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17 Cheshvan 5767 - November 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
The Foundations of the Torah Home: How to Establish a Stable and Successful Jewish Marriage

Based on the sichos of Morenu veRabbeinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita

Part Five: Creation at Work

Among the many brochos that Chazal included in the marriage ceremony is the brochoh of yotzer ho'odom. It refers to the formation of man. It is very significant that Chazal chose to call attention to our Divine creation when we marry instead of when we are born.

Marriage takes place many years, even decades, after we are born. Chazal deemed marriage to be the most appropriate time to express our gratitude to Hashem Yisborach for our creation. However, how does it relate to marriage?

And why, during the course of the seven brochos that we recite under the chuppah, is the brochoh of yotzer ho'odom repeated?

Also, according to some commentaries the reason we say the brochoh of yotzer ho'odom twice under the chuppah is in order to recall the formation of Chavah. The first brochoh corresponds to formation of Odom and the second brochoh corresponds to the formation of Chavah.

Why does each require a separate brochoh?

In order to answer, we must consider carefully the purpose of the separate formation of Odom Horishon, and the purpose of the separate formation of Chavah.

The Yalkut Shimoni (Parshas Bereishis 2, simon 24) describes the formation of Chavah from Odom. Chazal teach us about how Hashem considered many possibilities before deciding which part Chavah was to come from; the head, the eye, the ear, the mouth, the heart, the hand and the foot.

For various reasons, Hashem ultimately decided to form Chavah from Odom's side. This was in order that she should be intrinsically modest. The arms usually cover the sides. Therefore, of all the organs to choose from, Odom's side most properly embodied the essence of Chavah's character.

Modesty is much more than a way to dress and a manner of conduct. The trait of tznius is the core of a woman's personality and is expressed in all facets of her life. Tznius is perfectly suited to helping the woman fulfill her task in life. Tznius is a perfect complement for the man too.

Tznius is so precious that it is "befitting" even the Shechinoh. The Midrash Tanchuma, (Parshas Bamidbar 3) relates that with the inauguration of the Mishkan, HaKodosh Boruch Hu praised the virtue of tznius. With the Mishkan complete, Hashem would now speak with Moshe Rabbenu within the privacy of the Mishkan.

The trait of tznius is essential to marriage — for husbands and for wives. It is essential to their purpose and goal in life. It is essential for life. Hashem created women with the innate ability to be content within the home. This gives a strong spiritual foundation to the home, which in turn enables the man to fulfill his task.

In the sixth perek of Ovos, Rabbi Meir teaches: "Whoever engages in the study of Torah lishmoh is privileged to many things. Moreover, the entire world is worthwhile for his sake alone." Rabbi Meir continues and lists the many exceptional blessings and virtues that result from learning Torah lishmoh — with pure intentions.

Very significantly, tznius is among them.

Moreover, tznius is an obligation for a talmid chochom. The Yalkut Shimoni (Parshas Ki Siso, simon 391) states, "A talmid chochom must be tzonu'a like a kallah."

Tznius, the intrinsic essence of the wife, is also the height of perfection for the husband! Tznius, the gift that G-d chose to give women is, for the man, the result of great effort!

After years of marriage and years of effort in Torah — Torah lishmoh — the chosson will attain his kallah's intrinsic virtues. Since this process actively begins with marriage, it is most appropriate to recite the brochoh of yotzer ho'odom under the chuppah.

The pronunciation of the word Odom in the brochoh of yotzer ho'odom contains the prefix "ho," which means "the." When used, this prefix connotes a reference to something specific and unique. Hashem Yisborach created Odom Horishon to accomplish a clear and specific task in life. More than anyone else who was ever created, Odom Horishon knew his purpose in life — perfecting his ruchniyus.

The posuk (Bereishis 2:20) describes that after searching through all of Creation Odom Horishon did not find a single being capable of helping him fulfill his task in this world. Hashem Yisborach thus made Chavah. Chavah, the perfect, complementary ezer kenegdo, was the last, most important act of Creation that Odom Horishon needed for his shleimus.

He also, more than anyone else who ever lived, knew how lacking he was — in his ability to fulfill his purpose in life — without Chavah, his wife.

Without any doubts whatsoever, Odom Horishon knew that Chavah was his one and only partner in life; likewise for Chavah. They had no other available choice.

Our attitudes towards our spouses should be the same as theirs. We should not be deceived because of the many options that a populated world seemingly offers us. We may mistakenly believe we have many choices.

Our spouses must be as cherished, beloved, and as irreplaceable, as Odom was to Chavah and Chavah was to Odom. There is no other man. There is no other woman. Under the chuppah, the chosson and kallah say amen to it.

The chuppah is the beginning. The couple now has the opportunity to spend their life together in discovery of what they really are — Tzelem Elokim. Marriage is the chance Hashem gives us to discover it and express it.

Consent to Change

The process of marriage also transforms the woman. Chazal (Avodoh Zora 39a) say "Eishes chover harei he kechover — the wife of a talmid chochom is like a talmid chochom." So much is this so that according to some opinions in halochoh, the wife of a talmid chochom has, in some aspects of halochoh, the same status as the talmid chochom himself. Once the chosson becomes a talmid chochom the eishes chayil becomes an eishes chover.

We conclude the marriage ceremony with a brochoh that the new couple should have sosson, simchah, giloh, rinoh, ditzoh, chedvoh, ahavoh, achvoh, sholom, and rei'us. These expressions of joy and affection set the tone for the beautiful, wonderful life that the new couple wants to have together.

We repeat this brochoh many times during the week of sheva brochos. This repetition strengthens the commitment that the chosson and kallah have made together. However, something has changed. The chosson and kallah assume new roles. They become husband and wife. If these aspirations guide their married life, then through their combined efforts, they will build a happy and enduring home of Torah.

This new, mutual task of building a Torah home enhances their individual goals in life. The husband sets out to become a talmid chochom and the wife sets out to become an eishes chayil. Respect also comes from realizing the role of each spouse in building a Torah home — and appreciating the value of a Torah home to Klal Yisroel.

A talmid chochom, as the expression "talmid" indicates, is always learning. A talmid chochom understands that his knowledge of Torah is never perfect or complete. There is always more to learn and more to understand. Hence, we always continue learning. This constant process should not interfere with building the home and caring for the family.

With time, enthusiasm and diligence, our goal to become great in Torah will be achieved. Therefore, as we build our life of Torah we can also build our homes and our families. Our success in Torah determines our success at home.

Likewise, our success at home determines our success in Torah. The more we learn the better we become. The happier we are at home the more we will be able to learn. If we seek to please our spouses, they will be happy. They will respond in kind and seek to please us.

When most of us use the phrase eishes chayil, the outstanding, noble woman, we usually mean a woman who excels in righteousness, in middos and in chesed — also, a woman who is very self-sacrificing for the sake of her husband's growth in Torah. The Ramban, however, teaches us that the phrase means something else.

The Ramban, in his commentary on Chumash (Shemos 18:21), writes that an eishes chayil is a woman who has "stamina and is energetic" in caring for the home. The true eishes chayil is a woman who is diligent, knowledgeable and reliable in taking care of her home and family.

Taking care of the home is commonly considered as gashmiyus and not ruchniyus. However, Chazal (Brochos 57b) teach us that a pleasant wife, a pleasant home and pleasant clothes, furniture and utensils broaden the mind of the husband. A home that has a warm, pleasant atmosphere enables the husband to fulfill his task in life and build a life of Torah. The management and upkeep of the home has an important effect on the husband and his frame of mind.

Therefore, Hashem Yisborach blesses women with specific abilities that enable them to build and care for a home much better than men.

Hashem intentionally created men as men and women as women. Husband and wife have their own specific roles in building the Torah home and in fostering the Torah way of life. Husbands and wives have different natures because each of the spouses has different, but mutual, tasks in life.

Shlomo Hamelech writes, "Listen, my son, to the mussar of your father and do not forsake the Torah of your mother" (Mishlei 1:8). Mussar involves discipline, and this role naturally suits the father. The father is usually the sterner, demanding parent, whereas the mother has the natural capacity to be more compassionate and kind. This motherly love shapes our children's attitude to life.

We want our children to grow into wholesome compassionate members of Klal Yisroel. Within the setting of the home, our children experience Torah as a way of life, a Torah of compassion, and a Torah of chesed. The mother, much more than the father, instills these traits and values into her children. This is pure ruchniyus. It is a much higher aspect of ruchniyus than the father can ever hope to achieve.

Unfortunately, we see that the role of the wife in building the Torah home in not clearly understood. The world we live in endorses superficially more glamorous and important callings of life for its female component.

The great task of enabling husbands to become talmidei chachomim and raising children to grow up to be bnei Torah is far from mundane. The routine aspects of this great task should not fool us into belittling its importance. Who would dare, chas vesholom, reduce the value of this glorious, supreme task in life?

Wives have just as much a chance of achieving Gan Eden as their husbands do. Our place in Olom Habo is an outcome of our desire, effort, and perfection we put into fulfilling our task in life. No spouse is inferior to the other. Everyone receives his or her due reward for building the Torah home.

By nature, everything physical must lack permanence and stability. Anything physical must end. Therefore, when we marry and direct our energies to building a home, we must be careful to build on a solid, enduring foundation of Torah.

If the foundation of our marriage rests upon gashmiyus, then our foundation is weak and shaky. If we build with ruchniyus, we build for the future. We build in a way that will insure that the Shechinah will permeate our homes and our lives.

Ruchniyus is eternal. Our marriages and homes will endure, even the most difficult tests and trials — if Torah, ruchniyus, and kedushoh form the basis of the relationship between husband and wife. Ruchniyus must be the basis of our goals and lives.

In the past, divorces were very rare, almost unheard of. However today, to our sorrow, there are many divorces. One very fundamental reason for this is that we lack solid identities and enduring goals. We are more concerned about gashmiyus than ruchniyus. Many of us enter marriage with misconceptions about life. We never had a chance to properly learn and fully understand the importance of kedushoh for a successful life.

Marriage enables us to face the fact that we have kedushoh. Marriage is a constant, daily reminder of our obligation to give the Tzelem Elokim within us due respect, under all circumstances. Moreover, when it comes to how we treat our spouses, we must be careful to treat them with more respect than we want for ourselves.

Marriage is our great opportunity to learn mutual respect. Lack of mutual respect is the greatest destructive factor to the marital relationship. We must be extra sensitive to our spouse's emotions and concerns. Marriage forces us to learn to respect our spouses — and ourselves. Without training, most of us will not give proper thought and attention to understanding the true magnificence of the neshomoh within us.

The basis for establishing and maintaining mutual respect requires that we realize that we are in essence Tzelem Elokim. We must become sensitive to it and we must value the kedushoh that it gives us.

Our peace of mind depends on our attitude toward life. If we value and pursue ruchniyus, if we have bitochon and if we work together with our spouses, then our homes in this world will be homes of Torah and menuchoh. Our homes will be able to host the Shechinah.

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