Bayit Ne’eman: A Faithful Home #7

13 08 2012

Based on a 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.

Finding Our Place In This World

17 06 2012

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Parshat Shelach tells the story of the spies who were sent to spy out the land of Israel. Although Yehoshua and Kalev remained faithful to Hashem, the rest of the group did not, and the mission ended with disastrous results.

After Moshe’s death, when Yehoshua took over leadership of the nation he sent spies again. This seems perplexing. You would think he would have learned his lesson from what happened.

To understand this, we must study the crucial difference between the first and second mission. The spies Moshe sent didn’t think they deserved Hashem‘s direct assistance. The Torah records their statement of self-doubt, “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes.” They wanted to see if the land could be conquered without Divine intervention. In one sense, this was reasonable thinking. Miracles are not Hashem‘s way of conducting the world. Why then were they held accountable?

Certainly a person must maximize his efforts but there is one exception, in the case of a Divine promise. The spies were wrong for assessing the land in a natural fashion because Hashem pledged He would give us the land. When Yehoshua sent spies again, he didn’t do so to find out if they would succeed. He wanted to better formulate his strategy. His question was not, “Can Hashem conquer the land?” His question was, “What is my role?”

We must ask ourselves, “Who am I meant to be at the moment?” If you think that it’s all up to you then essentially you are removing Hashem from the picture. Conversely, relying on Hashem with closed eyes, is taking away His purpose in creating us. We’re supposed to demand from ourselves to figure out our role. “What am I meant to do?” and “Where’s my place?” are questions we should ask ourselves. But at the same time we must have complete trust in the One who ultimately makes it all happen.

Meaning of Trust: Obligation For Effort #7

10 06 2012

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

We live within the realm of cause and effect. Our choices affect us both in this world and the next. To what degree should we see ourselves as part of nature and to what degree should we see ourselves as something separate? Are we natural beings or are we on a different higher plane?

Man always wants more than he already has. This subtle longing existed before the sin in Gan Eden in the form of Adam’s deep desire for attachment to Hashem. Hashem placed Adam with all his yearnings into a physical body, which he was meant to express through his deeds and creativity.

Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world. When He began the creative process he fashioned an idyllic environment in Gan Eden which reflected His will and wisdom. It was designed to be a place in which His sanctity and exaltedness would come forth. But Hashem made the possibility of not seeing his unity an inherent part of the plan too.

It is possible to see Hashem‘s wisdom even without his involvement. By choosing not to see the fragmented picture, but to view Him as one and every creation and event that takes place as stemming from that one source, we draw closer to Him.

Before the sin, everything in the world was there as it should be. Man’s role was l’avdah ul’shomrah, to work and guard the world. The Ohr Hachaim says l’avdah means to uplift things, to make everything into an avoda (service).You can admire a beautiful orange, gaze up at the blue sky, inhale the fresh air, and turn it all into avodat Hashem (service of Hashem). Adam’s physical body found expression in the performance of the will of Hashem through the positive mitzvot. L’shomra was later manifested in the negative mitzvot.

Hashem responded to the sin of the tree of knowledge by bringing curses upon the world. Adam was cursed, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.” Only after the sin were we forced to become physically involved in the earth’s actual bounty and physical productivity. We moved from being on a level that was more spiritual to a level that was more physical.

The Mesilat Yesharim says bitachon means relying on Hashem completely. David Hamelech wrote, “Hashlech Al Hashem Yehavcha V’hu Yechalkeleka. Throw your burden upon Hashem and He will provide for you.” The Gra says yahav means feeling an absolute emotional reliance on Hashem. We’re supposed to invest our physical effort but we are not supposed to rely on the consequences of it.

What is hishtadlut (effort) about? The Leshem says the only way something can become your identity is through choice and action. Adam was created with absolute knowledge. He was able to see from one end of the world to the other. However, none of his wisdom was integrated through choice. Therefore, Hashem presented him with a test. If he would have done more of l’avdah ul’shomra, his ability to deal with the fruit of goodness and evil would’ve been different. Therefore, the consequence of the sin had to be consciousness, so that he would now make better choices.

He was cursed with the sweat of his brow. When you work, there’s a conflict to view what you have produced as yours or to recognize that these are your actions and choices, but the consequences belong to Hashem. Sometimes we outright sin, sometimes we decentralize Hashem.

How much effort do we really have to put in? The Maharal’s view was that you have to maximize your hishtadlut because it is the catalyst through which a person utilizes his talents for tikun olam and tikun atzmi (rectifying the world and himself). But the results are always dependent on Hashem.

Rav Zundel Salanter held that the necessity to expend effort is because we are not worthy of revealed wonders. Any minute level of hishtadlut, as long as it conceals the miracle of our sustenance, is enough. The Michtav M’Eliyahu maintained that one should do whatever the natural cause and effect demands of us.

Some people investigate all possibilities, commit themselves emotionally, and do everything they can. They wage war against their competitors and drive themselves to achieve to the max. This is a whole other level. These people feel vulnerable, they compete, they are scared. If you ask this kind of believer why are you doing this? He’ll answer with religious clichés such as, The Torah says, “Sheshet yamim ta’avod” (work six days) and the Gemara says that one who supports his family is continually involved in charity. In reality, hishtadlut is not a mitzvah but a consequence of bad choice. Although the Gemara says that supporting your family is charity it doesn’t say going to the extreme will earn you more money. Your responsibility is to do the hishtadlut but Hashem‘s responsibility is to support your family. There are people who expend enormous effort and fail and there are people who make little effort and succeed. It’s not in our hands completely.

The real test is to ask yourself when you are doing hishtadlut, “Are my intentions to fulfill a mitzvah? Am I making myself into a vessel to draw down Hashem‘s bounty or am I just thinking business deals and office politics when I should be talking directly to Hashem?” Taking Hashem out of the picture means worshiping ourselves. The popular mantra is, “I must be realistic and competitive, I can’t be a fool and leave it all to chance.” The Torah way is, “I’ve done what I can. Now I let it go. It is in Hashem‘s hands.”

Besides being control freaks, some people hide under the guise of laziness. They don’t have the courage or the will to make the necessary effort or sufficient control of their body to get themselves going. It’s easy to call that bitachon. Hashem is not in the picture any more for a person who’s not actively involved because of laziness than in the heart of someone trying to control everything.

Sometimes the evil inclination will tell us to overdo hishtadlut and sometimes he will tell us not to. How do we know what the truth is? One approach is to learn to see Hashem in the world. Ask yourself, “What am I learning about myself and Hashem as I walk through life?” The more aware you are of Hashem, the more honest you can be. The more you see yourself as a creation of Hashem, the more you can see the events in your life as being arranged.

The Midrash describes how Hashem assigned Adam to give names to all of creation. When he was finished he asked Adam, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am Adam.” I am earthly and even my spiritual essence is meant to be expressed through physical reality.” And then Hashem asked, “Who am I?” And he said, “You are Adon, the master.” Hashem is absolutely involved. Everything is a consequence of His providence. When a person learns to think this way, to walk through the world with open eyes, then all worries about earthly matters will fall away.                                                       

Builder of Her Home: Inner Tranquility; The Key to Womanhood #1-Part I

16 03 2012
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

When the Torah was given, Hashem told Moshe, “Say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the sons of Israel.” Rashi explains that the house refers to the women and the sons refer to the men. But there’s something deeper. Men and women communicate in different ways. While a woman’s manner is soft and understanding, a man wants to know how it is.

A woman’s nature doesn’t lend itself to struggle and the hard edge. She intuitively turns towards self-discovery, finding the life-spark in her own heart and doing acts that bring her true self forth. She wasn’t meant to be a warrior. In todays’ society there are women CEO’s, women with high positions in the armed forces, women who are as hard as nails. They’re paying a high price for this – themselves.

The Gemara says, “Great is the promise Hashem made to the woman even more than he made to the men, as it says in Yeshaya, ‘You women of tranquility, rise hear my voice, you daughters of security, listen to what I say.’ ” Hashem says, you must hear my voice, you must listen, but you can find it within yourself. You don’t have to struggle. You don’t have to discover it through the kind of competition and battle men must do.

Women have a certain natural closeness to Hashem. They recite the blessing, “She’asani kirtzono,” because they finds their spirituality within. They are inherently willing and ready to do Hashem‘s will. In Pirkei Avot it says, “Make Hashem‘s will your will.” In order to do that we must know who we are and what we really want. So much of the time we’re out of touch. We must ask ourselves, “What do I want most?” Once we know that, the next step is to ask, “What is my highest will?” As a woman, the answer would be retzono. I want to be given a path, I want structure. Ideally one should find this in ones relationship with Hashem.

Hashem said, “Fill the earth and conquer it.” The way of a man is conquest. It can be through competition, athletics, the stock market. A man gets ahead by choosing his battles. He has to decide who he’s going to compete against, what his objectives are going to be. He has to work hard. Because of this when the Torah was addressed to men, the word used was dibur, tell it to them. Make the goals seem one step further than their comfort level, so they will struggle.

In a moving speech to the British nation during WWII, Churchill said, “I promise you nothing but blood, sweat, and tears,” and the people were with him because the men and even the manly part of the women wanted struggle. If he would have said, “Don’t worry it’ll be ok,” he wouldn’t have bought their hearts the way he did.

Yirat Hashem (fear of Hashem)is the beginning of all things. It says, “The beginning of wisdom is awe of Hashem.” Wisdom is the ability to understand the world and its meaning. Yirat Hashem comes from recognizing that the world is a creation on the deepest of all levels. It makes us want to observe, explore and understand. Chochmah is the power of observation unleashed. It involves asking, “What does it tell me? What have I learned?” Chochmah leads to yirat Hashem because the more a person sees the intricacy and purposefulness of the world, the more he stands in awe before Hashem. It is a circle but it must start with yirat Hashem.

In Mishlei, it says, “If you search for it like gold and treasures, then you’ll understand yirat Hashem and comprehend true knowledge of Hashem.” If you want to know Hashem, you have to search for Him the way you search for money. Daat is a state in which the knower and the knowledge become one. For a man, the way to make something his own is through struggle. But a woman must tread a different path. Shlomo Hamelech writes in Mishlei, “A woman who fears Hashem is praised.” Her task is to discover her yirat Hashem inside herself. She must peel away the layers and find it within.

Netivot Olam I: Combating The Yetzer Hara # 8

17 02 2012
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller  

As our identity becomes entwined with the evil inclination, the yetzer hara becomes progressively stronger. A person must gird himself to fight against it. Rav Yitzchak said, “The yetzer hara renews itself every day.” It makes sin seem new, when in fact there’s nothing new about it. The good seems old, because good is part of the human essence, while evil is superimposed upon it. Good resonates in the deepest part of our self, which is ageless and eternal, while evil appears new because it doesn’t exist inside ourselves. Evil by definition doesn’t have existence. It conceals it and creates an illusion of darkness.

One of the best ways to fight the yetzer hara is by using its own method, by presenting the good inclination in new ways. The two most successful movements during the age of the Enlightenment were Chassidut and Mussar. Both took existent reality and dressed it up in new ways of discovering Hashem in the world and in ourselves.

The Chatam Sofer fought the Enlightenment with his motto, “Chadash assur min haTorah.” He forbade innovative changes to Jewish practice. He made battle against those who had veered off the path innovative. In this way, he was able to rally his troops around him. Bais Yaakov too in its early days sold newness. It propagated the feeling of sisterhood and of discovering oneself in a Torah framework. This is our challenge today. We must find new and novel ways in our own personal battles against the yetzer hara.

The yetzer hara is also called the satan and the malach hamavet (angel of death). We may mistakenly think that the yetzer hara is physical because it uses physicality as a tool. In reality the yetzer hara is spiritual. The tool of the yetzer hara is chisaron, lack. There are always lacks within ourselves and society. The satan points them out and gives us a new way to contend with it. We must be careful.

The feeling of chisaron is a real feeling, but its essence isn’t real. The desire to fill the empty spaces is normal. The question is with what will we fill it. When we turn towards evil for a solution to our imperfections we create even deeper deficiencies.

The function of the malach hamavet is to take a person out of his body because his soul has no more purpose on this world. Our missions were fragmentized after the sin of the eitz hadaat (tree of knowledge). We do things that put us in a place where there’s no more reason to continue the battle. In this frame, our task is completed. Death is tumah, a blockage. It’s not being able to interact with the world any longer. The malach hamavet, which creates the heaviest concealment and ends bechira (free choice) most completely, is a spiritual force generated by the yetzer hara’s reality.

Within us, there’s an internal and external aspect. The internal is the soul and the external is the desires of the body, which feel very basic and real to us. Often our boundaries are so shaky and our awareness of what’s going on in our choice processes is so subtle that we have two voices that both sound like the real self. The part that wants dignity and tzniut (modesty) resonates as true, but the part that wants newness and attention feels true too because the self that desires is also there, although it’s not the most essential aspect of who we are. It’s a tough call and most of us don’t succeed all of the time.

Bringing upon oneself thoughts of desire is more severe than actually sinning. As long as the thought process isn’t involved, the essential self isn’t involved. Our contact with our soul comes through thought. A person who makes the wrong choice may say, “I have to be me.” Which side of who you are is really you? How deep are you willing to go to find yourself?

We’ve lost our sense of self. A person who brings evil of the mind upon himself won’t dwell with Hashem because he’s driven Hashem out of his consciousness. You can’t be identified with good and evil at the same time.

The yetzer hara can drive a person out of both worlds. It cuts a person’s reality off from this world and cuts him off from Hashem, who is the eternal and ultimate source of good.

The Song of Devorah #13

6 02 2012
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

The Gemara says that the deeds of Yael and Devora were greater than the women of the tent, the Imahot. Every woman wants a husband who will provide, so she can build with what he gives. Avraham had everything Sarah wanted on a spiritual level. Yitzchak was far more than Rivka ever dreamed of. Yaakov was an ish tam (a perfect person). He was so far removed from everything Lavan represented, that Rachel and Leah wanted nothing more than to take what he provided and build the Jewish people. Although the lives of the Imahot weren’t easy, they were only called upon to work within their natures.

Devora and Yael had to contend with far more. Barak demanded that Devora provide him with merit and leadership, something every woman wants from her husband. Yael desired to be a nurturer but ended up having to be a killer. They had to act against their natures as wives and mothers and they did so l’shem shamayim because they saw a picture that was bigger than their individual selves. Sometimes the role a woman thought she would have is not the role Hashem provides her, because he is giving her something greater, not necessarily more comfortable or easier, but more elevated.

All the songs in Tanach are holy. One of the most exalted among them is Shirat Devora. A melody can be sung with harmony. This aspect of song reflects the confluence of life events. All the pieces fit together, which in turn evokes song.

Devora sang, “When vengeance is afflicted upon Israel they dedicate themselves to Hashem.” Precisely when circumstances are at the worst, the Jewish people give themselves up to G-d. In times of great suffering, a person’s true nobility can shine forth. This is true for the Jewish people throughout history.

When Hashem gave the Torah, all nature stopped in its tracks. Matan Torah showed us that the outer and inner realities of all physical things have one master, Hashem. He had to stop nature in its tracks so we could see that it was a mode of Hashem‘s expression, not something with inherent power of its own. Hashem‘s miraculous interventions throughout history all have one beginning point, Matan Torah.

Devora affirms that without the merit of Torah they could not have succeeded in battle. Often, Torah scholars are viewed as lazy, taking the easy way out. On the surface it seems correct but it is not true. Hashem puts us in the world to fight evil. The source of wickedness is in the human heart. The only way to be victorious is to develop a people who have such inherent capacity to be a living example of goodness that they draw down Hashem‘s protection.

If military success is dependent on Hashem‘s help, what was the role of the soldiers? The merit of their mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) drew blessing from heaven. And the people learning Torah brought merit too. Whatever one’s purpose is in being moser nefesh for Klal Yisrael, even if one is not a soldier or Torah scholar, one must do it with all his strength.

Devora ends her shira with, “V’ohavei Hashem kzait hashemesh b’gevurato.” (Those who love Hashem are as powerful as the sun in its full strength.) This refers to the farmers in Israel who keep shemitta. Letting go of earning a living for two years requires tremendous faith.

It also refers to a person who is insulted and does not respond. There are people who are above insults. They think, “If this person is right, I’ll fix it. If not, it doesn’t matter. ” But most people are not at that level. When someone says something negative about us, it cuts to the core, it diminishes our Divine image. When a person accepts such complete humiliation with equanimity, he is saying, “Hashem, I’ll serve you with my heart, soul, and all my possessions. And if I’m imperfect like this person thinks I am, I’ll serve you even more from my place of imperfection with love and perfect faith.”

Leah and Yaakov’s Relationship

8 11 2011

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

Achieving Balance: Class#2


Why wasn’t the spiritual goal of building Klal Yisrael adequate to bond Leah to Yaakov in the same way it bonded him to Rachel?



By definition special love is unique and exclusive and cannot be directed towards two people. Therefore, Yaakov’s love for Leah could not be like the love he had for Rachel. Had the world been on a higher level, Yaakov would have had one wife. Rachel would have had within her both her own attributes and the spiritual attributes of Leah. Yaakov would have had within him both the spiritual forces of Yaakov and Yisrael.


Rachel was the more practical of the two sisters, the one who could address the revealed physical world. Since we are meant to bring the idealism of Leah into the world of Rachel, Rachel became the akeret habayit, the mainstay of the house of Israel.

Tree of Life: Torah-Connecting the World To Hashem

27 10 2011
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Tree of Life: Torah-Connecting the World To Hashem #15 The Rambam writes that the word tov (good) implies three things: pleasure, efficiency, and spiritually good things. Hashem created pleasure and efficiency so that we might pierce the external layer of physicality and focus on its core. The fragrant aroma, taste, and texture of iced coffee arouse a person to wonder who created it. The speed and efficiency of a shiny new car sensitizes its owner to the harmony and beauty inherent in this world. This is called berurim, making selections. Chitzoniyut (external) is supposed to lead us to penimiyut (the internal).


Torah gives us the key to joining chitzoniyut with penimiyut. The word tov is first mentioned in the Torah in the story of creation, “Vayar Elokim et ha’or ki tov.Hashem saw that the light was good.” The ability to perceive things with spiritual vision, with the light of the first day, is what goodness is about. This is what is meant by the midrashic statement, “Ein tov ela Torah. There is no good other than Torah.” The entire creation was good, but its light could only shine forth through Torah.


The Torah mentions “ki tov” six times. The letter vav, the numerical value of six, symbolizes a hook, which connects two separate items. Torah connects this world, chitzoniyut, with its source above. Six times tov equals the numerical value of emunah, faith. The prophet Chavakuk encapsulated the Torah in one point, “Tzaddik b’emunato yichye.” The tzaddik lives by his faith. All of the Torah and all of creation depend on this mitzvah. Emunah is looking at the finished product and seeing the hand of the craftsman.


The opposite of Torah is falsehood. A recurrent phrase in Mishlei is isha zarah, the disloyal wife, which symbolizes external wisdom. External wisdom symbolizes an approach to wisdom rather than a particular body of knowledge. It means looking at the world and seeing its beauty and intricacy without going further to its source. Chochma chitzonit (external wisdom) is false because Hashem is not in the picture. A lie is something that is incomplete. The chochmah (wisdom) of Torah, which by definition connects separate items, is the strongest aspect of emunah. Emunah endures forever.


So should we avoid chochma chitzonit completely? The Gemara gives us an enormous amount of information about the world’s physical reality. Our own personal observations give us more. The first approach says find out what you need in order to navigate the world but don’t dig further because it can corrupt your inner process of searching. Hence, the Baal Hatanya teaches that external wisdom causes a person’s inner search for knowledge to become impure. It doesn’t take a person to Hashem, it takes him further away. The second view questions how one can see the inside of something if one doesn’t study the outside. The proponents of this view say, the more you study the world, the more you can discern its Master. Both views can be reconciled, provided that we view the external as a means to reaching the internal, not as an end in itself.


Torah is the tavlin (spice) of the evil inclination. Why is it called a spice and not an opponent? The function of a spice is to enhance the flavor of a dish. We have the capacity to extract the good from within the yetzer hara by conquering it. The act of saying no to something forbidden is an act of vanquishing evil. Another way to engage the yetzer hara is by turning evil into good. There are people with tendencies that can potentially take them away from Hashem, but if used correctly can help them grow. Here too, evil becomes good. If not for the evil inclination, people would be like angels, they’d behave properly because their nature forced them to do so.

Torah and mitzvot teach us how to elevate our evil inclination for a higher purpose. Therefore, it is a spice and not an opponent, because it sweetens that which is bitter. The light of the Torah takes a person back to Hashem. It’s a hook that reveals His holy presence.


The yetzer hara is like a lion in ambush. It seduces us by convincing us that our sins are permitted. In the beginning, the yetzer hara tastes sweet but it ultimately leads to spiritual death. The yetzer hara cannot work on a person unless he’s empty of Torah. It is called a lion because its source comes from gevurah, power. It tells us that we’re lacking unless we follow its dictates. To overcome this, give yourself permission to feel just like a lion. Tell yourself, “I’m a person who does what I want, I’m not someone doomed to react and I’ve made the decision to overcome the evil within me.” Fight the yetzer hara with its own weapon. Gird yourself like a lion and arm yourself with Torah. With Hashem’s help you’ll emerge the victor.

When is it ok to give in to someone else?

2 02 2011

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

Question and Answers for Today's Jewish Woman, Part 6

Can you explain the proper boundaries of being a vatran (giving in)?

Vatranut begins by seeing the other person as an extension of yourself. Parents instinctively do this with their children. You have to learn to bring more people into your picture. Being a shmatta means resentfully giving in when there are other possibilities. I would call this intentional martyrdom, which is what people choose because they enjoy making others feel guilty and beholden. People with low self-esteem tend to give in, because they can’t bring themselves to suffer even momentary disapproval from another person.

There is a huge difference when there are other alternatives and when you are giving in because of unhealthy reason. Martyrdom isn’t good for anyone. The boundaries of vatranut have to do with halachic priorities. A mitzva comes before other obligations. Something only you can do comes before something other people can do. For example, only you as your children’s mother can put your kids to bed in a way that will make them feel loved and cared for. If someone consistently asks you to drive them somewhere at that hour, you have to learn to say no.

A definable mitzva cannot be forfeited at the risk of doing an aveira. For instance, if right before Shabbat a friend requests a favor that might cause you to violate Shabbat, you are obligated to decline. Obviously, real emergencies and saving lives take precedence over almost everything else.

Learn to use your good judgment and common sense. Giving in is laudable, but never at the expense of neglecting your priorities.

Do Married People Still Need Friends?

25 01 2011

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

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


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.


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.