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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Your Spouse Wants A Blessing

And He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you, and He will bless the fruit of your belly, and the fruit of your land, your corn, and your wine, and your oil, the increase of your cattle, and the flocks of your sheep, in the land which He swore to your fathers to give you.

Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, the famed Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, first arrived in Jerusalem in 1873. One day he went with a friend to the Western Wall. On the way, an Arab shopkeeper threw a rotten orange at Rabbi Sonnenfeld. He responded by saying "Thank you" to the Arab in Yiddish.

Out of curiosity, the Arab asked the Rabbi's escort to translate what Rabbi Yoseph Chaim had said. The escort did so, and the Arab was astounded.

Then Rabbi Yoseph Chaim explained, "I was thanking you that you had thrown an orange and not a stone."

The Arab was embarrassed at his deed, and from then on honored the Rabbi every time he passed his store. (K'tzes Ha-Shemesh Bi-Gvuraso, p.192)

Rabbi Yoseph Chaim was intuitive enough to know how to reprimand the Arab successfully. We must also exert ourselves to be equally sensitive to the feelings of our spouses.

Ula was at the house of Rabbi Nachman and ate a meal there. After the meal, Ula was given the honor of leading the Grace after the meal. As is customary, he made a blessing on a cup of wine at the end. After drinking from the cup himself, he passed it on to Rabbi Nachman.

Rabbi Nachman said, "Are you not going to pass the cup my wife, Yelta, so that she can drink?"

Ula replied, "Rabbi Yochanan said, 'The fruit of the belly of the woman is only blessed from the belly of the man,' as it is written, 'And He will bless the fruit of your belly.' 'The fruit of her belly' is not written, rather 'the fruit of your belly.' (Rabbi Yochanan was of the opinion that this verse is teaching that only through her husband can a wife be blessed.) As I am not her husband, she would receive no benefit from the cup over which I made the blessing, and that is why I did not pass it to her."

In the meantime, Yelta heard that she was being denied the Grace cup, so she arose in anger and went and broke four hundred barrels of wine.

Rabbi Nachman said to Ula, "I have sent her another cup of wine (to calm her, since the original Grace cup with the blessing was not finished.) This second cup of wine has a continuation of the blessing made on the previous cup."

Yelta replied to this suggestion by saying, "Peddlers talk a lot, and from worn clothes will come lice." (In other words, I can see this second cup of wine is an empty effort to console me, but it will not pacify my anger. It is too late now because I am well aware that only the first cup was needed for the blessing). Brachos 51b)

This gemara raises many issues which need clarification. What is the significance of the idea that only a husband can bless his wife while someone else cannot? Why was Yelta so angered that she broke four hundred barrels of wine, especially when it seems that Ula explained his actions clearly? Why did she deliberately break barrels of wine instead of doing something else to show her anger? Why did she not accept the second cup of wine, which seems just as acceptable as the first?

The idea that only a husband can bless his wife, while no other person has that power, shows what great influence a man has on his spouse's life. A wife's success in life is directly linked to her relationship with her husband. If her marriage sours, she will not have success in other fields, since her ultimate well-being depends on him. This teaches us the great responsibility that a husband has to support his wife wholeheartedly, so that she will be able to succeed.

We also derive from Rabbi Yochanan's explanation that a wife's fertility is completely dependent on her husband's merit. Even when something is physically wrong with the wife, it stems from her husband. He is the sole cause of her success or failure in fertility, since the blessing comes through him.

Yelta's anger stemmed from the fact that she was denied a blessing which she greatly wanted. She did not care that her guest, Ula, had a logical explanation for his actions. Her heart was set on drinking from the original cup with the blessing and she was disappointed when she did not get it. This teaches us that we must be aware that often people are not guided by logic, but rather by emotion. When a person's heart is fixed on something, it is almost impossible to modify or alter this desire. Consequently, a husband or a wife must be sensitive to this and try to give their spouse what their heart is set on, whenever possible.

Another explanation could be that Yelta was insulted when she heard from Ula that her whole success depended on her husband. This seemed to imply that she was somehow less important and therefore aroused her anger. Our Sages are teaching us that we must not tell women things which they will perceive as insulting. We must be careful to tell them things that will make them feel important. Skillful diplomacy is necessary when speaking to our wives.

The idea of breaking wine barrels is explained as follows by the Maharsha. By smashing wine barrels, Yelta was showing that she was not at all interested in the drinking of the wine, but rather was only interested in receiving the blessing. The way she demonstrated this was by spilling out masses of wine.

Be Sensitive to Your Wife's Feelings

Yelta did not accept the second cup, since she felt that it was not coming from her husband with sincerity. A woman has a special talent to read her husband's mind and to know his true thoughts. Thus, Yelta understood that her husband, Rabbi Nachman, was inclined to accept the opinion of his guest Ula (that there was not reason for her to drink from the first cup since her husband was not the one who made the blessing on the wine). She knew that his offering her another cup of wine was only done to appease her, and this she could not accept. A woman will not accept anything that does not come from the heart.

Actually, Yelta had no reason to be angry at her husband, since it was Ula who had voiced the opinion that she was not to drink from the cup. But she must have felt insulted when Rabbi Nachman did not voice opposition to Ula's opinion nor defend his wife's right to drink and receive the blessing. Once again, we see how sensitive we must be to a woman's feelings. If she does not feel that her husband is completely on her side, she may well be driven to anger. this anger comes from love. A woman responds in this way, since she loves her husband and becomes angry due to the disappointment she feels when her husband does not reciprocate this feeling.

We can learn from the gemara how careful someone must be when he speaks to his wife. Since she is so easily hurt, every word must abe carefully considered so as not to cause her any insult or aggravation. She will even feel it if you insult her in your mind. Therefore, a husband's negative thoughts about his wife should be driven from his mind by concentrating on the good traits which his wife has.

We also learn from this story the power of a woman's fury. The four hundred barrels of wine that Yelta broke caused her husband a tremendous financial loss. However, this type of loss does not even approach the emotional suffering when harmony in the home is disrupted. By mentioning the four hundred barrels, our Sages are hinting at the enormous damage a person will incur in terms of his shalom bayis, if he does not treat his wife properly.

Our task, simply put, is to make sure we treat our wives like queens, both in our deeds and in our thoughts.

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