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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler

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Tetzaveh - II

Knock Before You Enter

And on the bottom of it you shall make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about its hem; and alternate bells of gold between them all around. (SHEMOS 28:33)

A rich woman, who lived in Hungary, was childless. Once she came to the local rabbi with four hundred guilders, and

asked the rabbi to send the money to a tzaddik who would pray for her to have children. The rabbi suggested that the money be sent to Rabbi Yoseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Rabbi of Jerusalem, to which the woman agreed.

About three weeks later, the woman's husband arrived at the rabbi's house with a complaint. How could the rabbi have agreed to send such a large sum of money without his consent? The rabbi claimed that he naturally assumed that the husband had agreed, and was unaware that his wife had acted without her husband's consent. The husband did not accept this excuse, and demanded that the rabbi write a letter to Rabbi Sonnenfeld, requesting that the money be returned.

It would have been very unpleasant for the rabbi to do such a thing, so he suggested that he would be willing to pay the entire amount out of his own pocket. The husband agreed to this and they began working out the details of repayment, since the rabbi did not have the entire amount to pay him at once.

At that moment, the postman knocked on the door an announced that the rabbi had received a registered letter from Jerusalem. The rabbi glanced at the name of the sender, and saw was none other than Rabbi Sonnenfeld. He opened the letter an found inside the four hundred guilders that he had sent to the rabbi. The husband was quite excited over the incident, and asked the rabbi to please read him what Rabbi Sonnenfeld had written in the enclosed letter. The rabbi agreed and read the following:

"I received your letter together with the money. But since the letter stated that you had received the money from the wife, I am afraid that she might have done this without her husband's consent Therefore I am returning the money, which you should please give back to the woman immediately. But, of course, I have not lessened my prayers for her, and I certainly hope that G-d will fulfill her request."

The rabbi and the husband both had tears in their eyes after reading the letter, and the husband then wholeheartedly agreed that the money should be sent back to Rabbi Sonnenfeld right away.


Rabbi Sonnenfeld was very careful not to intrude on the husband's authority and was careful to seek his consent. This sort of sensitivity is important in marriage where both husband and wife must go to great lengths to be considerate of one another.

The mantle worn by the Kohen Gadol was made of sky-blue wool. It was sleeveless and had two openings for the arms. Its top hem was secured with a heavy double border. Attached to its bottom hem were seventy-two hollow ornaments in the shape of pomegranates alternating with seventy-two golden bells.

These bells tinkled to announce the Kohen Gadol's arrival in the Mishkan and his departure from it.

From this fact that the Kohen Gadol's entry was announced by bells, we learn that a person should not enter his own home unexpectedly. It follows as a consequence, then, that he should certainly not burst into someone else's home but should knock or indicate his arrival in some other manner.

(YALKUT 67, quoted in THE MIDRASH SAYS, p. 296)

Why is it so important for a person not to enter his own home unexpectedly? Why does this also apply to someone else's home? Why is it necessary for the midrash to mention this rule with regards to both one's own home as well as another person's home?

Even though spouses commonly share everything and are not embarrassed in the presence of one another, there may be things one prefers to do in private. By entering the house without knocking, you can embarrass your spouse unintentionally.

The Kohen Gadol, who wore bells to announce his arrival, was doing something which was really superfluous, since he wore the bells only to enter the Mishkan, where no one was doing anything private. But the Torah wants to teach us a lesson. Even when you know that no one is doing anything that can be disturbed, nevertheless you should train yourself always to knock, so that you should never cause anyone embarrassment, even unintentionally.

The midrash continues that this rule certainly applies to other people's houses. This concept could be logically derived from the idea of not entering your own home unannounced, because in someone else's home we need to be extra cautious as we are their guests. For the Kohen Gadol it was as if he were walking into his own dwelling, since he was the one who led the activities in the Mishkan. Nevertheless, he was obligated to announce his imminent arrival by wearing bells.

How much more so, then, must this apply when entering a stranger's dwelling.

Don't Intrude on Your Spouse
or Upon Anyone Else

It was necessary for our Sages to emphasize both, not to intrude on one's spouse's privacy and not to intrude on anyone else's privacy. To emphasize just one of these principles would not have been enough. For if only a spouse had been mentioned, one might have thought that since a spouse is always sensitive to his partner's mistakes and is very easily hurt, this rule is limited to spouses because someone else will not be so sensitive. Therefore it was necessary to explicitly mention other people as well. On the other hand, if only a stranger's home was mentioned, one might have thought that it was important not to intrude on a stranger, but this principle would not apply to your own spouse, since privacy is not really important to married couples. Therefore the Torah deliberately emphasizes both aspects, to teach us how important it is not to cause any embarrassment or unpleasantness either to our spouses or others.

The lesson that we can learn here is twofold. First of all, one must always respect the privacy of our spouse. Even though we share everything in marriage, nevertheless each spouse is also entitled to his or her own privacy. You should not look into everything that your spouse does. It only causes bad feelings to arise between the couple. If there is no trust between spouses, then something is lacking in the basic fabric of the marriage. Someone who does not respect his spouse's privacy is similar to someone who steals (as he is stealing his privacy).

If a person cannot respect his spouse's privacy, it is very probable that his spouse's other wishes will also not be respected. It is a simple, basic act of chesed to try to do what someone requests of you whether it be to respect their privacy or anything else. Some people have the wrong attitude and when a spouse asks them to do something, instead of helping, they react angrily and say, "What am I? A servant! You do it yourself." A person should rather look at the other person's request as an opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of doing chesed and be grateful for having such an opportunity.

A second lesson we can learn from this is how careful we must be not to embarrass our spouses. The utmost care must be taken to ensure that there are no ill feelings between spouses. Never have the attitude that "I can do what I want because I know my wife loves me." This would be a terrible mistake. Your spouse loves you because you treat her properly.

Taking advantage of your spouse's love to do things against her will is unfair. Because she is kind to you and loves you, is that an excuse to be so mean as to do things against her will? If a husband knows that his wife does not like him coming home late, he should do everything possible to prevent that from happening. He should not take advantage of her by saying that she will forgive him. If a wife knows that her husband likes food to be ready when he comes home, she should do everything possible to have it ready on time, and not depend on the fact that her husband will forgive her if it is not ready. Our spouses are very sensitive, and they expect love and affection from us. When they receive the opposite, they are greatly offended. Therefore we must do everything in our power not to hurt our spouses in any way, even unintentionally, as demonstrated by the prohibition against walking into a house without knocking.

Our Sages teach us to be constantly prepared to avoid causing any ill feelings. Some further examples of this important principle are: do not turn on the light or make any noise when your spouse is sleeping; do not demand dinner immediately when it is obvious that it is not yet ready; do r ask your spouse to give up something he or she is very attach to; do not ask your spouse to go out with you when you know she has other plans; do not do anything which revolts or ups your spouse; do not leave a mess behind you. just as you want your spouse to be pleasant and attractive to you, you should endeavor to be pleasant and attractive to your spouse. You should shower, put on nice clothes, and brush your teeth. These simple things make it more pleasant to be in your company. Even the most attractive man or woman become unpleasant when elementary matters of cleanliness a neatness are not taken care of. Even if it is a bother continually look after your appearance, think of it as a chesed that you can do for your spouse and also as a mitzvah.

This is especially true if relations are strained between a coup Besides making yourself more attractive to your spouse, this will also boost your self-confidence. You feel better when you are clean and tidy, and you will be back on the track improving your relationship with your spouse.

A person is required to be sensitive to others constantly and always try to be considerate. It is not enough that you w considerate at the beginning of your marriage, but have now things slide. Any mistake made now will be harmful to your marriage. Think of the golden rule constantly, "What is hated by you, do -not do to others." 1 Always keep this in mind, home and elsewhere. When that becomes your guideline in life you will find that your spouse will love and cherish you, and your marriage will be one of joy between beloved companions.

1. Shabbos 31a

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