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    For us on the eastern seaboard, it has been quite a cold winter but, Baruch Hashem, Purim was wondrous with it all of its warmth and merriment. Reflecting on one of the major messages of Purim is the fostering of friendship through the lofty mitzvah of mishloach manos ‘ish l’rei’eihu.’ The lesson is clear one, and one that we would be well advised to carry with us throughout the year. As we take leave of Purim, a celebration of Jewish survival and a time of declared happiness, the key to maintaining these objectives is embracing a posture and attitude of achdus, togetherness and friendliness. Achdus, like everything else, must of course start at home. We must always be acutely aware of the insidious yeitzer hara, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and be ever mindful of the obligation upon us to give the best of our friendship and warmth to our life mate.

    We are taught that at Har Sinai, Moshe and Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, and the Elders, saw an unusual vision of Hashem’s footstool. As the Torah testifies, “V’sachas raglav k’maasei livnas hasapir – And beneath His feet was like the makings of sapphire brick.” The Medrash explains this unusual vision. It relates that a Jewish man was struggling under the backbreaking labor in Egypt. His loving wife, who was pregnant (probably with sextuplets), saw her husband’s suffering and went to assist him. As she picked up a heavy stone, she miscarried and her fetus fell into the soft cement of a brick. Hashem then took this brick and used it as His footstool in order to ‘remember’ Klal Yisroel’s suffering constantly.

    One wonders why Hashem chose this specific brick. Anytime a Jew fell short of his daily quota of bricks, the Egyptians took a Jewish baby instead and stuffed him into the wall of Pitom and Ramses. Tragically, there were many Jewish babies buried in the wall in Egypt. Why did Hashem select the brick from this particular instance? I believe it is because it contained a synthesis of symbols. Not only is it symbolic of Jewish suffering, it also reminded Hashem of the love and self-sacrifice of a Jewish wife for her husband.

    We must remember that this element of spousal devotion – even when times get tough – is a trademark of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, it is not the norm in the environment in which we American Jews live. We are in the land of ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?’ and where the standard is ‘what’s-in-it-for-me?’ Living in a time where economics put powerful pressures on the family structure – especially living in the tri-state area where the frantic pace of life gnaws constantly at us, we must constantly remind ourselves that it is the Jewish way to stand by the side of a mate through hard times as well as the during the good times. As the Meam Loez relates in this week’s parsha Ki Sisa, one can tell the quality of a wife by how she treats her husband when he loses his job.

    While we are on the subject of spousal relationships, let me share with you another vital lesson. The Torah teaches us that if one, G-d forbid, hits his father or mother and causes a wound, it is a capital offence punishable by chenek, strangulation. But, if one curses his parent, G-d forbid, while it is also a capital offence, it is punishable by skilah, stoning. This is mystifying. Why should cursing a parent be more severe than slugging a parent? We would think that bodily harm is a more aggravated crime. While the Rishonim grapple with this problem giving a variety of answers, let me share with you an explanation that also gives us a very profound fundamental lesson.

    Verbal abuse can sometimes leave a more lasting mark than even physical abuse. While, of course, physical abuse is altogether abhorrent and totally unacceptable – after all Moshe Rabbeinu called a Jew ‘rasha’ for merely raising a hand towards his fellow – the Torah is teaching us that verbal abuse is a very serious matter indeed. The ‘sticks-and-stones-can-break-my-bones-but-names-can-never-hurt-me’ attitude is absolutely not a Torah attitude. Rather, as Shlomo HaMelech says in Mishlei, Proverbs, “Yeish boteh k’madkores chorev – There are those who speak and their words are like the stabbing of knives.”

    As we embark on the season of Pesach preparations, we must continue to embrace the spirit of Purim and attempt to keep it to our homes, being mindful of how Shlomo HaMelech finishes this verse. “U’lashon chachomim marpeh – And the tongue of the wise heals.” Whether it is a husband undergoing a middle age crisis, a wife feeling lonely, a spouse who is uncertain about his or her health, or a mate experiencing melancholy and depression, the words of a smart husband or wife, expressed with love, affection and warmth, can bring healing and mental buoyancy into the home.

    With this commitment to bring more love and affection into our families, may Hashem bless us with a healthy and safe springtime.