Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rabbi Shalom Arush: Respecting Your Wife, part 3

Translated and adapted by Rabbi Lazer Brody. see part1, part2

To begin to respect your wife, decide from this moment on that you'll stop criticizing her. If she burns your food, then know that Hashem wants you to eat burnt food. If she asks for your opinion, don't all of a sudden become the bastion of truth and tell her how bad the meal tastes. Think of Hashem and of your peace at home. If you want to try and mold her behavior, do so by lavishly thanking her and complimenting her on the great things she does. After a good meal, buy her a little gift or trinket, or write her a note. Shine the light of love and respect on her, and remove the darkness of criticism and negative remarks.
Another important principle of Shalom Bayit, or peace in the home, is never react impulsively – the Yetzer (Evil Inclination) rules for three seconds – once you take a deep breath, you beat the Yetzer. Angry reactions are immediate gut reactions – we’re supposed to think with our brains and not with our intestines. Also, the Gemara and the Zohar compare anger to idol worship. Therefore, when a person is angry at his wife, he's also guilty of lack of emuna. So, when you're under fire at home, stop, take a deep breath, smile, and react with light. The three-second deep breath will save your life and your marriage.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that by judging a wife fairly, one elicits her best behavior, for when we judge another person fairly, we literally raise that person to a higher spiritual level. Rebbe Nachman teaches something else too, namely, that adultery starts from the eyes. Looking at another woman is like committing spiritual adultery.
The Gemara teaches us that we can know the level of a Divine Presence in a person's home by the level of the peace in that home. Respecting our wives is the prerequisite to peace in the home; therefore, respecting our wives is the prerequisite to the Divine Presence in our home.
King Solomon teaches us in Proverbs that when Hashem is pleased with a man, even his worst enemies will reconcile with him. Sometimes, it looks like our wives are our worst enemies, but in reality, they're our very best friends, even when they're bombarding us; they're simply showing us that we have more work to do.
Rebbe Nachman teaches that dinim, or severe judgments on a person, are indications of arrogance. So, when we have the severe judgment of suffering at home, it's really Divine compassion, a message telling us that we need to learn humility and to rid ourselves of arrogance.
For all the above reasons, an unmarried person can't begin to approach any measure of character correction and true service of Hashem, because he doesn't have a mirror. A person without a mirror can live in the fantasy that he's handsome and well-groomed, when in reality he's sloppy and disheveled. A wife is the gift of a beautiful diamond-studded mirror that Hashem gives us. Doesn't it make sense that we respect such a cherished gift from The Almighty? By respecting our wives, we turn this world into a garden of harmony and sublime pleasure. Even more so, by respecting our wives, we strengthen our relationship with Hashem.
A person once asked me, “What, do you expect me to lie to my wife? I should tell her she's beautiful when she's actually ugly?” The Gemara tells us about Rebbe Elazar ben Shimon, who was ensnared in a moment of vanity when he was feeling a little too good about himself. He encountered a disfigured little man, he said to him, "How ugly you are!" He was being truthful! The little man answered, “Go to the Divine artisan that created me, and complain to Him how ugly His creations are!" Rebbe Elazar ben Shimon knew that he sinned, for his comment was in effect blaspheming Hashem. He subsequently crawled on all fours begging the little man's forgiveness.
When a person contemplates that his wife was created by Hashem, and is actually his own other half, she becomes beautiful. Even more so, the Gemara says that a wife is a husband's source of blessing and happiness. So even if you don't want to tell your wife how beautiful she is, you can nevertheless call her "my blessing" or my "happiness". Imagine what it's like when a husband comes home from work, and rather than pounding on the table that he's hungry - like some Neanderthal cave man - he smiles, gives his wife a flower or a bar of chocolate, and says "I'm so happy to see you, my blessing in life!" She'll melt. The way a person enters the house is a true sign of his respect for his wife.
One super-important comment – don't ever compare your wife to any other woman in the world, not even to her mother or sister. A wife can only feel happy when she feels that her husband regards her and respects her more than any other woman in the world. As soon as he even hints that he prefers the slightest attribute of another women, her heart will fill with hatred and jealousy, even if the other woman is her mother or sister.
One of the biggest signs of love and respect is when a husband is willing to give his wife whatever he has. For that reason, a stingy husband can never be a loving or a respectful husband. Even if a husband is incapable of fulfilling his wife's wishes, he should never tell her “no”, only promise that as soon as Hashem sends him the wherewithal, he'll be happy to comply to her wish. This makes a wife feel loved and respected.
Don't ever forget that physical relations with one's wife are saddening and torturous to her if they're devoid of respect and love. Therefore, true unity with one's wife can never be achieved only by way of the husband's complete respect. By respecting our wives, we add peace to the world, and with added peace, we make this earth a place worthy of the Divine Presence. By making our own households miniature sanctuaries, we hasten the building of the real Beit Hamikdash in the rebuilt and sovereign Yerushalayim of Moshiach, speedily and in our time, amen.