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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Then Lavan and Besuel answered and said, "From G-d has come this thing. We cannot speak to you bad or good."
Once, when the Chofetz Chaim was traveling by wagon from his home town of Radin to the train station, the wagon driver said to him, "Rabbi, you probably know that the horse I am driving belongs to the community. When my old horse died, I was in such dire straits that they donated a horse for my use. But my question is, why did G-d do this to me? Do you know how humiliating it is for me to have to go out and beg?"
"Let me explain it to you," answered the Chofetz Chaim sympathetically. "The verse says, 'G-d is righteous in all his ways.'(1) Sometimes a driver sets a price at the beginning of the trip, and in the middle he changes his mind and demands more money. Other times he grabs some straw from a field along the way for his horse, or he might even let him feed from a neighbor's pasture. So you see it could easily be the case that the driver is being punished for some transgression he might have done in the past."
"I understand," replied the driver. "But what about you, Rabbi? You are not a driver. Why was your fur coat stolen from the train station when you were in Vilna last winter?"
The Chofetz Chaim sighed deeply and said, "I too am a person who makes mistakes. You know that I sell my books. Sometimes the binder misplaces a page, or a page might be missing or have unclear print. Even though I am careful to check every book before it is sold, there still could be mistakes. The people who buy my books are embarrassed to tell me when there is a defect, but in their hearts they really care, and that is why I was also punished."
The Chofetz Chaim blamed only himself for his suffering and did not try to transfer the blame to others. In marriage we must do the same, blaming only ourselves for not having a successful marriage, and never blaming our spouses, who are selected for us by Heavenly decree.
"Then Lavan and Besuel answered and said, 'from G-d has come this thing. We cannot speak to you bad or good.'"(2)
Why do we need three proofs for this concept that a person's marriage partner comes only from G-d, when usually a single verse suffices? What are our sages trying to tell us when they say that our match is from heaven? Since everything in the world is from Heaven, what is special about one's marriage partner?
The three proofs that our sages bring have three different lessons to teach. The first verse was said by Besuel and Lavan, who was greedy, self-centered, and not members of the Jewish people. But even they, when they saw the miracles that had happened to Eliezer, understood that the match of Rivkah and Yitzchak was determined by G-d.
They found out that Eliezer had traveled an incredible distance in one day. And they saw that Rivkah, the daughter of Kings, who had never in her life gone to draw water from the well, was the one who came out to water the animals when Eliezer arrived. They had even tried to poison him, but the dishes were switched and Eliezer was saved, which enabled him to continue his mission. Thus there were many clear signs from heaven that this was the right match, and even Besuel and Lavan, selfish and wicked as they were could not deny it.
The second verse concerns Shimshon; it refers to the time when he told his parents emphatically that he wanted to marry a woman from a non Jewish nation, the philistines. His parents could not understand the reason for such a demand and asked him if there were not enough Jewish women to marry. Shimshon went ahead and married a woman from the philistines, he only married her as part of his plan for taking revenge on her nation. Nevertheless, we learn from this verse that even such a seemingly unexpected and ill-contrived marriage comes from Heaven.
The third proof is from the Holy Writings: "a house and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a wise woman is from G-d."(5) King Shlomo the author of Mishleii, contradicts a common belief by reversing it. everyone believes that an inheritance comes straight from G-d, since a person does not have to do anything to acquire it; it simply falls into his hands, whereas we choose of our own accord whom we marry.
But King Shlomo is teaching us that HaShem controls and dictates a Shidduch with even more care than he exercises when awarding an inheritance. We think that we are carefully choosing and deciding whom we want to marry, but in reality it is predestined.
Shlomo is teaching us that nothing is more pr4edestined than our choice of spouse. This is true even though we may think that other things which fall to our lot, such as an inheritance, appear to be much more a matter of fate than our carefully selected marriage partner.
The idea that our marriage partner comes from Heaven means that we usually can not blame the lack of success in our marriage on our spouses. This, though, is exactly what many people do. They have numerous complaints about their spouses. The husband, for example, might find his wife disorganized, or he might claim that she is always causing arguments and complaining. The wife, on the other hand, might find that her husband does not pay attention to what she says, or that he is always so busy that he never has time for her and never helps her. And so, each partner blames the other for the lack of harmony in their marriage. They might even consider divorce, mistakenly believing that they will then find a better match for themselves.
But our sages are teaching us that this is an incorrect way of thinking. We already have the perfect match, but it is our own Midos which are at the source of our problems. Instead of seeing the faults in ourselves, we might be constantly looking for faults in others. In truth we have to improve ourselves in order to achieve marital harmony.
People constantly speak lashon hara about other people, but rarely speak ill of themselves. This reflects a fact that a person finds it hard to see anything wrong in himself, but is very readily critical of others. Instead of thinking of faults in your spouse, try enumerating your own faults. If you are honest with yourself, you will see that you have no right to criticize your spouse, when you have so much to correct in yourself.
A great Rabbi of the mussar movement once said that when he speaks mussar in front of an audience, he is really speaking to and reprimanding himself. But he is speaking loudly so others can also benefit from his self-rebuke. In other words, he did not feel that he had the right to reprimand other people when he had so much to correct within himself. This should also be our attitude when we perceive a problem in our marriage.
The Gemara says that forty days before the formation of a fetus, a voice is heard in heaven saying, "the daughter of so-and-so."(6) your match was decided upon long before you were born. Even though you went courting and you decided this was the shiduch you wanted, in reality you were merely doing what G-d put into your head. We are all really only carrying out his plan.
When one's marriage does not work out perfectly, a person might think he will find greater happiness elsewhere, but the truth is that probably no one else would like him either given the way he acts. He has to realize that if he would only behave as a loving and caring person towards his wife, this would insure that there would be love and unity between them. Your wife is just the woman you need. You could not have chosen better if you would have lived another thousand years and seen as million different women. G-d knows exactly who is the best choice in the world for you, and that is the spouse He has given you.
People look for easy solutions. It is much easier to blame your spouse for problems which arise, or to seek a divorce, then to work on your Midos and become a loving and caring partner and spouse. To improve your Midos is hard work, but is necessary to ring about a successful marriage. Your spouse would not be able to quarrel with you if you acted humbly and didn't answer back. if you would just work on the mida of Chesed, your spouse would love you so much more. If you would abolish if you would abolish the mida of anger from yourself, then you would always be calm and likable. The more you improve your Midos, the more your marriage is likely to succeed.
We must realize that by having the knowledge that the selection of our spouses took place in heaven, we have the key with which to make our marriages the best they can possibly be.
1. Tehillim 145:17
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network