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

Achieving Balance: Class#1


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?




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.

Secrets of Shalom Bayit- For Women

15 08 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg 

Secrets of Shalom Bayit-For Women In Sichot Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz notes that the angels emphasized Sarah’s modesty to Avraham in order to make her more beloved to him. Avraham and Sarah had been married for many years and yet the Torah tells the story to teach us the significance of shalom bayit (marital harmony).

Rav Orlowek teaches that the secret to good chinuch (child-raising) is shalom bayit. When there is a happy wholesome home atmosphere, children thrive.

The following are some of Rav Orloweck’s tips for increasing shalom bayit:

Be dan l’kaf zechut (judge favorably). It’s not because your husband doesn’t care. He grew up in another home where things were done differently. Don’t take it personally. It’s hard to change in an instant. Find a positive way to remind him what irks you. Make a big sign, discuss it, work it out so there’s a plan that fits both of you. Make it fun instead of getting upset.

Disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality. Visualize your husband coming home tired and moody. It won’t be such a letdown if he really does get angry or doesn’t respond. This is not being pessimistic, just broadening your expectations.

Smile when your husband walks through the door. It helps set the tone for the rest of the day.

Let him talk first, before you unload your complaints and grievances.

People are not robots. They have ups and downs and are affected by emotions. Give your husband a small snack to eat on the way home. Then even if dinner isn’t ready, he’ll be calm. It’s important to get enough sleep. Catch a quick nap during the day so you feel refreshed when your husband gets in.

Try to be forgiving. You are both partners trying to create a wonderful Torah home. In the big picture, he’s doing all these great things for you. Overlook the minor mistakes.

Disagreements very often arise because of lack of communication. Women are more intuitive than men. You think your husband got it when he really didn’t and then you get upset. If you didn’t say it, he didn’t hear it. The same goes for compliments. Be specific. Thank your husband for the little acts of thoughtfulness and he’ll do it again.

Men and women are very different. Women find satisfaction in raising and discussing issues. Men tend to focus on getting to the point and finding solutions. Be aware of this and don’t get frustrated if your husband doesn’t automatically think like you. It’s just the way Hashem created us.

When you need to give constructive criticism, sandwich it with praise. Start and end with positive words.

Rav Dessler says that the root word of ahava (love) is hav (to give). Giving generates love. Investing in your husband will help you feel like one unit. A practical working definition of love is-“If it matters to you, it matters to me.” Put yourself in your husband’s shoes and prioritize the things a that mean a lot to him.

Don’t interrupt your husband when he’s learning. With learning you accomplish much more if there’s continuity without breaks or stops. Wait till he finishes.

Timing is important. Don’t try to discuss difficult issues when your husband is tired, hungry, or under pressure.

Help him spend time with you. Be available when your husband frees up his schedule for you.

One of the most crucial times to practice shalom bayit is at the Shabbat table. This is when our children see us interacting. What we say and how we say it is crucial. Husband and wife must treat each other with respect. If a wife doesn’t respect her husband, the children won’t respect their father either. And that’s not healthy. It’s important that children have role models and authority figures in their life and parents should be central among them.

Tu B’av

12 08 2011

Based on a shiur by Mr. Shira Smiles

Tu B'av  The Gemara in Tannit tells us, “There were no yomim tovim (good occasions) in Israel more joyous than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” The spiritual happiness of atonement on Yom Kippur was deeply felt but what was so significant about Tu B’av?

The Gemara lists several occurrences. On this day the tribes were permitted to intermarry, the ban against marrying into the tribe of Binyamin was lifted, the generation of the desert ceased dying, Hoshea ben Eleh removed the sentries blocking the roads to Jerusalem, the massacred Jews of Beitar were buried, and the wood for the altar was finally cut for the next year’s sacrifices. In addition, the Mishna tells us that on this day the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white clothing and dance in the fields and matches were made. But the Gemara alludes to something deeper. It tells us about the marriage bond between Hashem and the Jews. In the future, the tzadikim will form a circle in Gan Eden and dance and point to Hashem and say, “Zeh Hashem kivini lo (This is Hashem, we have put our faith in Him).” What does dancing signify and why did the women in particular celebrate? What is the significance of borrowed clothing? Why does the Gemara give six reasons for the holiday, wouldn’t one have been sufficient?

Tu B’av celebrates re-unification both among the Jewish people and with Hashem. When there is unity there is true joy. Disparity creates a terrible kitrug (accusation) in heaven. The beit hamikdash was destroyed because of dissension. On Tu B’av, the barriers between the tribes were lifted. When the generation of the desert stopped dying, Hashem’s anger dissipated and He renewed His relationship with us once again. We celebrate the completion of gathering the wood because there is no greater joy than completing a mitzva. Now that they could ascend to Jerusalem, they could once again bask in the close proximity of the Divine Presence. Tu B’av is about separation and re-unification, distance and return. The knowledge that Hashem is One, creates unity. In the past we sensed this oneness and in the future we will once again experience it. This is the meaning of the Gemara that the tzadikim will dance in a circle. A circle is equidistant from the center. In the future world there will be total unity. Each tzadik will be able to see from the vantage point of his friend. This too is why the daughters of Tzion went out in borrowed clothing. Borrowing clothes signifies friendship and harmony.

The common thread between Tu B’av and Yom Kippur is atonement. On Yom Kippur, the sin of the Golden Calf was forgiven while on Tu B’av the sin of the Spies was forgiven. This is why the women celebrate. They had no part in either sin. Tu B’av commemorates the burial of those massacred in Beitar. This teaches us that we must be grateful for the slightest good even in the midst of overwhelming tragedy. Likewise matches were made on Tu B’av. A marriage can only function if we recognize the smallest benefit we receive from our spouses. The Sages designated Tu B’av as a holiday in order to help us bear our exile. By being thankful for the smallest good we can overcome our suffering. Sometimes in life, it’s not about the one big answer, it’s about the little reasons. If we can be grateful for all the small chasadim (kindnesses), we can build a genuine relationship with Hashem.

The Gemara calls both Yom Kippur and Tu B’av Yamim Tovim. Tov connotes something lasting. Yom tov is an elevated day whose qualities transcend time. It represents eternity even amidst adversity. Yom Kippur is about forgiveness of sin. Likewise Tu’ Bav, which follows close on the heels of Tisha B’av, signifies rebirth from destruction.

Shidduchim: The Challenge of Uniting Your Soul

11 08 2011

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

Shidduchim: The Challenge of Uniting Your Soul The Ohr Hachaim writes that all physical creations have both female and male aspects. This division implies that nothing is whole or perfect in this world. Hashem set up the world in a way that there are two forces that bring about change and growth. The male energy provides and gives forth and the female energy takes in and nurtures. Together there is possibility for something greater than both of them to come into existence.

If you’re not married yet, it’s Hashem’s Providence. It doesn’t mean you didn’t make the wrong choices, but ultimately it’s Hashem who brings things to perfection. There’s no possibility of perfection without submission to Hashem’s will. See the world for what it is, imperfect, and learn to live with it. Turn to Hashem. Ask him to help you perceive the potential of perfection in yourself, in the world, and in the people you meet. You don’t have to justify imperfection but try to find the part that is perfect. You can learn from everyone you meet. Many people caught in the shidduch trap are bitter. You can redeem yourself by saying, “Who does Hashem want me to be at this moment?” Not, “What do I want?” If Hashem wants you to be compassionate and a seeker that’s where you should go. Serve Hashem joyously as you learn more and become broader.

Don’t put your life on hold. Only Hashem knows when you’ll find your destined mate. Find things to do that will make you a more perfect person and the world a more perfect place. Take advantage of this free unfettered time to be there for others, to do chesed, and to learn in a way you won’t be able to after you’re married. It’s a time for prayer. Come before Hashem with your emptiness and your imperfection and it will draw you closer to Him.

It seems to me that the one critical question in shidduchim should be, “Can I build with this person?” Is there enough commonality in values, personality, communication, background, and understanding? Nothing else is relevant. If people were focused on that, there would be better, more joyous marriages and less defensiveness and opposition. Of course you have to like and respect the person, but you have to be willing to build together. If that’s there, go for it. Don’t get tied up in externalities or flaws. The world is imperfect. Nothing is perfect. Only Hashem is, and our goal should be to move towards Him with faith, trust, and joy.

Growing In Ruchniyut During The Three Weeks

26 07 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinush Ginsurg

Growing in Ruchniyus During the Three WeeksWhen we visualize the Beit Hamikdash in its glory, we imagine there was nothing holier than it. Yet Chazal tell us that studying Torah is even greater. “Hashem consoled David who did not merit to build the Beit Hamikdash, “One day of Torah learning in your courtyard is greater in my eyes than one thousand sacrifices.” Similarly David said, “Tov li Torahat picha…” David gathered great quantities of precious metal for the Beit Hamikdash yet he affirmed that Torah was worth more to him than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. Additionally Chazal tell us, “The Torah study of children may not cease even to build the Beit Hamikdash.”

Bitul Torah was the cause of the first exile. It says, “Im bechukosai teileichu.” Rashi explains, “Shetihiyu ameilim b’Torah,” If we immerse ourselves in Torah we will merit blessings, if not, klalot (curses) will come upon us. The Ramban says that the tochacha of Bechukosai corresponds to the first Beit Hamikdash and the tochacha of Ki Tovo corresponds to the second Beit Hamikdash. We can understand from this Rashi and the Ramban that the first Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of a weakening in Torah study.

In Eicha it says,”Her kings and her priests are exiled among the gentiles and there is no Torah.” Rav Dessler lived in England and in his later years settled in Eretz Yisrael. He once said that a day of Torah study in Eretz Yisrael could not equal many days of learning in chutz l’aaretz. Indeed Chazal say, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.” The Gra writes that exile lacks the special spiritual aura of Eretz Yisrael. We end Shemone Esrei with a prayer to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash and we add “Give us a portion in your Torah.” The Gra explains that the sufferings of exile weakened our Torah study. Therefore we ask Hashem to restore the Beit Hamikdash so that we can once again serve Him with all our capacities in Eretz Yisrael.

Let us dedicate ourselves with new vigor to the study of Torah in an attempt to rectify the misdeeds of the past and merit the ultimate redemption.

The Essence of Shabbos

11 07 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen

The Essence of Shabbos

Hashem told the Jewish people at the time of matan Torah, “I have a a precious gift in my treasure house.  I will give it to you on condition that you accept the Torah.” The Jews asked what it was and Hashem answered, “Olam habah.” They then said, “Show us an example of this,” and Hashem replied, “Shabbat.” Indeed the Mishna in Avot tells us, Shabbath is 1/60th of olam habah.  If we observe this day properly we merit entering a world of eternal truth.

Vayichulu hashamayim…”-Hashem completed the heavens and earth yet there was still something lacking. Just as a wedding without a bride is not a wedding, the world without the Shabbbath queen was incomplete. We honor the day with delicacies, fine clothing and bright candles. However the Zohar says oneg doesn’t only mean bodily pleasures, but thinking about the Creator, praising Him and bringing Him into our life. Similarly the Michtav M’Eliyahu writes that Shabbat is olam habah in olam hazeh. It is the heavens touching earth. Hashem’s glory is revealed in the world on this day. And indeed the soul of a Jew expresses itself on Shabbat.  If you enter a room and instead of flicking on the switch, you grapple in the dark for what you need, or you come home soaked from the rain because you couldn’t carry an umbrella. You’ve tapped into the kedusha of the day. “Vayishbot Elokim m’kol melachto” Hashem did not physically work. What does the verse mean to say that He rested? The commentators explain that the entire world was concealed and when Hashem created Shabbath He lifted the curtain aside and revealed to us what was hidden.

 “Zachor et yom haShabbat” Remember the Shabbath during the week. The verse tells us to complete all our work during the week so that we won’t have to think about it on the holiest day. “V’asita kol melachtecha.” It should be in our minds as if all our work was completed. Mundane thoughts of weekday activity shouldn’t enter our thoughts for we are in olam habah on this holy day.

 “Vayivarach Elokim“-Hashem blessed the Shabbath. The Michtav M’Eliyahu asks, how could Hashem give an eternal spiritual blessing to a day that is limited by physical time. Indeed we see that Shabbath is really spiritual. Man is created incomplete, our world is a world of falsehood, but Shabbath is perfection. It is completely ruchniyut.

The Gemara states that all mitzvot were given with revelation except Shabbath which was concealed. Weren’t the luchot (which contains the mitzvah of Shabbat) given publicly? The Gemara  intended to say that we do not know the reward for the day because it is not physical. We will reap the dividends in olam haba. The Reishet Chochma writes that Shabbat gives us an aura of kedusha, holiness which stays with us throughout the week. When we hold on to the day we can perceive truth. It’s not just what we eat or where we go. It’s what we think and talk and do on Shabbat which makes it special. Hashem gave us a precious gift.  Let us take the day along with its depth and beauty into the coming week.

Embarrassing Others

6 07 2011
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Embarrassing Others

In Parshat Vayeishev the Torah records the difficult story of Yehuda and Tamar. Yehuda gave Tamar his staff and signet as collateral and when she was taken out to be burned, she sent a message to her father-in-law hinting to what he had done. Tamar refrained from embarrassing Yehuda at the risk of her own life. She left the choice up to him to admit his act. The Gemara in Bava Metziah makes an intriguing statement based on this story, “It is preferable for a person to allow himself to be thrown into a fiery furnace rather than to publicly humiliate someone.” Is this halacha l’maasah (practical halacha)?

The Rif and the Rosh maintain that it is. However there is a Gemara in Pesachim that says that a Jew may violate any sin to save himself except the three cardinal sins-idol worship, adultery, and murder. Tosfot in Sotah asks, what about humiliating another person in public? Why isn’t this included in the list?

The commentators answer that since the prohibition of embarrassing someone is learned indirectly from the verse, “V’lo sisa alov cheit” (Do not bear a sin on his account), it’s not included. The Rambam understands it differently. The Gemara says, “Noach lo..” (It is preferable), meaning that it is not a requirement. Rabbeinu Yonah maintains that humiliating someone is avak rechitza-an extension of murder because it causes the person’s blood to drain out of his face. Tosfot in Pesachim offers another explanation. In some instances, such as if you are a passive participant, you are not required to give up your life even in a situation of shefichat damim. Therefore it can be suggested that humiliating someone which involves talking is not considered actively killing someone.

The Rambam in Yesodei Hatorah writes that the din is “Yaavor v’al yiharog.”(Transgress rather than forfeit your life), except in times of gezeirot hashmad when it may be permitted.  The Gemara tells the story of Elisha Bal Kinfayim who risked his life to wear tefilin in public. Similarly in Gittin, the Gemara records the incident of the group of boys and girls who jumped into the sea to avoid sin. Tosfot notes that there are cases when you may voluntarily give up your life.

Perhaps we can say that the din of “Yaavor v’al yahorog,” only applies to mitzvoth between man and Hashem and not to mitzvoth between man and man. If it means hurting someone, one can possibly give up one’s life. We see that Tamar was ready to die rather than humiliate Yehuda. Similarly, the Gemara in Yoma records the story of Rav Yehuda who suddenly had stomach pains and needed to eat something quickly. He stole some bread. Rav Yossi rebuked him. Sometimes even saving one’s life doesn’t warrant stealing. An ones (one who is forced) is not considered a sinner. This may also be true bein adam l’chaveiro.  However since you have harmed another person you can’t pretend it didn’t happen. So maybe even the Rambam would agree that in these cases you may even give up your life.

Parshat Nasso: Fighting Evil

3 06 2011
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman   

Parshat Nasso: Fighting Evil

Parshat Nasso begins with a continuation of the great census of the Jews in the desert. It particularly focuses on the families of the tribe of Levi. The spiritual concepts of Kohen and Levi represent chessed and din, the two pillars of Hashem’s creation. Aharon Hakohen was the the epitome of peace and chessed. The Leviim represent din and were at the forefront of avenging Hashem’s honor after cheit ha’egel. The three families of Levi carried the vessels and components of the Mishkan. Kehat’s children had the most exalted task. They carried the Aron, the Menorah, and the Mizbeach. Gershon had the second most holy task, carrying the cover and skins of the Mishkan. Merori had the lowest level task, transporting the heavy staves and pillars of the Mishkan.


The Avnei Nezer explains that Shevet Levi, the tribe of justice, represents the challenge within each of us against the evil inclination. The first and most righteous level is where evil does not exist. The second level is when evil tempts us but we are able to use our powers to drive it away. The third and lowest level is when evil emerges within us, yet we continuously struggle with it and successfully control it. This represents the spiritual idea of the three families of the tribe of Levi. The Kehat family represented the epitome of purity of character.  Here evil could not even approach. The second level was Gershon from the root word garush– to drive away. Evil would enter their thoughts but they would banish it. The final level was Merori, from the root word Mar-bitter. They were tzaddikim embroiled in a bitter unending struggle between good and evil. Unfortunately many of us are in this category and we must continuously fight evil. The Baal Hatanya says that this level is very precious to Hashem, perhaps even more so than the higher levels of Kehat and Gershon.


There are three levels of spiritual energies-chessed-lovingkindness, din-justice, and rachamim-compassion. Chesed, opening up, is action, while din, retracting, is reaction. The balance is rachamim, giving with a calculated limit. R’Chaim Vital notes that Kehat is pure holiness which represents chessed, Merori is the bitter struggle of din, and Gershon is the sweet kindness of chessed and din combined. Although he is tempted by evil, he drives it away.


Life is a continuous battle of good and evil. At times the going gets rough but we must never give up.  May our efforts to do Hashem’s will help us attain the right balance within our souls.

Sefirah: Setting the Stage

2 06 2011

Based on a shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles 

Sefirah: Setting the Stage

The Sefas Emes tells us that our entire spiritual year is dependent on the days of Sefirah. Just as our physical sustenance is determined during this wheat harvesting period, so too our spiritual sustenance is set during these weeks.   If our lives are dependent on this mitzvah, shouldn’t it involve a lot more than just a minute or so of a short liturgy? Obviously there is more hidden beneath the surface .

The Torah commands us, “Usefartem lachem…,” Why does the verse include the word “lachem“-to you? Wouldn’t “Usefartem“-You shall count, have been enough?  “Usefartem” has the root word sefor, to count, but also the root word sapir, sapphire.  Our hearts resemble the luchot which were fashioned out of sapphire. The innate sapphire brightness of our soul is dimmed by the darkness of sin. Therefore Hashem tells us, “Usefartem lachem“-Make for yourselves into sapphire. Ignite your soul, remove the grime of sin through the mitzvah of counting Sefirah. Then the innate brilliance of your soul will shine through.

What is the power of sefirah that gives us the ability to make ourselves pure and whole again?  If one looks closely, one will find that Shavuot is the only holiday that has a Torah mandated period of preparation.  There is something very pivotal embedded in these weeks.