There’s a new “Cheerleader” in town – a song that’s been playing on the radio (and now in my head) non-stop. At first blush, it seems kind of sweet: the singer “OMI” (don’t ask me why there are only capital letter in his name – at least he has one) found a wonderful girl, even his mom likes her, and he’s going to ask her to marry him. What’s not to like? But as I sang the lyrics again and again and again, I realized there is something kind of creepy about this song. I also realized how very different the Jewish perspective on a husband wife relationship is:
She is always in my corner
Right there when I want her
Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
She walks like a model
She grants my wishes
Like a genie in a bottle.
OMI might want a cheerleader for a wife who never disagrees with her man, extols his every move, and fulfills his every desire, but the classic Jewish approach to marriage – which is based on the relationship between Adam and Chava (Eve) in Bereishis (Genesis) – despite being over three thousand years ago – is surprisingly more progressive than the hit song of the summer of 2015. Why? Because according to the Torah, a wife is not supposed to be his “cheerleader.” She’s supposed to be an “ezer k’negdo” – his helpmate who opposes him.
Now that’s not to say that a wife shouldn’t be part “cheerleader” in the part where she’s his “helper.” Women (and men) should stand by their respective spouses whenever possible, loving them and encouraging them. But the Torah, which is often accused of misogyny (not that there aren’t some challenging sections) adds a second part which OMI’s song is missing: a wife is supposed to push back sometimes by “opposing” him. She can only be his “helper” if she has the freedom to speak her mind, tell him when he’s wrong, and make him better than when he met her. Now that is the type of relationship worth cheering for!