The Measure of a Man is How He Treats His Wife

“Don’t call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name.” (Genesis 17, 16)

When G-d changed Abram’s name to Abraham the verse says, “Your name shall be …” whereas by Sarah the verse says “Sarah is her name” already, in present tense. Why is this so?  Rabbi Itzaleh (Isaac) of Volozhin answers with a parable:

Someone will soon be crowned as king and will sit on his throne. It is clear that there needn’t be a separate ceremony where his wife will be crowned as queen. Everyone knows that as soon as the king is crowned as king his wife is automatically a queen.

It is the same here; when G-d declared “Your name will be Abraham” which the sages interpret to mean G-d made him a “father of many nations”, a king over them, so Sarai automatically at that moment became queen, so that’s why the verse says, “don’t call her Sarai as Sarah (already) is her name”. Sarah means “ruler” and she had already become a ruler when Abraham did.

We can learn from this the great strength given to the kings in Judaism. The Talmud says “who is a king? The rabbis are”. These rabbis uplift their wives to the level of being a queen. For when someone conducts himself as a king, his wife is automatically crowned a queen. But when a man doesn’t conduct himself in the path proscribed in the Torah and doesn’t accept upon himself the yolk of royalty, then his home won’t run properly and he won’t succeed in attaining the delicate and refined atmosphere found in Jewish homes.

Kindness- The ‘scent’ of a Jewish home.

Many good things permeated the Jewish home in previous generations and gave a good taste to Jew’s lives, sweetening all bitter things and turning sadness into happiness. But most of all, the heartfelt and honorable atmosphere is felt. Where the married couple is a symbol of complete friendship to their children, where they understand and delve into each other’s needs, where they dive into solving the other’s doubts and misgivings and show total sharing and participation in the happiness and satisfaction of the other. This is the conduct of a king and queen living under the same roof.

In our generation there is a laxity in these things and if we knew what we’re missing we’d behave differently. A man goes out into the street and conducts himself in a saintly manner only with friends and acquaintances out of the house. If they don’t wrong him terribly he won’t hold it against them and may even forgive them. In the marketplace, he’ll meet many people and won’t complain against any of them. He may even be disposed to do kindness to them financially or even to physically help them with something helping fulfill their wishes or demands.

But… upon returning home, to his wife and children that longingly waited for his homecoming, only then he gets angry at the slightest deviation from his requests and woe is to he or she that dared go against his wishes!

Upside-down world

This type of conduct is a grave mistake. Rabbi Chaim Vital said that a man’s character is measured only by how he treats his wife! A man that deals kindly with everyone, lending and giving, visiting the sick, consoling mourners and gladdening a bride and groom will be happy with his lot when leaving this world to the next one, bringing with him many merits and good deeds… or so he thinks…

But in reality he must know that in heaven they will check how he treated his wife! If he treated her too with kindness all his life, how fortunate is his lot! But if he angered, ignored or neglected her, filled his home with anger and merciless strictness, or failed to do kindness or ease the burden in the house, this poor behavior will outweigh all his good and none of it will be recalled when being judged in heaven!

Let a man recalibrate his priorities and not be kindhearted in the street and a tyrant in his home!

Excerpt from Rabbi Yitzchak Zilbershtein's “Aleinu Leshabeach” series 


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