Subverting the standard take on Ezer Kenegdo
The standard BY take on Ezer Kenegdo is that the ideal wife is help and not in opposition. In fact, I've heard women say in shiurim that they believe this the key to a good marriage is this: "I always listen to my husband even when I know he's wrong." Well, the Netziv did not think that was the ideal marriage, as he stated here:
From Rabbi Frand's words on Parsha Bereishs 5758
Netziv: The 'Unlucky One' (Lo Zacha) Is the One With The Docile Wife The pasuk says, "It is not good for man to be alone, I will make for him a help-mate, opposite him" [Bereishis 2:18]. We are all familiar with the Rash"i on this pasuk. Rash"i asks, "Which is it? Is the woman supposed to be a 'help-mate' or is she supposed to be one who stands 'opposite' - in opposition - to her husband?"
Rash"i answers, "If a person has the merit to marry the right woman, she will be a help-mate, if not she becomes his adversary." The Netziv, at the Sheva Brochos of his own granddaughter (who married Rav Chaim Soloveitchik), gave his own insight (virtually the inverse of Rashi's interpretation) into this same dilemma. The pasuk in Mishlei states, "For the way of all man, is correct in his eyes..." [Proverbs 21:2].
Every person thinks the way he does things is correct. A person cannot see his own faults and weaknesses. We are our own biggest friends, but on the other hand we are blind when it comes to judging whether we do right or wrong. And yet, we cannot always trust an outsider. We don't always know if that person has our best interests at heart. How does one get around this dilemma? Who loves me enough that I can be confident that this person will have my best interests at heart, but on the other hand is, at the same time a different person, who can maintain an objective opinion?
The Netziv said that to alleviate this problem, G-d created separate genders - G-d created women distinct from men, and He created the institution of marriage. It is the woman -- one's wife, who loves her husband as he loves himself, and yet has the advantage of objectivity. She has the advantage that she can stand back and tell her husband "What you are doing is not right." That is the wonderful quality of marriage. This is the interpretation of "a help-mate, opposite him."
The way she becomes the help-mate that G-d had in mind, the way she fulfills her destiny as a help-mate is by being the "K'negdo," by being "opposite" every once in a while, and telling her husband "No Way!" Otherwise, how is a person to know if what he does is right or wrong? If every man thinks that he is correct in his own eyes [Mishlei ibid.], who will ever tell him when he is in fact wrong?
Therefore, the Netziv said, the woman who stands opposite her husband, at times, telling him that he is wrong, becomes his biggest help-mate. Unfortunately, if a person marries a woman who is a 'Yes- Woman,' a docile and servile wife who never takes it upon herself to show her husband where he is wrong, that is a situation of "Lo Zacha" -- he was not lucky. This is what the Netziv told his granddaughter, when she married Rav Chaim Soloveitchik.
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