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I Love You More Than You Love Me

I Love You More Than You Love Me


It’s that time of year when we’re reminded of our marriage. The prophets point out that G‑d wed us at Sinai, admonish us for our betrayals, and promise that there are good times yet ahead.

You can usually tell when two people are in love, but the best way to recognize a married couple is by their arguments. These are arguments that you won’t see anywhere else, for the simple reason that they don’t make any sense anywhere but within the context of marriage.

We find one such argument in this week’s Torah reading. (Actually, the argument takes two different forms, explained in different ways by our sages; but underneath, I believe, it’s the same argument.)

The disagreement concerns G‑d’s instructions to Moses to wage war on the Midianites. “Avenge the vengeance of the children of Israel upon the Midianites,” G‑d says to the Jewish leader. But when Moses conveys these instructions to the people, he tells them that they’re going to war “to take G‑d’s vengeance on Midian.” Who is the offended party, G‑d or Israel?

The Midrash Tanchuma explains: the Midianites caused the people of Israel to sin and worship the idol Pe’or, causing G‑d to punish His people with a plague. So G‑d tells Israel: “It is you who have an account to settle with them, for they caused Me to harm you.” To which Moses responds: “Master of the Universe! If we had been uncircumcised, or idol-worshippers, or had denied the commandments, the Midianites would not have hated us. They persecute us only on account of the Torah and the precepts which You have given us. Consequently the vengeance is Yours . . .”

Rashi has a different take on the contradiction, and this theme is taken up by the chassidic masters: G‑d sees the war on Midian as avenging Israel, for G‑d’s foremost concern is for His people; the people of Israel see the war as avenging G‑d, for they are concerned only with the honor of G‑d.

Typical marital argument logic. Husband: “How could you do that to me? When you act that way, it makes me angry at you, and then I hurt you. I’ll never forgive you for for making me hurt the woman I love!” Wife: “If you wouldn’t have married me, we wouldn’t be so special to each other, and it wouldn’t hurt you so much when I act that way. So it’s all your fault.”

Or the flip side of that argument, equally (il)logical: “I love you more than you love me!” “No! I love you more than you love me!”

We’ve been arguing that way for more than 3,300 years now.

Yanki Tauber served as editor of
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B los angeles, CA April 8, 2012

illogical Wife: “If you wouldn’t have married me, we wouldn’t be so special to each other, and it wouldn’t hurt you so much when I act that way. So it’s all your fault.”

this doesn't make sense

the husband's argument actually makes more sense Reply

Geula Los Angeles, CA July 19, 2011

To: Maria (comment #1) That is so beautiful that you feel your spark of G-dliness leading you to search for more. You will be nurturing that spark in the best possible way if instead of visiting the web on Saturday (Shabbat), you print content out on Friday afternoon before sunset. May we experience the outburst of G-dliness in ourselves and the world with the coming of Moshiach Now Reply

Katarina Oxford, UK July 18, 2011

G-d and His people the best description ever I have read about relationship between G-d of Israel and His people.
thank you, I learn so much every day from the Reply

Marla Levitt Buena Park, Ca July 12, 2007

I have heritage of Russian -Jew, I have lately felt this need to get intouch with my heritage and background. I have been feeling something pulling me spiritualy to this connection. So today I searched the web, by giving into this strong feeling I have had, that I have ignored for awhile, I do intend to visit this saturday to further my inquiry of apart of my being.

thank u so much for the ability to have read up on information on your sight. Reply

Anonymous Gibraltar July 23, 2006

I love you........... What a Brilliant analysis of the parsha episode !!!! And what a charming way to convey this analysis. I am always flabbergasted by the talent of the columnists. Reply

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