Building Harmony in the Home

23 07 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Marriage by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

Building Harmony in the Home

In Sichot Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz discusses the question of why Rachel called her first son Yosef.  Rashi writes that she could now blame her son for minor infractions in the home. Rav Shmuelevitz explains that she was happy that her husband would now not get upset with her as he would assume that their son was guilty. Our Sages ask, would our great forefather Yaakov who loved Rachel dearly, get upset over such misdemeanors? The Sichos Mussar answers that Rachel valued shalom bayit so much that she was overjoyed with the birth of Yosef which would prevent even a slight sense of strife in her home.

When the angels visited Avraham to tell him about the impending birth of Yitzchak, they asked about the whereabouts of Sarah. Chazal say that they wanted Avraham to say she was in the tent in order to endear her to her husband. Rav Shmuelevitz writes that despite decades of a wonderful marriage, the angels went out of their way to ask an extraneous question in order to add to Avraham and Sarah’s shalom bayit. This proves that even if one is happily married for many years, working on one’s marriage should be top priority.

Shalom Bayit is one of the most critical factors in bringing up healthy, well adjusted children to serve Hashem. Children need a warm, happy home to thrive and grow. Rabbi Orlowek writes that the greatest single factor on how it feels to be home is how parents get along with each other. A loving, caring, home is the best defense against the outside world. If one spouse does not treat the other with respect, it undermines the chinuch in the home as the children learn to disrespect their parent.

Middot-good character traits and simchat hachayim-joy of life are the main ingredients of shalom bayit. A person should strive to be calm, flexible, forgiving, and patient. Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains that the mezuzah is placed on the door at an angle as a halachic compromise to satisfy both opinions that hold it should be placed vertically and horizontally. When one walks through the door and glances at the mezuzah, it should serve as a reminder to be flexible and compromise for the sake of Shalom Bayit.

One should keep in mind that many small disagreements start because husband and wife come from different backgrounds and upbringings. Understanding this and trying to judge favorably can significantly lower tension in the home. Rabbi Orlowek writes that disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality. Practicing the “10 second rule” will prevent you from automatically reacting negatively. This means saying, “I would like things to be like this but it is ok if things turn out differently.”

Rav Dessler writes that ahavah-love comes from the root word, “hav”-to give. Giving sends waves of love from the giver to the receiver. When you enter marriage with the focus on giving rather than receiving, your chances of succeeding are high. Rabbi Orlowek writes that one should live with the maxim, “If it matters to you it matters to me.” Doing things happily for your spouse because it matters to them will surely strengthen your marriage.

Husband and wife should put extra effort into maintaining perfect shalom bayit at the Shabbat table. This is mainly where the children see their parents interact and is what they will bring with them when they eventually marry.  The Rema writes of an intriguing custom that one should look at the Shabbat candles before beginning the Friday night Kiddush. One of the reasons for Shabbat candles is to increase Shalom Bayit in the home. In a sense, this custom is hinting to us that Shalom Bayit is connected to Shabbat and is a critical aspect in building a warm Jewish home filled with Torah and Mitzvoth.

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