In his Ma’amarei Hadracha l’Chassanim, Rav Wolbe develops a concept that sheds light on the husband/wife dynamic. He notes that in numerous places, the Torah uses the same language, the same terminology when discussing the relationship between husband and wife and the relationship between God and man. One example is the kabbalistic terms of chesed and din – without getting into the deeper meaning of these terms, we know that the male represents the trait of chesed (kindness), whereas the woman represents din (judgement). This has practical ramifications: in every relationship there is a giver and a recipient. The husband is the primary giver – it is up to him to initiate the process, to give and give and give again. The wife receives this giving, this outpouring of chesed, and it makes her feel cherished, appreciated, and she feels good about the relationship. Then a wonderful thing happens: she turns back to the husband and reciprocates a thousand fold, far surpassing the original acts of giving on the husband’s part.
In Rav Wolbe’s words, the ribis is a ribis d'ribis.
At this point it’s important to clarify exactly why the woman represents din when we see that her role in the relationship ultimately brings forth an abundance of chesed. When we say that the woman is din, we are not referring to her character traits per se (although that certainly has significance), but addressing a matter of entitlement. The woman has a right to expect certain things from her husband and if she doesn’t get them she can make a legal claim with the full force of the beit din. Moreover, the longer the giver delays in fulfilling his duties, the stronger the claim and the harsher the judgment, ad infinitum. Conversely – and this is so important – when the giver does do his job, this din - the role of the receiver - is elevated into another middah entirely: the middah of rachamim. When the recipient turns back to her giver and gives back ribis d’ribis she has transcended her role of din and has become a source of rachamim, most notably signified by the creation of new life in the womb – the rechem. There is indeed no greater chesed between two people as when life is brought into the world!
This dynamic is also clear when we speak about the relationship between ourselves and God. We have various obligations that we must fulfill – if we do not, then the claim against us become increasingly more severe. But if we dutifully, lovingly perform our tasks, then the Holy One opens the floodgates of chesed beyond our wildest dreams – v’harikosi lachem bracha ad bli dai!
One must take care to emulate the tzaddikim who “sweeten the judgment” – with good deeds. Through this the harmony of chesed and din will permeate every aspect of the relationship in an ever increasing level of reciprocity.