They tell the story of an old Chinese man who came from a family famous for the peace and contentment among them. This happiness
went back many generations, and all the descendants shared it. When the Chinese emperor heard of it, he summoned the old man to him and asked him to reveal the secret of their family harmony, which was so pronounced that it was known throughout the country.
The old man took a long sheet of paper, sat down and began writing, first on one side in a small, compact handwriting, and then on the other. He wrote patiently for an hour while the emperor waited, eager to learn the formula for happiness. When the old man finished filling the empty space on the page, he handed the paper to the emperor, who discovered to his amazement that it contained only one single Chinese letter, written over and over again.
When he looked up from the page in surprise, the old man explained that the secret of marital harmony is patience. Just as he had had the patience to fill the long paper on both sides with the same letter, so did he have patience for his wife and children. “This is the secret of my success. Let a wise man hear this and learn the lesson.”
When God created Adam and then formed Chava (Eve) from him, it says (Genesis 20:21): “And God put Adam into a deep slumber and he slept. And He took one of his ribs and closed the flesh around it.” It is asked why God had to put Adam to sleep? Couldn’t He have removed the rib through “local anesthesia,” as it were?
Rashi comments, “…so that he would not see the piece of flesh from which she was created and regard her with distaste.” We learn an important rule from here: even though a couple aspires to a strong relationship, each one must nevertheless establish boundaries to the extent of the openness between them.
Excessive closeness can damage their mutual affection for one another. (This has no connection to the measures of distance at certain designated times according to Jewish law.) Therefore: 1. To the extent possible, a couple should be careful not to focus on flaws and blemishes in the other. 2. When one sees a fault, s/he should do their best to ignore it, as if they are “asleep,” and overlook it even in their minds.
The Maggid of Dubno, famous for his sharp parables, gave an example of a woman who was both clever and good-hearted, but happened to be very ugly. Matchmakers suggested that she marry a blind man who would not see her blatant disadvantage and so she did. Her blind husband appreciated her and was proud of her wisdom and other fine attributes and there was no one happier than he.
Time passed and a famous eye specialist arrived in their town, claiming that he could cure blindness. The blind husband paid a large fee and was duly cured. He returned to his home but when he laid his eyes upon his wife, he shuddered with shock, and his life from then on was very bitter. Sometimes it is better not to see and be happy than to see and be dismayed.
ENCOURAGING SET TIMES FOR LEARNING TORAH
A wonderful piece of advice for maintaining marital harmony is encouraging the husband to set fixed times for learning Torah every day. Attending a Torah lecture every day is not only informative; he will receive the tools and the fortitude to weather the many situations and storms that arise in married life.
This is besides the obligation for every Jewish man to set regular times for learning Torah every day, and the fact that through the husband’s Torah learning, his wife also becomes spiritually elevated and acquires the merit to be resurrected during techiyat hameitim [resurrection of the dead]. (For more information on learning Torah as an essential condition for techiyat hameitim, see introduction to Shu”t “Nezer Cohen,” Part 2.)
Aside from its many benefits, such as enlightenment and purification of the soul, and its important role in the existence of the world (as discussed in Keys to Life, in the section about the hidden treasure we can uncover in a moment of Torah study), Torah learning on a daily basis relaxes the soul from its daily pressures, and is a generous contributor to marital harmony.
Learning Torah is similar to “construction lever,” in that it corrects the distortions that may be created in the human psyche throughout the day as one goes about their business in the material world with all of its distractions. The learning puts the man in the right frame of mind by giving him the correct view and clear guidance on how to work on himself with the right balance. He’ll suddenly discover within himself new capabilities, and the ability to employ these wonderful skills when dealing with the myriad situations that arise in daily life, until he finds true marital harmony and happiness in life.
In addition, a woman can make use of the Torah lesson to resolve disputes that have reached a dead end, through consultation and discussion with the rabbi teaching the class (preferably without revealing her husband’s identity, so as not to embarrass him in front of his teacher), who can combine words of reproach and guidance in the lesson, without the husband knowing that the remarks made in the lesson address the patterns of his behavior at home.
A woman should not force her husband to participate in Torah classes against his will, but she can encourage him to do so by saying the following: “Although it is better for me when you are at home, especially when you help me with the children and the housework, I have heard about how wonderful it is to set regular times for learning Torah. If you would like to start attending a daily Torah class on a regular basis, I would definitely encourage and support you.”
THE MOON AND APPEASEMENT
And God created the two large luminaries, the large luminary to rule by day and the small luminary to rule by night, and the stars” (Genesis 1:16). Why does the Torah refer to them ambiguously as the “two large luminaries” to begin with, and then differentiates between them as the larger and the smaller?
Rashi explains: “The two large luminaries were first created equal but the moon was diminished because she complained, saying: “Two kings cannot rule with one crown. But since the moon was made smaller, [He] increased her legions to appease her.” From here we learn a significant lesson in how important it is to appease someone whom you have hurt, even if that hurtful act was justified. The diminishing of the moon was certainly vindicated according to Divine justice, which is right and true.
Nevertheless, we can understand that had it not been for the insult to the moon, there would have been no need for the stars. These, then, were created only to mollify her. And those stars remain in the sky for all time for the added purpose of teaching us how important it is to pacify one who is insulted.
And as if this were not enough, our Sages say (Chullin 60a): “When God saw that even these tremendous legions did not satisfy the moon, He said: ‘Bring for Me an atonement for My having diminished the moon!’ This is why Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: “Why is the sacrifice of the new moon, of which it is written, ‘unto God’ (Numbers 28:15), different from other sacrifices?
The answer is that God said: ‘This kid-offering will be My atonement for having diminished the moon.’” God asks that a “sin-offering” be brought for His having insulted the moon! This has very deep significance to be sure, but we can derive a vital lesson from it as to how much we must invest in appeasement, even if the original act was justified and right. How much more so is this true if we erred and caused pain that was not justified, and all the more so when it involves our mate and our marital harmony.
In conclusion, we will cite some advice for women from Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe ztz”l, renowned for his greatness and wisdom, and his astute understanding of the human psyche:
PEACE OF MIND
“The greater the intellectual and moral level of a man, the more he needs to spend time alone. A thinking person cannot always be around company; he often feels an inner necessity to be alone. “While it is clear that you have chosen a groom of high caliber, it is a near certainty that you will sometimes encounter such phenomena: your spouse is with you at home, yet you have the feeling that he is ‘not really there’; you talk to him — and he listens with half an ear, does not participate in the conversation, his answers are short, and he sometimes seems as if he is not interested in the conversation at all.
At such times, you will know that it is one of these times when he wants to be ‘alone.’ “Don’t think that he is indifferent to you, or that he is ‘annoyed’; he just needs to be alone for a while. Of course, it is not and should not become a permanent state, but sometimes he just needs a few moments of peace of mind, and you must accept it even if these times come precisely when you have something in your heart that you very much want to share. With a little bit of will and maturity, understanding and patience, you can save a lot of the stress arising from situations mentioned above and the like.”
“Not only do the habits of youth make you angry, you will also discover qualities in your partner that are not in your spirit and taste, and since these qualities do not correspond to the ideal image you have painted of your partner, you will try to change them for his own good. In your opinion, he would be perfect if he could only change this one thing.
“For example, he is very social and too popular, and does not keep an appropriate distance between himself and those of less stature; or he is a thinker and, preoccupied with his thoughts, is unable to engage in light conversation. You should know: Any attempt to change this inherent trait will usually fail, causing you disappointment and even bitterness. An important part of a woman’s wisdom is knowing when to make peace with what is! “It can generally be said that more conversation is beneficial, especially in the first year, which is the year of adjustment and association. It’s a good idea to get used to discussing any problems that happen at home and trying to find advice and solution together.”
THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP
A daughter is naturally connected to her mother, and may be used to telling her mother every single thing that happens to her, and some mothers have raised their daughters so that they will not take a step without reporting it. “A wise mother may cultivate a warm relationship with her daughter, but she should also be preparing her for the fact that after her marriage she will not remain dependent on her mother but will develop an emotional connection with her husband.
From now on, husband and wife must solve their problems together. This strengthens the emotional closeness between the couple. They both can rely on the other that he will not reveal the things that are between them to anyone from outside. And even if they need the advice of their parents sometimes, it will be with both of their consent.”
These are the wise words of Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe ztz”l.
Adapted from 'Happily Married – The Complete Guide to a Successful Jewish Marriage' For Women, by Rabbi Zamir Cohen. Click Here to Buy Now