Tzemach Tzadik - Chapter 6 Love of Women by Rabbi Aryeh Leone di Modena


Back to chapter 5 about natural love

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Love of Women

The fifth category is emotional love which is totally physical and most of it stems from the love of women; for this reason it will be classified as good or bad according to its ultimate goal. Therefore many people have been drawn to talk in excess about women either in disparaging terms or in praise of them. This can be explained by the fact that there are people who love women solely for their own pleasure and this is animal lust, which is shameful and depends totally on the physical senses, in particular on the sense of touch. It is a disgrace for us, because someone who engages in it ignores and disregards whether it will cause harm or benefit, shame or honor, flaw or perfection. In this respect, King Solomon peace be upon him said (Eccl. 7, 26): "I consider the woman more bitter than death, since she tends only to trap and ensnare". Our Sages of blessed memory remind us that the first woman introduced death into the world1; however, our Sages despised only evil women.

A philosopher said: "There are three things which cause man to leave his home: smoke2, a roofless house and a bad wife". Hippocrates told about a woman who was bearing fire: "Here comes fire carrying fire. And the carrying fire burns more than the fire which is carried". Sorcina said about a woman who was learning to write: "Why add evil upon evil3?"

However, one who loves a woman of worth in order to perpetuate mankind is called a holy man, as it is written (Genesis 29, 18): "And Jacob loved Rachel" and other examples. And the principle of this love is intellectual and spiritual. It is well known that Solomon in his wisdom used as his parable in the Song of Songs a beloved and loving woman, so that details of physical love will be used as an example for love of Hashem; in fact, the righteous loves Him with a true love in the same way as when one desires a woman he will not sleep or rest nor will he eat or drink and will suffer the intense heat of the day and the extreme cold of the night out of love for her.

Our Sages of blessed memory said in the Midrash (Bereshit Raba 80): "Rabbi Shimon said etc. that the Holy one blessed be He expressed His affection for the Jewish People with three different terms of endearment: attachment, longing and desire etc.". We learn these three expressions from the episode of that evil man4:

  • attachment - [from the verse] "And his soul felt attachment to Dina, the daughter of Jacob";
  • longing - [from the verse] "The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter";
  • desire - [from the verse] "Since he desired Jacob's daughter".

Rabbi Abba bar Elisha adds a further two to these, namely love and speech etc.

[King] Solomon said concerning proper love (Proverbs 18, 22): "When one finds a wife, one finds goodness etc.". He says further (ibid. 5, 18): "And rejoice in the wife of your youth". It is written in the book of Ben Sira "A good wife is a fine gift". It is further written (Psalms 128, 3): "Your wife is like a fruitful vine within your home etc.".

Happy is the one who loves with his head rather than with his heart, since this is what elevates man above beast and regarding this it is said (Song of Songs 8, 6): "Embers [of love] are like burning embers, a divine flame".

Notes of the translators:
[1] Until Adam ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he was immortal. But by persuading him to eat it, Eve introduced sin into the world. Thus Hashem decided that man should be mortal, so that death will be an atonement for man’s sin.
[2] Like that of a smoking chimney.
[3] By providing her with an additional form of expressing herself. We have often seen this saying attributed to Socrates.
[4] Shechem the son of Chamor kidnapped and raped Dina, the daughter of our Patriarch Jacob. The full story and the three quotes are in the Genesis, chapter 41.

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 6 about love of women is found at pages 14-16.