By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 101 – Don’t Bring Quarreling Into Your Home
In the context of chalitza, the pasuk says that the Dayanim will speak to the yavam. From these ostensibly superfluous words, Chazal darshen that the Dayanim are enjoined to give the yavam good advice. If he is significantly younger or older than the yevama, they should tell him, “What business do you have getting involved with such a young woman? [Or,] what business do you have getting involved with such an old woman? Go find yourself a woman who is suitable to you, and do not bring quarreling into your home.”
Obviously, this is referring to a situation where the yavam and the yevama expressed a desire to carry out yibum, so the Dayanim are enjoined to dissuade him from taking such an ill-advised step.
If he wants to have her as a wife, though, why should it be considered unwise? After all, don’t Chazal say that women are a nation unto themselves (Shabbos 62a)? The differences between men and women are so intense and stark anyway; so why should an age gap – however vast it may be – present any additional problem seeing that they are both willing to overlook it?
It is the natural and normal way of the world (derech eretz, literally) that people of similar age groups marry with one another; whereas it is unnatural, for example, that a 60 year old man should marry a 17 year old girl. A common thread throughout the Torah is that Hashem engineered the world to function very much in accordance with derech eretz, even when there is no explicit command thereabout. Trying to controvert derech eretz is essentially an attempt at functioning in a manner that the Engineer did not intend. And when you don’t follow the Manufacturer’s instructions, you can expect things to go wrong. Can there be exceptions? Sure. That is implicit in the fact that Hashem did not prohibit such marriages. But as a general rule, it would be imprudent to disregard such a basic consideration.
Therefore, in general, regarding the expected friction and conflicts that can be expected to arise in such a vast-age-gap marriage, there is no built-in “safety-net” of mechanisms and tools that would enable one to compensate, correct, and address such problems. It is possible, nonetheless? Perhaps. But don’t get your hopes up.
What is more relevant for us, though, is what we see from this regarding the normal, natural dissimilarities between men and women. Whereas marriages of vast age-gaps are unnatural and not in line with derech eretz, marriages of similar age groups are natural, normal, and perfectly in line with derech eretz. “Lo sohu b’raah l’sheves y’tzarah, Not for emptiness did Hashem create the world, [rather] He formed it for population.” Normal, sensible marriages are not only in line with derech eretz, they are specifically Hashem’s focal intent, as it were, in the whole creation of the world.
What we see from this Gemara, then, is that the normal, natural differences between men and women – as seemingly deep and forceful as they are – were specifically engineered as to make them surmountable, unlike artificially imposed differences that are not necessarily so.
The truth is, that it goes even deeper. The differences between men and women can be viewed as the complex, differing contours of disparate puzzle pieces that are meant to interlock. If you stubbornly try to force them together the wrong way, then they are only going to cause damage to one another. However, if you apply patient wisdom and understanding while carefully observing each piece to figure out how they can fit together, then not only do the differences no longer present an obstacle, but, on the contrary, it is those very differences that are the vehicle for perfect union.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.