“Therefore a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they will become one flesh. “
After woman was created and man discovered his soul mate, he declared that since she was so special all men would leave their parents and start a new life with their wives. Again, we are introduced to Adam’s quality of understanding the essence of a being or a situation, for he makes a bold statement, not only about himself and his feelings at finding his spouse, but about all men forever. In all subsequent generations, men will go head over heels to set up home with women.
However, Adam does not only say that men will go crazy over women and do crazy things to be close to women but that man will leave his own home to do so. Man will leave his parents and this is important because his parents’ home is the place where man initially discovers himself and grows from a defenseless infant to become a mature and independent human being. Man needs to first grow in his parents’ home. Without this stage, he will never be able to find a spouse. In fact, the first people who teach him the importance of finding a spouse and how to build a home are his parents. They teach him by example and his house will very often reflect theirs.
However, man cannot build a home with woman without leaving his parents’ home, without leaving his comfort zone and everything that is familiar to him. He must leave their house to build his own. While the parents’ presence may be felt and influence the new home that man builds, he must do so not as an extension of their home but as a new entity that is distinct from his parents’ home.
This is not so easy for everyone, not for all parents and not for all children. Some like to blur the boundaries between the parents’ home and the new home formed by the children. One could ask why it is so essential that man has to leave his parents’ home? Why can he not stay there and bring his spouse into his already existing family unit?
What Adam taught us in the verse quoted above is that the special nature of the relationship between husband and wife demands a break from what came before. This is because the relationship between a husband and wife is distinct and different from all other relationships that humans have. It is not another friend, relative or partner.
This is due to the unique element that exists only within the framework of marriage- the physical, sexual component of their relationship. Parents should love their children. Friends share a common bond. We can inspire and assist colleagues. However, the physical, sexual element of a relationship is reserved for man and wife.
In order to build this part of the relationship, man must take leave of his parents and create a new life for himself together with his wife. This new life, this unique connection, this cleaving together gives rise to friction but also creates new life. Man and wife will cleave together and become one flesh, which Rashi explains to mean the child that is created from their sexual union makes them one, as the child is formed from both their genetic material. The loving couple see that their fusing is expressed in the result of that alliance. Thus the child is the most complete and wonderful expression of the unique relationship between husband and wife, because the child is a complete fusion of both their qualities.
Parents can teach and encourage their children. They can guide them and direct them but they can never become one with them. That special possibility is reserved for their children’s spouses. Therefore, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they will become one flesh.
However, to get there, man and woman need to overcome a tremendous hurdle.
More on that next week.