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    Making Our Mate Number One

    The Torah dictates to us that a Kohein must maintain a higher level of kedusha, holiness.  As it says, “Lo yitama b’amav,” he should not become contaminated to the dead of his people.  Then, the Torah teaches that there are exceptions to this rule.  As the next passage continues, “Ki im li’sheiro hakarov eilav, l’imo ul’aviv, v’livno ul’vito ul’achiv,” only for his flesh, for his mother and for his father, for his son and for his daughter and for his siblings.”  As the Chinuch explains, since the Torah is, “D’racheha darchei noam – Its ways are ways of sweetness,” the Torah did not want to withhold the natural mourning rituals for the closest of kin from the Kohein.

    The Gemora also informs us that the word li’sheiro in the beginning of the verse, which has a literal meaning of ‘his flesh,’ refers to his wife, for the Gemora always teaches us, “Ishto k’gufo,” a wife is like one’s own flesh.  It is also interesting to note that the word ‘sheiro,’ spelled shin-alef-reish-vav, is an anagram of the word rosho, his head, for the good spouse must always have thoughts of their mate in his or her head.  This means that while away on a business trip, a good husband or wife is always thinking what they could bring back for their partner, that they always remember to phone in when away or delayed, and when there’s good news to tell, they make sure to share it first with their life’s companion.

    But, perhaps even more significant is the fact that the Torah mentions sheiro first, before the other close relatives like mom and dad and even one’s children.  This is to highlight the Torah’s insistence on prioritizing the needs of one’s mate before all others.  It is imperative that a married person realize that when they stood under the chupah, they were making a statement that, “From now on, my mate is the most important person in the world to me.”  It is a great idea, from time to time, to take out the wedding album and gaze at the pictures of a younger version of ourselves standing under the bridal canopy with the young look of love and hope.  This drill should concretize in our minds the lifelong commitment we made to each other to give our very best to one another.  Naturally, this means that our most tender tones and softest voice should be reserved specifically for our mate.  Likewise, our greatest effort at pleasing others should not be made at the office or when we are with friends, but rather when we are at home behind closed doors with our family.  We should always remember that we work in order to better the life of our family, and therefore we should not allow an obsession with our work to come between us and our mates because we are then defeating the very purpose of our working in the first place.

    In matters of matrimony, it is very worthwhile to remember the verse in Mishlei, “Batach bah leiv baalah – Her husband’s heart has complete confidence in her.”  This is an important fundamental in marriage.  In today’s competitive world, one never knows who he can really trust.  In the ideal marriage, one can be sure of one person – and that is his or her spouse.  They will never let the other down.  They will be there in tough times as they are there in good times.  As the Meam Loez in Parshas Ki Seitzei states, a true test of the quality of a wife’s mettle is when a husband is out of work – when she is there to pick him up and to bolster him through the tough times, which is what being a good marital partner is all about.  Similarly, when the husband pledges in the kesubah, “Ana okeir – I will honor her,” he is not merely pledging that he won’t take her for granted or treat her like a shmata.  After all, a good Jewish person lives with the ethical guidance of Pirkei Avos, “Yehi kavod chavercha chaviv alecha k’shelach – Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own honor.”  Thus, when he promises in the kesuvah document to honor his wife, he means an honor that is above and beyond the honor due everyone else.

    This again is consistent with the priority that one must give their best self to one’s life mate.  Sadly, all too often, the opposite is true.  We see our spouse at tough times of the day, like when we have just woken up and we look like a fright, when our nerves are jangling from the worries of the day ahead and when the cobwebs of sleep haven’t  yet cleared to allow for proper behavior.  Then, we meet up next at the end of the day when the two partners feel like washed out dishtowels having nerves fit to be tied.  We finally spend the weekend together, when many of us are on the verge of collapse and in a state of utter exhaustion.  It is from these times that we are supposed to create a magical bond of closeness, with feelings of specialness and importance.  To further complicate the equation, the normal inhibitions against bad behavior are not present in the marital relationship.  Normally, one holds back from screaming or saying something nasty because of the repercussions.  If you behave that way in the office, they might fire you.  If you act that way with your friends, they’ll delete your phone number from their Palm Pilot’s.  If you act that way in Shul, you won’t get an aliya for a long time.  But, at home, we subconsciously think that we can get away with it.  What’s our spouse going to do?  Tell their friends that they got a lemon?  It therefore behooves us to remember that, when we live with harmony and tranquility with our mate, not only is our life so much more enjoyable and meaningful, we also then are dwelling with the blessing and protection of the Shechina, and are a worthy role model for our children who we can hope will bring this behavior into their marriages as well.

    With the help of Hashem, may we be blessed with good health and long life to enjoy many years of wonderful Shalom Bais.