My wife gets a mazal tov this Shabbos because she will have reached the milestone of having tolerated me for 25 years, which is quite an accomplishment. "... Ad asher ko"h (=25) beirchani Hashem" (Yehoshua 17:14). Time just flies. I didn't posted anything last week because we went to Eretz Yisrael, the first time we have each been there since back in pre-marriage days. I hope to write something about that once I wake up from jetlag and have some time...
The gemara (Yevamos 63) tells a story: R' Yosi met Eliyahu haNavi and asked him what it means that woman was created to be an "eizer." How? Eliyahu answered that a man harvests wheat -- does he eat wheat? A man harvests flax -- does he wear flax? Of course not. His wife turns wheat to bread; his wife turns the flax to a nice linen garment.
R' Yitzchak Zilberstein asks: there are mishnayos in Kesubos that talk about the obligations a wife has to spin cloth, to cook, etc. for her husband. Didn't R' Yosi know those sugyos? What is the big mystery here that he needed Eliyahu haNavi to explain?
R' Zilberstein asked this to his brother-in-law, R' Chaim Kanievsky, who answered by reminding him of the behavior of their mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Elyashiv. R' Elyashiv used to wake up at some ridiculous hour of the morning (actually, it was still night) to start learning, and every day his Rebbetzin would wake up then to make him a cup of coffee. As the years passed and the Rebbetzin grew older, her children tried to convince her to just leave a thermos of coffee and R' Elyashiv could help himself -- she didn't need to get out of bed at 2:00 in the morning just to make the coffee. She wouldn't give in. Ain hachi nami, she told them, that if it was just about the coffee, she could leave a thermos. But, she explained, what do you think R' Elyashiv is thinking when his alarm goes off at 2:00AM? He's not a malach -- he's thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice to spend a few more minutes in a warm bed?" Now, imagine him lying there in bed knowing that I am getting out of bed to make him a coffee so he can start learning -- do you think he will sleep in those few extra minutes knowing that I'm up for him?
That's what Eliyahu haNavi was telling R' Yosi. Mistama they had tailors and takeout in the times of Chazal. If it was just about having food and clothes, about the obligations listed in those sugyos in Kesubos, that would not make a wife into an eizer. That would make her into a live-in tailor and cook. Leaving a thermos would fulfill the Kesubos requirements. What makes a wife into an eizer is sharing in a sense of mission with her spouse, sharing in struggles, aspirations, and goals, be it in learning or so many other things. For that, you wake up at 2:00AM to be there -- the thermos is not enough. It's not just any food or any clothes that Eliyahu was talking about -- it's the wheat her husband grows that his wife bakes, it's the flax he plants that she fashions into clothes. It's the shared sense of enterprise and accomplishment that makes a wife into an eizer (and the same is true vice versa).
My wife of course deserves my thanks for fulfilling Eliyahu's words k'peshuto and making sure I have food to eat and bills get paid on time. But far more than that is the thanks she deserves for being my eizer all these years, in sharing in the struggles, the aspirations, the goals which we work so hard together to try to achieve.