Bayit Ne’eman: A Faithful Home #7

13 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

It is customary to wish a new couple that they merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael (a faithful home in Israel). What does a faithful home mean? It means implanting a foundation firmly in the ground so that the housedoesn’t fall over. It means creating an atmosphere of strength, commitment, and will. Emunah is expressed by being loyal to the inner laws of Torah and this is most readily expressed in the home.

In Parshat Bamidbar the Torah says, “How good are your tents Yaakov! They are like cedars on the streams of water.” A Jewish home should be like a tree planted by the water rooted firmly near its life source. A home reflects the inner life of the people who live there. It is not just a glorified hostel but a place where familial relationships are defined.

The Gemara writes that a man’s house is his wife. When the Jewish people went down to Egypt the verse states, “Ish u’baito,” each man and his house. A house becomes a home through a women’s faithfulness to her husband. This is one of the first praises in Eishet Chayil. “Batach bah lev baala.” Her husband’s heart trusts in her. He has no doubt that her greatest desire is to see that her home is complete. A faithful wife is called an akeret habayit. This comes from the root word ikar, which means primary, as opposed to tafel, secondary. She is the mainstay, the primary force that governs the home with honesty, faithfulness, and strength.

Part of faithfulness is maintaining stability in the home. Whether you’re tired or not, when your kids arrive from school you should greet them with a smile. When your husband comes home after a long day he should have a wife in full control of the situation waiting for him.

The opposite scenario is a home where the laws change every day and for every member. When there is no predictability, there isn’t really a home. Constancy in the home begins with acknowledging the laws of nature. There must be food, clean laundry, and defined times for beginning and ending the day.

It’s hard for parents to let go of their children when they marry. You can alleviate the pain by inviting your parents and including them in your life, but your first priority must be your spouse. A faithful home is where the strongest possible loyalty is observed between husband and wife. In the home, the deepest laws of nature that are internal and spiritual find their expression. This is the core of a person.

The Gemara says forty days before a child is formed a heavenly voice announces, “The daughter of this one belongs to that one.” The unity between a husband and wife is compared to the first match between man’s soul and body. The soul was originally created as both male and female. They are divided as they enter two different bodies. No soul is complete until the male and female aspects are once again united. A marriage that fails injures both the body and soul. Therefore, the word for divorce in Hebrew is called sefer kritut, a book of severance.

The word bayit also describes the place of the beit hamikdash. Avraham called it the mountain. Yitzchak called it the field. But Yaakov called it bayit. A home connotes the connection between Am Yisrael and Hashem.

Avigayil wished David, “Hashem will bless you with a faithful house because you fought Hashem‘s war.” We have to wage Hashem‘s battle both within and without. The inner battle is to conquer our bad middot. When we work to perfect ourselves, when we strain to uphold the honor of Hashem in our home, we will merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael.





Marriage: The Eternal Structure

3 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

 The Shem Mishmuel quotes a perplexing Gemara in Brachot. The Rabbis asked Rav Hamnuna to sing a song at a wedding and he began to sing, “Woe to us people, we will die. Where is the Torah and mitzvot that will protect us?” Why did Rav Hamnuna sing such a mournful tune at a wedding?

The Shem Mishmuel explains that marriage is the antithesis of death. It is a binyan adei ad, an eternal structure that is created through the couple’s descendants. In this world, both the soul and body can ascend by making the right choices. After death, the soul can no longer be sanctified by engaging and lifting physicality. If it didn’t achieve what it needed to on this world it cannot do it anymore after death. But the Gemara says there is a way out. If a couple’s children continue to do mitzvot it is as if the parents never died and their souls will continue to ascend in heaven. That’s why Rav Hamnuna mentioned death and mitzvot. Clearly the mitzvah of peru urevu, having children, is a central part of the joy of a wedding.

In Parshat Balak, Bilam says concerning Hashem, “The Almighty in heaven counts the offspring of the Jewish people.” Chazal say this refers to children. Bilam questioned how Hashem could be involved in something so physical.

The Shem Mishmuel explains that in many ways the material world is the antithesis of purity and sanctity. There are religions that teach their adherents to live an ascetic life. Bilam only understood spirituality as an entity on its own. However, the mainstream Torah view, which is emphasized by Chassidut, is to take physicality and elevate it to spirituality. This is the secret of Torah. There is holiness embedded in the material world which is brought out through the mitzvot.

The most important institution where this idea is expressed is the Jewish marriage. The deeper one digs in a mine, the better quality diamonds one finds. The more physical something is, the more sanctity can be extracted. Marriage is called kiddushin. The kohen gadol, the holiest leader of the Jewish people was required to have a wife. The bond of marriage creates a very deep and intense holiness.

The Gemara explains that when we dance at a wedding we lift our body up in the air. We take physicality and elevate it to something holy. This is the essence of marriage. Hashem fashioned man in His Divine Image. He gave us the power to create. Hashem is the third partner in bringing children into the world and since He is eternal it is a binyan adei ad (an everlasting structure).

When we raise children to serve Hashem, we generate more holiness. Chassidut emphasizes the concept of “Olam chesed yibaneh.Hashem created the world as an act of kindness. He wanted to give us reward in the next world. Bringing up children is one of the greatest acts of chesed, a part of which is sharing the wisdom of Torah with them. Spend ten minutes a day with each child one on one, preferably with a Torah book. In this way you will be actualizing one of the greatest aspects of kedusha of a Jewish marriage.





Rebbetzin’s Perspective: What are some ways I can motivate my husband to think about Elul and Rosh Hashana?

28 09 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective

Question: 

What are some ways I can motivate my husband to think about Elul and Rosh Hashana without sounding like an annoying seminary girl? I’m not worried about his learning because he has a learning seder (session) every day, but whenever I bring up the idea of change or growth he gets annoyed.

 

Answer:

Some men like hashkafa, but most don’t. No man likes to feel as if his wife is the provider and he is the receiver. Be patient. As men mature, they want to know more about how to put it all together. Hashkafa sefarim were really written by and for men and many of them will eventually study them. When they do, it will probably be with a lot more depth and perception, and a higher level of integration than women, because men are much more grounded in Torah learning. By the time he’s thirty eight, he’ll probably be motivating you, instead of the other way around. This is usually how it goes in most marriages.

However, let’s say he’s already forty five and you’re still trying to get him to work on his inner life. Begin by asking some questions such as, “It’s Elul and I don’t feel anything much different than I did in Av. Did they ever say anything about this in yeshiva? Is there anything I could learn that can give me insight?” Make him your teacher. Don’t correct him even if he gets it wrong, just listen. Since his skills are better, in the end his grasp will be much more profound.

It could also be that he’s just not the hashkafa type. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a yearning for spirituality. It’s just that he doesn’t have the ability to listen to the language. His means of communication may be dikduk halacha (care in Jewish law). His ahavat Hashem (love of Hashem) may be expressed through tzedaka, charity. His yirat Hashem (fear of Hashem) may be actualized by the level of kashrut he maintains. Let his deeds show you where he truly is and don’t try to gauge his spiritual standing by how much he’s learning.





How Do I Respect My Spouse’s Feelings?

16 08 2011

Achieving Balance: Class#1 

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Achieving Balance: Class#1

Question:

I like to put my family first, and rarely participate in simchot in the evenings. My husband feels strange going alone, even though they are all separate seating. Am I wrong for staying home? Do I need to respect my husband’s feelings and make the effort to accompany him?

 

Answer:

 

Kudos for putting your family first, they do come before simchot. I’m invited to a lot of simchot because I teach marriageable-age girls. I’ve learned that it’s ok to stay five minutes, wish the baalat simcha Mazel Tov, and leave. This means that oftentimes I manage to be back home within an hour. If this works for you, it’s a good solution. I’m not advocating not going to simchot because it makes such a huge difference to the baal simcha for people to share in their joy. The need to belong to a group larger than oneself is very deep.

 

If it’s important to your husband that you accompany him, set aside time for this either weekly or bi-weekly. As Rebbetzin Esther Greenberg would often say; “When you talk about family first, husbands are number one before children.” You have to respect your husband’s wishes and your children should see you doing that.





How Can I Help My Husband?

1 06 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 10

Question:

My clever, talented, husband is stuck in a dead-end job with very little stimulation and hope for promotion.  I don’t know if Hashem wants him to leave his job, without knowing if he will find something better, or make do with feeling unfulfilled at work.  How can I help him?

Answer:

If you examine the lives of some of our great leaders, you’ll find that many of them were ordinary craftsmen and shopkeepers. Rashi was a wine merchant, the Ohr Hachaim was a goldsmith, and the Chofetz Chaim ran a grocery. Do you think their work gave them fulfillment? They did it to support their families, which is a noble goal in and of itself. We do not know the end of our life stories. It could be that at this point in your husband’s life he is meant to find satisfaction, like Rashi, in activities outside of work. To make that happen, he will need to organize his day. It could be this is just a transient period in his life. His main test may be withstanding the many nisyonot prevalent in the workplace such as, integrity, judging others favorably, and guarding his eyes. A final possibility could be that he is meant to feel the discontent so that it will propel him to move on to something else. Obviously, he cannot leave his existing job without having a comparable proposition waiting for him. If you can keep your ears open for job possibilities available in his field or other opportunities in which his time could be spent productively when he is not working, that would be a great help.





Do Married People Still Need Friends?

25 01 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Questions and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 14

Question:

What does Judaism say about friendship? Is my husband supposed to be my best and only friend? Although I have a good marriage, I find there are things I just can’t share with my husband, the way I used to with friends.

Answer:

Our Sages say, “Oh chavruta oh mesuta,” either companionship or death. Your husband is the one person who can give you things on every level that no one else will ever give you. However, he definitely should not be your only friend. He does not want to listen to feminine chatter nor is he particularly interested in sharing his innermost feelings all the time.

 

Renew your old friendships. Make time for yourself. Go to a play, talk to your friends on the phone while you are doing laundry, straightening the house, or feeding the baby. The social chitchat, personal validation of emotions, experiences and girl talk are meant to be shared with your friends, not your husband.

Be careful though, not to cross lines or undervalue what your husband does give you. His loyalty, provision, intimacy, absolute caring, and commitment can never be filled by any friend no matter how close or understanding.