GOOD MORNING! What is the secret to happiness in marriage? My beloved friend, Dr. Ron Goldstein, has 3 tips for his fellow man that with sincerity will help for harmony in marriage. If one's wife is upset with something he did, first, he should admit his mistake and if he isn't sure, he should err on the side of caution and say, "Yes, Dear." There can't be an argument if one agrees with his spouse. If that doesn't work, he offers an apology, "I'm sorry, Dear." Usually, that helps because a person believes that he or she is right and wants that recognition from others, especially his or her spouse. And if his wife is still upset, he should just explain, "I'm only a man" ... hoping that it will bring out the natural compassion and forgiveness for those who see the error of their ways. We are all fallible. By admitting that one is not perfect and makes mistakes, it can ameliorate the anger.
In truth, marital happiness starts much earlier with whom you choose as your spouse. Our forefather Avraham sent his servant, Eliezer, a long distance to Haran to choose a wife for his son, Yitzhak, Why? The people of Canaan were idol worshippers and the people of Haran were idol worshippers. What was Avraham seeking by choosing a daughter in law from the people of Haran? Avraham knew that those living in his old country were raised with respect for people and taught to do kindness. Sure, the people may be idol worshippers, but education can correct mistaken ideologies. However, character traits are imprinted at a very early age and they are very hard to change.
There is a seemingly strange verse in the Torah regarding love and marriage. The Torah tells us, "He (Yitzhak) married Rivka, she became his wife, and he loved her" (Gen. 24:67). Isn't the "natural" order of life that one loves another person ... and then marries her or him? The Torah is giving us a great insight: Real love is developed after making a total commitment to one's spouse. Love is the pleasure one has in focusing on the good in someone else. With total commitment, one will be sure to see those virtues.
We all want love and we seek someone who will make us happy. What often passes for love is infatuation and blind passion ... or at best, self-centered love. What we have are two self-centered people looking to make themselves happy. Without that total commitment, then if one's spouse does things that upset you or one thinks there is someone else who can please him or her more -- then there is a breakdown of the relationship.
Love has to transcend the self-centeredness to the realization that true and greater happiness comes from doing for one's spouse, rather than using one's spouse as a means for one's own gratification. For that to happen, the commitment must be total.
My teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, used to liken the commitment to one's spouse to the commitment one has to his own hand. One does not cavalierly chop off his hand because it displeased him. However, there is a time when he will have it amputated -- when it has gangrene and threatens his life.
We need to understand that marriage is a means, not a goal. A depressed, aimless, lonely single person will likely end up in marriage as a depressed, aimless, lonely married person. The Torah teaches us that Adam, the first man, was completed by marrying Eve (Chava): "a man shall ... cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:25).
One has to figure out what he values in life, what he wants in life -- and then look for someone who has the right character traits of kindness and truth and who has the same values.
According to the Torah, the purpose of a marriage is to create an entity that will grow one's relationship and closeness with the Almighty -- and to raise children through whom they can transmit the legacy of a Torah way of life.
Whatever one's goals, he must choose a spouse with good character who has the same values and goals. Then with total commitment there is hope for great happiness!
Torah Portion of the Week
Toldot, Genesis 25:19 - 28:9
Rivka (Rebecca) gives birth to Esav (Esau) and Ya'akov (Jacob). Esav sells the birthright to Ya'akov for a bowl of lentil soup. Yitzhak (Isaac) sojourns in Gerar with Avimelech, king of the Philistines. Esav marries two Hittite women bringing great pain to his parents (because they weren't of the fold).
Ya'akov impersonates Esav on the counsel of his mother in order to receive the blessing for the oldest son by his blind father, Yitzhak. Esav, angry because of his brother's deception which caused him to lose the firstborn blessings, plans to kill Ya'akov, so Ya'akov flees to his uncle Lavan (Laban) in Padan Aram -- on the advice of his parents. They also advise him to marry Lavan's daughter.
Esav understands that his wives are displeasing to his parents, so he marries a third wife, Machlath, the daughter of Ishmael (Ishmael).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Yitzhak was forty years old when he took Rivkah, the daughter of Besuail the Aromite, from Padan Arom, the sister of Lavan the Aromite, for himself for a wife" (Genesis 25:20).
The Torah has already stated (in last week's Torah portion) that Rivkah was the daughter of Besuail, the sister of Lavan, and was from Padan Arom. What do we learn from this seemingly superfluous information?
Rashi asks this question and answers that the Torah is emphasizing the praises of Rivkah. She was the daughter of an evil person, the sister of an evil person and lived in a community of evil people. Nevertheless, she did not learn from their behavior!
Many people try to excuse their faults by blaming others as the cause of their behavior. "It's not my fault I have this bad trait, I learned it from my father and mother." "I'm not to blame for this bad habit since all my brothers and sisters do it also." "Everyone in my neighborhood does this or does not do that, so how could I be any different?" They use this as a rationalization for failing to make an effort to improve.
We see from Rivkah that regardless of the faulty behavior of those in your surrounding, you have the ability to be more elevated. Of course, it takes courage and a lot of effort to be different. The righteous person might be considered a nonconformist and even rebellious by those in his environment whose standard of values are below his level. However, a basic Torah principle is that we are responsible for our own actions. Pointing to others in your environment who are worse than you is not a valid justification for not behaving properly.
If you ever find yourself saying, "It's not my fault I did this. It's because of the way I was raised or because I learned it from so and so," change your focus to, "I'll make a special effort to improve in this area to overcome the tendency to follow in the footsteps of others."
Blaming others for your faults and saying that you cannot do anything to change them will be a guarantee that they will remain with you. Make a list of the negative traits you picked up from your early environment. Develop a plan of action to improve in those areas!
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 1
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Keep your words soft and sweet --
you never know when you'll have to eat them
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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