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13 Ellul 5766 - September 6, 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 Two: Menuchas Hanefesh

We all desire and value sholom. Nevertheless, sholom is a vague term. It is also an elusive reality. We generally think of peace as being the lack of conflict between people. This definition, however, does not indicate the need for menuchas hanefesh.

Sholom is the result of personal, inner peace. We must achieve peace among our own inner drives and motivations before sholom can be expected to flourish among people. We must be happy with ourselves before we can be happy with other people.

We are responsible for sholom. Sholom begins with us, and the success of our marriages depends on us. The more menuchas hanefesh we have, the more we will be able to be calm in our homes and supportive to our families. If we have menuchas hanefesh, then even in the face of daily challenges and ordeals, the quality of our home life will be peaceful.

If we achieve menuchas hanefesh, we enable others — especially our spouses and children — to achieve menuchas hanefesh. Therefore, the Torah home, above all, must foster menuchas hanefesh, a harmonic balance between our physical needs and our spiritual aspirations.

Lack of menuchas hanefesh leads to discord within the home. Bickering is an outward expression of the lack of personal perfection — shleimus. Our inner, spiritual life affects our behavior. Also, more than we realize or would like to admit, our emotional state determines our family and social relationships. Thus, one of the most important goals in life is achieving menuchas hanefesh.

Our emotions always challenge our intellect. Life is a clash between the seichel and the nefesh, which is the interaction between our yetzer hatov and our yetzer hora. The seichel is our G-d-given ability to reason. The sefer Chovos Halevovos (Shaar Avodas Elokim, perek 5) uses the specific phrases, "omar haseichel" and "omar hanefesh" to describe this constant dialogue between intellect and emotion.

The Chovos Halevovos explains that Hashem uses the seichel as His medium of communication with us. The true and primary purpose of the seichel is to transmit the most important facts we need to know about life. The seichel speaks to us. It says, "You have an obligation to acknowledge G-d."

HaRav Yeruchom HaLevi Levovitz zt"l, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir in Poland, elaborates on the words of the Chovos Halevovos. He writes that "the seichel tells us the will of Hashem; it reveals to us the rotzon of Hashem Yisborach . . ." (Daas Torah Devorim; alef, page 238).

In addition, Rav Yeruchom makes an important stipulation: seichel is the means of communication between G-d and the human being only "when it is a pure, clean seichel; crystal clear, untainted by any impurity . . ." In other words, the seichel conveys a clear message only when it is free from all traces of personal concern and desire.

The seichel must be uninfluenced by gashmiyus. The seichel, in its purity, is the yetzer hatov - - Hashem's advocate for ruchniyus. In contrast, the yetzer hora promotes the physical requirements of human life — gashmiyus.

The soothing influence of Torah allows for a practical and beneficial balance between ruchniyus and gashmiyus. However, the seichel becomes silent if the yetzer hora is allowed to dominate the personality. Consequently, life becomes an arena for jealousy, lust and vainglory which, as Chazal teach us in the fourth perek of Ovos, "remove a person from the world."

Omar haseichel, omar hanefesh; Torah is the great mediator. We have our minds and we have our emotions. Which one controls us?

Our Best Behavior Begins at Home

The home is a place where we think we can be "ourselves." Nothing can be further from the truth. At home, we have to be better than ourselves.

We are angered much more easily at home. We lose control. We say and do many things that are not nice. We cause people pain. We become a source of suffering rather than a source of joy. This behavior is especially common in the home.

At home, our defenses are down. We have no public image to protect. We view the home as a refuge from the pressures of the outside world.

At home, we are often tired and hungry. We seek the comforts of home; consequently, we do not look forward to its challenges, nor are we always ready to cope with its pressures. We flare up if something is not to our liking.

After we calm down we realize that we did something wrong. Only afterwards do we realize the seriousness of our mistake and the results of our temper. We beg for forgiveness. Why?

The seichel cannot function while we are angry. Our emotions overwhelm our sense of reason. They paralyze our ability to estimate the damage that our words and actions can cause. Taking vengeance for our own frustrations and disappointments becomes more important than concern for the feelings of our beloved ones.

Emotions and seichel cannot operate at the same time. Only after we vent our anger can we realize what we did. At that point, if we are honest with ourselves — if we do not try to deny the truth — then the wrongness and thoughtlessness of what we did becomes clear. We try to make amends and to repair the damage.

However, rarely do we give sufficient thought to the underlying causes of our discontent — the source of our anger.

Very few of us have changed our personalities so much that our seichel governs our emotions. Most of us live with a constant struggle between knowledge and desire. Our seichel, if governed by daas Torah, tells us what is right to do. However, our emotions will compel us to do otherwise if we have not trained to control them.

If we lack education and training about how to manage our emotions, then this battle rages throughout life. The seichel is a great commander. However if, through lack of proper training, we do not heed the seichel, then the seichel is powerless. If so, how can we hope to put up a fight and resist the influence of the emotions?

Our lives are precious; far too important to be spent held captive by the yetzer hora!

Therefore, people who are concerned and aware of these dangers seek training. They train themselves to be able to heed the voice of their seichel. They learn to give preference to the seichel's commands rather than their emotional needs. They achieve greatness.

Such individuals achieve menuchas hanefesh. They have sholom. They are at peace with themselves. They are at peace with their spouses and their children. They are at peace with their neighbors and they are at peace with the world.

We cannot ignore our emotions, but we can direct them. The emotions can become submissive to the seichel. Then they will be manageable instead of assertive.

Individuals who are successful at this will not become angry or infuriated. They are settled and calm. Tranquility is the prevailing characteristic of their personality.

This is all possible, but only through Torah. Chazal have very accurately and appropriately described the situation, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu created the yetzer hora and He created the Torah as its remedy" (Bava Basra 16a).

We have essential and undeniable physical needs. Life would be impossible without them. We must eat, drink and sleep. People must populate the world. These things are all true and appropriate. Nevertheless, thought, control and moderation must govern every physical act we do.

We must know how to live. Therefore, Hashem gave us the Torah to guide our relationship with the yetzer hora. The path of Torah is the path of sholom.

Torah brings sholom to all aspects of our lives. We become balanced — spiritually and physically — when we conduct our lives according to the dictates of Torah and Chazal. Sholom is vital, especially between our seichel and our physical desires. Sholom is the foundation for a successful Torah life.

If we aspire to become wonderful, good-natured people, we must embark upon the path of Torah. Torah changes our personalities; instead of being insensitive, we become compassionate, instead of being selfish we become kind — instead of being takers we become givers. We become patient and understanding. Torah gives us strength, strength of character and strength of mind.

Torah and strength are synonymous. The Zohar, based on the posuk, "Hashem will give strength to His nation . . ." (Tehillim 29:11), equates Torah with strength. With the fortifying, enriching and stabilizing influences of Torah we can have sholom, because, as the posuk concludes " . . .Hashem will bless His nation with sholom." The path of Torah leads to peace. Hashem Yisborach gave us the Torah in order that we can have sholom.

Torah and sholom go hand in hand. Torah is our one and only means to achieve peace. Very appropriately, this posuk is the basis for the concluding statement of Mishnayos, "HaKodosh Boruch Hu found no other vessel that could contain brochoh for Klal Yisroel except for sholom" (Uktzin). Torah, as we mention in our daily prayers of Shemoneh Esrei, is life: "Toras Chaim."


The influence of Torah elevates us beyond the need for pleasure. Indulgence, the thoughtless pursuit of every whim for pleasure, will not bring satisfaction. When our sense of priorities is wrong, an inner conflict will rage between an unquenchable need for physical gratification and the unfulfilled aspirations of the neshomoh.

The momentary distractions of pleasurable pursuits do not silence the alarm signals of a life gone off course. A life of turmoil results from giving in to unrestrained physical desires. Under such conditions life, and certainly marriage, becomes difficult and chaotic.

In contrast, our lives become enjoyable when we follow the prescribed guidelines and restraints of Torah. Life becomes calm and pleasant. We can have menuchas nefesh. All the pleasurable sensory experiences of life remain intact. However seichel, guided by daas Torah, decides when, how and how much of this world and its delights, shall be enjoyed.

The Sefer HaYoshor, which is attributed to Rabbeinu Tam, defines a rosho as one whose inclination toward the physical outweighs his desire for the spiritual. "Since his soul is more inclined to the base pleasures, to the pursuit of riches . . . to greed, to stealing and enjoyment - - than it is inclined to serve Hashem, to pray, to act kindly and to do good deeds — he is a rosho" (Shaar 9).

People who give free reign to their desires, indulging in the pleasures of this world for the sake of self- gratification, have no peace. Hashem Himself testifies, "The reshoim have no peace" (Yeshayohu 48:22). The reshoim, as Yeshayohu the novi describes, are like "the driven sea that cannot rest" (Yeshayohu 57:20).

Reshoim have no peace because the clash between seichel and emotion within them is unresolved. Their life is not true life, because their wish for pleasure distorts the purpose of life.

Most of us want to be good. Nevertheless, the best of us can fall prey to daily stresses, fatigue and frustration. The seichel is certainly influenced by the body and its physical needs. Obviously, the more we fortify our seichel with Torah the less vulnerable we will be to the influence of our emotions. Counterproductive emotions, especially anger, flourish best under stressful conditions.

The best response to a situation where anger has gained control is to remain silent. Try not to react, and instead maintain your own composure. Be tolerant, for most good- natured people, although temporarily enraged, will surely come to their senses and snap out of it.

We must realize and value the importance of sholom. We must behave like mature people and control the urge to vent our anger. Self-control is vital for creating and maintaining healthy marriages. If our seichel is so undeveloped, and therefore weak, that it cannot resist a momentary upset — then we will make many mistakes and we will have many regrets.

Under the influence of anger or frustration, spouses will make hurtful statements. It is difficult to retract such harmful words. We have to be sensible enough to evaluate our loss against what we gain. A thoughtless outburst of anger is destructive. Under all circumstances, whether we are provoked from within or from without, we must remain silent.

To remain silent is very difficult, but the reward for holding back angry words of retort and revenge is great. If we are able to exercise control over ourselves we will feel wonderful about our success, and our marriages will flourish.

Our emotions should not rule over us and thus hamper the success of our marriages. Sholom with ourselves, sholom with our families, sholom with other people are the basis for a Torah life, a Torah family and a Torah world.

Spouses owe each other the greatest respect and deepest appreciation. Spouses however, tend to treat each other with less outward respect than they give to other people. The daily contact spouses have with each other tends to lower the original esteem each spouse had for the other.

We all have shortcomings. Everyone makes mistakes. Who can claim to be perfect? The key to our success is our attitude. We do not have to ignore our spouses' imperfections; nevertheless, there is no excuse to become annoyed, critical or rude. Our approach must be peaceful, positive and friendly.

If we do not have sholom, all the luxuries in the world mean nothing. If we allow jealousy, lust and vainglory to control our thoughts, our relationships and our lives, then the seichel has no more than a slight chance of governing our emotions.

Our lives are very hectic even though we have many luxuries. Hence, we are much more susceptible to lose our self-control and become angry. Moreover, even though earlier generations had much less, they understood the purpose of life. They knew the purpose of marriage. They knew the terrible power of anger. They knew the wonderful power of sholom.

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