01 Dec Marital Harmony Part 1
Chumash Bereishis has another name: It is called Sefer HaYoshor, the Book of the Upright. This is because it discusses the lives of our righteous patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and matriarchs, Sorah, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah. The purpose of these discussions is not historical. Rather they are to teach us how to live by example. Since marriage is one of the most important challenges of life, it stands to reason that the Torah will give us lessons for this all-important endeavor. I’d like to give you an example from each of our patriarchs’ lives in regard to marital harmony.
When Avraham was getting ready to settle down at one of his stops, the Torah says, “Vayeit oholo – And he pitched his tent.” Curiously, the Torah spells the word ‘ololah’ with the letter hei at the end, making it a feminine term, and making the translation: ‘her tent.’ In other words, it has the pronunciation of ‘his tent’ but has the spelling of ‘her tent.’ Rashi explains that this is to teach us that Avraham Avinu pitched his wife’s tent before he pitched his own to teach us that one is required to honor his wife more than himself. This then begs the question, Why didn’t the Torah simply say that he pitched her tent? I believe that the Torah is teaching us one of the great tasks of marriage: That husband and wife should become like one. In halachic terms, this is referred to as ishto k’gufo, one’s wife is like one’s own body. It is for this reason that, even if daughters light their own menorah on Chanukah, the wife does not for she is one with her husband. Thus, when Avraham pitched his wife’s tent, it was as if he was pitching his own – as they were one.
If this sounds tricky, let me give you a practical example. When Reb Aryeh Levin’s Rebbetzin had a problem with her knee, he took her to the doctor. When the doctor asked what’s wrong, he replied, “Our foot hurts us,” and not, “My wife’s foot hurts her.” Now, this manifests itself in another area. Just like your right hand is not jealous of the successes of your left hand, so too when a husband and wife achieve this sense of oneness, neither spouse is jealous of the other’s successes for they are one. They are also deeply sensitive to each other’s needs and desires.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Yitzchak. The Torah tells us that one day Avimelech was looking and saw through a window that Yitzchak was m’tzacheik es Rivka ishto. Literally, this means he was causing his wife to laugh. We cannot overestimate the importance of couples generating happiness for one another. A house with laughter generates well-rounded children and has a much better chance for good health and well-being.
In the Sephardic kesubah, there is a clause that I wish we Ashkenazim could adopt. It is just two words but these words make all the difference. “Anah asaber – I will smile.” The groom commits himself that, with all the vicissitudes of life, and all the pressures and distractions, he will still remember to smile at his wife.
Let’s consider when was the last time we initiated a smile to our wife or husband? Generally we smile in reaction to something funny but the kesubah is telling us that we should make a concerted effort to make a smile and create an aura of happiness. The importance of ‘simchas hachaim,’ joie d’vivre, love of life in a home is vital for a Torah lifestyle for we want Shechina in our homes and the Shechina does not devolve m’toch atzvus, in the midst of sadness.
Next week we will talk about Yaakov. In the merit of our pursuit of Shalom Bayis, may Hashem bless us with good health, happiness, and a harmonious home.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles. Rabbi Weiss is currently stepping up his speaking engagements. To bring him to your community, call now 718.916.3100 or email RMMWSI@aol.com. To receive a weekly cassette tape or CD directly from Rabbi Weiss, please send a check to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, P.O. Box 140726, Staten Island, NY 10314 or contact him at RMMWSI@aol.com.
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