The Uniqueness of a Husband and Wife
Before Hashem gave the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, He told Moshe: “So shall you say to the House of Yaakov – referring to the women – and speak to Bnei Yisrael – referring to the men – and you will be cherished unto Me more than of the nations.” Rav Avraham Chayim Shor says, “Hashem deliberately instructed Moshe to speak separately to the women and the men, in order to teach us that the reward of one’s mitzvos is shared equally by husband and wife, for the two are in essence one entity.”
The Gemara states, “A man must treat his wife with the greatest respect, ‘honoring her more than himself and a woman is obligated to honor her husband because he studies Torah.” Furthermore, “A person should honor his wife and children by purchasing fine clothing for them. Rashi goes further and says that one honors his wife by giving her jewelry. Still, the Leiv Aryeh says that one should not spend what is truly beyond his means even for this purpose. In other words, within his budget.
When it comes to household affairs–mundane matters–one should be led by his wife’s advice. Regarding religious matters, one should not be led by his wife’s advice. Obviously, a man should not reject advice from his wife.
What is a successful marriage? The Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky says that hakaras hatov is a primary component of a successful marriage and it fosters true love. Therefore, Rabbi Michel Yehudah Lefkowitz says, “A husband should show hakaras hatov to his wife and a wife should show hakaras hatov to her husband.”
What is the definition of hakaras hatov? Rabbi Yisroel Reisman says, “Hakaras hatov is to feel gratitude by recognizing the good that someone has done on your behalf… The level of hakaras hatov one feels should be in proportion to the magnitude of the kindness rendered.” Hakaras hatov is not about who did more for whom. It is about honestly acknowledging what others have done on our behalf. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler says, “The basis of true ahavas Hashem is hakaras hatov.” In addition, Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer says, “There is nothing worse before HaKadosh Baruch Hu than to be an ingrate.”
Why did the Torah impose a set of legal duties upon a husband towards his wife and vice versa?
Rabbi Yehudah Cahn says that the requirement to exert oneself on behalf of a spouse causes a person to feel a greater attachment to that spouse and to develop greater feelings of love and concern for him or her.
Rebbe Eliezer rules that even if a woman has a hundred servants, she must perform certain household chores for him. Otherwise, she will become idle. Idleness decreases that love and may, therefore, cause a husband or wife to lose interest in each other. This will be explained later.
1) What should one’s outlook be towards one’s husband?
A proper Jewish wife is one who follows the will of her husband and to do his bidding. Meaning, she must launder the clothing, bake the bread, cook and she makes his bed. Nevertheless, the Gemara says if one’s wife wants to exempt herself, all she needs to do is hire a maidservant – a cleaning lady. However, making the bread and cooking might be a halachic issue.
But then, Rebbe Chiyah comes to defend the wives’ by stating, “A wife is only for beauty”. Tosfos says that these tasks will have a negative effect upon her beauty. However, Rebbe Chiyah agrees that she must work and give her earnings to her husband in exchange for his supporting her.
Conversely, Rashi says that a wife’s relationship with regard to her husband is not for her to perform chores for him, but for him to buy cosmetics and jewelry for her. Finally, “One who wishes to brighten his wife’s countenance should clothe her in linen garments.”
Are Rebbe Chiyah and Rashi contradicting each other? Not in the slightest.
When Rebbe Chiyah said that a wife must give her earnings to her husband in exchange for his supporting her, he’s telling her to be makir tov.
On the other hand, Rashi said that it’s not befitting for her to perform chores for him but for him to buy cosmetics and jewelry for her. He’s telling the husband, “Just because she has specific tasks that she has to do for you, don’t make it your expectation. Rather, he should be thinking to himself, “How can I possibly acknowledge all the good that she does for me?” By purchasing things that appeal to her: cosmetics and jewelry.
2) How essential is a man’s wife?
The Gemara says that two out of three things restore the disposition of a man’s mind. Meaning, if he is distressed, the following things will restore his composure. They are sound and sight. Rashi says the sound of musical instruments or a woman’s sweet voice. Therefore, one’s wife should take voice lessons and learn how to play a musical instrument. As the quote goes, “music soothes the savage beast.” Like the movie “Beauty and the Beast”. The Beast was a man.
Continuing, “One of three things broaden the disposition of a man’s mind.” If a man is already composed, this will his spirits. What is that? A beautiful wife. Similarly, to what Rebbe Chiyah said in Kesubos. This isn’t surprising. In the words of the Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai: “It is the nature of women to beautify themselves and look every morning at their reflection in their copper or glass mirror.”
Now in the future, when one’s wife is taking her time to get ready, realize she’s doing it for her husband’s sake. She’s also trying to fulfill “This is my G-d and I shall beautify Him.” Since she is created in the image of Him.
The Gemara is teaching us that a wife is the driving and motivating force behind her husband!
3) What should one’s outlook be towards one’s wife?
The Maharal says, “A wife deserves to share equally in her husband’s reward because of the deep emotional bond she develops with her husband’s Torah studying activities.” A wise man once said, “There is no ‘SM LE’ without ‘I’ and there is no ‘FR END’ without ‘I’, but I can’t achieve ‘S CCESS’ without ‘U’!” The “Gemara” expounds, “Do not read it as the letter ‘U’ but as the word You – referring to one’s wife.” As Rebbe Akiva said to his students, “All that I and you have achieved is due to my wife.”
When a man who comes home after a day’s work and finds the table set and, supper ready on the stove. Does he stop to contemplate all the effort that went into making that supper? Would he perhaps appreciate it more if he were present as his wife took out her pots, pans and ingredients and began her work?
The Gemara says that Hashem gave greater powers of understanding to a woman than to a man. Where do we see such a scenario? When Sarah tells Avraham to throw out Hagar and her son, Yishmael, from their home, this causes him a great deal of distress. Yet, Hashem says to Avraham, “… Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice…”
Rabbi C. Schabes once commented, “You see from this posuk, that women are always right.” Maybe that’s why the Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer says, “It is the nature of men to follow the opinion of women.” Why? Because they know how to persuade their husbands. This would certainly explain Jackie Mason, who says about himself, “Jews are afraid to laugh. They have to get permission from their wife first. If a gentile thinks I’m funny, he laughs; whereas, if a Jew thinks I’m funny, he looks at her: he’s funny, he’s funny, right?”
The Gemara says, “Love drives back the flesh.” When a husband and wife build a home together out of love for Hashem and to serve Him, they ignore the faults in one another. As Shlomo HaMelech states, “Love covers all offenses.”
The Medrash relates that when Hashem brought the various species before him, אָדָם said, “All of them have a mate and I do not!” Immediately, Hashem brought slumber upon אָדָם and fashioned Chavah from him.
Where did man get this notion that he needed a helpmate? Hashem said, “It is not good that man be alone.” Once Hashem said that statement it became a reality.
Later, Hashem asked אָדָם, “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”
What was his response? It wasn’t, “You’re right, I should have refrained and I’m responsible for my actions.” What did he actually say? “The woman, whom You gave to be with me – she gave me of the tree and I ate.” Rashi comments on אָדָם’s response stating: Here, he denied the good [that had been granted to him]. He was telling Hashem, “I’m not to blame for what I did. After all, You gave her to me – and it’s because of her advice that I sinned!”
Therefore, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz says, “Calling attention to a minor fault of one’s wife is far more serious than speaking loshon hora about someone else.”
4) How important is Sholom Bayis?
The Otzaros HaBayis HaYehudi states the following story:
One year, the Chofeitz Chayim visited his rebbi during Chanukah. As the hour for candle-lighting approached, Reb Nachum’ke – Menachem Nachum Kaplan zt”l – pretended not to notice. As the hours slipped by, the Chofeitz Chayim stood astonished that his mentor did not proceed to light the candles on time. Just as he heard a knock at the door and his wife entered the house, Reb Nachum’ke proceeded to make the beracha and light the candles. Unable to contain his curiosity, the Chofeitz Chayim asked why his rebbi had delayed so long. Reb Nachum’ke answered: “The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos says that if one has only enough coins to pay for either Shabbos candles or Chanukah candles, he should purchase Shabbos candles for they instill peace in the home. I knew my wife would be hurt if I lit the Chanukah candles without her presence and since peace in the home is more important than Chanukah candles, I waited for her return.”
Now that we know the importance of Sholom Bayis, what does Sholom Bayis mean? A peaceful home.
A) What’s so vital about peace? The Mishnah says, “Peace is the vessel for blessing.” To which Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai states, “… He [G-d] Is peace, His Name is peace and everything are bound in peace.” A person who brings peace into his house is considered by G-d as if he brought peace to the entire Jewish people. The Sifra emphasizes: “Peace is the seal of all blessings, because, without peace, prosperity, health, food and drink are WORTHLESS.” In addition, “The whole purpose of the Torah is peace.” Yet, Shlomo HaMelech goes to the extreme, “A slice of dry bread in a home with peace is better than a wealthy house filled with strife.”
How to obtain a PEACEFUL marriage. Unfortunately, Dale Carnegie did not write a book on this subject. However, Rabbi Shafier recommends that both spouses need to turn off their “WII” FM station. What station is that? What’s In It For Me! Therefore, both spouses need to turn off their individual “WII” FM station and need to turn it on to their unified “WII” FU station – What’s In It For Us!
B) What is so unique about a bayis? The Gemara says, “The woman is the foundation of the house, for she is responsible for building a faithful house in Yisrael. Rav Yose declared, ‘I have never called my wife ‘my wife’ but only, ‘my bayis’ for she is the essence of the home.” For this reason, the Gemara states, “A person must always be careful about his wife’s honor because blessing is found in a person’s house only on account of his wife.”
In fact, the Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai says that the wife brings the Divine Presence into the home and that brings special blessings to the household and its possessions. He states, “When a man is in his home, the mainstay of the home is his wife, because the Divine Presence does not leave the house in the merit of his wife, as we learned from the words, ‘and Yitzchak brought Rivkah to the tent of his mother Sarah – and the candle was relit as it was at the time of his mother Sarah, as the Divine Presence returned in the merit of his wife Rivkah.’”
On a deeper level, Rav Moshe Cordovero zt”l says that a man’s primary attachment to the Shechinah is through his wife. Therefore, our Sages teach that when there is peace and harmony between a man and his wife the Divine Presence dwells with them.
Got a slow business? Rashi says that a wife, in the Torah, is referred to as “bread,” the symbol of one’s livelihood. This means, that success in one’s livelihood is dependent on how he treats his wife. As Rava told the people of Mechoza, “Honor your wives in order that you become wealthy.” I guess a fringe benefit of marriage is getting wealthy.
Rabbi Anava says the following: A young man once came to the Lubavitch Rebbe and asked him, “Is it true that folding my tallis Motzei Shabbos is a remedy, for Sholom Bayis? The Lubavitch Rebbe told him, “No, fold your sleeves and wash the dishes. That’s going to be a remedy for Sholom Bayis.”
Furthermore, “A man is obligated to remember his wife when he is about to embark on a journey.”
C) What can one do to prevent his Sholom Bayis from becoming lethargic?
1) When his wife walks into the room he should stand up for her and vice versa: once in morning and once in the evening.
2) The Gemara says, “Before you ASK Hashem for what you WANT, first THANK Him for what you HAVE.” Therefore, before retiring for the night – both the husband and wife – should thank each other for what one does for the other.
Then, they should take a piece of PAPER and ask each other:
- What they would like to succeed in – their physical and spiritual endeavors.
- What physical and spiritual difficulties they would like to overcome.
Afterward, write it down and both should daven to Hashem on the other’s behalf.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says, “The groom gives his bride a circular ring, which has no beginning and no end. This parallels Hashem giving Klal Yisrael the Torah, which is endless.” If that’s the case with the Torah, then what can marriage with one’s wife be comparable to? A Gemara:
“The more one reviews the Gemara that he’s learning – by giving up his time for it – the sweeter and stronger the relationship becomes. So too, the more one gives to his wife – time and energy etc. – the sweeter the relationship and marriage become!”
With Hashem’s help, may our marriages always maintain their freshness like that of Aharon HaKohein lighting the menorah – both the husband and the wife should never take each other for granted – and the bond of love that exists between them, should be like that of Dovid and Yonasan and the unity of Adam and Chavah!
Dedicated in memory of Miriam Leba bas Aharon who was a tzadeikes in our time; Altah Soshah Devorah bas Aryeh Leibush, Mashah Tzivyah bas R’ Shlomo Zalman, Berinah Z’latah bas Reuven Yitzchak, Dovid Avraham ben Chiya Kehos, Aliza bas Henreias, Moshe ben Aliza, Yitzchak Hillel ben Aliza, Henreias Leah bas Aliza and as a merit for a complete recovery of Chayah Malka bas Bas-Sheva, Menachem ben Rivka, Rivka bas Esther Rochel, Shilat bas Louza Aliza, Daniel ben Louza Aliza, Avraham ben Louza Aliza, Yosef ben Ahuva Masuda and among the other sick ones of our nation.
The credit for this article goes to Daniel Retter. If it wasn’t for his seifer Hamafteach – which is an index reference guide to Talmud Bavli – I would not have been able to find the Mesechtos that I quoted to you.