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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler

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Bereshis - II

A Test of Love

And the L-rd G-d said, "it is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a help suitable for him (Bereshis 2:18)

A newlywed couple came to the house of the Tzaddik Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzira to receive his blessing for a happy life together. When the Rabbi heard that they had gotten married only two days earlier, he immediately asked his rebbetzin to prepare a Sheva Brachos meal for them. He also sent out for guest to attend the feast and asked all of the people that were around to participate in the Simcha.

During the meal, Rabbi Abuchatzira was in a very merry mood, and said much Divrei Torah and words of Chizuk [words intended to intensify the atmosphere of closeness].

After the meal, the Chasan wanted to give the Rabbi some money, as was customary when visiting an admor. But Rabbi Abuchatzira refused to accept the money and said, "On the contrary! You are probably left with many debts because of your wedding, and I should give you money, rather than you giving me." With that, he took out a sum of money and pressed it upon the chasan.

(olam chesed yibaneh p.288)

Rabbi Abuchatzirah appreciated the great importance of marriage; as a result he invited total strangers to a shevah Brachos for the newlywed couple, rather than have them go without this celebration. In doing so, he wanted to strengthen the love between the newlyweds, since close love is the essence of marriage.

It happened in Tziddon that someone married a woman and they were married for ten years without children. They came before Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and the husband wanted to divorce his wife [so he could marry to have children].

The man to his wife, "take any article you want from my house [as a token of gratitude] and go live with your parents."

Rabbi Simon bar Yochai said to the husband, "just as you were married with a feast and a wedding, so too shall you be separated with a feast.

What did the wife do? She made a big feast for her husband and got him to drink too much until eventually he became drunk. Then she called to her maids and said to them, "Take him to my parents' house".

In the middle of the night he woke up and asked his wife, "Where am I? What am I doing here?"

She said, "Did you not say to me, 'any article that I have in my house, you can take to your parent' house?' and hence, I took you because I have no article more precious than you."

When Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai heard of this incident he prayed for them, and they had children.

(YALKUT 16, par. Maase, from psikte)

There are several points that need clarification in this Chazal. Why did the husband offer an article from his house to his wife? Why did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai want them to have a feast? And why did he pray that the couple have children only after the incident? The husbands offering of any article in his house to his wife was a way of showing gratitude. Even though he did not have any monetary obligation to pay his wife her Kesubah (money owed to a wife under some circumstances of divorce), he nevertheless felt that he must in some way show his appreciation for her many years of devotion and chesed during their years of marriage. He made this gesture even though he knew that according to the letter of law she was not entitled to anything since they had no children together.

The Importance of Harmony in Marriage

He felt no resentment towards his wife for not having any children. He knew that the events were all in G-d's hands, and if he did not have children, G-d had decided it should be so. He was not going to take out his anguish on his wife. Yet, he decided to divorce her in order to fulfill the legal obligation of a man to have children. (This law no longer applies today for various reasons.) This is an important lesson for us, since many people try to blame their wives for anything that goes wrong. A wife is not a scapegoat, but rather she is someone to whom we are obligated to show lovingkindness.

Blaming a wife shows that the husband himself has a guilty conscience. He perceives that he is inadequate in some ways, and feels bad about it. These feelings make him want to look for someone else to blame, since he is not brave enough to take responsibility for his own mistakes. A person must realize that looking for someone to blame reveals cowardice. A brave person is not afraid to say, "I am sorry, I made the mistake, and I am the one to blame."

Why did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai want the couple to have a feast? The Zayis Ra'anan on the Yalkut explains that normally when a person divorces his first wife, it is considered a tragedy, and our sages say in such a case that even the alter in the temple weeps. (1) But here the divorce was for the sake of heaven and is considered a mitzvah since the torah commands a divorce in such a case. Therefore it requires a feast just as one makes a feast at a Bris or wedding.

Another possible explanation is that the purpose of the feast was to test the love between the man and his wife. A person can only celebrate with people whom he likes. A party can not include two people who hate each other if it is to be successful. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai wanted for them to have children only if there was real love between them. Before praying for them to have children he tested the strength of bond between them to be sure real love was there; if not he would refrain. He felt that children should come into a family full of love. But if there was no love between husband and wife, he did not want for children to be brought into the world under such circumstances. Rabbi Shimon preferred not to pray for such children, believing that it was better for them not to be born.

Love between a man and his wife is what keeps the marriage alive, and what makes it a success. This connection does not stem from "love at first site," or because one's spouse is beautiful. That sort of love is for fairy tales and does not correspond to reality. Rather, real love stems from constantly giving to one another. The more a person gives, the more he loves. We see that if a person devotes himself to an animal or a plant, he eventually loves the animal or plant. The same is true with our spouses. In order for us to love them. We must constantly be giving to them. This is the only way that love grows.

When each spouse tries to utilize the other for their own benefits, or does not try to give as much as possible to the spouse, then love will drift away from that marriage. Most divorces stem from selfishness. Each partner wants to take instead of to give. How can there be any love in a marriage like that? With love gone, the divorce is not far away.

A person's mind should always be thinking, "in what way can I give to my spouse?" "I feel so grateful for whatever my spouse does for me, and I do not know how I can pay back even a fraction of what I receive." If you do not think that way, then train yourself to repeat these sentences many times during the day. Little by little, you will begin to feel these things in your heart.

Although human life has an exalted status, Rabbi Shimon bar yochai seriously considered not praying for the couple to have children. What a tragic thing it is for children to see their parents fighting. These scenes are embedded in a child's memory for life. He will forever at marriage as something bitter, something to dread. This is another reason why it is so important for parents to work at building harmony and love between them.

Children who see love between their parents will later be able to build successful marriages for themselves. The more they see how their parents appreciate each other, the more they are learning how to behave when they have their own homes.

To have love at home is crucial, not only for our own sake, but also so that we can have happy and well-adjusted children.

1. Gittin 90b

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