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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler

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Vayakhel - II

Having A Good Marriage Takes Wisdom

And He has filled him [Betzalel] with the spirit of G-d, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship. (SHEMOS 35:31)

One year before Pesach, Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Meisels, the Rabbi of Lodz, made great efforts to arrange for the twelve thousand Jewish soldiers who were camping near the city to be allowed time off so that they would be able celebrate the seder night. On erev Pesach, Rabbi Meisels discovered, to his dismay, that only ten thousand of the soldiers had been given leave, while the other two thousand remained in the army camp where they would be unable to have a seder.

The Rabbi decided that he would neither start his own seder, nor even enter his house, before he had made one last attempt to free the other two thousand soldiers. He tried to find out the address of the commanding general, but he received only the following information: that the general was in a closed army camp which no civilian was allowed to enter.

The Rabbi asked of one of the city's elders to accompany him, and together they went to the army camp. When they arrived, they saw that it was entirely fenced off. Having no other choice, the Rabbi jumped over the fence. A military guard immediately approached to apprehend him. To his surprise, he found that the intruder was an elderly gentleman dressed in Rabbi's garb and was also wearing medals that he had received from the Russian king. The Rabbi told him that he had come to try to get leave for the two thousand Jewish soldiers who were still in the camp. The guard went to notify the general, who allowed the Rabbi in to see him.

The general asked, "How did you dare to enter a closed camp?

The Rabbi burst Into tears and told the general how the plight of the two thousand soldiers who had not been freed had not left him any peace of mind. The general was very impressed by the kind heart and the devotion of the Rabbi, and gave orders to immediately let out the two thousand soldiers still in the camp. Only then did the Rabbi return home and begin his own seder, a four o'clock in the morning!


Rabbi Meisels' efforts to gain freedom for the soldiers on the seder night required great wisdom in addition to his obvious courage. In marriage also, we must use our wisdom to find success.

"And Betzalel made the Ark."1 "Give to the wise man and he will become even wiser; "2 this is Betzalel.

When Moshe said to Betzalel, "Make a Mishkan" Betzalel answered, "What is the reason for making a Mishkan?"

Moshe answered, "So the Divine Presence can dwell there and teach Torah to Israel." Betzalel said, "But where will the Torah be placed?"

Moshe answered, "After making the Mishkan we shall make an ark [to place the Torah in]." But Betzalel started with the Ark, as it is written, "And Betzalel made the Ark."

(YALKUT 414)

Why does the midrash quote the verse, "Give to the wise man and he will become even wiser?" Did Betzalel do the wrong thing by disobeying Moshe? Why was Betzalel so concerned about a place for the Torah, apparently even more so than for a place for the Divine Presence? Why did Moshe think differently from Betzalel?

It seems that when G-d told Moshe to make the Ark and the Mishkan, he did not specify any special order. Hence Moshe reasoned that the first thing required was to build the Mishkan, which is similar to a house, so that the Divine Presence can dwell there along with the utensils of the Mishkan. If the Ark were to be built first, there would be nowhere to put it, just as a person builds a house, and only afterwards buys furniture. Moshe felt it would be a disgrace to the Ark to have nowhere to put it.

Betzalel felt that G-d's primary wish was to give the Torah to the Jewish people. The Torah is the source of how to live our lives and instructs us how to serve Him properly. There is nothing more important to G-d than for us to have a fulfilling life, and that is only possible through the Torah.

Betzalel figured that since the Ark was to house the holy Torah, it was not like the other utensils in the Mishkan. The Torah cannot be compared to anything in the world and is the reason for the world's existence, as the verse says, "If not for my convenant day and night, I would not put into existence the foundations of the heavens and the earth."3 Hence, Betzalel reasoned that it was not a disgrace for the Ark to be without a Mishkan, since by building a place to put the Torah first, we are showing the importance of the Torah which takes precedence over anything else.

While it is true that the Mishkan represented our service to Hashem, since it is there that we could bring the sacrifices the incense, and perform the other services required of us even so there is nothing which concentrates more purely on knowing and learning His will than the Torah. There Betzalel felt that the proper order was first to make the Ark which would hold the holy Torah, and only afterwards to set up the Mishkan. Even though the Ark would have nowhere to be put, since the Mishkan would not yet have been built, this would not be considered a disgrace since this sequencing was done for a purpose. The purpose was to teach the Jewish people the unmatched importance of the Torah in the lives of every Jew.

"Give to the wise man and he will become even wiser."4This praise referred to Betzalel, since he understood what G-d really wanted in building the Mishkan and the Ark without receiving explicit instructions.

Use Wisdom to Understand
Your Spouse's Needs

Just as G-d was not explicit about His wishes concerning the order of the building of the Mishkan and the Ark, so too in marriage, many times our spouses do not tell us exactly what they really want and we have to be like Betzalel, and use our wisdom and our intuition to figure it out.

If a husband comes home and sees that everything is a mess, he should deduce that his wife had a hectic day, and she needs a helping hand. It is obvious that his wife does not like the house to be a mess, but she simply had too many things to do and was not able to control the situation. Also if she is tired or irritable, you can assume that she has had a rough day, and you cannot expect her to smile or be in good spirits on such a day.

A wife should also be able to deduce from her husband's actions his emotional state. If he is late, she should understand that he had a lot of work to do, and she should try not to burden him any more. If he is smiling and happy she should also try to match that mood so that she does no disturb his happiness. She must always try to be aware of he husband's mood, so that she can adapt to it and respond appropriately.

The worst thing to do is for each partner in the marriage to continue what he or she is doing without considering their spouse's mood. Each should be considerate and attentive o the other and find ways to help their spouse have a more pleasant day. Focus on trying to think, "What would my spouse like me to do for him right now?" By being thoughtful, a person can do so much chesed. We can learn from the above story about Rabbi Meisels to what extent our chesed should go.

These principles are especially true concerning intimate relations between a husband and wife. One must always be alert to signs that one's spouse is interested in having relations. Not showing interest when one's spouse hints can be very insulting. If for some reason one is not interested this should be discussed so that no hard feelings are felt by the other side.

If your spouse says to you, "You know my birthday is coming up" or "Our anniversary is coming up," this is a clear hint that something has to be done to celebrate the event. Never say, "So what?" That is like giving a slap in the face.

You might ask, but how am I supposed to figure out what the other person is thinking when nothing is said? This is a legitimate question in one sense, and to make communications easier, one should try to be as open and direct in expressing one's needs as possible. However, do no rely on consistently clear communication because this is very undependable. To bridge the communication gap, you should endeavor to train yourself to be sensitive, just like you can learn how to drive or type. If you are determined, this is an achievable goal. Since success here depends on your will to do chesed, the best training is for you to strive constantly to do chesed for your spouse. Every day do something to make your spouse happy. Once you get in the habit of doing chesed, you will start to feel your spouse's needs even before they are expressed.

You must constantly focus on how you can do more chesed for your spouse. Think of ways to make your spouse happy and work on doing those things. If this is your objective, and you practice doing it, then it will become second nature for you to understand your spouse's needs and feelings.

Understanding things that are not said explicitly is called wisdom, as alluded to in the above midrash. We must use wisdom and kindness to find the path to our spouse's heart. If G-d gave a person wisdom, he must use it not only in his work or in learning Torah, but also in building a better relationship with his spouse. Reaching the goal of a happy marriage will certainly be worth the effort.

1. Shemos 37.1
2. Mishleii 9:9
3. Yirmeyahu 33:25
4. Mishlei 9.9

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