Monday, April 4, 2016

The Sanctity Of Couplehood

לרפואת נעמי בת טובה
בנימין צבי בן חנה אסתר
חיים מנחם בן פערל
חנה בת שרה מלכה בת חוה

Tazria begins with the offerings of women who recently gave birth. Shockingly, it was on account of these birth-offerings that a distinguished family of Kohanim was cursed and would die young. Even worse: this sorry affair led to the destruction of Mishkan Shiloh, forerunner to the Beis Hamikdash, after nearly four centuries of service as the spiritual center of the Jewish people (Yoma 9a).

"א"ר שב"נ אר"י, כל האומר בני עלי חטאו אינו אלא טועה, שנאמר "ושם שני בני עלי חפני ופנחס כהנים לד'", ס"ל כרב דאמר פנחס לא חטא, מקיש חפני לפנחס, מה פנחס לא חטא אף חפני לא חטא, אלא מה אני מקיים "אשר ישכבון את הנשים", מתוך ששהו את קיניהן שלא הלכו אצל בעליהן מעלה עליהם הכתוב כאילו שכבום".

R. Shmuel b. Nachmani said in R. Yonasan's name: Whoever maintains that the sons of Eli sinned is merely making an error, for it is said, And the two sons of Eli, Chophni and Pinchas, Kohanim unto Hashem, were there. Now he agrees with Rav, who said, Pinchas did not sin. [Hence] Chophni is likened to Pinchas: just as Pinchas did not sin, so did Chophni not sin. Then how do I interpret, and how that they [ Eli's sons] lay with the women? Because they delayed their bird-offerings so they could not be intimate with their husbands, the pasuk considers them as if they slept with them [Shabbos 55b].

This is difficult to understand! The pasuk says that the sons of Eli were sleeping with married women and Chazal take this to mean that they were just lax in bringing their bird offerings after birth, thus preventing them from returning to their husbands. 

We see here that putting a wedge between a husband and wife is equated to having an affair with the wife. The pasuk calls an adulterer a חסר לב, as it says נואף אשה חסר לב, he lacks a heart. Not only is he acting like an animal who can't control his instincts, but he is causing the woman to be forever forbidden to her husband. By delaying the korbanos of the women, the Kohanim were in effect distancing them from their husbands, similar to what is accomplished by adultery. It is an evil that is in the same category. 

From here we see how critical it is for spouses to be close. One who helps foster shalom bayis is doing a great mitzva. Of course, the best place to start is in one's own home. If one is careful that for every word of criticism, he or she says 100 words of love and affection - that is a GREAT start. Nothing is as cancerous to a strong relationship than criticism when not done in the right amount [very-very-little], in the right way [out of complete love] and at the right time [only when the spouse is receptive]. 

One should also constantly ask him/herself: "How much is the relationship about me and how much is about us?" Many people confuse "us" with "me" and automatically assume that what is good for them is good for their spouse, who silently [or not silently] suffers along day after day, with no salvation in sight.     

Many spouses are not real people in their spouses eyes, just a means to achieving what the spouse wants, whether it is money, physical fulfillment or other human wants and needs. One must remember that the spouse is a real person and nobody can torture him/her like you if you don't relate correctly. For every man/woman in a shelter for abused spouses, there are thousands who suffer from more subtle forms of abuse. If one can't control oneself and can't relate as necessary - for that we have psychologists who are trained to help. Go to one...

The pasuk couched the act of the sons of Eli in such harsh terms to teach us this lesson. The foundation of Klal Yisrael is strong families and we must be vigilant never to undermine this hallowed institution.