Our previous discussion focused on the two verses about women written by King Solomon, the wisest of men. In the book of Proverbs (18:22) he declares: “He who has found a woman has found good.” Yet in the book of Ecclesiastes (7:26) he states: “And I find woman more bitter than death.“
Not surprisingly, the pivotal verb of these verses, “to find,” figures prominently in the creation of Eve, the archetypal woman:
And G-d said:
“It is not good for man to be alone,
I shall make him a helpmate.”
So G-d formed from the earth all the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, and He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and whatever the man called any living being was its name.
So the man named all the animals and birds of the sky and the beasts of the field, but for himself, Adam did not find a helpmate (Genesis 2:18-20).
It evidently was not enough for G-d to simply create Eve and present her to Adam; a true wife must be looked for and found. Upon her creation, Adam gave his wife the generic name “woman”, which in Hebrew is simply the feminine form of the word “man”:
This time, bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken from man.
Having found his true soul mate, Adam named her after himself, recognizing the common origin of their souls.
Looking at the original two verses yet again, we notice that in the verse “And I find the woman bitterer than death,” “woman” appears with the definite article. This implies that one is relating to one’s wife as a member of a generic group rather than as an individual who shares his soul-root. This fundamental lack of unity prevents one from finding good in his relationship with his wife.
In contrast, in the verse “He who has found a woman,” “woman” appears without the definite article. This implies that one who finds his true soul mate names her after (i.e., recognizes) their common source, as happened in the story of creation. And therefore, “He who has found a woman–has found good.”
To be sure, viewing one’s spouse as part of oneself can be the sign of an exaggerated ego as well. In such a case, one sees his spouse as merely an appendage of himself and thus feels no need to relate to her as a distinct individual. This is alluded to in the verse “And I find the woman bitterer than death,” in which the egocentric husband sees only himself in his wife.
The proper way to see one’s wife as part of oneself is by sensing their shared soul-root, which, as we have said, is possible only by cultivating true selflessness. As we will explain, one’s true individuality originates in one’s soul-root. Paradoxically, it is only when spouses relate to each other with this awareness of their common source that they can see each other as truly unique individuals.
Our sages teach us that (Kidushin 2b) “it is the way of man to search for woman,” for he is in fact searching for his own lost side or rib (Bereishit Rabbah 17:6). Spiritually, this lost side is the unconscious level of his own soul.
When one learns to relate to (“find”) one’s wife on the level of their common soul-root, he “finds” not only a good marriage, but the goodness inherent in the unconscious level of his own soul, as well. A good wife is thus one who makes her husband conscious of the depths of his own will to be good. This is the deeper meaning of “He who has found a woman has found good.”
In sum, by referring to the contrasting language of these two verses, those who posed the above question to the groom were hinting to him that the outcome of the union, for good or for bad, depends on his attitude. The blessings of marriage are contingent upon the abandonment of egocentricity and a positive reorientation toward inner truth and reality.