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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Proceed With Care

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day shall be to you a holy day, a Shabbos of rest to the Lord: whoever does work on it shall be put to death. (SHEMOS 35:2)

It was the custom of the Rabbi of Belz, Rabbi Yehoshua I Rokach, to wander through his beis mdrash among his hundreds of congregants every Yom Kippur afternoon, looking into their eyes with a penetrating look. This custom caused quite a bit of curiosity among the people as they tried to figure out the purpose for his action. Some thought that because he was such a tzaddik, he had the power to see whether or not each person's sins were being forgiven just by looking into their eyes. Others gave different, sometimes mystical, explanations, but no one knew the real reason.

It remained a mystery until one Yom Kippur afternoon while he was walking around in the beis midrash, suddenly one of the people became seriously and dangerously ill due to the fast. The Rabbi immediately ran over to him, took a piece of cake out of his pocket and quickly placed it into the man's mouth. With that the person's expression changed and the danger passed.

Rabbi's strange custom. He was looking carefully to see if anyone was in danger because of the fast. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. I5)

The Rabbi of Belz took great interest and care in the welfare of his congregants. So must we also in marriage take great interest and care in the welfare of our spouses.

"Whoever does work on it [the Shabbos] shall be put to death."  Rabbi Yehudah ben Beseiyra said, "If gentiles are surrounding the cities of Israel, and Israel desecrated the Shabbos [to save themselves from their enemies], they shall not say since we have desecrated a part of the Shabbos, we shall desecrate it entirely. The verse teaches us, 'Those that desecrate it shall be put to death'2 as quickly as the blink of an eye."

Rabbi Eliezer ben Partah said, "How do you know that anyone who keeps the Shabbos is considered as if he made [justifies the creation of] the Shabbos? As it is written, 'And the sons of Israel kept the Shabbos) to make the Shabbos for their generations.'" 3

Rebbi said, "How do you know that whoever keeps one Shabbos, as it is supposed to be is considered as if he kept all the Shabbosos, from the day that G-d created them until the time that the dead will come back to life? As it is written, 'And the sons of Israel kept the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations.' " 4 (YALKUT 409)

Why would someone think that once a part of the Shabbos has been desecrated, it could be entirely desecrated? Why is the conclusion otherwise? What does it mean that someone who keeps the Shabbos is as if he made or justifies the creation of the Shabbos? Why is someone who keeps one Shabbos considered as if he has kept all the Shabbosos of all the generations?

When Jews must desecrate most of the Shabbos in order to save their lives from surrounding enemies, one might think that this Shabbos is already lost. The atmosphere and holiness of Shabbos are gone, and someone might well assume that it makes no difference if he desecrates it even more, since he has been doing so the entire day until now. But this is a mistake, since every second of the Shabbos has holiness. Even though you may have been desecrating it for the major part of the day, you are still not allowed to continue doing so for even one second more than is necessary.

The same action that was allowed a moment ago now becomes prohibited and the transgression is so severe that the death penalty is administered for it. This gives us some idea to what degree a Jew must be able to control his actions. He can be doing something for the'major part of the day, but if out of habit he continues to do so after it becomes forbidden, the punishment is severe. Doing something in the past gives no justification for doing it in the present. We must constantly live up to the demands of the present moment, regardless of our previous actions.

Keeping the Shabbos is just like making [justifies the creation of] the Shabbos, say our Sages. The reason for this is that Shabbos only has value when Jews keep it. There is no point in having a world with a purely theoretical concept of Shabbos. The Shabbos was not made for G-d, and He did not rest from the creation on the seventh day for His own sake because He was "tired." He rested on the seventh day to give us an example, so that we can understand how important Shabbos is.

The whole purpose for our resting on the seventh day is to gave us an opportunity to show our commitment to our belief in Hashem. When we rest, we are testifying that He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth and all that there is in the world. Therefore, if we do not rest, it is as if we are saying that we do not believe in the Creation. This would mean that we are denying His existence. That is why keeping the Shabbos is so important, and the punishment for not keeping it is death. That is also why someone who does not keep Shabbos is considered as if he is worshipping idols.

By keeping Shabbos one is in effect announcing, "I believe in G-d and I believe that He created the world." That is why keeping the Shabbos is similar to making [or justifies the making of] the Shabbos.

Someone who keeps one Shabbos is considered as if he kept all the Shabbosos of all the generations. The reason for this is because keeping one single Shabbos is so great, that it is not considered as if we kept a fraction of all the Shabbosos that there are, but as if we kept all of them. This teaches us what an impact our actions have, and how great is our reward. For keeping one single Shabbos the reward is as if we kept all of them. Shabbos is so dear to G-d, that He is giving such a tremendous reward. He wants us to know how important Shabbos is, by telling us of the great reward.

This also teaches us what effort we must put into every single Shabbos. If every Shabbos has the same importance as all the Shabbosos in all the generations, then we cannot afford to be lenient in any of the laws of Shabbos. Shabbos must be kept with the utmost care. If we were to make one mistake, it is as if it will reverberate throughout the generations, since every Shabbos has the importance of all the Shabbosos since the time of Creation.

Marriage is Like Shabbos

This last mentioned concept is similar to a dimension of marriage. Specifically, that the consequences for a lack of caution and care go well beyond the immediate and apparent. We must take great care not to harm the precious relationship that we have with our spouses. Ruining the relationship is like ruining the whole world, since every spouse looks to his or her partner with the utmost hope and love. When we let them down we are destroying their world. You do not have to make a great effort to destroy your spouse's world. Just one careless insult, and it's done.

We know that before we do anything on Shabbos, we must carefully consider whether or not it is permitted, since many habitual and common actions that we do the rest of the week can be forbidden either by the Torah or by the Sages. One who acts impulsively on Shabbos will surely stumble. The same is true with marriage. You must be very careful before you say anything tO your spouse. You cannot just blurt out the first thing that comes into your head, because you may be saying something that will hurt your spouse's feelings. Consider every word before you speak.

The same need for forethought applies to any of your actions. If you start some project which might cause you to come home late, seriously weigh the options, and even better, discuss it with your spouse if possible. If you wish to bring guests home, ask your spouse first if it is comfortable for her, or if she prefers privacy. If you are careful, you will save your spouse from inconvenience and yourself from quarrels. The cautiousness of Rabbi Yehoshua in the above story may have saved a person's life.

Another way in which Shabbos is similar to marriage is in holiness. Just as Shabbos is holy, so too is the bond between a husband and wife. Our Sages say that when a man and his wife are together, G-d dwells amongst them.5 This might be because holiness comes with completion, and a man is not complete without a wife. This could also be the reason for the holiness of the Shabbos. Shabbos signifies the completion of the world, as our Sages say, "What was the world missing? Peace. Shabbos came and peace came."6

Only when we realize how great is our responsibility, can we do justice to our marriage. We are building generations. When a marriage is stable and loving, our children feel the hohness, and they pass it on to their children. It is an inheritance of love and understanding, a bond that we hand over to the next generation when we have peace in our marriage. If there is no harmony, this is also communicated to the next generation, and it can be a tragedy that will be felt by our children and even, G-d forbid, for generations to come.

Similarly, just as when someone desecrates part of Shabbos but has no right to desecrate the remainder of Shabbos, so too if so far we have not succeeded in having peace and holiness in our marriage, we must not continue in that way. Every moment of marriage is precious and we can always begin rebuilding it on stronger foundations. If we have not done so in the past, we can and must start right now.

Never say, "I will start tomorrow", when you can start today. Every day is a whole world, like every Shabbos, and you can always begin to mend any cracks that might exist m your marriage. Sit down with your spouse and discuss in what way your relationship can be improved. Ask your spouse to offer constructive criticism, so that you can learn what you are doing wrong and how you can improve. When you hear the criticism, take it positively, and try to do something about it, "In the way that a person wants to go, G-d leads him,"7 say our Sages. When we try to improve our marriages, G-d will surely help us to succeed.

1. Shemos 35:2
2. Shemos 31:14
3. Shemos 31:16
4. Shemos 31:16
5. Bereshis Rabbah 22:2
6. Rashi Bereshis 2:2
7. Makkos 10b

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