An integral part of every Jewish marriage is the ketubah document. In it the Chatan — groom — delineates his obligation to the Kallah — bride — who is becoming his mate for the rest of his life, please G‑d.

The first lines of the ketubah state the effective date when the obligation was assumed. To succinctly record the date, the ketubah states the day of the week, the day of the month and the year according to the Hebrew calendar. In writing the day of the week, which is the first word of the ketubah, one always prefaces the Hebrew number for the day with a beit.

For instance, on Tuesday, the third day of the week we write “bashelishi bashabat” — “on the third day of the week” — and not just simply “shelishi bashabbat” — “third day of the week.”

The reason given for this is that just as the Torah starts with a beit, as it says Bereishit” — (בראשית) “In the beginning” — likewise, the ketubah also starts with a beit.

What is the significance of starting the Torah and also the ketubah with a beit and what common message is implied?

The Midrash Tanchuma (Bereishit 5) asks why Torah starts with a beit and not the letter alef, which is the first letter of the Hebrew alef beit, and the following explanation is offered:

Alef is the first letter of the word “arur” — (ארור) “cursed” — whereas beit is the first letter of the word “baruch” — (ברוך) “blessed.”

But this explanation is difficult to understand. Alef also begins positive words, such as “emet”— (אמת) “truth,” — or ahavah — (אהבה) “love” — while beit is also the first letter of unpleasant words such as barad — (ברד) “hail” (seventh of the ten plagues of Egypt), and “bliya’al” — (בליעל) wickedness. Why then does the Midrash offer an explanation that doesn’t seem to fully answer the question?

The Midrash may be alluding to the following: The letters of the Hebrew alef-beit also serve as numbers. Each has a number-value: alef equals one, beit two, and so on. By extension, alef can mean to care about only one person, oneself, and to forget about others. Beit, on the other hand, means coexistence, caring and getting along with another.

The Torah starts with a beit to teach us that caring about others is baruch — the source of all blessing, and that alef — caring only about oneself — is arur, cursed.

This may also be the reason why the first word of the ketubah starts with the letter beit.

Until the glorious day of the wedding, each prospective mate is a private individual leading his or her own life. Though each one feels admiration and affection for the other; nevertheless, the Chatan and Kallah are two individuals, often from two walks of life, anticipating entering into the covenant of marriage. Once they stand together under the Chuppah, the union is consummated and now they are halachically and civilly united and look forward to the fulfillment of their prayers that their marriage will be a binyan adei ad — an everlasting and perpetual home.

The first letter of the ketubah is a message of cardinal importance. It conveys to the Chatan and Kallah the secret ingredient for assuring that their wishes will be realized.

They must always remember that a marriage is a union between two individuals and coexistence is the most important key to success. A married person should never be self-centered and egoistic and never think in terms of “I,” “me” or “myself,” but rather in terms of “us,” “we” and “ourselves.” He or she should not calculate what is best for me, but rather what is best for us.

How true are the words of the Midrash. Alef — which is the Hebrew letter for the numeral one — spells “arur” — “cursed.” It is the most terrible curse when a partner in a marriage thinks only about his or her selfish interests. When one spouse does not recognize his or her mate as an equal partner and does not strive to achieve what is to their joint benefit, the marriage is cursed and, G‑d forbid, doomed for destruction.

When each one thinks and speaks in terms of beit — two — coexistence and mutuality, the marriage is crowned with baruch — infinite blessings materially and spiritually.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, the ketubah is an extremely important document. According to halachah it is forbidden for a man to live with his wife even for a short while without a ketubah. In the event that it is lost or destroyed it is incumbent to immediately contact a Rabbi and have a substitute ketubah. (ketubah de’irkasa — ketubah for the one lost) written (Even Ha’ezer 66:3).

I believe that our Sages were not only referring to the physical document, but also to the message it implies [implied by its beginning letter?]. Every moment of your life you should remember that the key to success and a blessed happy marriage is contingent on the “beit” — the two of you coexisting harmoniously.

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Incidentally, it is of interest to note that in English a marriage ceremony is called a “wedding.” The first two letters of the word spell the word “we,” to emphasize that whereas until now each party spoke in terms of I, from this day on it must be we.


Over the years medicine has developed amazingly. Many types of surgery have become non-invasive and often painless. This limits the need for anesthesia and perhaps as science progresses it will be ruled unnecessary altogether.

Hashem is omnipotent and for Him there is no such thing as past, present and future. Thus, all scientific accomplishments are known to Him. If so, His method of bringing about the first marriage raises some difficulty.

The Torah (Bereishit 2:21) relates that “Hashem G‑d cast a deep sleep upon the man and he slept, and He took one of his sides and He closed flesh in its place. And G‑d built the side that He had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”

Undoubtedly, the deep sleep He cast on the man was some form of anesthesia to assure that Adam experienced no pain during the operation. But why was it necessary altogether? Couldn’t He have performed a painless surgery during which Adam would have been wide awake, actually visualizing what was happening?

Until this time, the concept of marriage was unknown to man. There were no books to read on the subject and no marriage counselors to approach for guidance. Adam had no parents to consult nor were there any married couples who could serve as role models.

Hashem played a multi-faceted role. He was the shadchan — marriage broker — and the marriage counselor. It was incumbent on Him to educate man. He had to explain what married life was and also teach Adam the keys to marital success.

Indeed, Hashem could have performed the operation without administering anesthesia. He could have made the surgery so painless and speedy that Adam would not have realized what had occurred before it was all over. Hashem, however, employed the method described in the Torah because He was imparting a lesson to Adam.

When one is in a deep sleep he is insensitive to whatever is happening around him. He does not hear anything that he should object to, or see anything that he should oppose. A person in a deep sleep cannot offer an opinion or register protest.

Hashem’s message to Adam was that for a successful marriage a person must not always be alert and react immediately to what his wife says or does, and the same is true also for the wife. At times it is healthier that the husband or wife appear to be in a deep sleep and close his or her eyes, ears, and mouth for the time being.

Immediate reactions often provoke counter-reaction, which may turn into a fiery debate. By being patient and temporarily oblivious, a spouse gives the other spouse a chance to think over his or her actions. Later, when the husband and wife discuss things rationally, their opinion and even criticism or rebuke will be well received and appreciated.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, it is my fervent prayer that should the situation arise, you will employ the sound advice that Hashem gave to the first married couple. Thus, your marriage will be a happy and smooth journey all the days of your life.


Some time ago, an elderly couple came to me seeking a favor. They said, “Rabbi, you have known our son Yankel for many years. He was a student at your yeshivah. He is now way past ben shemonah asar leChuppah’ — ‘one should marry at the age of eighteen’ (Avot 5:22). We are getting on in age and would love to see some yiddishe nachas from him—perhaps you could have a talk with him and impress on him to get married.”

Indeed I knew their son, and wanting to help his parents with their dilemma, I invited him to come to see me. After an amicable conversation, I broached the subject of marriage. Yankel, being a talmid chacham — Torah scholar — said the following:

“Rabbi, after creating Adam, Hashem said ‘It is not good that man be alone, I will make him eizer kenegdo — a helper against him’ (2:18).

The word “eizer” — “helper” — and the word “kenegdo” — “against him” — are contradictory concepts. How can one be a helper, a friendly ally, and yet also be against the person he is helping?

Due to this obvious difficulty, the Gemara (Yevamot 63a) explains that the pasuk is describing two different situations: “Zachah — if he merits, the wife will be — eizer — a helper; lo zachah — if he does not merit, the wife will be — kenegdo — against him,” i.e., she will quarrel with him or oppose him.

Accordingly, marriage is very speculative and there is a fifty-fifty chance that the wife may be his adversary rather than a helper.”

“Rabbi,” Yankel said, “I am very conservative in business and despise gambling. I don’t play the stock market. In my business I do not make deals that are very speculative. Why should I get married, when the Torah says clearly that it is a big gamble and the chances for success are 50-50?”

I enjoyed Yankel’s intuition, and told him that in this case he is learning wrong p’shat — interpreting erroneously — the words of our Sages.

If marriage were a gamble, the Torah and the Sages would not have encouraged it and advocated so strongly in its behalf. The meaning of “eizer kenegdo” — “a helper against him” — is the following:

A truly devoted wife is not one who always agrees and assists her husband in whatever he does. At times it is her responsibility to oppose her husband and prevent him from doing things which she perceives as erroneous or unethical. It is her obligation to oppose him and try to restrain him in such instances, and in reality this is the greatest assistance and help she can give her husband.

Thus, the Sages are telling us, “zachah” — if the husband merited — to live an upright life and conduct himself in a commendable way, then “eizer” — his wife will be a helper — she will be a source of encouragement and assist him in every way to be able to continue in this path. However, if “lo zachah” — he did not merit — to conduct himself properly, and is on the wrong path going astray in his relationship with Hashem or between man and man, she will then be, “kenegdo,” — against him — oppose him and endeavor to deter him from doing destructive and harmful things.

“So,” I said to Yankel, “Marriage is a win-win situation; it is the best investment man could make. It isn’t a gamble and it isn’t speculative. You can only win by getting married.”

My dear Chatan and Kallah, knowing the two of you and your revered families, and aware of your Torah-inspired upbringing, I can comfortably say that you dear Chatan, belong to the zachah group of people, and you, dear Kallah, will be a real eizer — help in all endeavors. Together may you succeed in building an everlasting home that will be l’sheim u’letiferet — a source of beauty and pride — for you, for your families, and for K’lal Yisrael.

"ויאמר האדם זאת הפעם עצם מעצמי ... לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת"
“This time it is bone from my bones... This shall be called woman, for from man this [she] was taken.” (2:23)

QUESTION: Adam’s stressing “this time” and “this” [shall be called woman] “for from man this was taken” seems to indicate that Chavah was not the only possible companion for him — what was the other choice?

ANSWER: Originally Hashem created for Adam a wife out of earth who was equal to him in height and her name was “Lilit.” There was much quarrelling among them, because she refused to be subordinate to him claiming that she was his equal. Ultimately, she uttered a holy Name and flew away. Afterwards, Hashem took one of his sides and He built the side into a woman” (2:21).

Since Chavah was not his original mate, therefore, Adam said, “This time it is a bone from my bone” — unlike the previous one which was formed from the earth. “This shall be called woman, for from man this [one] was taken.” Since she was taken from ish (איש) — man — whose numerical value is 311, she will consent to be subordinate and be called “ishah” (אשה) — woman — whose numerical value is only 306.

(פני דוד להחיד"א בשם ספר מדרש בחידוש מהמקובל ר' אליעזר נחמן פואה ז"ל וספר בן סירא, ועי' זהר בראשית ל"ד ע"ב, ושמות רל"א ע"ב)