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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Be Patient During Difficult Times

And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (VAYIKRA 12:3)

Rabbi Yechezkel Halevi Segal Landau, the Rabbi of Prague and author of the sefer Noda Bi-yehudah, had the custom of being the chazan for the closing Ne'ilah prayer of Yom Kippur.

He did not do this because he knew how to sing or could carry a tune, but rather because the elders of Prague maintained that it was an old custom in Prague that the rabbi should be the chazan for Ne'ilah. One year, while trying to sing the words "Mechalkel chayim b'chesed," the

Rabbi unwittingly changed the tune, and some other strange melody came out instead. Among the Rabbi's congregants was a poor man who used to knock on doors seeking handouts. He decided that he would turn the Rabbi's error to his own advantage, and so he caught on to the Rabbi's special melody and the next day, as he made his rounds for contributions, he mimicked the Rabbi exactly, and even copied his movements. This caused great amusement among his listeners, and they gave him more money than usual.

The elders of Prague, however, were enraged at the poor man's conduct, and warned him that unless he stopped mimicking the Rabbi, he would be driven out of town. Desperately hoping not to lose this unexpected extra income, the poor man went to speak to the Rabbi. He told the Rabbi how he mimicked his singing of the words "Mechalkel chayim b'chesed," but that he had no intention whatsoever of belittling the Rabbi. His intention was rather to entertain the public and receive more contributions. The Rabbi, after hearing the poor man's story, was not insulted or even angry. Instead, he allowed him to continue mimicking his tune, and even spoke to the elders to convince them that this was not any slight to his own honor. He also gave the poor man a letter stating that he could support himself (in Hebrew "mechalkel") with his imitation of the Rabbi's "Mechalkel chayim b chesed. (K'TZES HA-SHEMESH BI-GVURASO, p. 143)

Rabbi Landau's patience and understanding brought" he poor man great gains. While others might have been bothered or even enraged by the poor man's imitations, the Rabbi looked at the actions from the poor man's perspective, and felt no anger. In marriage also, patience and understanding can lead to great success.

"And on the eighth day shall the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." How can we explain the verse, "Give a part to seven, and also to eight"? 2The verse is unclear, since it does not specify what "seven" or "eight" it is referring to, nor what is the connection between the two. "To seven" is referring to the seven days of niddah, since the Torah writes that when a woman sees blood she is forbidden to her husband for seven days [only in later generations was this prohibition extended to twelve days]. "And also to eight" refers to the days of circumcision.

G-d said, "If you have preserved the days of niddah, I will give you a son, and you will circumcise him on the eighth day."

Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua had other ways of explaining the above verse. Rabbi Eliezer said, "'Give a part to seven,' these are the seven days of the week that culminate in Shabbos.

'And also to eight,' these are the eight days of circumcision." Rabbi Yehoshua said, "'Give a part to seven,' these are the seven days of Pesach. 'And also to eight,' these are the eight days of Sukkos. Since it is written, 'And also,' the verse includes Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur." (YALKUT 546. par. Uvayom)

It seems from the above midrash that if a husband and wife keep the days of separation during the time of niddah, they are rewarded with a son. Why should this be the reward? Rabbi Eliezer says that the "seven" refers to Shabbos, the seventh day of the week. Why should keeping Shabbos be rewarded by having a son and meriting circumcision? According to Rabbi Yehoshua, the "seven" refers to the holiday that has seven days, which is Pesach, and for observing those seven days a person receives the reward of being able to observe the holiday of eight days, which is Sukkos. But what is the connection between the two holidays?

The days of separation which are required by the laws of niddah are days of trial for both husband and wife. The pair are unable to show each other physical affection, and it is as though there is now a wall between the couple, where previously they were united.

With the proper attitude, one can overcome these difficult days. The Torah specified these days of separation so that the love between a couple would be renewed each month after the days of separation have passed. When they are reunited a couple feels as if it is their first time together, and they are like newlyweds again. During the days of separation, you are not waiting without purpose. The waiting enriches the relationship.

This is similar to the waiting and the anticipation that parents experience when a child is born. In the early years there is only toil, since the child can do nothing on his own. He must be fed, diapered, bathed, etc. But there is purpose to the toil, since the child will eventually grow into an independent adult who will be useful to himself and to others. Therefore the birth of a child is a proper and directly proportionate reward for a couple who keep the days of separation, since they have shown that they have patience and can endure a waiting period, which are exactly the traits needed when a child is born.

But it is still unclear why a male child, who undergoes circumcision, should be the reward and not a female child. The answer could be that in a male child the concept of not seeing a reward immediately is more apparent, because of circumcision. The purpose of circumcision is to welcome the individual into the Jewish nation with a sign on his body demonstrating that he belongs. One might think that this should occur later, when the child would be able to appreciate its significance. Here, just as with the laws of niddah, patience and waiting are an integral part of the process. We must patiently trust that the Torah established the appropriate time for circumcision, just as it established the appropriate time for separation between husband and wife every month.

According to Rabbi Eliezer, "to seven" refers to the seventh day of the week, Shabbos. "And also to eight" are the eight days of circumcision. Shabbos can substitute for the laws of niddah from the previous interpretation because it also involves the trial of waiting. A person has so much work to do during the week, that he may want to continue on Shabbos, but he must stop his work, and wait patiently until Shabbos is over. He may incur a tremendous loss because of Shabbos, yet it must be clear to him that his refraining from work will not really cause him any loss in the long-run. G-d will protect him specifically because he observed this mitzvah.

Here also, the fitting reward for the patience of keeping Shabbos is a child, since as we explained, having a child requires much patience as one awaits his blossoming into an adult.

Rabbi Yehoshua said,"' Give a part to seven,' these are the seven days of Pesach. 'And also to eight,' these are the eight days of Sukkos. Since 'and also' seems to be superfluous to the simple meaning of the line, the verse comes to include Shavuos, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."

The days of Pesach are quite difficult for a person to observe, since one must refrain from eating bread, a most common and essential staple food. A person who is freed from slavery naturally feels the desire to celebrate his freedom, but refraining from eating bread is a very difficult way to express this desire. The reward for keeping Pesach is that a person receives the other holidays that are easier to observe: Sukkos, Shavuos, and Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur is easy to observe because we know that our sins will be forgiven. Since he had the patience to keep Pesach, he deserves to have holidays which are less difficult to observe.

Patience Leads to Success in Marriage

There is no marriage that does not require patience for I its success. During the days when the wife is ritually unclean, tension is commonly felt between the couple. This is a time for the husband to show his wife extra consideration. She is going through an unpleasant time, and needs all the support and patience that he can give.

On one hand, he is limited in how he can demonstrate his love for her, and yet he must show her that he cares about her. This is a tricky situation that requires a special balance. A husband should be aware that if he is not very careful in his way of speaking or behaving during this period, his wife will feel deep pain which will be difficult to rectify. Although he cannot be intimate with her, he can still smile at her. She should never be made to feel rejected.

When you see your wife bad-tempered or gloomy during these days, do not respond to her comments with anger, but rather you should speak calmly without raising your voice. Try to appreciate and understand her situation and respond with sensitivity.

Our Sages promise us the reward of a son for keeping the laws of niddah, yet another important reward will be that proper behavior in these days will strengthen the bonds between the couple and will enable them to enjoy the unrestricted days with greater love and closeness.

1. Vayikra 12:3
2. Koheles 11:2

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