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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Bechukosai II

Everyone Has a Task in Life

And I will remember my covenant with Ya'akov, and even my covenant with Yizchak, and even my covenant with Avraham will I remember; and the land will I remember.
(Vayikra 26:42)

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman was the Rabbi of Kapulya. Once his rebbetzin was insulted by a woman neighbour, without the knowledge of the Rabbi. The leaders of the community, though, found out about the incident and decided to punish the neighbour, as was their right according to the laws of their community. But this law required that the Rabbi of the community must give his consent. Anticipating that the Rabbi would not agree to their proposal, the community leaders asked the rebbetzin to try to get her husband's consent when he came home from his learning Shabbos evening.

The rebbetzin agreed, and when the Rabbi finally arrived home at about midnight, she told him the whole story.

Rabbi Yom Tov's response was unexpected.' He told his wife, "There is a halachah that it is forbidden to go to bed at night without forgiving someone who has cursed you or insulted you. Since this incident happened a few days ago, you have been going to sleep each night since then without forgiving your neighbour and thus you have gone against this halachah. I therefore forbid you to do this sin any longer. You must go and ask for forgiveness from your neighbour for not having pardoned her until now."

Unprepared for her husband's response, she had no choice but to comply, since he would not permit her to go to sleep until she had first obtained her neighbour's forgiveness. And so she did her husband's will, and in spite of the late hour, she went and knocked on her neighbour's door until she woke her up. When the neighbour heard why she had come, the neighbour was genuinely ashamed of herself, and she hugged the rebbetzin and with tears in her eyes said, "You have come to ask forgiveness from me? I should be the one asking your forgiveness, since it was I who sinned against you and caused you discomfort!" (K'TZES HA-SHEMESH BI-GIVURASO,)

The Rabbi's reason for sending his wife to the neighbour was not to be cruel, but rather he responded as he did because he saw the situation was a spiritual test for her. Afterwards, the rebbetzin realised that her husband had acted in her interest by pointing out to her that the situation had come about to see if she could forgive others. Every person has spiritual trials in life, and in marriage you must try to help your spouse with these tasks, just as Rabbi Lipman acted to help his wife.

'And I will remember my convenant with Ya'akov, and even my convenant with Yitzchak etc.,' Why did the verse list the forefathers in reverse order, when really Avraham was first and Ya'akov last chronologically? It is to teach us that the actions of each one of them are worth so much that any one of them has sufficient merit to protect the whole world.

Why is the word "remember" mentioned when speaking of Avraham and Ya'akov, but not when speaking of Yitzchak? Because it is as if the ashes of Yltzchak are piled upon the altar and do not need to be remembered since they are constantly with us. And why is the word "even" mentioned only when speaking of Avraham and Yitzchak? This alludes to the fact that Avraham fathered Yishmael and Yitzchak fathered Esav, both of whom were outcasts; however, all of Ya'akov's children were righteous and therefore accepted as part of Israel.

The above verse mentions only our three forefathers. But where do we learn that our Matriarchs, have the merit to protect the Jewish people from any harm, just as our Patriarchs do? The answer is that the verse used the Hebrew word "es' to include the Matriarchs. The Hebrew word "es," which does not have any specific meaning in English, is mentioned before the name of each of the forefathers, in order to include their respective wives, since the Matriarchs have the same merit as their husbands. From where do we know that the convenant includes the land of Israel? Because it is written, "and I will remember the land' (YALKUT 675 par. Vezacharti)

What was so special about Yitzchak that it is as if his ashes are piled upon an altar? What is significant about the fact that all Ya'akov's children were righteous, whereas the other forefathers had children who were outcasts? What does it mean that G-d will remember the land? How can it be that our Matriarchs have the same merit as our Patriarchs?

Yitzchak is special because his self-sacrifice was so great, that it had no equal. His willingness to be sacrificed on his father's altar showed his complete devotion to G-d. He was willing to give his life simply because he believed that this was G-d's command. He did this deed without any thought of reward, but rather purely with the intention to serve G-d.

The "ashes upon the altar" refer to the idea that G-d considered Yitzchak's willingness to be sacrificed as if he had in reality been burned upon the altar. He had been agreeable to giving up his life, and the only thing that prevented it from happening was G-d's intervention at the very last moment. Since such great self-sacrifice was only found in the case of Yitzchak, his merit consisted in

not having to be "remembered" as someone whose righteous act occurred in the past. It is rather as if the ashes are forever present, piled up upon the altar.

There is significance to the fact that all of Ya'akov's children were righteous (whereas the other Patriarchs had children who were outcasts) because a child's actions have a strong influence on his parents. For example, Ya'akov said that if his son, Binyamin, would not return home, "You will bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.

Another example of a child's influence is found in the midrash which tells the story of a rabbi who found a person gathering sticks and piling them on his shoulders. Asked by the rabbi what was the purpose of his actions, he responded that he had already died and this was part of his punishment, to gather sticks to be burned with in geihinnom. When the rabbi asked if there was anything that could be done to lessen his punishment, he answered that if his son would say Kaddish and read the Maftir, he would be relieved of the punishment. The rabbi immediately went to find the unfortunate soul's son and told him what he' had witnessed. When the son heard this he went directly to the synagogue and said Kaddish for his father and that Shabbos read the Maftir. Later, the deceased person appeared to the rabbi to express his gratitude for having saved him from his terrible punishment.

Even though Avraham and Yitzchak had attained great spiritual heights, they retained a blemish which could not be erased. This was that they had children who were outcasts. Therefore G-d had to 'overlook" this blemish in order to give us their merit.

The meaning of G-d "remembering the land' is that He recalls the merit of the Jewish people in that they constantly revered the holy land of Israel. It is so beloved to the Jews that they are willing to give their lives to retain and defend it and constantly pray that they will merit to return to it. This merit is so great that it is always remembered by G-d so as to improve the welfare of the Jewish people.

Men and Women Have Equally Important Tasks

The midrash shows that our Matriarchs have the same merit as our Patriarchs. This alludes to the fact that men and women have separate yet equally important tasks. The man can be compared to the "secretary of state," whereas the woman is like the "secretary of the interior." The man's task is to earn a living, to handle public affairs, etc. The woman's task is to take care of the children and the home. Neither task has more significance than the other. SO too, when it comes to serving G-d, each does so in different ways. It is vital to realise that both husband and wife have indispensable tasks. Their two parts fit together to form a unified whole dedicated to the complete service of G-d.

Some men make the mistake of belittling the tasks of women. They think women are inferior because they do not count for a minyan, are not obligated in all the mitzvos, and because we make a blessing in the morning "shelo asani ishah", in which we thank G-d for "not having made me a woman." This is a great mistake. Women are free of many mitzvos since their task includes child care) which does not allow them to be always available for time-limited mitzvos. They do not Count for a minyan because their main responsibility is in the home and the minyan is outside the home.

The blessing "shelo asani-ishah, is merely an expression of a man's thankfulness that he has the opportunity to do more mitzvos than women, but this does not mean that men are superior. Each person has his or her own Purpose, and everyone must carry out this personal task properly in order for there to be co-ordination in the running of the world. Belittling women simply shows ignorance, since it proves that one does not understand G-d's intended design for order in the world.

In marriage this attitude can be especially harmful. Each partner must be fully aware of the importance of his spouse's tasks. It makes no sense to criticise your spouse for not succeeding in the task assigned to you. For instance, if a husband is not skilled in taking care of the children or cleaning the house, that is only normal. Also' if the wife's not good at handling money, or understanding principles behind the halachah, there is no reason for the husband to complain.

As we find in the above midrash, women can attain the highest possible levels. Our Sages say that our Matriarchs had the same merit as our Patriarchs. This means that their merit protects us generation after generation. This alone indicates how much we must revere the capabilities of women. It is our task to respect women and appreciate what they do. Understanding that each person has a specific task in life will enhance one's appreciation for his or her spouse. This appreciation and respect should, in turn, encourage us to help one another as much as possible to fulfil his or her task.

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