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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Marriage Built on a Foundation of Mutual Appreciation

And they shall make for me a temple; and I will dwell in their midst.
(SHEMOS 25:8)

In his youth, before Rabbi Yehoshua Zinberlast became a rabbi and Torah lecturer in the city of Minsk, he had a partnership with someone producing and selling wine.

Once they produced a large amount of wine and kept it in their store to sell for Pesach use. Obviously they were impatient to sell the wine, since they knew that their time was limited. Into the store walked a Jew from a suburb of Minsk, and ordered from Rabbi Yehoshua a large amount of wine.

After finishing the order, the customer asked Rabbi' Yehoshua if this store was indeed the store of Mr. Kashdan, the famous wine merchant of Minsk. Rabbi Yehoshua answered that the store did not belong to Mr. Kashdan. Upon hearing this, the customer canceled the order and left, going straight to Mr. Kashdan's store.

When Rabbi Yehoshua's partner heard what had happened, he was very angry and said to Rabbi Yehoshua, "If we shall lose more opportunities like this, we will never have enough time to sell all the wine that we prepared."

Rabbi Yehoshua pacified him saying, "You have nothing to be worried about. When a person is honest he does not lose anything because of his honesty. I am positive that we will sell all the wine that we prepared for Pesach, and even that amount will not suffice." That is exactly what happened. They were so successful that they sold all the wine they had, and could not supply the demand.

Rabbi Yehoshua's integrity stemmed from his recognition that G-d runs the world, and that it would be wrong to repay His kindness with dishonesty. In marriage also we must be careful to repay the kindness of our spouses properly.

Moshe heard three things from G-d which made him recoil in astonishment. When G-d told him, "And they shall make for Me a temple," 1 Moshe replied, "Master of the Universe, it is written, 'Behold the heavens and the heaven of the heavens cannot contain You,' 2 and You say to me 'Make for Me a temple.' "3

G-d answered him, "Moshe, My command is not as you think. Rather, make it twenty boards to the north, twenty boards to the South, and eight to the west, and I will descend and limit my Holy Presence below, as it is written, 'And I will meet you there, and I will speak with you, etc.' "4

And when He said, "The sacrifice of My bread," 5 Moshe said, "If I would gather all the animals of the world, would there be enough for even one sacrifice? If I would gather all the firewood in the world, would there be enough for one burnt offering? 'In Lebanon there is not enough [wood] for burning, and the animals are not enough for even a single burnt sacrifice.' " 6

G-d answered him, "My command is not as you think. Rather, 'This is the fire offering that you shall sacrifice to G-d: lambs.' 7 And not two at one time, rather, 'One lamb shall you sacrifice in the morning.' " 8

When He said, "And each person shall give the worth of his soul,"9 Moshe said, "Who can give the worth of his soul? 'A brother cannot redeem his soul, and the redemption of their soul is precious.

G-d answered him, "My command is not as you think, rather 'This is what you shall give.' " 11
(YALKUT 365)

How can we understand that it is enough for G-d to have a few boards for His dwelling? What was the essence of G-d's answers to Moshe's questions? Why didn't Moshe realize all this himself without G-d's explanation?

It is enough for G-d to have a small structure for a dwelling, since He really has no need for a dwelling, for He occupies the whole universe. Building a dwelling for G-d is really done for our benefit, so that we have a place to worship Him. Hence the size has no significance, since we cannot even remotely approximate a suitable dwelling for Him. The Torah's specifications of how to make the Mishkan, the Tent of Assembly, only give us the guidelines for fulfilling the mitzvah of making the building, but the Torah does not claim that such a dwelling will suffice to adequately encompass His presence.

Moshe realized this, but still could not understand how such a simple structure could adequately represent G-d's dwelling. He thought that it should at least be the size of a king's palace. Only that could begin to do justice to the human conception of making a dwelling for G-d.

But G-d's answer was that there was no need to make anything that approximates His grandeur. The whole purpose of the structure was only symbolic. It need only be a place where His Divine Presence could be found, a place to worship Him, and this need have no relation to size at all.

And when He said, "The sacrifice of My bread," 12 Moshe said, "If I will gather all the animals of the world, is there enough for even one sacrifice?" Since G-d had mentioned "bread," Moshe understood that we were to bring sacrifices as a meal for Him. But how is it possible for a human being to prepare enough animals for Him?

Hashem answered that it was not a matter of giving food to Him, rather the idea was to sacrifice food so that we would acknowledge that all sustenance in the world belongs to Him. There was no attempt made to provide Him with an adequate portion of food, rather it was done merely to symbolically satisfy the need we have to show our appreciation of Him. When G-d said, "And each person shall give the value of his soul,"13 Moshe said, "Who can give the value of his soul?" Here the commandment was to give money which is symbolically compared to the value of a person's soul. Moshe thought that even if a person had all the money in the world, it would still not represent the value of a person's soul, since the soul is spiritual, while money is material and there is no way to compare the two.

But G-d's answered that this money is only a token of how much a person owes to G-d. A person should not be fooled by the wealth that he has, since one could never sufficiently repay all the good G-d has bestowed on him'. We must give this money to show our willingness to give our wealth back to G-d.

Repaying A Spouse's Kindness

It is also not possible to repay all the kindness that one receives from his spouse. How can a husband repay his wife for what she does for him at home, her devoted services of cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, shopping, and raising children? And similarly, how can a wife repay her husband for his financial support, household repairs, tutoring of the children, doing chores around the house, and constant companionship? All the money in the world cannot repay the love and devotion that spouses demonstrate for one another.

Just as G-d wants us to show appreciation to Him, so must show appreciation to our spouses. Even if we only something symbolic for our spouses, this can prove that care. It is not enough to simply feel appreciation in your heart. You should also constantly inform your spouse, both in words and actions, how much you appreciate everything he or she does for you. You must regularly show gratitude in some special way.

Of course, you are not expected to bring your wife a diamond ring every day, just as G-d did not expect us to build Him a palace when He asked for a dwelling. But you are expected to constantly show that you care and that you appreciate the fact that someone is devoted to you.

By showing your spouse in even small ways your love and appreciation, the bond between a couple strengthens and grows. If there is no feedback, then the will to be devoted slowly fades. Your spouse will be reluctant to do anything for you, since he or she will feel it will go unappreciated, so why bother.

In order to be able to show appreciation to your spouse, you must first feel it inside your heart. To do that you must set aside time to think about the many things your spouse does for you. This comes with practice. Try writing down all the things your spouse does for you and repeat them to yours every day. When you think of something else that was not previously on the list, add it on. By repeating every day all the things your spouse does for you, you will gradually begin to feel real appreciation, and then you will also be able express it in the proper manner.

Our Sages say, "Someone who honors his parents, it is as if he honors G-d." 14 This teaching alludes to the link between honoring parents and honoring G-d. One who does not honor his parents will have great difficulty honoring G-d. A similar idea applies to your spouse. If you do not honor your spouse, that is a sign that you do not appreciate the things that your spouse does for you. If you don't appreciate your spouse whose existence is made obvious by her flesh and blood, how can you possibly appreciate G-d, who is far more difficult to appreciate, since we can not even properly conceptualize Him.

Lack of appreciation stems from haughtiness. A haughty person thinks that he deserves everything which comes to him. Why should he thank anyone, when he expects everyone to serve him. This attitude is of course wrong, as our Sages say, "Be very humble in spirit." 15 A modest person says to himself that he really deserves nothing from his spouse. He then realizes that everything he receives is pure kindness. Someone with such an attitude will always appreciate whatever he receives.

Practice appreciation by saying thank you every time your spouse does something for you, and by bringing a gift to your spouse occasionally. Ask G-d to help you appreciate what you receive from your spouse.

You should be thankful because that is what is expected from a human being. But also be aware that it is also a good investment towards building a solid marriage.

1. Shemos 25:8
2. Melachim 18:27
3. Shemos 25:8
4. Sbemos 25:22
5. Bemidbar 28:2
6. Yeshayahu 40:16
7. Bemidbar 28:3
8. Ibid.
9. Shemos 30:12
10, Tebillim 49:8
11, Sbemos 30:13
12. Bemidbar 28:2
13. Shemos 30:12
14. Kiddushin 30b
15. Pirkei Avos 4:4

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