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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler

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Noach - II

You Can See a New World

And it [the flood] swept off every living substance which was upon the face of earth, man and cattle and creeping things and fowls of the heaven; and they were swept from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark (Bereshis 7:23)

One of the agents for the Chofetz Chaim's books returned from a selling trip and came to the Chofetz Chaim to make an accounting. After the agent's commission had been calculated, it was found that a large amount of money was missing.

The Agent apologized for taking the Chofetz Chaim's money and said, "I am sorry that I took more money than I was entitled to, but my wife is always asking for money and making my life miserable. I have no way of pacifying her demands, so I took from the earnings of the books."

After the Chofetz Chaim heard the man's story, he had mercy on him and let him keep all the extra money which he had taken out of the Chofetz Chaim's profits. In addition, when the agent was in his wagon ready to return home, the Chofetz Chaim ran up to him with a package in his hands.

"Take this package for your wife," said the Chofetz Chaim. "It contains a present for her, a woolen scarf. I can imagine all the trouble she makes for you with her constant anger, and I thought this might pacify her."

(k'tzes Ha-shemesh Bi-gvuraso, p.195)

The thief had never expected such a reaction from the Chofetz Chaim. It was entirely a surprise. By responding as he did, the Chofetz Chaim gave the man a chance to move beyond his past mistakes and begin again as if nothing had happened. In marriage also one can restart with a clean slate. We can choose to put the hurtful, insensitive and unfeeling words or acts behind us and begin anew, in spite of all that has happened before.

Rabbi Shmuel said, "for five people the course of events in their world were turned around completely! Noah lived through a flood so terrible that it was said of it, 'stone were made into sand by water' (1), as Rabbi Levy said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, 'even the grinding stone of a mill was dissolved by water.' And now you say ' and the sons of Noah that left the ark.'(2) How can both be true? The explanation is that they lived to see a New World.

"At first Yoseph was incarcerated in the Egyptian prison where the conditions were awful, 'They made his foot suffer with chains, iron came upon his soul.'(3) Yet later it says 'And Yoseph is the ruler over the land.'(4) The explanation is that they lived to see a New World.

"At first Moses was running away from Pharaoh since pharaoh wanted to execute him for killing an Egyptian.(5) And later Moses is the one who causes Pharaoh's entire army to drown in the sea. The explanation is that he lived to see a New World.

"At first for Jov there was so much suffering: His family died, his wealth was gone, and about his situation the verse says, 'He is spilling my gall to earth.' (6) But later we learn, 'And G-d added to Jov all that he previously had in a double measure.'(7) The explanation is that he lived to see a New World.

At first Mordechai expected to be hung by Haman. Haman had already built the gallows especially for the execution, and come to the king to influence him to give approval for the hanging. But later Mordechai hung those who wanted to hang him. The explanation is that he lived to se a New World."

(Yalkut Noach 49)

What are our sages teaching us here by examples of these five who lived to see a New World, and how can we apply this insight to our own life?

When Noah was building the ark, he knew that it really offered no protection. If even stones dissolve when water pounds against them relentlessly, what good would a frail wooden ark be? Since he believed that the flood was imminent, he thought that he was doomed, as he did not see any salivation from the ark. But after the flood, he realized that he had been saved in spite of his low expectations. Noah felt that the world had been created anew, since he was alive and did not perish in the flood. It was as if he had been reborn, and the past had been erased.

Yoseph saw no way of being released from prison, since he was convicted of such a serious crime. Under natural circumstances, he would have been imprisoned for the rest of his life. He could not imagine that, not only would he be released, but he would also become the ruler of all of Egypt. It was as if he had experienced a rebirth.

Moses was a fugitive on trial for murder. He knew that if he was caught he did not stand a chance of coming out alive. He never dreamed that he would one day drown the mighty Egyptians in the sea. When these amazing things came to pass it was as if he had been born again.

The suffering that Jov went through was almost unfathomable. He lost all his relatives, his wealth and his health, the three most important possessions. He could never imagine that he would be restored to his previous situation. Yet this is exactly what happened and this fresh start was like a rebirth.

Mordechai was aware that Haman hated him. He felt powerless to fight such a powerful person, as Haman was second only to the king. He also knew that Haman was planning to hang him in public. But these seeming inevitable events turned out differently and instead Mordechai hanged Haman himself. It was as if Mordechai had been born again.

Never Give Up Hope of Success

The lesson that our sages are teaching us here is never to give up hope. The situation can be very discouraging, as it was for Noah, Moses, etc., but with G-d's help it can always turn around and lead to a different outcome. Even though a situation might look hopeless, we must do everything possible to try to bring about a change.

This applies to marriage. Even if a marriage is "on rocks" and the couple barely speaks to one another, or even if they are on the brink of divorce, it is still possible to turn the situation around and create a warm, loving marriage. The method for this reversal is to immediately start doing acts of kindness, which are the essence of a happy marriage while disregarding the negative sentiment that already exists.

No matter how much the couple has quarreled, it is always possible to make amends and start anew. They must recognize the purposes of being married, and strive towards these goals of marriage, are petty. They let these trivial things be blown up out of proportion, and in so doing they jeopardize the whole marriage.

For some couples, marital bliss seems like something that one only reads about in fairy tales. It seems very far from reality. But the truth is that every couple can find happiness if they only invest the necessary effort and time. It takes time and effort to show your spouse love. If all your time is taken up with work, learning or hobbies, then how can your spouse know that you love him or her? It is essential that you invest time to show your deep appreciation and care for one another. Even the best-matched couples will lose their attachment when love and care are not shown.

A person must set aside all of his activities for a while every day in order to devote himself exclusively to his spouse. Just as a man must give his wife substance, a home and fulfil other marital duties, he must also give her attention otherwise, the other duties will eventually lose their significance. The attention that one spouse gives the other is the fundamental basis of marriage, and not at all a luxury.

The second investment needed is effort. Even if you do not see any results from your giving time to your spouse, you must persist in other efforts. Try in different ways to gain your spouse's affection. Perhaps what will win over your spouse is a nice gift, or going out together, or a warm smile. It is not enough that you have tried all this before; you must put great effort into the success of a great marriage.

Look at marriages as if you were looking for business client. Would you give up a good client just because you tried once unsuccessfully? You would definitely try again and again. The same is true in your marriage. You can not give up because it is not going well. Instead you must try and try again with love and patience until you finally succeed.

For some people showing affection is something far from their hearts. But just as at work you do things that are unpleasant, in marriage you also must perform your obligations no matter how difficult it is for you. In reality a person will find that if he makes the effort, he will enjoy showing affection. Even if it is hard for you to show affection, consider it to be a necessary investment that will bring you a blissful marriage.

1. Eyov 14:19
2. Bereshis 9:18
3. Tehillim 105:18
4. Bereshis 42:6
5. Shemos 2:15
6. Jov 16:13
7. Jov 42:10

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