Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
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- Thursday, November 23, '00 - Parshas Chayei Sara 5761

Midrash Beraishis Raba teaches how a husband should take care of a wife. The Torah writes (Genesis 12:8) that Avraham prioritized his wife before himself. Avraham traveled and pitched "oheloH (his tent)." In Hebrew, the suffix "H" makes a noun possessive in the feminine gender (i.e "her" object). The masculine possessive comes with the vowel "O" as a suffix (i.e. "his" object). The Torah in Genesis 12:8 uses the strange combination of vowel "O" and the consonant "H" with the noun "ohel (tent)." The translation of the text as spoken is "his tent," and the translation of the text as written is "her tent." So what is the meaning of the Torah's placing of this unusual "O" and "H" together? The midrash explains that Avraham first pitched the tent of Sara, his wife, before he pitched his own. We see this because the "H" is a consonant which is more dominant in Hebrew grammar than a vowel ("O"). The Torah is teaching us that whenever a husband needs to do something for himself and his wife, he must take care of his wife's needs first. This will apply to all forms of help, respect, kindness and consideration for his wife.

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter six) provides a wonderful lesson on giving benefit of doubt in a marriage context. "A man should never be strict about his meals. It once happened that Hillel the Elder invited a guest for a meal. A pauper came and stood at his door and said [to Hillel's wife], 'Today I am to marry a woman and I have no livelihood whatsoever.' [Hillel's] wife took the entire meal [which she made for her husband and his guest] and gave it to [the pauper]. After that, she kneaded another dough, cooked another meal and brought it and set it before them. [Hillel gently] said to her, 'My sweetheart, why did you not bring [the meal] to us immediately?' She described to him all that happened. He said to her, 'My sweetheart, I never judged you to be guilty. I only judged favorably, because all of your deeds were only done for the sake of Heaven.'"

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter eleven) teaches that "He who hates his wife is one who murders."

Kidushin (34b) says, "It is a man's obligation to make his wife happy."

Tractate Chulin (58b) has an aggadata (allegorical story). "For seven years a female mosquito quarrelled with [her husband] a male mosquito. She said to him, 'I once saw a human being from Mechuza [a town whose people enjoyed swimming] bathing in water. When he came out, he wrapped himself in a sheet. You came and settled down upon him and sucked out blood and you didn't let me know!'"

We see from this aggadata that a husband must share the pleasures of life with his wife. He must not keep or sneak them for himself and not hide from his wife what he does with his time. The Chazon Ish, possibly learning it from here, said that a husband must let his wife know when he's leaving, where he's going, what he is going to be doing and when he is going to be back. If he goes away on a journey, he must, every day, phone or write her a letter; and bring her gifts from the places that he visited. If he deprives her in any such ways, she will feel bad and "drive him crazy" about it "for seven years," meaning to say, for a long time.

Tractate Chulin (84b) says that a man should eat and drink less than in accordance with what he can afford, dress himself in accordance with what he can afford, and he should honor his wife and children more than in accordance with what he can afford. The wife and children are dependent on the husband, and the husband is dependent on the One Who Spoke And The World Was Created.

Tractate Shabos (62b) says that a man must never give a wife cause to curse him, for a justifiable curse (e.g. not spending on her in accordance with his means) can bring poverty. Tractate Shabos (118b) Rabbi Yosi called his wife his "home," never "wife." Rashi explains that Rabbi Yosi spoke with wisdom even in his plain speech. By referring to his wife as his "home," he is adding a message that she is the essence, the central figure of their house. Madrich LeChasonim [Guide To Grooms] explains Rabbi Yosi beautifully by writing: the home is the essence of life, the wife is the essence of the home, therefore the wife is the essence of life, to the husband. It seems appropriate to add that she transforms a "building" into a "home" and into a refuge from the world, where he may have fulfillment and independence.

Tractate Kesubos (61a) says that a husband must share the benefits of his life (e.g. wealth or honor in the community) with his wife...a wife is given to a man for life and not for pain (he should care for her so as to keep her from pain)...she is responsible for the performance of a wife's duties.

Tractate Kesubos (62b-63a) recounts how Rabbi Akiva's wife sacrificed to enable him to learn Torah and how he honored and appreciated her. Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest sages of the Talmud, grew up knowing no Torah. He was an uneducated shepherd. His employer's daughter recognized that he was modest and of superlative character. She said that if he would learn Torah she would marry him and he agreed. He married her and went away to yeshiva. Her wealthy father, infuriated that his daughter would marry the shepherd, disowned her. She lived in abject poverty and by herself for twelve years. When he returned, he had advanced to the point at which he had twelve thousand disciples. When he was arriving home, he heard an old man say to his wife, "How long will you live as a widow?" She replied, "I would have him learn another twelve years." Rabbi Akiva said, "This is her will," and he immediately about-faced and returned to yeshiva for another twelve years. When he returned home, he had twenty-four thousand disciples. When she heard that Rabbi Akiva was finally returning, she ran to meet him. Her clothes were those of a poor beggar and she fell on her face to kiss his feet. His students, thinking that this strange woman was publicly dishonoring their rabbi with immodest behavior, were about to push her aside. He told them to leave her alone and said to them, "All of my Torah and all of your Torah is hers!"

Tractate Sanhedrin (76b) says that a husband should adorn his wife with attractive jewels and ornaments, to make her more respectable (this is a practical, concrete way of attributing honor to his wife). Besides giving honor, these make a woman very happy (even though men may have trouble understanding why!).

Tractate Taanis (23b) tells us that Aba Chilkia was a tzadik. When there was a drought, the townspeople came to his home to ask him to pray to Hashem for rain. He and his wife went to the roof and went to the opposite corners to pray. The clouds formed over his wife (answering her prayer). The people asked why the rain came in the merit of her prayer (since he was a tzadik). He answered that when he gives kindness, he does it by giving money to the poor. When his wife gives kindness, she personally cooks and serves food herself; which is more direct, immediate and meaningful.