Broken Marriages and Derech Erets Today
The Mishneh in Sota 49 tells of two periods in Jewish suffering. One, in ancient times, when Roman armies destroyed Israel. Two, just prior to the coming of Moshiach, when Derech Erets, respect for another will weaken. Even respect for the elders of our families will decline or disappear. We are living in that time, the “footsteps of the Moshiach” and we all know what is happening: the destruction of many families. No longer are we shocked when we hear of a Torah family engaged in hate and worse.
These two periods began thousands of years after Creation. But we find in the very beginning of the Book of Eliyohu HaNovi, of Elijah the Prophet, a discussion of the first sins, of Adam in the Garden of Eden. These sins began in the very beginning, right about when Adam was created. And the first major teaching of the Book of Eliyohu HaNovi is that Derech Erets precedes the Torah! How great is Derech Erets. And yet, prior to the Coming of Moshiach, the Satan will be given the power to enter our homes and destroy Derech Erets, even so far as to cause us to insult elders of our family as stated in the above gemora!
If today we are shocked by the large number of broken families and divorces, we are living in the second phase mentioned above, when Derech Erets will decline and family will suffer. It is important that we know this, because when a person marries and suffers disappointment, the failing can produce shame and bitterness. The shame and the bitterness is part of the package of the terrible time before the coming of Moshiach. The decline in respect for family is part of the problem. We need a lot of prayer and trust that “there is nobody to help us but our Father in Heaven” and He can help. However, times have changed. We need prayer and hope that things will improve, and we must not despair when they don’t. Rather we must continue to turn to HaShem even in our times, and trust in the ultimate Redemption.
Recently I was told about two ladies complete strangers to each other, who took upon themselves to make organizations to support women undergoing problems in marriage and family. Some of these suffering women were emotionally drained and destroyed, but when they came together and turned to HaShem, they found new strength and ability to continue. These organizations are “holy of holies” to support broken people in times of great emotional and social tumult. May they help people and may they merit to grow and strengthen more and more people who are very much in need of encouragement.
Let us study various sources about the End of Days. We want to know how people who fall and fail can find hope and the strength to continue. We will read about ancients and their struggles with sin and penitence. We will discover important facts that are hidden in biblical stories, and these hidden facts when revealed explain a lot.
After all that we will see and study in various sources, we must not forget the need for every community to organize encouragement for those on the wrong side of the End of Days. If anyone is too embarrassed to do these things, please call me at 845-578-1917.
Let us study the teachings of Eliyohu HaNov about Derech Erets and family. We have already above mentioned briefly the teaching that Derech Erets precedes the Torah. Now we turn to another teaching of Eliyohu the Prophet, not in his Book, but in the book of the Prophet Malachi. Malachi was the concluding prophet of the Minor Prophets, those without large printed prophecies. (See footnote)
Let us look at the end of the prophecy of Malachi when he speaks about Elijah the Prophet. Speaking G-d’s decree Malachi states, “Behold I will send to you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and fearful day. And he will restore the hearts of fathers to their sons, and the heart of the sons to their father, lest I come and smite the land and destroy it.” There is a custom in writing Holy Teachings never to conclude on a negative note, but now there is a negative and very threatening note. But here we are talking about a violation of Derech Erets, and respect between fathers and sons. A violation of Derech Erets between fathers and sons causes us to ignore the rules.
The threat by G-d to destroy the world is perhaps unique. But we are not surprised at this when we deal with a violation of Derech Erets, especially Derech Erets in the family. Yes, Derech Erets precedes the Torah. And violation of Derech Erets can destroy the world.
We turn now back to the beginning of the Book of Eliyohu HaNovi, and its passages about Derech Erets and Torah.
The Book of Eliyohu HaNovi begins: “’And He drove out the man [Adam]’ this teaches that He [G‑d] gave him a divorce as if he was a woman.” Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden and was driven away. Why not just say “Adam was driven out of the Garden of Eden”? Why did the Book of Eliyohu have to add “This teaches that He gave him a divorce as if he was a woman”? Also, in Hebrew the phrase “And He drove out the man” does not imply a woman being divorced. The wordויגרש means simply “and he drove away”. And while the term can also apply to driving away a wife with a divorce, in what way was Adam’s punishment to leave the Garden of Eden a divorce as one divorces a woman? Furthermore, the phrase had nothing to do with women, because the one driven away was Adam. So just what is the message here that Adam was driven away like a woman?
Furthermore, the entire story of the sins of Adam and Eve is not clearly explained. Indeed as we will see later the passage of Adam being punished with toil of the field has nothing to do with being driven from the Garden of Eden. It was clearly done to keep Adam from eating the Tree of Life and live forever. Now, what does that have to do with being driven away like a woman?
After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they had to leave the Garden of Eden and live with suffering. The biblical passages of G‑d punishing Adam and Eve are one passage in Beraishis III:16 for Eve, and three passages for Adam, from Ber. III:17-19. This gives us four passages of punishment for people who were created to live in the Garden of Eden. What follows these punishing passages? Passage III:20 says, “And Adam called the name of his wife Chavo, because she was the mother of all life. The next passage says, “And the L‑d G‑d made for Adam and his wife garments of leather and He dressed them.”
Now, Chavo or Eve started the whole chaos that damagedl human beings forever. What does Adam do, after he realizes what his wife did to him? Does he rant and rave about her? No, he honors her with a name Chavo that means life, because she is the mother of the human race. Are we missing something? Yes. We are missing something very important, and it is there in the passage quoted by the Book of Elijah, that we have our first inkling of what the Creation story is really all about.
There is a gemora in Avoda Zoro 4b and 5a that talks about the hideous sins done by the greatest Jews. We are told about the Golden Calf built by Aharon the High Priest the brother of Moses that led to Jews worshipping the Golden Calf. Also, David caused the death of a soldier and took his wife with force. These sins, building a Golden Calf and worshipping it right after the Torah was given by G‑d at Sinai, and David’s terrible sins, seem to consign the sinners to perdition in this world and the next.
But in fact the opposite happens. In the Future World, the few greatest saints will sit at the table, and who recites Grace? King David. And what about the Jews who sinned at the Building of the Golden Calf and those who worshipped it? Are the Jews demoted by G-d? Not at all. Yes, Jews are always getting caught doing bad things, like the Golden Calf and such things, but G-d knows exactly what people are capable of doing in terms of sin, and He accepts the Jewish people and hopes that they will return to Him with teshuva, penitence. Yes, the purpose of the world, and of life, was not to produce perfect people. It was to produce sinners who repent. That is the purpose of Creation. The gemora explains that in order to establish this primacy of penitence, the greatest Jews in Jewish history were brought to commit hideous sins, and were encouraged to make true penitence, and G-d forgave them. He forgave them and restored their high honor, because they were doing what He wanted for Creation, true and deep penitence.
Now we understand why Adam responds to his passages of punishment by announcing the glory of his wife, the one who destroyed him. If life is about sin and teshuva, Adam was right on target. Perhaps Adam realized that if his wife went out on his wedding day to have some experience with a Snake, that it was his fault, for not treating his wife with enough warmth and love. And when the portals of punishment opened upon Adam, he turned immediately to his sin with his wife, of not showing her proper love and care, and announced that he and all people would always honor her for being the mother of all human life. That is the way of penitence, for humans who have evil inclinations but don’t despair when they fail. They pray for forgiveness and if they do it properly are forgiven.
There is another aspect of this which is important to mention, even if we don’t get around to understanding it properly, because it is after all part of the mystical Creation story. We see that Eve sinned and so did Adam. How could people created by G‑d in the Garden of Eden sin because some Snake tells them to defy G‑d? Basically, angels have no evil inclination. People do. There are furthermore, good angels and some bad angels, because the purpose of Creation was to test people with evil, and for that there are evil angels, such as the Satan, who is only evil because since people need to be tested by evil angels, the Satan does what he is told.
On a deeper level the literature tells us that Adam and Eve dealt with evil angels very early in the Creation story, and some of it stuck to them. There was therefore a flaw in their marriage, brought about by the angel in heaven whose job it was to entice people and the angel’s husband who was the Angel of Death and terrified Eve until she ate the forbidden fruit. The exposure of Adam and Eve to evil was part of the Divine Plan to test people with great evil forces, and that is life, where failures are common, but the show goes on with penitence, and we have a lot to repent for. We don’t anticipate coming to the Other World perfect, but we do hope to have some penitence, some pain that pays our way, and a life that is filled with problems that will help minimize our sins when we stand in judgment
 Malachi is the last of the biblical Twelve minor prophets. Minor prophets had smaller biblical publications than major prophets, but in prophecy they could be greater than major prophets. The Book of Malachi a minor prophet is about four pages, and the Book of Isaiah, a major prophet, is 64 pages. The gemora in Pesachim 87a says that Hoshea was greater in prophecy than Isaiah. However, Hoshea has a small place in the biblical narratives of prophecy despite being greater than Isaiah in prophecy.
 Tano Divei Eliyohu beginning of Chapter One
Hakdomas haZohar 8A, see also Ore Yokor Shaar 2 Simon 2 page 78
 See Ore Yokor from Reb Moshe Kordevora Shaar IV:Simon 13 page 69 in my version.
 Yonasan ben Uziel Ber. I:5