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Marital Harmony: How Much Must I Sacrifice for the Sake of Peace?

If a husband works to overcome the urge to argue, and invests energy in appeasing his wife until there is peace between them, then he will benefit from a high quality life, a generous income, good health and more

Marital Harmony: How Much Must I Sacrifice for the Sake of Peace?
Veteran married people often lament, “I know that it is all true, and that one must give in and sacrifice for the sake of peace. But where can I find the strength to cope?” The older the problem, the more ingrained and bigger it grows — and the harder it becomes to deal with it.

A person must mobilize greater strength to stand up to the trials again and again until the desired peace reigns once more. Aside from the tremendous energy one needs to draw upon to stand up to the test, one must think again about how important peace between a husband and wife is to God, so much so that He sacrificed his own honor and esteem for its sake. There is a great reward awaiting one who generates peace.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PEACE TO GOD

The Torah writes: “Its ways are the ways of pleasantness and all of its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). In other words, there are many paths and roads in the marvelous setup of the Torah’s mitzvot but all of them, without exception, lead to peace. Our Sages said: “God found no better vessel to contain blessing than peace” (Oktzin 3:12).

Blessing translates to bounty and abundance of goodness in all areas. It is the ultimate aspiration of all mankind. And the Creator Himself testifies that there is no vessel that can contain that coveted blessing better than peace. Without a container to hold this desired gift, there is no blessing.

We see that God established peace as the basis of all the commandments of His Torah, and this is the all-purpose utensil for blessing and goodness. From here a person can understand how precious and important peace is in a home and in all interpersonal relations, and how worthwhile it is to sacrifice for it.

HOW MUCH SACRIFICE FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE?

It says in the Talmud (Chullin 141a): “How great is peace between man and wife, as the Torah says that even God’s holy Name may be erased by water for the sake of peace.” When a husband suspects his wife of infidelity, his life is worthless to him, whether she sinned or not.

To resolve this terrible state of indecision, the Torah commands the Kohein to write the Torah portion of the Sotah (the wayward wife) on parchment. The Kohein submerges this in special water, whereby the Name of God is erased. The suspected woman is then given this water to drink in the courtyard of the Beit Hamikdash. If she sinned, she suffers an immediate and terrible death. If she is innocent, she is recompensed for the shame caused to her. If she was barren, she will bear children. If not barren, the children she will bear after this will be outstanding in many ways. After such a scene, the husband will cease to harass his wife with his suspicions. On the contrary, he will apologize and peace will be restored between them.

God could easily have ordered that the woman be given water mixed with certain herbs or whatnot with the same results without having His holy Name and an entire portion in the Torah erased. Nonetheless, God specifically ordered that His Name be effaced in the water to teach us a lesson for all time about the importance of sacrifice for the sake of peace.

THE IMMENSE REWARD RESERVED FOR ONE WHO BRINGS PEACE

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1) says: “These are the things whose fruits a person eats in This World, while the principal is set aside for him in the World to Come: parental honor, acts of kindness, instituting peace between man and his fellow man… but Torah study is equal to them all.”

Even if there is no reward for mitzvot in This World (Chullin 142a; Kiddushin 39b), this applies to the reward of the mitzvah itself, but there are acts whose fruits are rewarded in This World. There is no reward for mitzvot in general in This World because that reward is so immense that even if one were to receive only a small portion of the reward for any one mitzvah in This World, he could enjoy a luxurious home and great wealth and still have much left over. It is like a man who wants to buy a candy bar with a check for a million dollars. (Who would cash it? Who would give him the change?)

But one who practices those mitzvot the Talmud enumerates here, one of which is establishing peace between two people, receives the fruits, or interest, as it were, in This World through economic ease, good health, and so on. If this applies to one who makes peace between two people, how much more will a man receive if he sacrifices himself for the sake of peace with his wife! Surely the reward is immeasurable.

A man may sometimes feel despair and lack of motivation in working towards marital harmony. However, if he works to overcome the urge to argue, and invests energy in appeasing his wife until there is peace between them, then he will benefit from a high quality of life, a generous income, good health, and other important things in This World as interest on the account set aside for him in the World to Come. If he keeps this in mind, he will do everything in his power to achieve harmony in his home even if it means sacrificing his own will or putting a great deal of effort in the process.

SHE IS ME AND I AM SHE

The Zohar (Lech Lecha 91b) explains an additional aspect that can supply a man with motivation and energy to try his utmost to prevail even when coping is very difficult: a man and wife are two parts of a whole soul which, at the time of their marriage, are forged into one single soul.

If a man realizes that his wife is, in effect, himself — for she has completed him and transformed him into a whole person — he will immediately feel that there is no reason to hurt what is essentially his own self. But if he continues to view his wife as an extraneous factor that happens to find itself in his home, and he only married her so she would take care of her necessary obligations in this partnership and serve him, he will always be asking himself if he is getting the best of the deal.

If, however, he internalizes the fact that they are actually two halves of a single soul that bonded when they stood under the marriage canopy, he will understand the example provided by our Sages of a man who took a hammer to put in a nail but hit his thumb instead. Should the left hand grab the hammer from the right hand and hit it back? Any fool can understand that both the right and the left hand belong to one person. And what if the right hand slipped and hurt the left one — should he punish it?

The same applies to a wife. If a man realizes that she is he and he is she, he will see no reason to hurt her even if she is wrong. Rather, he will speak to her gently, affectionately, and respectfully, trying to get her to accept his view, as is explained in the chapter “Criticism.”

Adapted from 'Happily Married - The Complete Guide to a Successful Jewish Marriage' For Men, by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Click Here to Buy Now