you may understand and advance in the intellectual and moral field just as did the matriarchs and many righteous women and prophetesses and as the literal meaning of Proverbs 31 about "the woman of worth" (eshet hayil) indicates. The second alludes to the power of childbearing and rearing children, as is indicated by the name Eve--the mother of all living. A woman deprived of the power of childbearing will be deprived of the secondary purpose and be left with the ability to do evil or good like the man who is barren. Of both the barren man and woman Isaiah (56,5) states: "I have given them in My house and in My walls a name that is better than sons and daughters.' since the offspring of the righteous is certainly good deeds (see Rashi on Gen. 6. 9). Jacob was therefore angry with Rachel when she said, "Give me children or else I die," in order to reprimand her and make her understand this all-important principle that she was not dead as far as their joint purpose in life because she was childless, just the same as it would be, in his ease, if he would have been childless.

(Translation/summary from Nehama Leibowitz Studies in Bereshit)

According to this, it would seem that if a woman did not marry (unless she had children some other way) she would indeed be "unfulfilled" in terms of her secondary purpose, though she could still be fulfilled in terms of her primary purpose.

  • 1
    My computer's currently having a problem with the Hebrew. I will add it once I resolve it.
    – Alex
    Dec 17, 2019 at 4:24

Do women need to be a woman to be fulfilled?

Because In Genesis 5 2 it says Hashem called them "adam" (a Man / A Person). it doesn't say he called the man "adam", but they both called "adam" together. and that's why the same Gemara you quoted [Yevamot 62b] says a person isn't called "adam" before is getting married. the Zohar calls him "Palga degufa" (Half body) and that's actually very simple to understand because the adam was born one and then Hashem cut him to two [Genesis 2 21].

So the conclusion from all that (any many more) is that a man and his wife is only one person. Can one person be fulfilled before is even a person?


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