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Arguments Can Be Fatal

And Ya'akov cooked a stew, and Esav came from the field, and he was faint. (BERESHIS 25:29)

In the Old City of Jerusalem about seventy years ago, laundry was all done by hand and required a tremendous amount of work. It was usually a six-hour job and the whole family often pitched in to help. One such family had just finished their laundry and the wife had hung it out to dry in the yard which she shared with her neighbors.

Just then, one of the neighbors walked into the yard and was annoyed by the hanging laundry, which was in her way. Instead of walking around or under the laundry, she became very angry, and quickly went home to get scissors to cut the ropes that held the laundry. When she returned and cut the ropes, everything fell into the muddy, unpaved yard and became soiled.

When the woman who had just hung out the laundry saw what had happened and realized that six hours of hard work had been wasted, she felt herself becoming angry and wanted to take revenge on her neighbor, who was just retreating into her house with a malicious smile on her face and her scissors neatly tucked in her apron pocket. But after a few minutes, she managed to calm herself down and decided not to do anything. She said to herself, "I probably deserve this and now I will have forgiveness for my sins."

And so she went about the chore of redoing the laundry, and after much labor, was able once again to hang up the laundry, this time somewhere out of sight of her angry neighbor. At long last she was able to return home, completely exhausted, but with clean laundry. When her husband returned home that evening she did not reveal the terrible burden that had fallen upon her that day.

The whole matter might have remained a secret, if the neighbor had not come knocking on her door that evening to apologize. She said that her son had suddenly become ill with a high fever, and she feared that she was being punished for the evil deed she had done to her neighbor. Only in this way was the story revealed.

The woman who had the courage to repress her anger was rewarded from Heaven with the birth of a son the following year who later became one of the leading Torah scholars in Jerusalem. C'TZE5 HA-SHEMESH Bl-GVURASO, p. 230)

The wise woman realized that there was no use in making an argument over her neighbor's actions. It is wiser to be silent and to forgive. This is wise advice in marriage also, as every spouse is bound to make mistakes, and arguing is generally futile.

"AndYa'akov cooked a stew." We have [earned that on the day that Avraham passed away, Ya'akov made a dish of lentils to comfort Yitzchak for the loss of his father, Avraham. What is so special about lentils, that they were used for this stew? Just as lentils are round, so is mourning around." This means that mourning is like a ball that constantly turns around, because just as a person mourns others, in the end he will also die and others will mourn his death. Others say lentils were used because just as lentils do not have a mouth, so also does the mourner have no mouth. This means that a mourner is so stricken by the calamity that has befallen him that he cannot speak. (YALKUT 110, par. Vayazed)

Why do mourners need to eat lentils, when it is already apparent that death is a reality? What does the idea of lentils not having a mouth teach us in practical terms?

The eating of lentils, as previously mentioned, is symbolic of the realization that not only do other people die, but even we ourselves will die. This is represented by the fact that the mourners themselves have to eat the lentils. This act is to clarify and emphasize to the mourners that they will also be affected by death and will themselves be mourned just as they are mourning others.

The idea of lentils not having a mouth teaches us that the best thing to do when one is in mourning is to keep quiet. When a person talks a lot during mourning, he tends to forget about his mourning and the implications of death. By keeping quiet and reflecting on his loss, he will come to the proper conclusions that death comes to teach us.

Death comes to teach us that we must wake up and take a personal inventory, so that we will be able to improve ourselves spiritually while it is still possible. As the verse says, "At all times shall your clothes be white." 2 This means that no person knows when his time will come, since the day of death is kept a secret from us. Our task is to be ready at all times, with good actions, mitzvos and "white clothes," meaning that we should always strive to be without sins.

What can be done today should not be put off until tomorrow. Through laziness the roof will sag,"3 says King Shlomo. A person must be quick and energetic to set right his spiritual concerns just as he is with his worldly concerns.

What needs repairing spiritually must be repaired now, and procrastinating only makes matters worse. People have the tendency to look for excuses for not doing what they should do. "The lazy man says there is a lion outside."4 There is no end to the excuses a person can find when he does not want to do something. But when he wants to do something he gets up right away and acts quickly. This shows that if you want to do something you will not resort to excuses, and if you do find excuses, you really do not want to do it. That is human nature.

Fix Your Marriage Now

Repairing a marriage is something that must be done without any delay at all. We cannot afford to have ill feelings towards our spouses. If something bothers us we must speak up immediately so that everything can be cleared up. It is a good policy to settle all arguments before you go to sleep each night, and leave over no resentment or misunderstanding for the next day. If necessary, a rabbi or counselor can be called to hear both sides and help resolve the dispute.

The important thing to remember is that most people argue about minor things and forget the real reason for their marriage. For example, they might argue about how much money should be spent and what should be bought. But if they were to step back and think about it, is that the reason they got married? To debate money matters? Of course not! Marriage is to have children, to show kindness towards one another and to have a companion in life. These are the real reasons for marriage. Putting arguments into perspective by looking at the larger picture can often help.

A person must also learn to give in and not be stubborn. What is so horrible about your spouse being right and you being wrong? Even if in reality it is not that way, it is better to accept the blame than to continue an argument that causes disruption. People fight about every little thing, hardly realizing that they are making a mountain of a molehill. It is almost impossible to find a good reason to justify arguing with your spouse. In almost every case you can give in and nothing major will happen as a result.

By failing to keep arguments about trivial issues in perspective, these disputes can blow up into major problems. But if a couple always keeps in mind the goals of marriage, then arguments are not likely to get out of hand. It is preferable to answer quietly or not to answer at all when an argument is brewing. It takes two to argue, and when no response is given, the spouse who is angry will give up the argument. It is hard not to answer back, but it is definitely the wisest thing to do.

Just as the lentils are a symbol for a person to take action, so too any disagreement between spouses is a sign that they must do something quickly to keep their marriage intact. Just as people die, so too can a marriage, and it is the responsibility of each couple, working as a team, to keep it constantly alive and well.

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