What It Means to be an Ezer - The Week's End (October 21, 2022)
Oct 20th 2022

Perusing through the Bible as a kid, I was excited to find my family surname in English. It was in parashat Vayishlaḥ, which outlined the genealogy of Esau. Ezer is listed as one of the sons of Seir the Horite, the Horites being the original non-semitic settlers of Seir / Edom prior to the arrival of Esau’s clans (Genesis 36:20 ff). As an adult, however, I discovered that in Hebrew the name is spelled alef, tzadi, reish, which would therefore render the English spelling and pronunciation more accurately as Eitzer. Although all the umashim spell the name as Ezer, this is not truly correct.

This week’s parashah Bereisheet contains the more recognized and accurate Hebrew reference to my family name. It is in Genesis 2:18 where God creates Woman. Here the name is spelled with ayin, zayin, reish. Eve is described as an Ezer K’negdo. In Hebrew, Ezer means “helper.” The term k’negdo takes on various explanations. It literally means “against him.” Rashi quotes the Talmud Tractate Yevamot 63a which states that if the man is worthy, the woman will be a helper; if he is unworthy, she will be against him. There are in fact times when a woman can best be a helper by being against him. A wife will oppose her husband and prevent him from acting rashly by questioning, criticizing and discussing. However, Ezer K’negdo does not necessarily mean a negative connotation. It may mean either “at his side” (fit to associate with) or “as over against him” (corresponding to him). An Ezer K’negdo can be understood to mean a “helpmate equivalent to him,” not in his shadow or subordinate, but rather his other self.

It is quite apt that the yahrtzeit of my late father Gabriel Ezer z"l occurs this week when we read parashat Bereisheet. My father was the quintessential Ezer K’negdo, always there above and beyond to help but never afraid to voice his opinion when he thought you were on the wrong path. Whether as a spouse, a friend, or companion, the appropriate helper is one who stands opposite and faces you. Sometimes in agreement, sometimes in disagreement, but as long as one is opposite the other. 

Shabbat Shalom.