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Dr. Mordechai Kedar
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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
For Men Only
One of the most basic foundations of life is the importance of peace at home. Without “shalom bayit” nothing goes well. So for all of us who have trouble maintaining a happy and healthy home, here’s important advice from Rabbi Shalom Arush from his book , “The Garden of Peace - A Marital Guide For Men Only,” translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody, who has a wonderful website of his own.
Readers who enjoy Rabbi Arush's illuminating teachings can find another essay on marriage at this site.
Rabbi Arush’s book can be purchased online here.
THE GREAT FOUNDATION
Rabbi Arush writes that peace in the home, “shalom bayit,” is a great foundation in serving Hashem. A husband must exert great effort in this non-stop mitzvah, working on it, learning about it, and praying to succeed in his efforts. Many times, husbands believe this is a waste of time, that it is more important to spend one’s time studying Torah and doing deeds of kindness to others. But this is a grave mistake. A man’s relationship with his wife is his barometer on how he is serving Hashem, and his real test in life.
A man who is loved by the world for his saintliness and charitable deeds, but who ignores his wife and causes her sorrow and tears, he is disdained by the Heavenly Court. In serving Hashem, a man must develop Faith (emunah) and humility. These can only be truly acquired by being a loving husband at home.
Since shalom bayit is of such paramount importance, Rabbi Arush emphasizes that the lessons he offers should be learned and relearned, noting that, very often, distressing matters such as sickness, problems with children, financial difficulties, and the like, stem from a lack of shalom bayit and the sufferings that a husband causes his wife.
Criticizing one’s wife is as forbidden as pork on the dining room table. The wife of a critical husband is broken, depressed, pained, and she has no vitality.
One of the most important foundation of shalom bayit is that a husband should never criticize or negatively comment about his wife, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE! Every negative comment is “a crack in the wall of marital bliss.” With more and more cracks, the walls of the house eventually crumble and fall. Rabbi Arush stresses that comments and criticism destroy a wife, for G-d created her to be especially sensitive to her husband, for her entire vitality and happiness depends on the honor that her husband gives her. “Therefore, any affront to her honor damages her soul, weakens her vitality, and virtually kills her, both spiritually and physically.”
Even when a husband’s comments are gentle and meant in a constructive way, she still suffers. Harsh comments and outbursts of irritation are brutal in their affect. A woman wants to be perfect and appreciated in the eyes of her husband – this is her honor, happiness and security. Snide and cynical remarks destroy her self-image completely. A woman who lives with a critical husband finds her life unbearable.
A wife is in need of her husband’s respect, valuation, and encouragement. Negative comments and criticism are devastating to her. A wife’s entire wellbeing depends on her husband’s kind and loving words to her.
Rabbi Arush relates that often husbands come to him with a long list of complaints about their wife and are startled to discover that their very criticisms are the source of their problems. When a husband criticizes his wife, she becomes argumentative, hostile, and displeased with whatever he does. The house turns into hell. Husbands who give up belittling their spouses are pleased to discover a new happiness in the homes, instead of mutual badgering and strife.
THE WIFE IS A MIRROR
A man’ wife is a mirror of himself. Any deficiency he sees in her is actually his own deficiency.
If a man disrespects his wife, she will disrespect him. If he places her on a pedestal, she will do the same to him. Any shortcomings that a husband sees in his wife are Hashem’s way of telling him what he has to work on in himself. He shouldn’t criticize her, but rather work to improve himself. This understanding can save a troubled marriage, and lead a man to accomplish his tikun (rectification) in life. This is one of the purposes of marriage – to help a man correct his character traits – not to correct the faults he sees in his wife! By improving himself, he will see a change in his wife as well, without even saying one critical word to her!
Hashem gives each man the exact wife he needs in order to reach his rectification – but he first has to understand this basic point and use it as a tool for personal growth. The problems he finds in his wife are precisely the things he needs to work on in himself!
Every husband should pray to Hashem to open his eyes and allow him to see, via the reactions of his wife, the things that he needs to correct.
For instance, if she gets angry, it is a sign that he needs to work on his own anger. If she refuses to obey his wishes, it is a sign that he is not obeying the wishes of Hashem. Her behavior toward him is a mere reflection of his behavior toward her. If he treats her like a queen, he will be her king.
It is important to understand that if one’s wife is a “nagging witch,” she is acting that way as a stick in Hashem’s hand to give him the punishment that he deserves for his sins. So why get angry at her? Let him do tshuva (penitence) instead.
Rabbi Arush adds: “If you see in a mirror that your hat is on crooked, don’t try to straighten the mirror – it won’t do any good. Likewise, comments and criticism do nothing to correct your wife; they only destroy her joy in life.
Without this spiritual awareness, a husband is easily upset by the flaws he sees in his wife. He becomes embittered and regrets having married such a woman. He believes he is justified in criticizing, lecturing, blaming, and the like. He can’t love her because he only sees her faults. This attitude a root cause of marital strife.
Rabbi Arush points out that you didn’t get married to correct your wife. You got married to correct yourself, by using your wife as a mirror to help expose your faults.
A wife isn’t just as mirror – she is a magnifying glass as well. She exposes all of his flaws, even the tiniest. Hashem does this because no man can objectively see all of his shortcomings. Our Sages have said that a hint is enough for a wise man, but a fool needs to be hit over the head. He must always remember – if his wife revolts against him, he is the cause.
STOP PRETENDING TO BE PERFECT
Some husbands maintain that they are the picture of calmness in the face of their wife’s outbursts. Instead of acting like “Mr. Cool,” a caring husband should try to understand what is bothering his wife and know that it is because of the things in himself that he hasn’t corrected.
Some husbands insist that they are model husbands, but even when they come home bearing groceries, gifts for their wife, and compliments, they are met with a salvo of anger and complaints. What these “model husbands” forget to mention is how they gazed longingly after other women in the supermarket. A wife’s radar picks up everything. Through her, Hashem let’s a man know that he’s got to clean up his act.
Rabbi Arush recommends that every husband have a set time for self-inspection and for “Hitbodedut,” pouring his heart out before Hashem and asking for His help with all of his problems and with recognizing everything he needs to correct. Without this, he is liable to receive shock treatment from his wife in order to arouse him to make tshuva.
YOU ONLY CAUSE DAMAGE
A husband may have noble intentions, wanting to help his wife be a better person, but his critical comments have the opposite effect. By nature, women don’t like to be criticized or reprimanded for their behavior. Just as it is a mitzvah to offer correction to someone who will heed it, it is a mitzvah to refrain from correcting someone who won’t. Since criticism is anathema to a wife, comments will only cause tension and anger. To a wife, criticism means that her husband doesn’t love her. If a husband knew how deeply his remarks pierced his wife’s heart, he wouldn’t say them.
A husband’s tendency to constantly criticize is a sign of his own character flaws.
The yetzer hara (evil inclination) often encourages a husband to criticize his wife with the pretense that it is for her own good to help her change for the better. He feels justified as if his comments are out of his love for her. But the minute he criticizes her, no matter how warranted it may seem, her soul darkens and she is crushed. Her whole world crumbles. Feeling that her very life is threatened, she may react by striking out, like a wounded animal trying to protect itself. This brings him to criticize her further and the tragic vicious cycle is reinforced.
A husband’s criticism can bring a wife to physical illness or a nervous breakdown, G-d forbid. If he criticizes her in the name of the Torah, accusing her of failing to meet Torah standards in her religious behavior, this can bring her to hate the Torah and be angry toward G-d, may Hashem have mercy. She is liable to throw away her hair covering and abandon Judaism altogether.
THE RIGHT WAY
To summarize, a husband must avoid criticizing his wife at all costs!
And if you say that it is your duty as the husband to point out your wife’s failings so that she can become a better and happier person, this isn’t the way.
It is not a husband’s job to correct his wife. Instead of focusing on his wife, by correcting himself, he will be doing her the best thing he can, helping her automatically in all areas of her life as well.
In addition, a husband must always see his wife in a positive light and emphasize her good points, and address her with kind words, compliments and praise.
A WORD TO THE WISE
If for some pressing reason a husband feels it necessary to point something out to his wife regarding her behavior, he should not do it immediately, but wait a few days at a time when things are loving between, first praying to Hashem that he cause no pain to his wife. He should express himself lovingly in a positive manner, like, “How wonderful it is, sweetheart, to be a positive role model for our children,” and not criticize her for talking lashon hara (evil speech) on the telephone in front of the kids.
But this option, if used, should always be an exception to the rule of no criticism whatsoever. Always remember, the peace in the home is dependent upon you, the husband, and not on your wife.