I was struck by one of the Mishnayot at the end of Masechet Ketuboth. Both a woman and man can force their spouse to move to Israel and if either of them refuses then it is grounds for divorce in both directions.
This statement stuck me as radical found at the end of a masekhet that treats men and women as diametrically opposite beasts. Even while women are protected, or benefited, or controlled and men are given power and have their power limited, the two sexes are positioned differently in every institution mentioned: Marriage, Ketuba, divorce, widowhood, inheritance, responsibilities towards children, relationship to parents- you name it.
Not only does the Mishna mention the law, but the words
אחד האנשים ואחד הנשים
emphasize the long awaited parody between husband and wife.
The final chapter, especially the last few pages, of most Masechtot often throws us a curve ball as part of the summation. Perhaps here the Mishna is winking at us. Despite the differences in how the sexes function in marriage and divorce - deep down we all want the same thing. Both mates want to live the good life, to move to Israel, which for the Rabbis meant to bask in messianic fulfillment. What is our “Israel” our messianic hope? Husbands and wives the world over ultimately don’t want fair divorce settlements or cold but regular food for their children; they want to live in the nice house in the right neighborhood, receive compassion, companionship and love from their partner, (and throw in good sex) and meaningful relationships with their children.
Perhaps all the squeaky grimy machinery revealed in this Masekhet is meant to work back stage, so that the potential fulfillment and ecstasy of human relationships can take center stage.
If only the wonders of aliyah today would outshine the hardships- maybe we’d have more happy couples moving into our neighborhood.