Jewish Personalities

What Did Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Say at His Wife’s Funeral?

At his wife’s funeral, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rosh Yeshivat Kol Torah, who was known for his pleasant ways and good heart, stood by his wife’s stretcher and said softly, “You know that I have no need to ask your forgiveness. We always lived in mutual respect and harmony and I never insulted you whatsoever.”

The above is well known, but not so what followed. I heard one of his disciples, today a Rav in Los Angeles, tell over: “The funeral was over and I was privileged to drive the Rosh Yeshivah home. I couldn’t hold myself back and asked him, ‘Excuse me for asking the Rosh Yeshivah a personal question on this difficult day, but I am a young student and I have a desire to learn. How can it be that the Rosh Yeshivah never said an insulting word to the Rebbetzin in all of his married life, for over fifty years? Did the Rosh Yeshivah always want what she wanted? Did everything she did always find favor in your eyes?”

“He replied, ‘Of course not! Even twins who grew up in the same house have different opinions. Nevertheless, I never offended her. Whenever I felt an urge to remark about something that disturbed me, I would sit and think: With what compliment can I preface my words? How can I make my comment without hurting her? With what good word can I end off and leave a pleasant atmosphere between us?’

He was silent for a moment, then added, ‘If I couldn’t find the proper formula, I would simply remain silent. But never did I utter an offensive word to my wife!’ ” This shows the greatness of a man who has full control over himself and his speech, like clay in the hands of a potter.

This is in total contrast to most people in the world who, when angry at their wives, choose the most insulting words they know and hurl them at her with full force. Husbands who are very callous to their wives may not be evil at heart but probably believe that this approach is the best way to reach her, to make her understand how important the issue is to him and that he takes it to heart.

But R’ Auerbach revealed an amazing secret about a person’s psyche: if one wants something to really penetrate and reach another person, there is no need for harsh words and a caustic tone. Instead of shooting arrows at the heart and wounding it, one can use compliments, which open the door to the heart in a pleasant way.

Once the door is open, with a few gentle words to express that criticism it is already inside. After that, one needs another good word or two to close the heart once more and the message will remain inside. Thus, the result will have been achieved without a power struggle, which isn’t effective to begin with.

When a man feels challenged, he should say to himself, “Wait a minute! What do I want to achieve right now? Do I want to start an argument? Definitely not! All I want is a small change and there’s a different way to make that happen than what I’ve been doing till now. Let me see how to go about it properly and achieve my goal without offending my wife.”

Employing the aforementioned rules does away with the sting of insult that is part of criticism and allows the words to flow in a marvelous way, enabling one to achieve a wonderful result, to the satisfaction of both of those involved.

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

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