Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Robert Browning On Bein Hazmanim

When a man's busy, why, leisure
Strikes him as wonderful pleasure;
'Faith, and at leisure once is he?
Straightway, he wants to be busy.

The Day Of Death

Rabbi Moshe Einstadter The Yearning Soul
 

"D" had known from the moment he awoke that something was seriously wrong. The dream was too real, the vision too clear--unalleviated by the usual non-sequiturs which are the mark of dreams--to be passed off as merely a nightmare. He had joined the early minyan (prayer service) and managed to catch the Rabbi, the venerable ninety-year-old worldwide Jewish leader, before the sage left his home to daven at the Yeshiva. He had quickly recounted to the Rabbi what he had seen in his dream, together with the final ominous words uttered by his late father, One more day, my son, and when night falls you will be with me.
The Rabbi thereupon had asked him several questions concerning his father's attire, his appearance, and the exact wording of his pronouncement. He had then leaned forward and taken both his hands into his own, and with an unspeakably kindly yet earnest expression in his aged face, had sighed and intoned, barely audibly, My child, it is so--today is your last day. He had broken down and cried; and once having somewhat regained his composure he had blurted out, But I am only forty-five years old! I am in excellent health--I have never been seriously ill! Yet the Rabbi had only shaken his head sadly and said nothing. But I can pray, can't I? he had pleaded, desperately searching the great eyes fixed upon him, for some sign of hope. But the Rabbi had only ever so slightly moved his head from side to side and said, It is after the gezar din; the decree has been given--nothing can avail. Again he had broken down, this time into convulsive, uncontrollable fits of soundless despair, until the Rabbi had laid his hand soothingly on his shoulder and stilled his tremors. The great man had looked deeply into his eyes, and after a long pause had spoken: Do not act so. Most--the overwhelming majority--are not granted your opportunity. Make good use of this final day--it is a great merit you have been granted. Those were the Rabbi's final words, and with that the interview was over. It was nearly eight o'clock as D drove out of the sequestered side street and turned into the main thoroughfare. He headed north without the slightest conscious awareness of where he was going. He stopped mechanically as the lights turned red, and moved on just as blankly when they changed to green. Several miles up the road he abruptly turned off the main boulevard toward B Court, where his new home was under construction. D parked his car at the site and walked across the spacious tree-shrouded lawn. Directly before him was the outer shell of the magnificent unfinished structure, the home he would not live to see completed, the home he would never call his own. An overwhelming sense of futility seized him, and he wept bitterly for several moments. In truth, he cried not for the sweet hope he had nurtured for so long that was now suddenly dashed; on the contrary, he cried for having conceived and undertaken the project to begin with! What had he lacked in his present home to warrant building a new one? Was the space insufficient? Were the neighbors a bad influence? No! he cried--no! no! and again no! It was the desire for material magnificence, for ever greater luxury in more prestigious surroundings. And how could he compare the quality of the Jewish community in the new section with that of the old? None of those whose hearts were in the right place would move, even were it to cost them nothing at all. And he-- he had sacrificed the spiritual benefits of remaining in the heart of the Jewish community for the material draw of the new suburb without any hesitation. And when at the Yeshiva parlor meeting he had been asked to increase the amount of his pledge, he had begged off because he was "over-committed." Well, why--yes, why--was he over-committed?--because he had ] poured needless thousands upon thousands into this project to feed his materialistic desire. He glanced at his car: six months old, luxurious in every way. Tears came to his eyes. How had he become like this? Where had he learned this manner of living?--not from his parents; not from his Rabbis. From whom, then?--from friends he had no business calling friends; from associates with whom he should not have associated. How utterly apparent now was the self-deceiving fallacy; how deep the pain that he had been blind till now. He turned and slowly walked back to the car. There were only so many hours remaining to the day--his last day; once again the enormity of it overwhelmed him. What should he do? How should he spend the fleeting minutes which even now raced by him beyond recall? His immediate impulse was to dash home and fall into Ruth's arms: she would comfort him--she always did. She would soothe the pain; she would tell him--Oh, what would she tell him? What could she tell him! He checked himself. The Rabbi had said that he had been granted a distinct merit--that he should put it to good use. Yes, he must make a personal accounting of his life . It was too late now for almost anything. But there was still time for teshuvah, repentance. He must go some place where he could think where he could review--where he could cry undisturbed.... He thought of old F Park, where he and his father had sat when he was a child; where he and his father had gone in later years when he came home from the Yeshiva vacations, and his father explained to him what it meant to be successful in life: It had nothing to do with honor or material wealth; those were, he cautioned him, false and dangerous standards. Each individual was endowed with God-given strengths and abilities, and when the time came to leave this world, he would be asked how well he had made use of his opportunities. Upon that answer hinged success or failure in life. For him that time had now come. He threw his hands out as if to embrace the dear figure of his beloved father, but he embraced naught but vacant space. He buried his face in his hands and once again gave vent to his unbearable anguish. With how much love had his father spoken to him, advised him, admonished him. How strong had been his own resolve that he would make the most of himself--and now, as the end drew frightfully closer, he saw how far he had strayed from his goal. His vision partially blurred by a heavy veil of tears, he slowly made his way to F Park. It was a beautiful early spring day, and under a cloudless sky the old park was as lovely as he remembered it. The carefully tended beds of newly sprouted red and white roses; the secluded stone benches, raised by several steps above the walk; the unimpeded view of the majestic H River far below, glimmering in the morning sunshine, and the distant shore across--all was as it used to be. He stopped by the old, weather-worn sign that stood sentinel over the peaceful shrubs and flowers and read its faded lines, lines that he had committed to memory many years before:
    Let no one say,
    And say it to your shame,
    That all was beauty here
    Until you came.
Again he broke down. He recalled the passage from the Midrash cited by the classic text Messilas Yesharim, relating how God showed Adam, the first man in the universe, all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him, "See how beautiful are My works; and all I created, I created for you. Take heed that you not corrupt and destroy My world." No, he had not corrupted God's world; but how much better was it for his having passed through it? Not much, he sighed heavily, not much at all. He sat down on one of the stone benches and sought to put his mind in the proper frame. His life passed before him in quick review. He recalled his Yeshiva days, the times when he had applied himself diligently to his study, and the periods of laxity, of frivolity. And how he rued the latter now! How was it that it had never impressed itself upon him that of all things, time was by far the most precious commodity? He had always known that somewhere in the future a day such as today lay waiting for him; and he had also known that it could appear suddenly and without warning. Yet it had affected him hardly at all. Somehow the intellectual awareness had not summoned up the sense of urgency; it could wait--there was time, lots of time. Now there was no time left at all. What would he give now to buy a year--a month even a week! But he was a pauper at the bargaining table; he had not the means to purchase even a solitary day, not even a single moment. The thought drove him to a near frenzy. Here life lay all before him, gloriously, never so desirable as at this very moment; and yet for him it was all over. Forty-five years old, and it was over! Why, he had hardly begun! If only God granted him a full lifetime, there was so much he could do--and he would; he swore he would. Why was the All-Merciful doing this to him?--he pounded his clenched fists against the sides of his head--to his family?--what had they done to deserve this? But no--this was not the way to use his last hours; if he had squandered many opportunities until now, he would not waste this final one. Calmed, he once again collected his thoughts. Had he been a good father? Shmuli, his oldest, and Yossi, the next, were doing extremely well in M Yeshiva. Both were exceptional diligent and he took great pride in them. Yet, to be brutally honest, what share had he in their success? What had been his contribution?--that he paid their tuition?--that he had not interfered with their progress?--that he had even encouraged them! Oh, poor, poor accomplishments! Before his mind's eye passed the scene years ago when Shmuli had asked him to help obtain a good tutor for the evenings. "Of course," he had assured him; he definitely would. And what had the result of that commitment been? One night he could not make it out to the Yeshiva for one reason, and the next night for another. And when he finally got there, the best tutors were taken, and he had to settle for second best. Tears welled up in his eyes. Shmuli never knew that he had been shortchanged. He had thanked him so lovingly, so sincerely for helping him. It was inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable. But at least, he consoled himself, he had learned a lesson and had not repeated the mistake again. That, too, was an accomplishment, however slight. ...and Devorah, his beautiful little six-year-old... he could hardly bear the pain of thinking about her. How many times Friday night at the Sabbath table had she asked so sweetly, "Daddy, please tell me something about the weekly Torah portion." And he had done so--perfunctorily, lightly, without much enthusiasm. And why--why had he not filled that adorable little head with the treasures it sought? He knew why; he knew only too well. When one's mind is occupied with other matters then the study of Torah becomes a chore, an unwelcome burden. Then one seeks to rid himself of its weight as quickly as possible. What, indeed, was his commitment to Torah study? He sank his head in utter dejection: Sabbath afternoon--when he was not too tired--for an hour and a half; Monday and Wednesday evenings, for one paltry hour. This was the study of Torah? he asked himself. Is this what is meant by the dictum "One must la'asok, delve into Torah study"? How much did he remember of what he studied? How many novel ideas had he been able to develop? Oh, but there was always an indisputable excuse. He was so busy; so many meetings to attend; his mind absorbed by so many important matters that required his continued attention. Today, though, he was suddenly no longer so busy; he had not one meeting to attend; there was nothing on his mind save the golden days and years of misused time-- time beyond recall, time of which there was precious little left. D 's head sunk lower, and once again he broke into tears; but this time they were quiet, controlled sobs, the crying of a man who begins to understand when that understanding avails him no longer. ... and Ruth... his love, his life... his everything! How he adored her, how he respected her strength and her character... had he done right by her...? He had provided her with all the comforts a woman could wish for; he treated her like a princess--he gave her everything he could, everything but the one and only thing she ever cared for--a husband who devoted himself to the study of Torah. D sighed heavily. He was subjecting himself to the most excruciating self-torture with no hope of redressing the faults which begot the pain. But teshuvah, introspection and change, required remorse, and if ever a man felt remorse, it was D , his head bowed, his heart throbbing in agony, sitting there in the bright morning hours of the lovely spring day. He had nothing to hide, no shame to cover, and thus his remorse flowed freely, from deep within his soul, unhampered and undisguised, until it found expression in the true tears that gave vent to the heaviness which sorely charged his heart. He remembered how in the early years of their marriage Ruth had encouraged him--gently, lovingly--to devote more time to learn Torah. She would do anything within her power to ease his way. She made no demands of him or on his time whatever. So he made half-hearted efforts several times which were unsuccessful. The more he became involved in his business interests, the less he tried, until, wordlessly and without apparent conscious awareness, he gave up. Soon thereafter she must have given up, too. Over the last ten years she had not once broached the subject. She had resigned herself to a lesser level of spiritual life. She loved him no less; she admired his many good qualities, but the home and happiness she had once so eagerly anticipated, these were denied her. Now all her efforts were bent to insure that her children would maximize their potential. "Oh, Ruth," he cried, "forgive me! forgive me! Oh, God, forgive me!" Bitter, relentless tears cascaded down his cheeks; on and on he cried until the wellspring dried up and he could cry no more. The one virtue no one could gainsay him was courage, and this he had now to summon from its deepest reservoirs. However difficult it would be, he would spend at least part of his remaining hours in the study of Torah. Late as it was, there was still some time for that. He would go the Yeshiva and immerse himself in the study of Talmud to the extent he was able, until minchah, the afternoon service at one o'clock-- his last minchah; then he would go home to Ruth. D drew a volume of the Talmud, tractate Berachos --a tractate he knew fairly well--from one of the rear bookcases and sat down before a vacant chair towards the back of the Yeshiva. He had feared that one or another of the Rabbis would come over to him, but no one minded him and he was left undisturbed. He turned several pages until he came to a line which caught his eye:
    Rebbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna: "A person should always be careful in one's mincha (afternoon) prayers, for it was then that Elijah the Prophet was answered by God."
What was so exceptional about the afternoon prayer?...in which respect was it different from the other prayers...? He tried hard to concentrate on the words before him, but their image became blurred and indistinct, and try as he might he could not bring them into proper focus. Disconcerted, he inclined his head toward the Talmud, but now the words began to take on odd, oversized shapes; they grew immensely until one by one they leaped off the printed page. D rubbed his eyes and the fantasy vanished, and once again he applied himself to deciphering the meaning of the Talmud, but to no avail; for now the words danced merrily before his eyes, and in his ears the incessant reverberation of the question, "What is so exceptional about the afternoon prayer?" proved just short of maddening. He had no idea how long he labored in this manner, but he suddenly became aware that the young men about him had begun ashrei, the start of the afternoon prayer service. He closed his Talmud, and he, too, began reciting the timeless words. How long ago was it--how many years, decades ago -- that he had concentrated on the meaning of the words he uttered. And now he would praying for his life for a reprieve when he had been assured that none would be forthcoming. The person leading the first communal prayer, ashrei, concluded and began the recitation of Kaddish. A multi-voiced Amen resounded throughout the Yeshiva. Kaddish, he thought--they were saying Kaddish; but for whom?--for whom were they saying Kaddish? He raised his head and was suddenly aware that all eyes in the Yeshiva were upon him--hundreds and thousands of eyes, pained beyond description, all fixed upon him. The dreadful realization struck him--they were saying Kaddish for him! The mark of death was upon him, and they no longer considered him among the living: he was nothing more than a walking ghost, a lifeless spirit! No! No!--he would not submit--he would fight to the end. With superhuman effort he raised his eyes heavenward, and with his every fiber pulsating madly, he shrieked with all his might the Kaddish prayer. D woke with a violent start; his forehead dripped heavily with perspiration. There in the bed next to him, sleeping peacefully and unperturbed, lay Ruth, an angelic calm spread over her countenance. The familiar shapes of the room slowly came into focus; an immense sense of relief, like a freshly fallen dew, settled over him. It had been a dream...only a dream....
And so, indeed, it had been a dream, only a dream. But how will D 's life be affected by this dream? Does it not foreshadow a scene he must one day face nay, participate in? And does the reader recognize himself in D, or is the latter a far-fetched fantasy with whom he has little, if anything, in common? One's own day of death evokes a dread image. Fear, remorse--the desperate longing to hold on to life a while longer; to be given another chance and to relive a life of too many missed opportunities, a life all too short, with all of one's tomorrow's sadly faded into yesterdays. It is the utter finality of it all which bores most penetratingly into our souls. Yet it is for this very reason that our Sages admonish us to keep the vision of that inevitable day before us, so that we may draw from its lesson while we are yet able, for once that day is upon us the lesson can no longer do us any good. When we turn the other way and pretend that this day will never come--we are young and all of life lies before us--then we can convince ourselves that all is well and good. Beyond some minor changes for the better, nothing drastic is called for. If, however, we looked straight ahead and into our line of vision came that ultimate day--would we still say the same? "The Day of Death" presents just such a glimpse. To be sure, there may not be a Ruth in one's life, and one may, in fact, share but little in the particular shortcomings of our protagonist. Yet the discerning reader will recognize that D is merely a shell, for which one must provide the substance. There is a voice that speaks at infrequent intervals, sometimes only once in a lifetime, sometimes more often. It speaks in hushed tones, barely audible save to the sensitive ear. But to that ear its call is true; its call is strong. Will D heed that call? Will we?

Shalom Bayit

Rabbi Reuven Bulka - Jewish Marriage A Halachic Ethic 

 

What Is "Shalom Bayit?"

Shalom, as the word which is used to describe "peace," relates in a fundamental sense to the Hebrew word shlemut, or "completeness." Shalom disconnected from shlemut, peace disconnected from completeness, is a peace which manifests itself as mutual nonaggression, peace as the absence of war. Shalom with "wholeness" is peace with harmony, peace with cooperativeness, peace which moves toward completeness. It is this higher level of peace which is so exalted, and should be the ever-present goal of our personal and communal strivings. (1) The ultimate goal, of course, is a true peace which permeates the entire world, but that is too massive a task to be thrust upon any single individual. However, each individual can make a contribution toward this all-encompassing goal by working to create peace in his or her immediate environment. Having done all that is within one's power to effect peace is thus seen to have much more than local implications. (2) The home is the primary place where one's obligation to effect peace unfolds. Here is where one is able to have significant input, if not control, over the peace of the world, the world of one's home. Shalom bayit, the peace of one's home, in its true sense as desired in marriage, is best translated as "domestic bliss." Shalom bayit is not the peace of sameness or absence of conflict. It is the completeness of opposites, the translation of differences into more effective action and greater love, incorporating the wisdom gained from shared opinions and give-and-take. (3) To be conversant in the ways of shalom bayit is to be conversant in the ways of local-cum-global peace. It is to have an exemplary home which is a model for other homes, eventually all homes. It is lamentable that not enough attention is given to the mastery of shalom bayit formulations upon entry into marriage. (4) Whose is the obligation to create shalom bayit, domestic bliss? Simply stated, it is the obligation of both husband and wife. That the home should be fortunate enough to enjoy such tranquillity and harmony is ultimately a G-dly blessing, but it is a blessing which comes only after the couple work to be eligible for and worthy of that blessing. To be worthy, each of the couple must see shalom bayit as an obligation directed not at the other, but at the self. Precious little is contributed toward shalom bayit when each member of the marital team demands that the other do some thing for shalom bayit. Shalom bayit is a personal responsibility that beckons each of the partners to make demands on their own selves toward improving the home atmosphere. It is generally a good practice, in areas related to living a responsible life, to be very demanding on one's own self. It is a practice which makes for better marriages. Rather than waiting for the other to change, or to make a move, one should take the initiative; the other will likely follow. Waiting for the other is standoffish, leads to frustration, and builds up abundant hostility. It can ruin what could have been blissful. (5) This is the active side of shalom bayit. There is another side to shalom bayit, the preventive side. In this, the most appropriate advice is: Do not provoke, do not become provoked. Do not provoke, do not introduce strife or contentiousness into the home vocabulary, and go out of your way to prevent strife situations from developing. (6) Do not become provoked if situations arise in which expectations have not been realized, requests have not been heeded or the normal household pattern has been upset; do not react with anger to your spouse, to whom you may attribute this unwarranted situation. Instead, assume that understandable circumstances have caused the problem, rather than bad intentions. Again, one should not stand on one's rights or be touchy concerning the honor that is due. Rather than demand what you are convinced belongs to you by right, be flexible and forgiving, not rigid and unforgiving. (7) If possible, try to anticipate what to you may be anger provoking situations and have second options, so that "no-escape" situations are avoided. Accept that dishes may break, or that important items may be misplaced, but ensure that the true perspective is never distorted. (8) Domestic bliss is such a vital ingredient of life that it neutralizes what under normal circumstances are positive ritual obligations. In a case of "either-or", where the choice is expending limited funds for either Shabbat candles for the home to have a bright rather than a depressed atmosphere, or wine for sanctification of the Sabbath, the lights for the home come first. Great sages allowed themselves to be humiliated if that humiliation preserved the peacefulness of a home. This was reason enough to forgo accepted protocols, even to turn a blind eye to obviously contemptible disrespect. These sages did not want to be associated, however indirectly, with a marriage breakdown. They saw each union as personally and communally significant. (9-12)

To Honor One's Wife

Shalom bayit is more likely to be realized if each of the marriage partners lives up to the letter and spirit of their obligation to the other. To honor one's mate is obligatory. It is achieved through tangible manifestations of honor. The true purpose of the obligation is best achieved through integrating into one's being the feeling that one's partner is deserving and should always be honored, in all situations and circumstances. Respect and dignity, appreciation and gentleness, are expressions that should be forthcoming without compromise. The husband is duty bound to honor his wife. Honor is more than the absence of disrespect; it is the according of salient, deferring respect to the one who is the main cause for true blessing residing in the home. The husband, by working out in his own mind the essentiality of his wife in his own life, will make it more likely that the honor imperative remains ever-present in his thinking process, never allowing for a laxity which not only may presage a regressive pattern but also reflects that the honor he bestows is perfunctory and conditional, when in fact the honor should be authentic and constant. (13) The husband who honors his wife appreciates and values her dignity as a person. He respects what she considers vital to her own self, and to her sense of self-worth, and cooperates fully with her in attaining and maintaining self-worth. He does not take his wife's contributions to the marriage and the home as a matter of course, to be expected. Instead, he continually voices his appreciation for all things, large and small. (14) The husband who honors his wife talks in gentle tones and is exceedingly careful not to embarrass his wife or cause her to feel as if she is not keeping up her part of the marital responsibilities. The honoring husband conveys his respect, but he does not employ the formal language of a royal palace. His is more the language of an intimate. (15) The honoring husband will take great care not to make excessive or unrealistic demands of his wife. In fact, he will not demand; he will gently ask. He will be sure that he is asking at a proper time, and that what he asks for is not a triviality which betrays disrespect or something excessive which betrays insensitivity. If, for whatever reason, the trivial or the excessive is requested, it should be preceded with an appropriate preamble assuring the wife that no disrespect or insensitivity is involved, and that she is greatly appreciated no matter. The husband will use this approach not as an effective technique to get what he wants, but because this is the way that his wife should be acknowledged. (16) The husband who honors his wife, upon seeing that she is too busy to attend to him as she normally does, will not sit and sulk. He will get up and take care of matters on his own. With this and other components of honor due to the wife, the wife should not use the husband's obligations as a device to demand from him, or to refuse to do her part. The obligation to honor is his responsibility, not her weapon. The honor given by the husband to his wife is dimensionally different from the generally respectful demeanor with which one must conduct oneself. For example, there is a general prohibition against causing pain or anguish to anyone. It applies to everyone but specifically and mainly to one's wife. She is much more vulnerable, and thus must be treated with greater care. Pain can mean either direct action causing pain or failure to act properly and thus causing pain. The husband must be ever aware that he is a vital, integral part of his wife's world and that this places upon him a heavy burden, an onus to be sensitive to what pains her. This includes that which under normal circumstances would not cause pain to others. Failure to praise strangers or friends may not be a serious matter, but the wife is likely to seek the approbation and appreciation of her husband to reinforce her dedication to him. (17) The other dimensional difference in the honor incumbent upon the husband is that he must honor the wife more than he honors himself. One normally does not place excessive demands on oneself; that same respect must be extended to one's wife. And more. The husband may have ascetic tendencies, or lean toward being frugal. He may be content with less to eat, and comfortable with old, worn-out clothes, but he must not impose these predilections on his wife. She must be maintained in dignity and honor even more honor than the husband accords to himself. Honor to one's wife is not relative to, or contingent upon, the honor one gives to oneself. Self-respect is no doubt important, and proper care of oneself as a G-dly being is not to be under-emphasized. But, even if it is neglected, this does not afford an excuse to do the same to one's wife. Here the husband must go beyond the Jewish view that man and wife are a unit. The honor the husband extends to his wife must rise above the constraints the husband places upon himself. Her honor is more than a function of his limited horizons. (18) The husband who fulfills the letter and spirit of his "honor" obligations makes a significant move toward assuring that shalom bayit prevails in the union. (l9)

To Honor One's Husband

The other side of the husband-wife shalom bayit equation is the honor and respect that the wife must give to her husband. It may be true that the primary shalom bayit responsibility rests with the husband, and that he must perforce take the lead in creating an atmosphere of respect in the home. But it is not a one-sided obligation. The husband, by being respectful, is more likely to be respected. The wife, for her part, must embark on a relationship of respectfulness by unconditionally committing herself to properly honor and respect her husband. (20) The wife should honor her husband more than enough. The "more than enough" duty serves to take the according of honor out of the realm of measurement. Instead of being bogged down in assessing what is enough honor, or how much honor is merited, the honor should come in effusive doses, spontaneously and free- willingly. The honor should be more than honor of position; it should reflect the wife's appreciation of what her husband means to her. (21-25) What should evolve from the dual obligation of the husband and wife to honor and respect one another is a situation of escalating respectfulness, in which each one of the partners accords respect, elicits via that honor and respectfulness the respect of the other, and so helps to create a syndrome of escalating honor and respect. Neither should wait for the other to start lest no one begin. Let them both initiate the honor syndrome. Should they trip over each other in the rush, it will be a profound meeting.

Anger--To Be Avoided

Honor, the mode of expression that is most desirable in marriage, is underlined by the ability to communicate with genuine concern for the situation and needs of the other. Honor is humane considerateness. Anger is on the other side of the spectrum. It is communication without concern for the other. It is self-serving speech, bereft of feeling; it is talking "to" rather than "with". It is a form of letting loose rather than a form of communication. Husband and wife, in an atmosphere of shalom bayit, merit that the G-dly presence reside with them. G-d feels welcome and at home in a harmonious atmosphere. On the negative side, the consuming fire which devours the conflicting couple may in fact be the fire of anger, which in its venom provokes diatribe and insult and leaves the relationship in a state of turmoil. (26) The propensity to anger is generally condemned as evil and one is to keep far away from exercising anger. Anger as verbalization that lacks control, is placed on par with idolatry, which also emanates from lack of control and is instead the expression of what one feels like doing. Anger begets angry counter-response, as well as implanting a hardness and arrogance which makes one oblivious to the truth and unconcerned about others. (27) Anger is a destructive enough force in human relations. For the married couple, who are in an enclosed environment, it can be devastating. Anger is verbal violence, and the fear engendered by anxiety over when the next tantrum will come puts the entire house on edge. Where respect builds, anger destroys. Where true respect prevails, anger is not likely to come into play, for it is not usual to explode at people whom one really respects. The presence of anger thus points to a double deficit, in that the proper respect that should obtain in the marriage is sorely lacking. It is thus extremely important never to get angry at one's mate. and not to allow for the conditions which beget anger. (28) While it is an obligation of both partners to refrain from anger and temper outbursts, the failure of one to live up to this obligation should not be seen by the other as just cause to likewise resort to anger. Hard as it may be, one should meet one's partner's anger with gentleness. That will prevent an escalation of belligerence, at the very least, and possibly calm down the boisterous party, who may even see the folly of the angry approach when the obvious and more pleasant contrast hits home. (29) We are all prone to anger of differing intensities, and to simply speak about not becoming angry is nice, but leaves a void, the void between recommended ideal and practical reality. Bottling up the emotions only works well for those who can contain an immense amount of grievances. It is worthwhile weighing at the very outset whether what is bothersome is really worth it. If it is, then the proper approach would be to sit down, in a calm setting, and discuss it with one's mate. This may head off the explosion. (30) Before exploding, ask why. What will be gained by the tantrum? Will it bring results, or will it be merely a ventilation exercise? As a ventilation exercise, the outburst is of dubious value. The angry explosion is more likely to generate more such explosions than to get it out of the system. Awareness that anger is habit-forming should be kept in mind before expressing oneself angrily. (31) There is probably no better technique for controlling anger than cultivating a balanced outlook on life which sees things in proper perspective. Advance integration of the right philosophy implants the preventive mechanism forestalling anger. There are volumes and chapters of traditional Jewish texts addressing the control of anger. Their study should bring with it the resolve to be extra scrupulous about losing control. Good intentions, reinforced over time by study and hard work, translate into concrete, positive results in cultivating and strengthening marital harmony. (32)
FOOTNOTES: 1. See Midrash Tanhuma Tsav 7 and Shoftim 18; and Meshekh Chochmah to Exodus 14:29.
2. Avot D'Rebbe Natan 28--one who establishes harmony in the home is considered by Scripture as having established peace in Israel.
3. Domestic bliss includes harmony, contentedness, love, purposefulness, etc. Likutei Eitzot (Jerusalem, 1979), (shalom, n. 10). See also R. Shlomo Wolbe, Alay Shur, (p.258).
4. Pirkey Hanhagat HaBayit, vol. 1, p. 20.
5. See Yevamot 62b, and cited in Hilkhot Ishut 15:19, Hilkhot Ishut 5:20, based on Kiddushin 31, Sotah 17a, Avot D'Rebbe Natan 41, and Shevet Musar, chapter 24.
6. On not provoking, see Sefer HaMitzvot, "Lo Taaseh," no. 251- a person should not say things that will anger others. Do not be provoked, easy to anger (Avot 2:15). See further Yevamot 44a, "Do not introduce strife into your home."
7. The principle of being understanding is an application of "Judge all individuals charitably" (Avot I :6). Regarding being forgiving, one should be "soft as a reed, not hard as a cedar"--Taanit 20a, and should not be insistent and unrelenting on one's due-- Megillah 28a; Orach Chayim 606:l and Rambam, Hilkhot Teshuvah 2:10.
8. Regarding the avoidance of "no-escape" situations, Pirkey Hanhagat HaBayit, recommends having a second suit always ready, to avoid arguments if the first one is not ready (vol. 1, p. 179).
9. Regarding the primacy of shalom bayit in the form of lights, see Shabbat 23b, Orach Chayim 263:3, Hilkhot Hanukah 4:14.
10. See Yevamot 65b.
11. Numbers 5:11-31. See also Sefer HaChinuch, no. 453.
12. See Sefer HaChinuch, no. 364.
13. See Yevamot 62b, Sanhedrin 76b. See also Bava Metzia 59a, Rambam, Hilchot Ishut 5:19.
14 -15. See Bava Metzia 59a, Hilkhot Ishut 15: 19. Relative to being careful not to embarrass, see Binyan Aday Ahd, p. 62.
16. Regarding inordinate burdens, see Sotah 1la&b, Ketuvot 72a, and Yevamot 62b.
17. See. Vayikra 25:17; see also Hinukh, no. 341.
18. See Hullin 84b and Hilkhot De'ot 5:10.
19 - 20. See above, note 5.
21. On husband's priority relative to respect, see Kiddushin 3la. See further, R. Shlomo Wolbe, Maamaray Hadrakhah LeChatanim, p. 5.
22. See Megillah 12b and Hilkhot Ishut 15:20.
23. See Ramah, in his gloss to Even HaEzer 69:7.
24. See also Rabad, Baaley HaNefesh.
25. Honor "more than enough" is the language of Rambam, Hilkhot Ishut 15:20.
26. See Sotah 17a.
27. On distancing from anger, see Nedarim 22a&b. Also Rambam, Hilchot De'ot 2:3.
28. See Gittin 7a, Megillah 28a.
29. On refraining from anger, see Hilkhot De'ot 5:10.
30. See Hilkhot De'ot 6:6.
31. See Berakhot 29b, and Hilkhot De'ot 2:3.
32. The relation of proper perspective to control of anger probably explains why the one who never becomes angry is one of the types that is beloved by God (Pesachim 113b).

The Baal Teshuva

Rabbi Moshe Einstadter The Yearning Soul

Who is the ba'al teshuvah -- one who examines one's life and behavior to improve one's character through Jewish philosophy? What moved him to undergo the rigorous and uncompromising process of teshuvah -- a return to one's essential self? What was his psychological makeup while sunk in the seemingly endless abyss of his former life, and what is it now? What is the nature of the struggle that ensued in recasting the human personality?
             The process of teshuvah - - is at once astoundingly comprehensive and yet minutely detailed. It presupposes a certain kinds of awareness, a state of restless and disturbed sensitivities, sentiments which for the most part are alien to the non-acquainted Jew. Let us consider a successful professional--a physician, an attorney, an academic--or any intelligent, thinking person. His livelihood depends upon reasoned thought and his many concerns are subject to rational considerations and decisions. Less important matters are allocated less time and thought; more important ones, proportionately greater amounts of both. And when it comes to all-important concerns and decisions, those upon which hinge life and death, with these he is unstinting in availing himself of every resource at his command; for should he fail in this regard, all his resources--time, wealth, well-being--life itself--will amount to nothing.          Is it not then wondrously paradoxical that for his limited, finite existence in this world he will give his all, yet remain largely unconcerned and unperturbed about the underlying meaning of this existence and the eternity that lies beyond? Oh, to be sure, these matters are not totally ignored, and perhaps considerable time may even be spent in contemplating them; but are they subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny he applies to his present welfare, to his field of expertise, to his life's hopes and ambitions? Strangely enough, no. What the scientist would contemptuously reject as altogether inadequate in his minuscule, ephemeral laboratory, he will only too readily accept as sufficient in the macrocosmic laboratory of universal concern. The structure he lives in is made of marble and stone, while its foundation rests on tinsel and straw. Inevitably, such a structure is destined to collapse; it is merely a question of time. And herein lie the seeds of hope.          Every mortal craves the antithesis of his mortality, although he may consciously deny its existence. Against the test of time and ultimate purpose, life in this world, however rich and rewarding, pales appallingly into insignificance. And there are moments in every intelligent life--at the nadir of sorrow and the pinnacle of success, and in between--when these truths hit home, forcefully, incontrovertibly, if but for a brief and fleeting moment. One tends to recover quite quickly from these undoing, devastating thoughts and banish them to oblivion, until, at an unguarded moment, they surface once again.          There are two types of individuals: one will attribute these disquieting intrusions to a passing weakness and seek to insulate himself from them; the other will confess in his heart of hearts, however wrenching such a confession may be, that these thoughts are neither destructive nor signs of weakness--that they may well be the most constructive thoughts he has ever entertained. And indeed, so they are, for they will shed light to dispel the pall of darkness. For there is little difference in his ability to see between a man who walks in pitch darkness and one who willingly shuts his eyes, except that the latter may decide to open them, allowing steadying illumination to filter in. Now may begin the process of teshuvah. There is no such thing as a man who truly seeks but is unable to discover the object of his search. The Torah assures us with certainty, that one who honestly seeks truth will be able to uncover it. Regardless of how distant and estranged a Jew may be -- even though he himself has fashioned and glorified his own form of false worship, yet teshuvah--literally, return--is as close by as his desire to seek it. The tentative beginnings of this movement to return--the felt need to draw closer to the absolute and to stand on terrafirma; the half-conscious expressed desire to take the initial step despite a wavering resolve which desperately seeks the strength of conviction to venture forth with a firm and resolute step; the diffidence and embarrassment and the imprecise knowledge of just how to approach the formidable ethos of Torah and mitzvos, at once overwhelming and yet reassuring--all these sensibilities rise and fall like troubled waves in the restless soul of the one who contemplates teshuvah.          
There are three components of teshuvah:
1. Acknowledgment and confession before G-d of one's past actions
2. Remorse for one's past actions and
3. Future resolve not to repeat the actions.
        

Which is hardest to come by for our present would-be ba'al teshuvah?
         

Repentance?--no, not at all; once he comes to realize the futility of his situation, his whole-hearted regret is a natural consequence. Resolve for the future?-- emphatically not. He may hesitate and procrastinate, waver to and fro countless times, but once he makes his commitment it is firm and resolute.
         There is but one element left, the initial one: the acknowledgment that I have transgressed; I am in the wrong; I stand corrected--in essence, I have failed. For all my outward appearance of success, for all my appearance of well-adjustment and stability, for all the respect accorded me-- the bitter and abject truth is --I must change; for if I do not, all is lost.  This single confession -- that all is not well--is what wrenches the psyche of this ba'al teshuvah. It is that element of introspection to which he is unwilling to subject himself; the admission he is loath to make; the sinking of the head to the breast with the emission of the near-inaudible sigh, "It is true-- I have missed the mark!" This does not come easily. It is painful; it is heart-rending. It must be prayed for, supplicated for--"Help me, give me the courage, accept my confession!"          For the first time in many years--possibly the first time ever--the ba'al teshuvah enters into conversation with the Master of the World. Previously, in some general but undefined way, he may have been aware of His existence; but not until now does he experience the closeness that allows him the ability to address G-d directly.          There is a world of difference between the philosophical cognizance that G-d exists and the immediacy felt in one's entire being, that moves him to prayer. The uncompromising effort of the truth-seeker has crystallized the vague into the definite, transformed detached awareness into a permeating reality. The turmoil within has quieted, and in its place a soothing calm such as he has never before known settles over the ba'al teshuvah. At last he is one with himself, one with his Divine Maker. Disparate elements of his life now coalesce into a meaningful whole.          No longer are his ambitions, his needs, and his metaphysical disposition unrelated personality reflections, but expressions of one underlying ideology, his relationship with G-d. The research of the scientist, the applied knowledge of the physician, the livelihood of the family breadwinner, all take on a greater, profounder significance, as they now serve not only one's self-interest and that of his fellow man, but transcend the temporal in drawing man closer to the One Who endowed man and the universe with purpose. This newly won sense of ultimate purpose leads to a heightened awareness of the nearness of God, and is closely joined to a state of supreme contentment and boundless joy; for in truth, sorrow is estrangement from G-d, while attachment to Him is the greatest happiness.          The rewards of the ba'al teshuvah are commensurate with the difficulties he encounters, past and present; for some it is an ongoing struggle, while for others, as in our instance, it is the initial agony suffered at the onset. Once he emerges victorious from this initial phase, though he may encounter additional hardships, essentially the battle is yet won. Occasional skirmishes, perhaps; but nevertheless, the war is over. The battlefield for this inner drama lies entirely within the human personality. There powerful forces, latent and dynamic, are called into play. In the warrior's arsenal, intellectual and emotional truth are invincible weapons. The courage required is not so much in fighting valiantly as in venturing onto the battlefield, for the battle itself is not evenly fought at all.   On the one hand, formidable as they may appear, are arranged man's baser instincts--his material desires, his complacency, his inertia; on the other, stand not one, but two to do battle: the unconquerable intellect, ennobling, elevating--and G-d Himself--Who stands by the ba'al teshuvah's side.

Wiiiild Story

Marshall Roth from Aliyon

Grand Island is a 27-square-mile parcel of land located midway between Buffalo and Niagara Falls in Western New York. Grand Island is also the site of the first modern-day attempt to establish a national Jewish homeland.

At the root of this unlikely scheme is Mordecai Manuel Noah. Born in Philadelphia in 1785, Noah gained notoriety as U.S. Consul in Tunis, Sheriff of New York and editor of a half-dozen newspapers. A skilled orator, he became chief spokesman of the 30,000-member American Jewish community, where he pushed strongly for Hebrew and Torah education.


In his extensive travels through Europe and North Africa, Noah observed the persecution of the Jews and called for "a new fatherland where they will be free to preserve their nationality." The Land of Israel, inhabited by hostile Arabs, seemed like an unrealistic site to settle Jews, and Noah saw a temporary alternative in Grand Island. It was an ideal site for industry, surrounded by hydroelectric power and situated close to the Erie Canal trade routes. Besides, the island was largely uninhabited except for some American Indians -- whom Noah appropriately considered to be "descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes."
With full sincerity, Noah proceeded boldly with his plans. In 1920, he petitioned the New York State legislature for rights to Grand Island, and later levied a "redemption tax" upon each Jew in the world. Reports of Noah's scheme appeared in newspapers from London to Moscow. Jewish leaders responded by demanding proof of Noah's authority, and sarcastically asked to see the prophetic text which named a swampy island in the Niagara River as the spot for Israel's redemption. Noah responded simply that America, "under the influence of perfect freedom," provided the best conditions to mobilize for a modern Jewish state. Undaunted by mounting criticism, Noah proceeded to purchase land on Grand Island -- and sponsored a celebration to dedicate the new Jewish state. The event was marked by a program of psalms and chorales including Handel's Judas Maccabeus." At the ceremony, Noah, dressed in a crimson judicial robe, named his new colony Ararat, in recognition of an earlier Noah who'd landed his ark at Mount Ararat. A description from the time reads as follows: "Against the background of hymns, Noah, the self-appointed Judge of Israel, arose to deliver a meandering discourse on theology, politics, patriotism, ethnology, delusions of grandeur and... real estate." To climax the affair, a sandstone monument was inscribed, and a parade was held through the streets of Buffalo -- complete with 24-gun salute. After this auspicious beginning, the dream of Ararat was soon but a memory. Noah left town, accepted a judgeship in New York City, married a wealthy Jewish woman -- and forgot about Grand Island. Yet he continued to fight for the revival of a Jewish homeland -- this time in the Land of Israel -- and remained dedicated to this goal until his death in 1851.

Jealousy

Rabbi Frand from Listen To Your Messages


Most people don't realize how great and sinister a role envy plays in our lives. But stop and think about it. Don't we all deal with envy practically every single day? We would have no problem driving the car we have, but when we look across the street and see what our neighbor is driving, our car suddenly loses its luster. We would have no problem staying home in the summer or going on a modest vacation, but when we hear where our neighbor is going, we feel impelled to revise our travel plans.
Our children come to us when they're little, and they say, "But he got a new bike! I want a new bike, too!"
They get a little older and the requests get a little larger, and the problems of dealing with envy become more severe.
How can we deal with it? How can we avoid being envious and jealous of our peers and friends?


IN THE BEGINNING

The problem of jealousy is an important and recurring theme in the Torah. The story of Cain and Abel is about jealousy. The story of Joseph and his brothers is about jealousy. The story of King Saul and King David is about jealousy. Why does the Torah devote so much ink to the pitfalls of jealousy? Because human beings have to deal with jealousy day in day out, year after year, for all of their entire lives.
Let us return for a moment to the tragic incident of Cain and Abel. Both brought sacrifices. Abel's was accepted, but Cain's was not.
Cain was the first person in the history of the world who had to compete, the first person in the history of the world who came in second. He was the first person in the history of the world who had to deal with jealousy. He was so consumed with jealousy that he actually killed his brother. And thus he became the first person in the history of the world to commit murder, the first to commit fratricide.
So what does this story tell us?
A lot.
First, it tells us that jealousy is triggered not so much by objects as by people. We are not actually jealous of what they have but of their having it. It's not the thing itself that matters, but that they have it and we don't. Cain did not fly into a murderous rage because his sacrifice was rejected. No, that wouldn't have been so terrible. It was that Abel's sacrifice was accepted while his wasn't. That was more than he could bear.
When my children were very young, I took them to a restaurant. We sat down at the table, and there was a container of toothpicks in the center of the table. The toothpicks were totally ignored as we discussed the menu. But then one of my children decided to take a toothpick, and suddenly the other children were all clamoring for toothpicks. Now trust me on this; 6-year-olds and 8-year-olds don't need toothpicks. So why did they want toothpicks all of a sudden? Because the others had toothpicks and they didn't.


YOUR FRIEND GETS TWICE AS MUCH

The Midrash presents a very illuminating parable about two people of different natures. One was an extremely envious person, the other an insatiable pleasure seeker. Satan comes to them and says, "Gentlemen, I'll make you a deal. I'll give one of you whatever you want. Make a wish -- whatever you want -- and it's yours. Just one condition. Whatever you get, your friend is going to get twice as much."
Both people faced a terrible dilemma.
The envious person could not deal with someone else getting twice as much as he did. "Whatever I'm going to wish for," he thought, "the other guy is going to get twice as much. I can't live with it."
The pleasure-seeker could not deal with it either. "How can I stand the sight of so much pleasure," he thought, "and not be able to enjoy it?" So they went back and forth, each one pushing the choice onto the other. You choose. No, you choose. No, you choose.
Reluctantly, the envious person agreed to choose first. "What should I ask for?" he thought furiously. "Should I ask for a million dollars? I can't, because then he'll get two million. Should I ask for a 25-room mansion? I can't, because then he'll get a 50-room palace. So what should I do?"
Finally, the envious person came to his decision. He turned to Satan and said, "Okay, I made up my mind. I want you to take out one of my eyes."
This, points out the Midrash, is how twisted and warped we can become. This is what envy can accomplish. A person who is ruled by envy would forgo the fondest wishes of his heart and ask to have his eye put out, just as long as someone else does not have more than he does. It is absolutely mindboggling.


FLAUNT IT?

Moreover, not only is it destructive to be envious, it is also destructive to arouse envy in others.
In America we are told, "If you have it, flaunt it!" But the Torah begs to differ. If we have it and flaunt it, thereby causing envy in others, we are most definitely doing something wrong.
So what is the antidote? How can we protect ourselves if we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful home, wonderful children, a wonderful wife, a wonderful salary, a wonderful job? The only way, Rabbi E.E. Dessler explains, is to become a giver to the community rather than a taker. People look kindly on givers. They are inclined to be generous with people who give generously of their time, their money and their energies.
But those who hoard it and flaunt it, who are miserly with the gifts God has granted them, are not as pure as the driven snow. People are not inclined to cut them any slack, and thus, they become vulnerable to envy.


ONE OF THE BIG TEN

The Ten Commandments are the fundamentals of Judaism. Every single one of them is a fundamental of the faith. [The 10th of the 10 Commandments is:] "Don't covet your neighbor's wife or his donkey or any of his possessions."
This is a fundamental tenet of Judaism? If a person covets someone else's donkey, he can't be a good Jew? If a person covets someone else's car, he can't be a good Jew? Why did God include jealousy in the Ten Commandments along with faith and idolatry and Shabbos observance? Is it really so fundamental to Judaism?
That's right! The answer is a resounding yes. Jealousy is the exact opposite of faith. "Don't be jealous" tells us that God controls the world... Don't be jealous of your neighbor's wife, because the wife He gave is you is one He wants you to have as a life partner. Don't be jealous of your neighbor's house, because the house He gave to you is the one in which He wants you to live. Don't be jealous of your neighbor's donkey, because that donkey is meant to be that person's donkey, not yours.


WORKING DOUBLE-TIME

If we put this into practice, our daily lives would be transformed.
A Jewish jeweler in Antwerp, Belgium, once came to Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth. "I don't understand it," he told Rabbi Kreiswirth. "The man across the street is doing twice the business I am. What am I doing wrong?"
"How much square footage do you have?" asked Rabbi Kreiswirth, thinking the other man might have a bigger store.
The man shook his head. "No, that's not it. I checked it out, and we both have the same square footage."
"How about the lighting?" asked Rabbi Kreiswirth. "Maybe he has better lighting. Lighting is very important in the jewelry business, you know."
The man shook his head again. "No, we have the same type of lighting."
"Well, maybe he just has better goods than you do," suggested Rabbi Kreiswirth.
"No," said the man. "We both have the same supplier."
"How many customers come to his store each day?" asked Rabbi Kreiswirth.
"Well, I know that he has twice the number of customers I do."
"Aha!" said Rabbi Kreiswirth. "Now I know what you're doing wrong. Every day your friend across the street comes into his store and minds his business. But every day you come into your store, you're looking across the street. You, my friend, are minding two stores at the same time. It's no wonder that you're not doing as well."

Disillusioned

Rabbi Aharon Feldman from his The River The Kettle And The Bird

Marriage is not the fantasy world which newly married couples believe it is. While fantasies are not real, they are not necessarily harmless. If the fantasies are not put to rest quickly, the shock of disillusionment can be disastrous.

The major fantasy about marriage is that it confers eternal bliss. Two corollaries follow from this: (1) that married people are constantly in love, and (2) that spouses have no faults.
Fantasies, like all dreams, are largely forms of vicarious wish-fulfillment. Thus, whatever our innermost desires -- lust, power, prestige, or even the spiritual goals of Torah acquisition and character perfection -- we fantasize that marriage will achieve them all for us.
The fantasy of "marriage as eternal bliss" thrives especially among those who have grown up under the influence of Western values. From their early years, children are informed that the close company of a woman produces quick and permanent ecstasy. (It is no coincidence that in the popular songs heard in America, the word "love" often rhymes with "above" in the phrase "heaven above.") The victim of too many of these messages naturally expects to find instant bliss in marriage.

Another cause of fantasies about marriage is the sex drive itself, viewed by many single young men as their most troublesome problem. Because it overshadows all else, they are led to believe that when they find relief from it through marriage, their lives will be problem free. This is, of course, naive. Coping with the sex drive is only one of life's many challenges -- as the difficulties of married people so plainly testify. A single person, however, does not easily see things this way; he perceives this as his only problem. Hence the fantasy of everlasting bliss...


THE DISILLUSIONMENT PROCESS

Unfortunately, the fantasies are short-lived. Slowly, but inevitably, the shocking truth sets in.
The physical attraction begins to lose its initial excitement. The wife who no longer preens herself and wears a different dress for each meeting, appears somehow less attractive.
Her attitude towards him has changed for the worse. Probably as a result of being able to see him daily from close up, her admiration has grown thinner. She no longer accepts his opinions uncritically and often even claims to know better than he.

She is not at all the perfect human being he thought he was marrying. There are obvious flaws. She is not as calm and relaxed as he knew her to be on their dates. She can be shrill and panicky; she can be stubborn and illogical.

Especially disturbing is the absence of that surge of accomplishment and wisdom which he had expected to materialize once the fetters of bachelorhood were cast off.

Worst of all, he sometimes feels lonely. He cannot share so much of life with her. She does not appreciate his words of Torah. She does not accept his opinions. She does not grasp his jokes. She does not like the same music. She has different tastess in clothing and in home furnishings.

He often wishes he were single again and in the company of his old friends. He had it much better then. There were no bills to be paid, far fewer distractions, no wife who needed constant attention, no decisions weighing on his mind.

As the fantasies dissipate, terrifying questions begin to insinuate themselves into his mind. Is she the right one? If overcoming loneliness is what marriage is all about, why is he so lonely?

The questions gnaw at him. Because he is too ashamed to share them with anyone, they fester within him. Disappointment and hurt begin to seep through his entire emotional fabric. He suspects that his marriage was a mistake. He feels trapped by it and wonders if it will last.

He begins to feel resentment towards his wife for having concealed her true nature from him before they were married. The resentment breeds an anger which grows within him.
One day, he feels he can no longer tolerate her inability to make him happy, and his disillusionment and bitterness, triggered by some trivial matter, pour out in a spasm of rage.
The wife is shocked and grievously hurt. The man she loves, and who she thought loved her, has now turned on her without good reason. Before long, her shock gives rise to bitterness and anger and she retaliates. A cycle of attack and counterattack is set into motion, with its tragic potential.


THE REALITY OF LOVE

Rabbi Leib Chasman, spiritual supervisor of Chevron Yeshivah, once saw a student eating fish with great relish. "Tell me, young man," he asked him, "do you love fish?" The student answered in the affirmative. "If you love fish," replied Rabbi Chasman, "then you should have cared for the one on your plate. You should have fed it and tried to make it happy. Instead you are devouring it." As the student groped for a proper response, the rabbi explained: "Obviously, you don't love fish. You love yourself!"

Rabbi Chasman was trying to drive home the point that what most people call "love" is really self-love. The love sold on the billboards and television screens of the world is merely the selfish love of pleasure fulfillment. The romance portrayed as an ideal is so often just a glorification of some of man's baser instincts, a fantasy of physical and emotional gratification.

Real love, in contrast, exists where one is willing to give up something dear to him for the benefit of another person. Developing a relationship of love is not an instant process. One cannot love unless something has triggered that love. When a person feels gratitude for benefits which another person has rendered him, when he finds noble qualities in another, when he senses that someone is devoted to him unconditionally -- only then can he truly and completely love that person.

Not surprisingly, this form of love does not come about during the early stages of marriage. Two strangers who have met each other a limited number of times before becoming husband and wife cannot possibly enjoy this degree of mutual devotion. Love in its true sense is only possible between two people who have spent many years sharing experiences, working towards common goals, undergoing sacrifices for each other, and building a life together. It must be realized that this can take decades.

This is why the early years of marriage are the most difficult, and why most divorces occur during this period. For this reason (among others), the Torah commands a man to spend the first year of marriage making his wife happy. As the author of the Sefer HaChinuch explains, a man and wife, who start out as nearly total strangers, need time to get used to one other.

A newly married couple needs more work during the first year of marriage than at any other stage of their married life in learning to be mutually compatible. This obligation reflects the reality of marriage and shows the naivete of expecting love to begin simultaneously with the breaking of the wedding glass.

Marriage cannot begin with true love. What should be present at the outset, however, is a strong commitment by both partners to devote themselves to helping each other and serving as each other's lifelong friend. This means that a husband must undertake to treat his wife as well as he would treat himself: to fulfill her physical and emotional needs; to ensure her happiness; to deny her nothing he would not deny himself; and to treat her with due respect.

All of this is contained in the Sages' prescription of the duties of a husband to his wife: "He must love her as himself and honor her more than himself." This means that he has to satisfy her needs as much as he satisfies his own, and he must concern himself with making her feel as respectable in his -- as well as the public's -- eyes, even more than he concerns himself with his own needs and respectability.

Because this commitment will make each partner feel that his/her spouse genuinely cares about him/her, it is the first step and the surest way of building the emotional bond which will lead to a happy marriage