Although our children are most precious to us, representing our future continuation, no one is as close to the other as husband and wife. “That is why man leaves his father and his mother, and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh” (Bereishit 2:24). Husband and wife live at least nine months alone together before little ones enter their nest. G-d could have ingrained within nature the arrival of offspring from the beginning of marital union. He could have made the woman conceive, and give birth the same day. Yet, it is G-d's desire that man and woman spend a substantial amount time alone together without the distraction of the brood. Likewise, children to grow up, leave the nest and start their own families. In this natural process of unfolding life, husband and wife are again left to themselves.
A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
The importance of placing the wife before anyone, including the children, is hinted to in the following verse: “Hashem your G-d has given you this land to possess it… But your wives, and your little ones, and your cattle... shall abide in your cities which I have given you” (Devarim 3:18-19). These are Moshe's subtle words of rebuke to the tribes of Reuven and Gad who originally requested land on the other side of the Jordan River saying, “We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones” (Bemidbar 32:16). Moshe then reversed the order adjusting their words as follows, “Build cities for your little ones and folds for your flock” (ibid. 32:24). According to Rashi, “They paid more regard to their property than to their sons and daughters, because they mentioned their cattle before their children. Moshe told them, ‘keep your priorities correct. First build cities for your little ones and afterwards folds for your flock.’” The tribes of Reuven and Gad accepted Moshe's rebuke and corrected themselves saying, “Our little ones, our wives, our cattle, and all our beast shall be there in the cities of Gilead” (Bemidbar 32:26). Yet, their proposal still needed fine tuning, since they placed their children before their wives. Therefore, Moshe now mentions the wives first on the list, in order to make them aware that no one takes precedence over their spouse.
YOUR WIVES TAKE PRECEDENCE
The unity between husband and wife is intrinsically linked to the original intention of creation: “Male and female He created them” (Bereishit 1:27). The Zohar's commentary on this verse reads as follows, “From here we learn, any image that does not embrace male and female is not a high and true image… Come and see, the blessed Holy One does not place His abode in any place where male and female are not found together. Blessings are found only in a place where male and female are found, as it is written, `He blessed them and called their name Adam' on the day they were created. It is not written: He blessed him and called his name Adam. A human being is only called Adam when male and female are as one.” Thus, Moshe makes it clear to the men that just as their children are more important than their career, so are their wives most important of all.