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Leaving the father and the mother (Genesis chap. 2, verse 24)

imageTherefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

The verbs “to leave” and “to cleave” must be understood in a manner not too literal. Certainly, when a man loves a woman, he has to leave mom and dad’s home. However, it isn’t sure that having left his parents’ house, a young man is completely free from old family dynamics. Proof of this are the many weddings jumping due to the immaturity of him or her, still too tied to the parents.

Moreover at the times of writing of of Genesis 2 it was unthinkable that a man would have abandoned their parents. The fourth commandment says: “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

In short, rather than “to leave” the Hebrew verb azav should be translated with the verb “to release” from parental bonds. When two people decide to get together it is first necessary to break the previous constraints to create new ones. Not only external constraints, but especially those internal ones. Parents should not be abandoned to their fate, especially if they are sick. But if parents are demanding imperiously attention not due, we must put boundaries and barriers around our family.

Even the word “to cleave”, as “to leave”, should not be understood too literally. Man and woman maintain their own individuality. The husband has his friends, as the women has her friends. Both of them have their own interests, to be cultivated with care.

To become “one flesh” the physical and spiritual union between two people has to take place in freedom and mutual respect. In this verse there is the “recipe for every good  couple.”

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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