||WHEN MARITAL DIFFERENCES ROCK THE BOAT
- Thursday, June 21, '01 - Parshas Korach 5761
From the Torah's story of Korach, we know how evil and destructive
fighting is. Regarding marriage, the sages say (Derech Eretz Zuta, chapter
nine), "A home with dissention is destroyed." A husband and wife cleave
together "as one flesh" (Genesis 2:25), "The happiness of a heart is a wife"
(Shabos 152a), "A woman's husband makes her happy" (Rosh HaShana 6b). A
happy, attached and peaceful marriage is not only possible, it is axiomatic.
The Chofetz Chayim once hired a coach in a rural area. The driver stopped
and said, "I am going to steal some hay from this farm for my horse to eat.
Warn me if someone sees." As he was about to pick up some hay piled near the
road, the Chofetz Chayim screamed, "Er kukt (someone sees)!" The driver ran
back, cracked his whip, sped off and then asked, "I didn't see anyone. Who
saw?" The Chofetz Chayim pointed upward. The One above always sees.
Vayikra Raba (Emor) tells of two friends. One sold a carob tree to the
other. The buyer found a fortune of jewels in the trunk. Not wanting to be a
thief, he insisted that the seller take the treasure back. The seller said
that he sold the tree "as is" and taking the fortune would make him the
thief! Both insisted that the other take it, and neither would. They went to
the king, who ruled that one's son marry the other's daughter and to give the
fortune to the couple. A Jewish fight starts with feeling yourselves to be
loving friends, who could not think of hurting or shortchanging the other;
and, to do so would be criminal. Each wants the other to win and plays the
lawyer for the other's side of the story, and advocate for the other's good.
When the two cannot settle the matter themselves, refer to the King - Hashem,
His Torah, a known rov who is an expert in the subject of the question.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 32b) asks how to establish precedence when two
boats, going in opposite directions, meet on a narrow river when the water is
too narrow to cross. There are two criteria given for deciding who can force
the other to back up: the one with the heavier load or the one closer to its
This is a valuable principle for resolving impasses in human relations.
If one is carrying a heavier burden or is involved in a project which is in
the process of being achieved, that person is deemed to be in greater
objective need and wins precedence. Say, a wife is emotionally drained or
hurt, she has a "heavier burden." If a husband is doing work and needs
momentum or must meet a deadline, he is "closer to a destination." When
differences "rock the boat," give priority to the resolution most consistent
with: long-run peace; the least damage, hurt or loss; and honesty.
Attribute weight to your partner's feelings and perception. You may not
grasp what the issue means to your partner, due to subjectivity, emotions and
biases. See beyond yourself - your partner does! Be soft as a reed (Taanis
20b), bendable and adaptive. Make yourself gentle to save yourself from the
sin of anger (Taanis 4a) and never respond to insult or provocation (Shabos
88b). Erev shabos is a tense time, extra prone to fighting (Avodas HaKodesh).
Expect that there is more to a story or in the context that you don't know.
Don't jump to conclusions. Give benefit of doubt and let the other's honor be
as dear to you as your own (Pirkei Avos, chapter one & two). Listen carefully
to what your partner says. Be impacted by it and respond substantively to it.