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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Belief in G-d Can Save Your Marriage

And the Lord said to Moshe and Aharon, Because you lacked faith in Me, to sanctify Me before the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore you will not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. (Bemidbar 20:12)

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Kagan, the son of the Chofetz Chaim, had a daughter who was ill. He decided to take her to Warsaw to see a doctor there, and at the same time he would visit his father, who was in Warsaw printing a sefer.

Reb Aryeh Leib found his father working on the correction pages of the sefer, and asked him, “How is my brother Avraham?”

The Chofetz Chaim answered, “He has been Gan Eden for about ten weeks now.”

Reb Aryeh Leib was astonished by the bad news and sorry that he could not even sit shivah, since the first thirty days had already passed. He tore his clothes and sat a while on the ground as is obligatory when mourning after thirty days have passed.

After a while the Chofetz Chaim told Reb Aryeh Leib, “Don’t worry, your brother Avraham went from this world without any spiritual blemish. He had suffered terribly from his illness for more than four years, and nevertheless he learned Torah constantly. In fact, he toiled in his learning so much that he almost died because of it. A great part of my sefer, Likutei Halachos on Zevachim, was done by him. He was well known for his exalted personal character.”

The Chofetz Chaim continued, “When I heard about his imminent death, I rushed to visit him. But I missed the train, and by time I arrived, the crowd was already coming back from the funeral. I was so sad that I had missed the opportunity to escort him at the funeral.

“Let me tell you of two interesting coincidences. The night before I heard of his final illness, I had a bad dream that frightened me terribly. Secondly, at the time I heard the news I was preparing for my sefer section 311 of Orach Chaim, which deals with carrying a dead boy on Shabbos.”

The Chofetz Chaim concluded, “I know that it is my sins that caused all this to happen. It was from Heaven that I missed the train and did not arrive when he was still alive. If I could have been with him, I would have prayed so hard and reminded G-d of the few merits that I have. Perhaps He would have listened to me, and let Avraham live. G-d knows everything and what do we know? What was the purpose of his coming to this world? Perhaps he had finished his task in this world in the few years that he lived.” (Michtevei Hachofetz Chaim p.46)

From the words of the Chofetz Chaim we can come to realize how much belief a person should have in G-d, and that everything comes from Him. Once we see that everything comes from Him. Once we see that everything follows G-d’s plan we will have the proper perspective to face our day to day difficulties. Certainly it will help us overcome any problems that arise in marriage.

“Because you lacked faith in Me.” G-d said to Moshe, “You should have learned from Hagar, as it is written, ‘And she saw a well of water.’ If I made a well for Hagar, who was only a single person, because of the merit of Avraham; how much more so will I make a well for the whole Jewish nation, which can depend on the merit of all their forefathers, the merit of the Torah which they have received, and the merit of their mitzvos.”

Another explanation [of the verse above] is that G-d was saying to Moshe, “You should have learned from what happened to you in Refidim. There you said, ‘Very soon I am going to be stoned.’ I told you, ‘Why are you judging My children badly? Pass in front of My nation and see if anything will happen to you. Since you were not judging favorably, you will have to hit the stone to receive water. If you would have judged favorably you would not have had to hit the stone buy only point to it.”

Another explanation is that just as when G-d told Moshe to pass in front of the Jewish nation at Refidim it was an allusion to a chazan going to the front of a synagogue to say prayers for the community during the time of prayer, so too in the verse “Because you have lacked faith in Me,” Moshe was being told he should have prayed on behalf of the Jewish nation so they should have water.

Why should Moshe have learned specifically from Hagar? How did he come to make the mistake of not learning from her example so that he should have faith that G-d would provide water in the desert? What does the second explanation, concerning Refidim, have to do with the original verse concerning Moshe’s lack of faith? What is the difference between Moshe’s pointing to the stone or having to hit it in order to receive water? What is the connection between Moshe being told to pass in front of the Jewish nation as their chazan, and his hitting the stone instead of speaking to it?

Moshe was supposed to learn from the miracle that had happened to Hagar that G-d can easily make water appear in the middle of the desert if He so wills it. Moshe would have learned this specifically from the incident with Hagar because if the miracle happened for Hagar, who had no merit of her own, but rather depended on her close contact with Avraham, then certainly it would be repeated in the desert for the Jewish people, since they had acquired merits of their own by accepting the Torah and the mitzvos. This method of deducing a law from a harder case to an easier case is called in the Gemara a“Kal vachomer.” The example of it here is: since Hagar deserved a miracle, not from her personal merit, but because of her closeness to Avraham, (the easier case) how much more so do Moshe and the Jewish nation deserve a miracle, as they have a great many merits of their own (the harder case).

Moshe’s mistake in the not learning from Hagar may have been due to his feeling that the Jewish nation had forfeited these merits when they lost faith in G-d and complained that they had no water. He felt that this sin ended their chances for the miracle they would have otherwise had. But he was mistaken, because in spite of the sin associated with the complaining, they were still on a much higher level than Hagar and therefore deserved the miracle.

What does the second explanation have to do with the original verse concerning Moshe’s lack of faith? In the second explanation we are reminded that Moshe had previously complained that the Jewish people might stone him in Refidim, and that G-d had rebuked him for saying this. In that instance, G-d accused Moshe of judging the Jewish people too harshly. Since just before he brought forth water from the stone, Moshe committed his second offense of judging the Jewish people disfavorably, “Listen now, you rebels,” he was punished by having to hit the stone to bring forth the water. According to this explanation, because Moshe repeated his mistake he was not allowed to fully sanctify G-d’s name by just speaking to the stone. Instead, he had to strike it, since pointing to it would no longer suffice.

The third explanation also connects our verse, “Because you lacked faith to me” to the incident at Refidim. According to this opinion the midrash brought up this comparison to indicate that Moshe was supposed to learn a lesson from what happened at Refidim, that the mistake Moshe made there was similar to his mistake here.

This view holds that Moshe’s passing in front of the Jewish nation at Refidim was like someone coming in front of the Jewish people as a chazan, as it is written, “Pass in front of this nation.” Therefore, the connections between the two cases apparently is that Moshe at both times failed to pray on behalf of the Jewish people. The Torah calls this a lack of faith because, on his extremely high spiritual level, the omission of these prayers was comparable to a lack of faith. Since they had nothing to drink, Moshe should have felt it his responsibility to pray fervently for water which would surely have made it come immediately. Moshe did not do this, therefore he was accused of a lack of concern for the Jewish people.

The root of Moshe’s sin was that he had failed to pray at the outset. If he had, he would have avoided the problem entirely. Since he did not pray, he was punished. This shows us that when a person believes in G-d, he should immediately turn to Him in prayer with all his problems. There is not problem that G-d cannot solve and no situation that He does not anticipate from start to finish. G-d controls every event in our lives and so it is to Him we must turn for assistance.

If we believe that G-d has set up our marriage and wants it to succeed, this can give us the strength to withstand the trials that inevitably arise. This is what our Sages say: forty days before a child is created, it is announced in Heaven whom he or she will marry. This means that the person you marry has been destined for you and fits you like a glove. Your marriage is planned by G-d, Who knows better than anyone who is the right person for you.

G-d Puts Trails in Our Path to Test Us

When someone understands this principle, he will begin to look at his martial problems in a different light. Instead of thinking that his spouse is making trouble for him, he will realize that this is a trial from G-d, put before him to see how he will react. Will he lose his temper? Will he take revenge? Will he speak lashon hara about his spouse? These are all real possibilities and they represent the trials that G-d puts in your path.

If you belief in G-d is strong enough, then you will not react in any of these negative ways. Instead you will say to yourself, “I am going to hold my temper since it is wrong for me to let myself get anger, [as it is written ‘Remove anger from your heart’s] and I do not want to do anything that is forbidden by the Torah.”

This is also applies to favors that we request from our spouses. If we do not get them, we must consider that our spouse is just a messenger from G-d, and we have no right to be angry with the messenger. If our belief in G-d is strong, then we will realize that this is just a trial to test us.

The Chofetz Chaim had a parable to illustrate how we mistakenly think that people should do us favors. A person was looking for Reuven and he saw several people standing and conversing together on a street corner. He thought that Reuven was among the. On closer inspection, he saw that Reuven was not there. He approached the people standing there and began to shout at them, “Why aren’t any of you Reuven! I need him badly.”

“Are you crazy?” they replied. “Are we to blame that none of us is Reuven? That is your problem, not ours!”

The moral of this parable is that G-d decides if a person deserves a favor or not. There is no room to be angry at the person who refuses to grant it to you, since he simply gave the reply that G-d had planned for you. He may be committing a sin by not granting you the favor, but that is between him and G-d, and has nothing to do with you.

Now that we know that source of our problem, we also know how to solve it. We must trust in G-d and pray that He give us the things which we need. People used to come to the Chofetz Chaim for a blessing when they needed something. When he found out this was the purpose of their visit, he would admonish them and say, “Why are you coming to a poor person when you can go directly to the wealthy man?” He was referring to the fact that every person has an open channel of communication to G-d available to him at all times. The midrash says this was the same claim G-d had against Moshe, that he did not pray. We must take care that this should not become a claim against us too; rather we must make a consistent and wholehearted effort to pray when a problem arises.

If we utilize this great gift of prayer, we will find we have the tools to overcome any problems we might encounter in marriage.

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