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What is the implication that Hashem is identified as our husband? Why use a term that many cultures or humans define as a "sexual partner"?

Isaiah 54:5

"כִּי בֹעֲלַיִךְ עֹשַׂיִךְ ה' צְבָאוֹת שְׁמוֹ וְגֹאֲלֵךְ קְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֱלֹקי כָל־הָאָרֶץ יִקָּרֵא׃"

For He who made you will espouse you— His name is “LORD of Hosts.” The Holy One of Israel will redeem you— He is called “God of all the Earth.”

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    Ba'al means "master" in addition to meaning "husband".
    – ezra
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:45
  • 2
    myjli.com/whatis/index.php/lesson-3/… -- because we're focusing on the aspect of the relationship where G-d is the giver and we are the recipient.
    – Menachem
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 15:55
  • Related: "'Remarrying' Hashem After Divorce".
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 12:37
  • the entire shir hashirim is based on this concept
    – Hershy S.
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 4:37
  • @ezra THe vers says "Boalaych" with Cholam, not Baalaych, like Boel, not Baal. This cannot be a master.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 17:00

3 Answers 3

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+25

You really could have asked this question on Shir Hashirim, for which the whole structure of the text revolves around expressing the relationship between the Jews and Hashem as a relationship between husband and wife.

While it is a good question, particularly here it is crucial to reiterate that whenever we describe G-d we are only describing how he interacts with us, and not Him proper, since Him proper cannot be described at all.

Also, it is clear from the onset this question cannot be addressed while asserting egalitarian agendas, so if that is something you find difficult you may be stuck. I would encourage you to open your mind, though, since it is pretty clear in every area of Jewish thought, including Halachick, historical, and philosophical, that egalitarianism is not a Jewish value.

What comes to mind is that in general the Maharal parallels Man and Woman with form and material, where material is a physical reality and form is a concept that finds its expression in a material. For example, in a wooden chair wood is the material while "chair" is the concept expressed in the wood. While of course this just begs the question, what does this have to do with Man and Woman?

In general it's observable that men are more interested in concepts while woman are more interested in things. (Of course neither of these are inherently good or bad, just strengths each gender possesses and can use as they wish.) That's why we find more men being musicians, mathematicians, scientists, etc, while woman gravitate more towards helping professions that emphasis personal interaction more and intellect less. Obviously there are exceptions, and there is nothing wrong with a female scientist or a male occupational therapist, just trends that reflect a deeper spiritual reality. This is also why while there is a place for women in Jewish learning, the emphasis, in concept and execution, has always been on men learning. The role of the woman is to bring these concepts down into the physical world, by building a home and nurturing an environment that engenders Jewish values.

So to, in the quintessential relationship between man and women, that of husband and wife, the husband has more of an affinity for grasping and articulating concepts, while the woman has more an affinity to bring this concept into reality.

The sexual relationship between man and woman parallels these roles as well, though this forum doesn't feel as appropriate to discuss this. In terms of the actual child baring this is pretty intuitive though. The mother is the one who actually "gives birth" in a physical sense, while the man's contribution in more conceptual, not perceptible at the time of birth. Additionally his contribution is from outside of the body that produces the baby, while the female provides the physical framework for the baby to develop.

In terms of our relationship with Hashem, Hashem provides the concept, the spiritual values and realities we are meant to connect to, while it is left to us to provide expressions for these ideas in this world.

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This is a huge question, but I'll focus as you asked on Halachic implications. This answer is a summary of the AriZ"L's views.

There are three levels of closeness between that are reflected in our relations with G-d: 1. Slaves 2. Sons 3. Bat Zug (spouse).

  1. Slaves are driven by fear of punishment and desire for reward (which are one). This is the lowest level of observing Mitzvot and relating to Hashem. The Mishnah in Avot (1:3) describes it: "אל תהיו כעבדים המשמשין את הרב על מנת לקבל פרס" - Don't be like those slaves that serve their master to get a reward.

  2. Sons are naturally related to their father, so they are much closer and their way of observing their father's commands is through a balance of reverence and love. But they still have their own personality and desires.

  3. The wife (in AriZ"L's tradition) completely cancels her autonomy and become one with her husband as תדא"ר פ"ט says: "איזוהי אשה כשרה? כל שעושה רצון בעלה", meaning she has no desires of her own and all her desires are to please her husband. She is driven by pure love, unlike the other two she has no fear of him, only love. This is the highest level of dedication and closeness, where all his thoughts and deeds are toward her husband.

Practically and Halachicly,

  1. Slaves keep the minimum and try to avoid as much burden as possible - they keep the most lenient way. They are not interested in knowing the mind and desires of the master (learning the Torah)

  2. Sons are much "better", trying to understand the Father (learn Torah) and balancing observing his commands out of both fears of punishment and love. But as they are separate entities they put themselves first (like your kids - "I'd like to help but I need to go, sorry").

  3. Spouses have no autonomy in thought or desires or actions but to please their loved one. They constantly engage in understanding the mind of the husband (learning Torah) and keeping all the obligations to the highest bar of severity and strictness and fear only one thing - to lose their loved one's love.


NB: an interesting observation, in our cultures a married woman takes her husband's name (Like Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Cohen), and the same happened to Yaakov when he took G-d's name and the Jewish nation is called in G-d's name.

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  • @Al_Berko "Yaakov when he took G-d's name and the Jewish nation is called in G-d's name." You are referring to the name "Yisrael"? (I upvoted your general answer.)
    – ninamag
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 18:51
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The pasuk is not talking about us individuals but about Yerushalayim (see Rashi) which is (not a symbolic representation of a collective of individuals but rather) the home of Hashem's house. Yerushalayim is often identified as a woman (See Eicha, for example). In this chapter, one of the Seven of Consolation, Hashem speaking through Yeshaya is telling the desolate Yerushalayim who looks as one who is barren that she should be comforted, for she will bear many children, as her בועל is Hashem, her maker.

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  • @Dov_F That Hashem is Husband is also related to us in another Passage, speaking to the Children of Israel, in which there is no mention of Jerusalem within the whole chapter: Hosea 2:18 וְהָיָ֚ה בַיּֽוֹם־הַהוּא֙ נְאֻם־יְהֹוָ֔ה תִּקְרְאִ֖י אִישִׁ֑י וְלֹֽא־תִקְרְאִי־לִ֥י ע֖וֹד בַּעֲלִֽי
    – ninamag
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 1:47
  • That pasuk is also not referring to the children of Israel themselves but to the "mother" of the children of Israel who has strayed from her husband. ריבו באמכם ריבו. In that instance it is the collective being allegorized as a wayward wife.
    – Dov F
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 15:28
  • @Dov_F Even if so ... surely, we, as children of Israel, are collectively the "mother" in question. If not, then who do you think that would be?
    – ninamag
    Commented Apr 1, 2018 at 16:20
  • How can a mere collective of individuals being allegorized as children of a mother be the mother of the individuals? No one is his own mother. I would say - and perhaps this is what you mean by "collective" - that the mother referred to is the identity of the spiritual force that holds the Jewish people together.
    – Dov F
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 0:31
  • @Dov_F This is not the pshat of the passage. Also I am looking for an answer that has credible rabbinic source.
    – ninamag
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 9:07

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