The Legacy of an Unloved Wife

The Legacy of an Unloved Wife

It is possible to marry a woman and then love her

It is also possible to marry a man and, over time, grow to love him

It is possible to love and marry a spouse and then fall out of love with the same

The love between a man and a woman is fickle; time and experience have proven that most women end up loving their children more than their husbands, even in very serious monogamous marriages.

Since children are mostly primarily raised by their mothers, the agony of an unloved woman will inevitably become an emotional baggage that will poison the relationship between the children and their father.

The children of Leah gave Jacob serious pains, and so did the children of Maacah, daughter of the King of Geshur.

Absalom and Adonijah were bitter for many reasons; no man or woman who was taken into slavery as a result of war or conquest ever truly forgot or forgave their captors.

Vengeance, pain and bitterness, when sowed into the heart of a child from childhood, slants how such a child views life, and this ultimately affects how the child conducts himself or herself.

Maacah, the wife of David

Maacah is an eshet yefat to’ar, a non-Jewish woman captured during wartime to become a wife to her Israelite captor. Deuteronomy lists specific conditions the woman must follow to wed an Israelite, such as shaving her head, that are intended to discourage the union by making the woman seem undesirable. This does not stop King David from taking Maacah for a wife, and she bears him a son, Absalom, who grows up to turn on his father and even attempts to kill him. The Rabbis criticise David for his actions and how his son acted and believe the fate of Absalom was caused by David taking an eshet yefat to’ar for a wife.

Maacah, the daughter of King Talmi of Geshur, was married to King David and bore him his son Absalom.

David saw Maacah when he went forth to war; he desired her, and he took her as an eshet yet to’ar —a non-Jewish woman taken captive during wartime and who is desired by her Israelite captor who wants to marry her.

According to the Law of Moses, a captor may do so under the conditions that are specified in Deut. 21:10–14.

10 When you go to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands, and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave since you have dishonoured her.

The woman must first shave her hair and pare her nails, then wear mourning clothing and lament for her parent’s home for a month. Only after all these steps is her captor permitted to take her as his wife.

The main issue with this has nothing to do with the rituals but with the heart of the captive.

Sometimes, the captive grows to love her captor, and in other cases, she behaves like Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones or like Mirri Maz Duur, The Witch who poisoned Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.

The Rabbis severely criticise David for taking to himself an eshet yefat to’ar.

Deut. 21 speaks of three topics in succession: the eshet yefat to’ar (21:10–14); the instance of a man who has two wives, one loved and the other unloved (vv. 15–17);

15 If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, 16 when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love. 17 He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

And the “wayward and defiant son” (vv. 18–21; for the meaning of this term, see below).

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

The Rabbis derive from this juxtaposition that one transgression leads to another. If a person brings an eshet yefat to’ar into his home, he introduces dissension. The eshet yefat to’ar with shaven head is not desirable to him, and so he becomes the husband of two wives, only one of whom he loves.

This complicated family situation with two wives, one of whom he hates, leads to his child being a “wayward and defiant son.” The Rabbis exemplify such a process with the marriage of David and Maacah. Maacah, an eshet yefat to’ar, bore Absalom, who acted as a “wayward and defiant son.” Deut. 21:18–21 defines such a child as one who does not heed his parents, throws off all restraints and lives a riotous life, gorging himself on meat and drinking large quantities of wine. The Rabbis provide detailed (halakhic) definitions of the transgressions ascribed to such a son (M Sanhedrin 8; BT Sanhedrin 71a), and they portray Absalom as acting like such a son, as is attested by his extreme actions: he sought to kill his father David; he slept with his father’s wives, “in the sight of all Israel and in broad daylight” (II Sam. 12:12); because of him, several myriads of Israelites fell in his war against David; he also caused dissension in Israel, between his followers and David’s loyalists. Absalom was responsible for the deaths of Shimei son of Gera, Sheba son of Bichri, Ahitophel, Mephibosheth and Ish-bosheth. According to the Rabbis, Absalom’s shameful behaviour was a consequence of David’s marriage to Maacah and punishment for David’s lusting after an eshet yefat to’ar

PS: The impact of love goes way beyond physical attraction.

A man and a woman who genuinely love each other will pour into their children what they feel for each other, while a man and a woman who feel nothing but pain and bitterness will do the same.

Mothers will tell their children how useless their fathers are once they feel they are not being loved worthily, and this will affect how the children see the world.

Jacob saw the world in a certain way because of Rebecca; Joseph saw the world in a certain way because of the love of his father and mother.

You will notice that Leah fought hard to be loved, and she was never really loved. Therefore she named her children after her feelings, and Jacob didn't bother changing the names because he really didn't care for the children.

However, when Rachael gave birth to Benjamen and named him Ben-oni, Jacob changed it to Benjamen immediately because he cared.

Every parent and aspiring parent who plans to raise children that will bring them joy in future should make sure their foundation is set upon love.

A child can have a good character and be full of bile, like a beautiful snake full of poison.

A child can have a bad character and be full of love.

When the prodigal son remembered his father's love by himself, he turned a new leaf

Raising a well-behaved child who is full of love is infinitely greater than raising a well-behaved child who is full of resentment and bitterness.