Jewish Home and Family Life

The Mystery of Marriage: Indignant Estrangement

The third and lowest degree of relationship–when the wife is pitted against her husband–corresponds to that between the rasha (wicked person) and G-d.

Intentional rebellion against G-d is usually the result of the rasha's existential frustration over his inability to cope with life's trials and tribulations and/or the multitude of obligations expected of him by the Torah. Whether fully conscious of it or not, the rasha's soul, imprisoned by the forces of evil (and not knowing how to distinguish between them and Divine providence), rails against G-d in anguish: "Why have you made my life so miserable?"

The rasha's complaints may appear legitimate: at times, it may seem that G-d has unjustly abandoned His creation. The rasha is thus reacting as any wife would when faced with a cruel or disinterested husband–by rebelling.

The rapprochement of the rasha with G-d (his teshuvah) can begin in either of two ways:]

The rasha can choose to recognize that he has only himself to blame for G-d's apparent distance. G-d always desires to reveal Himself by showering His creatures with good but is "prevented" from doing so by the collective sins of the generation and those of particular individuals, including, of course, the rasha himself. Once he realizes this, the penitent rasha can forgive G-d for the trauma and disappointment he has experienced and resolve to stop hindering the revelation of G-dliness in the world by his rebellious attitude and deeds.

Or G-d may take the initiative, expressing His own "repentance" of "wrongdoings" toward the rasha (and the world in general), and making, as it were, a serious effort to court His spouse anew. He restores His spiritual or material beneficence. This demonstration of Divine grace brings the rasha to realize that G-d's behavior toward him–past, present and future–has always been for his best interest. Here, too, he can forgive G-d and resolve to serve Him again.

In either case, the rasha becomes totally transformed. No longer angry, bitter, or self-absorbed, his sole aspiration is now that G-d bestow His blessings openly on all people, and so he commits himself to work unceasingly toward that end. The ultimate focus of his life becomes the final Redemption, for only then will G-d's abundant kindness be revealed for all to see.

G-d–as a loving husband in response to the gestures of his once-estranged wife–will then reciprocate by forgiving the rasha his past sins. The rasha's memory of his former attitude and behavior inspire him to remedy his (and the world's) situation with a forcefulness of spirit and love for G-d greater than that of one who had never sinned. On this account, G-d not only erases the negative effects of the former rasha's past sins but even counts them as merits (Yoma86b; Bava Metzia 33b), by virtue of their having propelled the rasha to take the action necessary to remedy his, and the world's, situation.

Thus, despite a problematic disposition or dark personal history, a rasha can aspire toward a sublimer and more rewarding "second nature."

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