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Your Wife's Happiness is Your Own

And you shall rejoice on your holiday, you, and your wife, and your daughter, and your man-servant, and your maid-servant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, that are within your gates. (Devarim 16:14)

During the years of the Holocaust, Yitzchak and Rechna Sternbuch of Switzerland, celebrated the bar mitzvah of their only son. Many people came for the celebration, which took place on a Shabbos. After the reading of the Torah in the synagogue, the guests headed for the Sternbuch's residence where a big kiddush was held. Everyone was there, except for two important people, who were very conspicuous by their absence. Those two were Mr. and Mrs. Sternbuch, the parents of the bar mitzvah boy!

Later, the reason for their absence was revealed. That Shabbos morning, the Sternbuchs had received a frantic telephone call from a member of the Jewish community in Montreux, Switzerland, informing them that three young married men in Rabbi Buchko's yeshivah had been caught by the police for being in the country illegally, as they had escaped from Nazi-occupied France. The Swiss government was about to extradite them to the ruling Nazi authorities in France.

The Sternbuchs had forfeited the celebration of their only son's bar mitzvah, in order to quickly make all the arrangements possible to save the three men from deportation to France and execution by the Nazis which would certainly follow. A short while before the end of Shabbos, they finally succeed in receiving the necessary papers to allow the three men to stay in Switzerland temporarily. (Olam Chesed Yibaneh, p. 316).

The milestone in their son's life was surely hard to miss. Yet, the Sternbuchs rightfully recognized that only by bringing joy and relief to others, the three men, could they merit a happiness on a much deeper level. The same in true of bringing joy to our spouses.

We have learned: A person must make his wife and children happy at the time of the regalim (holidays), as it is written: "And you shall rejoice on your holiday."

And with what does one make them happy? With wine. Rabbi Yehudah said, "Men are to use what is fitting for them, and women are to use what is fitting for them. Men are to use what is fitting for them: wine. Women are to use what is fitting for them." With what? Rabbi Yoseph said, "In Babylonia with colored clothers. In Eretz Yisrael with ironed linen (flax) clothes." (Pesachim 109)

Why must a person make his wife and children happy at the time of the holidays, when it seems that the mitzvah is that he should make himself happy? How did our Sages derive this obligation from the verse that says, "you shall rejoice," which does not mention anything at all about his wife. (Tosfos notes that there is already a more explicit verse elsewhere). Why are women made happy with colored or linen clothes while men are made happy with wine?

The idea of making your wife happy is not really a mitzvah which is distinguishable from one's own happiness. It is actually an integral part of one's own happiness, because happiness stems from giving and sharing. When someone can laugh and have fun with others, that is real happiness; while being alone often leads to depression.

When the Torah wants a person to rejoice at the times of the three main festivals, this refers to a rejoicing that has true meaning behind it. Such meaning is brought about by giving and sharing the things a person has with others.

This can also be learned from the Rambam who writes, "When a person eats and drinks (on the holidays), he must feed the convert, the orphan, the widow, and all the other unfortunate poor people. But, someone who locks the doors of his courtyard, and eats and drinks he and his children and his wife, and does not feed and give drinks to the poor and to the bitter - this is not rejoicing in a mitzvah, but rather rejoicing in one's belly.

Therefore, the Torah had only to say, "Rejoice on your holidays," and these words include sharing happiness with the others of one's household, and especially withone's wife.

Show You Care Through Small Tokens of Affection

Marriage means giving, not taking. We are meant to share all of our happiness and our experiences with our spouses, and this is exactly what makes a marriage successful. If each spouse is emotionally closed up within himself or herself, then their relationship is not a real marriage, but only an acquaintanceship.

Many people barely greet their spouses when they come home. They start reading a newspaper or indulge in some other recreation. Their first questions might be, "What's for dinner?" This shows that the newspaper or dinner is much more interesting to them than their spouse. Even though your spouse has been waiting all day to see you, your selfish concerns show her that you could not care less about her. Your first priorities seem to be food and fun, while your spouse is somewhere at the bottom of the list.

Naturally, this causes your spouse to get angry. Even when nothing is explicitly said, an unexpressed resentment may be building up inside. Love deserves love, and by no means should it be treated with a lack of attention. It is very said to sometimes see people living side by side, apparently married, whereas in reality each lives his own separate life, hardly sharing their experiences at all.

When a person comes home, his first question should be, "What did you do today? Tell me how everything went." This opening shows that you care for your spouse and are interested in what happened to her today. You can later go on to learning or reading, but first be sure that your spouse knows that you care for her. After that, she wont mind your being busy, since she will have already received the message that you care.

In this midrash, our Sages are also suggesting that a good way to make your wife happy is to buy her something that she likes. During the holidays this is an obligation, but it can also be done the whole year round to show your love. Come home once in a while with flowers or candy or a new book which she will like, Even a phone call from work just to say hello is worth a fortune to your wife. All of these efforts show her that you think of her and that you care. Your spouse is not asking for a great deal, just some sign that she is important to you.

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