Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rabbi Arush: Respecting Your Wife, part 2

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Lazer Brody. see part 1, part 3

A Jewish husband must act like Hashem – he must show his wife patience, compassion, and understanding.
Once a husband internalizes the fact that his wife is his own mirror, he saves himself a lot of grief. When a person without marital peace goes around blaming his wife, or the matchmaker, or his in-laws for his problems, not only is he constantly angry and without inner peace, his entire life is purgatory. What's worse, as long as he lacks emuna and tries to blame his problems on others, he’ll never succeed in correcting himself.
Not only is a wife a mirror, she's a magnifying glass. She exposes the problems in our character and behavior that need to be improved.
In that manner, an angry wife is essentially a message from Hashem that the husband hasn't overcome and uprooted anger from his life.
With emuna, the husband utilizes the wife's negative stimuli to ask himself, "What does Hashem want from me?" In that way, a wife facilitates her husband's relationship with Hashem, for in order to keep peace in the home, a husband must always look for Hashem within his wife's negative reactions. That way, the husband avoids the pitfalls of anger and negative reactions which only destroy his home. With emuna, he is free to love, respect, and cherish his wife no matter how she acts. Once he does so, he triggers a powerful upward spiral of love and peace in the home.
The Zohar teaches us that on a spiritual level, the husband resembles the sun while the wife resembles the moon. She has no light of her own, only the light that he shines on her. Positive emotions – happiness, respect, patience – all come from light, or spiritual illumination. Negative emotions – anger, disrespect, tension – all come from darkness, or lack of spiritual illumination. Therefore, what a husband gives is what a husband gets. The wife is his true mirror.
Rav Lazer Berland once said that the minute he learned from Rebbe Levi Yitzchak Binder that a wife is the mirror of a husband, he entirely changed his life. Rather than trying to educate her, correct her, or criticize her, he put all his efforts into educating, correcting, and criticizing himself. Right before I got married, Rav Lazer Berland grabbed me by the lapels and said, “Don’t ever criticize or make make a negative remark about anything your wife does. Rather than criticizing her, go make teshuva!” Those words were probably the most important words I ever heard in my life.
Sometimes, a person thinks that he's already properly made teshuva. If his wife is upset with him, then he's far from teshuva. If he becomes upset with her, he only shows that he is still full of arrogance and anger and lacks emuna.
A real "Ben-Torah", a Torah-observant Jew, respects and cherishes his wife. He no sooner criticizes his wife that he would criticize Hashem. Our sages teach that when a person is truly humble and sincere in the service of Hashem, his wife is automatically enamored with him. Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet) teaches in “Tana DeBai Eliahu” that a person should be humble, and especially humble at home.
Why does Eliahu HaNavi put so much emphasis on humility? Humility is a true sign of tikkun haBrit – proper kedusha and personal holiness, the opposite of licentiousness. Arrogance and tikkun haBrit don't go together. The logical outcome is that a wife will react favorably to a husband that is bound in holiness, for true holiness and true humility go together.
Many unaware husbands try and throw the ball of responsibility to their wife's side of the court. They say, first let her respect me, and then I'll respect her. We've already shown why that's a misguided attitude in our example of the sun and the moon. But even more so, a wife's respect of a husband is an outcome of his behavior; a husband's respect of a wife is an absolute halachic obligation that's written specifically in the Ketuba, the Jewish marriage contract. For those who've never read their ketuba, it would be a good idea to do so. Eflach, okir, afarness – the husband unilaterally commits to love, cherish, and work for his wife.
The Gemara says, that if a husband so merits, he gets a helpful loving wife, but if he doesn't merit, she'll be an enemy.
Rav Lazer Berland says that when a wife “dumps” on a husband, she's dumping his own garbage on him. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that a husband that hasn't overcome the urge for the lewd and licentious will ultimately suffer all kinds of insult – verbal and otherwise from his wife.
For that reason, when a husband suffers disrespect and insult, not only should he not get angry, but he should make double teshuva: first, for not yet overcoming his lustful urges, and second, for causing his wife to be angry. A husband – under any and every circumstance – must only shine light at home – no darkness. Light means respect, love, a smile, a kind word, and consideration, with no expectations in return. Once a man internalizes the fact that he deserves nothing, but is required to give everything, then all of a sudden he starts getting big dividends. She begins reflecting his light.
A wife is therefore our proving ground of our true level of Torah and mitzvah observance, since a truly observant person knows that he deserves nothing, but is required to give everything. So if a person without a wife thinks he's arrived at a level of proper Divine surface, he's living in a fantasy world. That's why the Torah says that it's not good for a man to be alone.
A wife gives a husband exactly what he deserves from Heaven. A husband should be the influence, not the influenced. For that reason, a husband shouldn’t expect handouts. He should never ever arrive home when he's hungry or tired, because then he's looking for a handout. Instead, he should be the giver and come home with a smile on his face.
We all know what the man's evil urge is. Did you ever ask yourself what a wife's urge is? Respect. When her husband respects her, her life is heaven. The opposite is true – a comment will kill her. A compliment is a gift that causes her indescribable pleasure. For that reason, a husband should never ever criticize his wife. Criticism is like a torture chamber or slow murder for her. Criticism and lack of her husband's respect make her lose confidence and become jittery. When she's nervous, her fuse becomes much shorter and then look out – the husband will suffer.
To be continued.