Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Tammuz 5766 - July 19, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family


By Rebbetzin Nomi Travis


Every Shabbos, as I relax on my couch right after candle- lighting, I look forward to your articles. You have an original, thorough way of tackling important subjects which many avoid commenting on.

We have a question regarding our next child in line. His peers are getting married quickly. We feel our son is still quite immature, and although we get suggestions, we are not in a rush to start the process. But perhaps we are being overly cautious. Could you comment on readiness for girls as well?



Growing Pains

I am not sure what you mean by "immature." People could use the same word and mean different things. A youngster can be "unripe," a late bloomer. Or simply time and experiences take its course and eventually prepare the person for future commitments.

It reminds me of the term "growing pains." A child can have an ache that is real but upon examination, the doctor finds that everything is okay. Rather than being a psychological symptom, in rapid growth there is the discomfort of the body rapidly developing and causing temporary soreness in certain areas.

Along those lines, I have also heard the expression called a "mum ovver," a temporary blemish that will correct itself with time and life experience; in other words, a slightly immature person, once thrown into marriage, will grow up and learn to stand on his two feet. This is very common, especially with young couples, though they certainly need a lot of guidance.

Torah responsibility is largely dependent on self- motivation, so people who are pressured into marriage when they aren't emotionally ready for it, could end up harming their marriage partner.

Parents have to be very careful when their children seem not to be motivated to start dating. Sometimes all they need is a gentle nudge and encouragement. Although in general, the boy or girl will eventually want to date, for it is healthy to feel the need to get on to the next step in life and the excitement to start building a family.

Beyond age, we all know of immature and perhaps eccentric bachelors. But even they, hopefully, with the right counseling, do get their act together.

Some might do well in all areas, but lack the decisiveness to make a marriage commitment. I've learned not to be quick to judge people. A difficult background and some hard-core issues can be some of the common blocks. Some are so negative that they look for fault in every suggestion, search for excuses for not settling down.

Not dealing with the issues and expecting them to just disappear won't take them anywhere. The added frustration only hurts them more and the automatic ruling out of good candidates for an unjustified reason or mere excuse only contributes even more to allowing them to pass up possibly good opportunities.


Getting back to the original question, I also asked myself in seminary, how would I know when I was ready. I remember asking that of a wise teacher. She thought for a minute, then told me to picture the following scene: "You're holding one child, another is crying, the phone is ringing, etc. Are you ready to give?"

Although the description of what awaits a woman and more might seem like an exaggeration, it is not. It could and will easily happen in the busy schedule of a mother and housewife.

Besides the physical tasks that are time consuming like cooking, shopping, laundry, etc. there are no less important spiritual responsibilities. Davening is the direct connection to The One in charge. Some prayers with concentration can make the day, the future, and cause my life in general to run smoother. A shiur, Torah tape and/or sefer can inspire me to do my daily task with more joy. And even kosher music can lighten up the home atmosphere, adding to the ambiance.

The woman is like the "barometer of the house," being responsible to create the right tone and atmosphere. Her commitment to the correct values will set the pitch for the family. And primarily, she will be the one to spend the most time educating the children.

A girl has to know with wisdom that unless she respects her husband, they will be set for disaster. There is a famous saying that if a wife treats her husband like a king, he will relate to her like a queen. But if she bosses him like a servant, he will affirm his authority accordingly.

She needs to be able to appreciate and admire another person. And consequently be able to look up to him. She must harness her energies to being an ezer knegdo. A girl who is not modest or mature will have difficulty in knowing how to build up, complement, and nurture another person, rather then keeping only herself on the front lines.

For a young man as well, there is a general maturity of being able to take on responsibilities. The husband is expected to be the high authority, the head of the household. Even if he is working, it's essential that he makes an effort to maintain a set learning schedule. Dealing with halachic questions and spiritual decisions will be in his realm. His Torah knowledge and joy in fulfilling mitzvos must inspire and guide his family.

In addition, the husband needs to have a sense of direction, of where the couple is headed, what are their aspirations and priorities. Obviously, in life there is always the unknown, a person needs to have a certain awareness of his goals. Especially in a Torah home, Torah values take on priority and there is a constant striving to be better ovdei Hashem.

In the emotional department, his task is challenging. To put it mildly, dealing with a woman is not always easy. A woman needs to feel loved and appreciated. Her sensitivities can puzzle the most emotionally aware of men. It takes more than good intentions to understand and give a wife what she needs.

Marital Harmony Entails Compromise

If I only love myself and my opinions, I can get stuck in my set of circumstances On the scale of closeness, my family gets the priority. Our partner is the one we see constantly, also when we are in a bad mood, had a hard day, or didn't get enough sleep. Automatically a human being can be self- focused and deal only with his conveniences, but marriage is a partnership. There are many prerequisites such as being able to focus more on giving than taking, which invariably touches on having the capability to be responsible and care for another human being. The only way to do it is by valuing the partner with the highest esteem. Therefore, the Rambam and Tur stress that a couple is obligated to give one another enormous honor and respect. This utmost appreciation and admiration create a truly loving bond, much stronger than most family ties. When "I" becomes "we," the needs of the partner become dear and close to heart.

A well-known Rabbi of a recent generation wrote that marital harmony is imperative and requires a marked effort. It is therefore necessary that partners both give in and compromise a bit: not to insist on "winning" and "vanquishing" the other, and being "right all the time." Therefore, learning to compromise is the maturity that things won't always go my way, because it's not a monologue, a one-way relationship; but a bond, a partnership. On paper it sounds easy: give, give, and give. But in practice, we all have certain preferences and feel strongly about them. The only way to do it is by learning to forget and forgive. A respected rebbitzin told me that she prays daily to be able to overlook her husband's faults. This constant work focuses on the successes and on overcoming the daily challenges. Marriage is about building; both partners have to be willing to work hard. It doesn't come naturally. But even that giving should be focused not only on what I want, but also what the other needs.

My husband I still laugh when we remember a strange present he gave me once, it was a piece of modern art: an original design flower vase. He liked it and bought it for me. I politely said "thank you,' but he understood that the next present would be something more conventional, something more to my taste than his. A well-known wife of a talmid chochom told me that her husband used to give her pots for Yom Tov when they were first married. He was practical — "We need pots." But eventually he understood [as did our own Chazal] that what she really wanted was jewelry or new clothes. Before I started shidduchim, I thought that if I married the right person, everything would certainly turn out OK. But life taught me that all the accomplishments my husband and I have in our relationship came from praying and working hard on ourselves.


Eventually, once the couple decides to get engaged, the commitment brings a certain bond. The base is there, but real relationship can only be developed in marriage. There must, initially, be the potential that both sides are prepared to nurture the connection. There has to be mutual trust that both want the best for each other and are committed to their common goals. This reliability and commitment, the Maharal said, is the essence to maintain a marriage. When two single capable people are ready to fully invest in that relationship, the results will certainly be blessed, so that beyond age, there is a certain quotient of being prepared to erect a home, of transmitting the tradition to children together with a spouse, but at the same time with one supporting another both can feel much stronger and fulfilled. A frum counselor wrote that the marital success of the frum Jew is to marry only someone committed to Torah law. Find out early on before marriage if the person has one or more rabbis whom (s)he goes to for halachah and life questions. Find out from the rabbi(s) if the person obeys faithfully; especially when doing so is a test of will, character or self- discipline. "If you only marry someone who has a consistent history of uncompromisingly and steadily obeying halachah and daas Torah, and of having refined character traits; the chances are much greater that you will not lose out, because the Torah tells the mature person truly devoted to the will of G-d what to do in every single situation of life."

Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Please note that all names have been changed unless specified, with the exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656-3111


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