Marriage

The Enormous Value of Peace

There was a great sage by the name of Rabbi Meir who used to give a lecture every Friday night. A certain woman used to attend on a regular basis. One Friday night, the Rabbi spoke longer than usual, and when the woman arrived home the door was locked. Her husband, angry with her for coming back so late, had locked her out. And he would only let her back in if she spat in Rabbi Meir’s eye, as he claimed it was the Rabbi’s fault that she had come late.

The woman went to stay with her neighbors, and there she remained for several Weeks. Eventually, the neighbor had such pity on her she went to tell Rabbi Meir what had happened.

Rabbi Meir, who very much wanted to help the woman, pretended he had a sore eye. He asked that a woman be brought who knew how to heal the sore by spitting in his eye. The neighbor brought the woman to Rabbi Meir and he told her to spit in his eye seven times. After she did his bidding, he said to her, “Go back to your husband, and tell him: “You told me to spit in Rabbi Meir’s eye once, but I did so seven times.”

The woman went home, and there was peace between the woman and her husband from then on.

The students of Rabbi Meir were very upset, however. How could their revered Rabbi allow such a disgraceful thing to be done to him? Rabbi Meir answered them: “Let not the honor of Rabbi Meir be dearer than the honor of G-d, Who desires most that there be peace between a husband and wife” (Mídrash Rabbah, Vayetze 89:9).

Our Sages do not justify in any way the husband’s despicable behavior. Their message to us is that the value of peace, in G-d’s eyes, is enormous. This is illustrated by the extent to which the honored Sage was willing to sacrifice his personal dignity to obtain peace between a husband and wife. In fact, the power of peace is so great, the Torah teaches us, that it is thanks to peace that the World exists (Maalos HaMiddos).

What is peace? The Hebrew Word for peace is Shalom. Shalom comes from the word shaleim, which means “whole.” Peace is the bridging of opposing forces. The husband and wife are two halves which have become one whole. This is peace.

Since our marriages were made in Heaven, We are ideally suited to our husbands. “And the Lord, G-d, said, 'It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him an ez'zer kenegdo, a helpmate who also serves him as an opposing balance’ ” (Bereishis 2:18). The Netziv explains that every wife has the Corrective ability to be just the helpmate to her husband that he needs, according to every tiny nuance of his personality. Every wife is so suited to her husband that she has the potential to be constantly of help to him. A husband and wife have the ability to be perfectly balanced with each other, and because of each other. The wife is suited to helping her husband with every one of his character traits. That includes the negative ones, too. She is ideally suited to bring out his full potential. As HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, of blessed memory, said, “The wife holds the soul of her husband in her hand.”

*     *     *

Michael has a terrible temper. He can flare up at the smallest of things, like a misplaced pen, and start shouting, slamming doors and throwing things. Michael’s wife, Leah, could, if she’s just reacting without really thinking first, shout right back at him, “What’s the matter with you? Why do you have to always scream at me? What an awful temper you have!

It may look like Leah’s being a help to him, trying to get him to control his temper, but if she hasn’t put careful thought into figuring out the best way to deal with this problem, then chances are she’s not being much of a help at all.

If Leah feels hurt and put down, taking every one of his angry outbursts very seriously, she will be needing help too. But if she recognizes this character flaw for what it is from a position of strength, with her womanly wisdom, she may come up with a strategy combining tact and diplomacy to help him overcome his problem, or at least reduce it.

The best way for her to deal with Michael’s temper would be to think of it not as the problem of Michael, the stranger, but as a problem that Michael, her other half, has. They are still two halves of one whole – even when one half misbehaves.

If she remains calm, she may be able to help him calm down eventually. How? By speaking softly and soothingly, and honestly empathizing with him. Through using tremendous wisdom in a patient and loyal manner, she can act as a true helpmate to him. Only in a peaceful manner will Leah achieve change.

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