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by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Proceed With Care
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day shall be to you a holy day, a Shabbos of rest to the Lord: whoever does work on it shall be put to death. (SHEMOS 35:2)
It was the custom of the Rabbi of Belz, Rabbi Yehoshua I Rokach, to wander through his beis mdrash among his hundreds of congregants every Yom Kippur afternoon, looking into their eyes with a penetrating look. This custom caused quite a bit of curiosity among the people as they tried to figure out the purpose for his action. Some thought that because he was such a tzaddik, he had the power to see whether or not each person's sins were being forgiven just by looking into their eyes. Others gave different, sometimes mystical, explanations, but no one knew the real reason.
It remained a mystery until one Yom Kippur afternoon while he was walking around in the beis midrash, suddenly one of the people became seriously and dangerously ill due to the fast. The Rabbi immediately ran over to him, took a piece of cake out of his pocket and quickly placed it into the man's mouth. With that the person's expression changed and the danger passed.
Rabbi's strange custom. He was looking carefully to see if anyone was in danger because of the fast. (OLAM CHESED YIBANEH, p. I5)
The Rabbi of Belz took great interest and care in the welfare of his congregants. So must we also in marriage take great interest and care in the welfare of our spouses.
"Whoever does work on it [the Shabbos] shall be put to death." Rabbi Yehudah ben Beseiyra said, "If gentiles are surrounding the cities of Israel, and Israel desecrated the Shabbos [to save themselves from their enemies], they shall not say since we have desecrated a part of the Shabbos, we shall desecrate it entirely. The verse teaches us, 'Those that desecrate it shall be put to death'2 as quickly as the blink of an eye."
Rabbi Eliezer ben Partah said, "How do you know that anyone who keeps the Shabbos is considered as if he made [justifies the creation of] the Shabbos? As it is written, 'And the sons of Israel kept the Shabbos) to make the Shabbos for their generations.'" 3
Rebbi said, "How do you know that whoever keeps one Shabbos, as it is supposed to be is considered as if he kept all the Shabbosos, from the day that G-d created them until the time that the dead will come back to life? As it is written, 'And the sons of Israel kept the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos for their generations.' " 4 (YALKUT 409)
Why would someone think that once a part of the Shabbos has been desecrated, it could be entirely desecrated? Why is the conclusion otherwise? What does it mean that someone who keeps the Shabbos is as if he made or justifies the creation of the Shabbos? Why is someone who keeps one Shabbos considered as if he has kept all the Shabbosos of all the generations?
When Jews must desecrate most of the Shabbos in order to save their lives from surrounding enemies, one might think that this Shabbos is already lost. The atmosphere and holiness of Shabbos are gone, and someone might well assume that it makes no difference if he desecrates it even more, since he has been doing so the entire day until now. But this is a mistake, since every second of the Shabbos has holiness. Even though you may have been desecrating it for the major part of the day, you are still not allowed to continue doing so for even one second more than is necessary.
The same action that was allowed a moment ago now becomes prohibited and the transgression is so severe that the death penalty is administered for it. This gives us some idea to what degree a Jew must be able to control his actions. He can be doing something for the'major part of the day, but if out of habit he continues to do so after it becomes forbidden, the punishment is severe. Doing something in the past gives no justification for doing it in the present. We must constantly live up to the demands of the present moment, regardless of our previous actions.
Keeping the Shabbos is just like making [justifies the creation of] the Shabbos, say our Sages. The reason for this is that Shabbos only has value when Jews keep it. There is no point in having a world with a purely theoretical concept of Shabbos. The Shabbos was not made for G-d, and He did not rest from the creation on the seventh day for His own sake because He was "tired." He rested on the seventh day to give us an example, so that we can understand how important Shabbos is.
The whole purpose for our resting on the seventh day is to gave us an opportunity to show our commitment to our belief in Hashem. When we rest, we are testifying that He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth and all that there is in the world. Therefore, if we do not rest, it is as if we are saying that we do not believe in the Creation. This would mean that we are denying His existence. That is why keeping the Shabbos is so important, and the punishment for not keeping it is death. That is also why someone who does not keep Shabbos is considered as if he is worshipping idols.
By keeping Shabbos one is in effect announcing, "I believe in G-d and I believe that He created the world." That is why keeping the Shabbos is similar to making [or justifies the making of] the Shabbos.
Someone who keeps one Shabbos is considered as if he kept all the Shabbosos of all the generations. The reason for this is because keeping one single Shabbos is so great, that it is not considered as if we kept a fraction of all the Shabbosos that there are, but as if we kept all of them. This teaches us what an impact our actions have, and how great is our reward. For keeping one single Shabbos the reward is as if we kept all of them. Shabbos is so dear to G-d, that He is giving such a tremendous reward. He wants us to know how important Shabbos is, by telling us of the great reward.
This also teaches us what effort we must put into every single Shabbos. If every Shabbos has the same importance as all the Shabbosos in all the generations, then we cannot afford to be lenient in any of the laws of Shabbos. Shabbos must be kept with the utmost care. If we were to make one mistake, it is as if it will reverberate throughout the generations, since every Shabbos has the importance of all the Shabbosos since the time of Creation.
Marriage is Like Shabbos
This last mentioned concept is similar to a dimension of marriage. Specifically, that the consequences for a lack of caution and care go well beyond the immediate and apparent. We must take great care not to harm the precious relationship that we have with our spouses. Ruining the relationship is like ruining the whole world, since every spouse looks to his or her partner with the utmost hope and love. When we let them down we are destroying their world. You do not have to make a great effort to destroy your spouse's world. Just one careless insult, and it's done.
We know that before we do anything on Shabbos, we must carefully consider whether or not it is permitted, since many habitual and common actions that we do the rest of the week can be forbidden either by the Torah or by the Sages. One who acts impulsively on Shabbos will surely stumble. The same is true with marriage. You must be very careful before you say anything tO your spouse. You cannot just blurt out the first thing that comes into your head, because you may be saying something that will hurt your spouse's feelings. Consider every word before you speak.
The same need for forethought applies to any of your actions. If you start some project which might cause you to come home late, seriously weigh the options, and even better, discuss it with your spouse if possible. If you wish to bring guests home, ask your spouse first if it is comfortable for her, or if she prefers privacy. If you are careful, you will save your spouse from inconvenience and yourself from quarrels. The cautiousness of Rabbi Yehoshua in the above story may have saved a person's life.
Another way in which Shabbos is similar to marriage is in holiness. Just as Shabbos is holy, so too is the bond between a husband and wife. Our Sages say that when a man and his wife are together, G-d dwells amongst them.5 This might be because holiness comes with completion, and a man is not complete without a wife. This could also be the reason for the holiness of the Shabbos. Shabbos signifies the completion of the world, as our Sages say, "What was the world missing? Peace. Shabbos came and peace came."6
Only when we realize how great is our responsibility, can we do justice to our marriage. We are building generations. When a marriage is stable and loving, our children feel the hohness, and they pass it on to their children. It is an inheritance of love and understanding, a bond that we hand over to the next generation when we have peace in our marriage. If there is no harmony, this is also communicated to the next generation, and it can be a tragedy that will be felt by our children and even, G-d forbid, for generations to come.
Similarly, just as when someone desecrates part of Shabbos but has no right to desecrate the remainder of Shabbos, so too if so far we have not succeeded in having peace and holiness in our marriage, we must not continue in that way. Every moment of marriage is precious and we can always begin rebuilding it on stronger foundations. If we have not done so in the past, we can and must start right now.
Never say, "I will start tomorrow", when you can start today. Every day is a whole world, like every Shabbos, and you can always begin to mend any cracks that might exist m your marriage. Sit down with your spouse and discuss in what way your relationship can be improved. Ask your spouse to offer constructive criticism, so that you can learn what you are doing wrong and how you can improve. When you hear the criticism, take it positively, and try to do something about it, "In the way that a person wants to go, G-d leads him,"7 say our Sages. When we try to improve our marriages, G-d will surely help us to succeed.
1. Shemos 35:2
And they brought the Mishkan to Moshe, the tent, and all its furniture, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets.
In the city of Mezritz was the Beis Yoseph Yeshivah a Rabbi Dovid Bleicher was its renowned Rosh yeshivah who was famous for his understanding of human nature.
Once a young rich Chasidic man with a grieving heart appeared before Rabbi Bleicher and asked to speak with him. He related to the Rabbi that he had been married for ten years, but that had no children. Besides that, his wife was constantly ill, and had spent a fortune on medical care, with no positive result And what was more, he had just visited his Chasidic Rebbe, we told him that he must divorce his wife. Finally he burst in tears, telling Rabbi Bleicher that he simply did not know where to go from here, since if he were to divorce his wife it might endanger her health. Additionally, they lived in peace a harmony together and he did not want to divorce her. What should he do?
Rabbi Bleicher thought about the case for several minutes, a then gave the young man some advice for his wife. Rabbi Bleicher told him not to consider divorce for a few months yet, and not to tell a soul that he had visited his Chasidic Rebbe and what advice he had received there. The young man-asked Rabbi -Bleicher to pray for him, and with that he left. After a period of time, the young man returned with the news of the birth of a son. He asked Rabbi Bleicher to be the Sandak [the one who holds the child] at the bris.
"I want you to give this honor to your Chasidic Rebbe. Under no circumstances will I take it for myself," replied Rabbi Bleicher. The young man pleaded with the Rabbi, trying to convince him to accept the honor, saying that both he and his wife had decided that the honor of sandak really belonged to him, but all his pleading was in vain, since the Rabbi adamantly held to his position that the Chasidic Rebbe should be honored instead.
After the young man had left, Rabbi Bleicher's students asked him, "Why did you not want to accept the honor bestowed upon You?"
Rabbi Bleicher answered, "I was afraid that the Young man would lose faith in his Chasidic Rebbe, and thus he would not have any rabbi at all. "
The young man became so attached to Rabbi Bleicher, that as a token of his great love for him he was one of the main donors who helped the rabbi build the new yeshivah in Mezritz.
Rabbi Bleicher declined the honor of being sandak because he felt it would benefit the Chasidic man. Refusing honor for someone else's benefit is a trial of character which requires great spiritual strength to Overcome. In marriage also we must grapple with tests that arise to establish proof of our true moral character.
And they brought the mishkan to Moshe." 1 This is what the verse says, "False lips that speak of a tzaddik harshly shall become dumb,"2 [this refers to those who] spoke against Moshe.
When G-d told him to make a Mishkan, he [Moshe] immediately said to them, "Take from them a donation [trumah] to G-d."3 And Moshe was busy with the Mishkan for three months. They put it up and took it apart. And people were laughing at him and saying, "We have made the Mishkan. Did he not say that he would have the Divine Presence there dwelling among us?"
But G-d wanted the Mishkan to go up in the month that Avraham was told about Yitzchak. When that month arrived, G-d said to him, "In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall put up the Mishkan."4
At that time G-d said, "False lips that speak of a Tzaddik shall become dumb,"5 [referring to] those who were laughing at the mishkan.
Why was G-d so careful to put up the Mishkan the month that Avraham heard of the forthcoming birth of Yitzchak? Why were the people laughing at Moshe? Why does the midrash include that Moshe took donations from the people? Why did G-d mention the second half of the verse, "shall become dumb?"
People laughed at Moshe for two reasons. One was that he had promised that the Divine Presence would be in the Mishkan, but nothing had happened. Secondly5 they derided him for having taken their money for no apparent end.
If, instead, he had failed to build the Mishkan, that would have been enough to make them laugh. The fact that he took money from them, built the structure, but then could not "deliver the goods," greatly troubled them. More abuse was heaped on Moshe because people felt he cheated them, than would have been the case if they just thought hit,, incompetent. That is why the midrash mentions the fact that he had asked for donations for the Mishkan. This points out the cause of the increased laughter and derision. People were actually accusing him of deceit and theft and that the Mishkan was all a hoax. That is why the midrash quotes the verse, "False lips that speak of a tzaddik harshly shall become dumb," to allude to the fact that people were falsely accusing Moshe.
We can learn from this that even the greatest people are sometimes suspected and accused, and suffer aggravation from others much smaller than themselves. But a measure of their greatness is that they trust in G-d and continue doing His will in spite of all obstacles.
Why did G-d want the Mishkan to be erected at the same time of the year that Avraham learned that Yitzchak was to be born?
The birth of Yitzchak heralded the continuation of the Jewish people as the nation that would lead the spiritual way for the world. Before Yitzchak was born, it seemed that future generations would not benefit from the work of Avraham. All of his efforts to bring the knowledge of G-d into the world would be lost. But when Avraham heard of Yitzchak's forthcoming birth, he knew that his efforts were not in vain. Hashem's will would continue to be performed since there would now be someone to carry on His name, and as a result His Shechinah [Divine Presence] would remain present. The erection of the Mishkan also brought the Shechinah and made G-d's presence felt. Therefore G-d wanted both events to be on the same date, since they were similar in their purpose.
I heard from my mentor, Rabbi Chaim Friedlander Zt"l, that it is written that the Jewish calendar year is a spiral. In other words, each year we return to the zone of that same day that has been in the past. We are affected by past events and regain inspiration from what happened on that day in previous years.
in that vein, G-d wanted the beginning of the Mishkan to be on the same day that Yitzchak's birth was announced, so that the same inspiration which came from knowing that there would be a perpetuation of G-d's name in the world for generations to come, would also be part of the spiritual inspiration of the holy Mishkan.
What was intended by G-d's stating the words, "shall become dumb," when the Divine Presence finally entered the Mishkan? The answer might be to teach us how careful we must be not to question what G-d says. Once He ha promised Moshe that He would build the Mishkan, there was no room for doubt. Even though there might be many disappointments along the way, this will not alter the final outcome which is the fulfillment of what G-d ha promised. All the obstacles were merely spiritual trials t test our faith.
In marriage too, most of our hardships are spiritual trials to see if we are strong enough to withstand them Thus even if your spouse really overdoes it once in a while, and shouts and embarrasses you, this is a trial to see how you will react. Waiting a long time for a spouse to meet us in a prearranged place is a spiritual test. If you spouse goes somewhere without notifying you, it is a trial.
It is a trial when the house is a mess. Any unpleasantness or inconvenience is a disguised spiritual test. But always remember that a spiritual test is also a spiritual opportunity and should not be wasted. The young man in our opening story was tested by not having children. The faith and love he maintained during his heartbreaking problem, brought him success both in spiritual terms as well as being granted what he greatly desired in this world, a child.
And so our task is to react to inconveniences and hardships in our lives and in our marriages with trust that G-d does not let anything happen to us unless it is planned for our spiritual development. Why, then, should we waste our precious energy being angry at our spouse when it is all planned from Above? Instead we should learn to look at our spouses as the ones who bring us these spiritual opportunities.
Once we can see things in this way, it will become clear that we can choose to be calm, quiet, and soothing or, we can continue to choose to shout and embarrass our spouse in retaliation, which only prolongs the unpleasantness. We should understand that a spiritual trial is in process, and if we can succeed in holding back our anger, we can anticipate a great reward from G-d. But if we stumble and become angry, instead of gaining a mitzva, we will simply add a transgression to our record. It is up to us to react properly.
There is even a greater parallel between the building of the Mishkan and building a marriage. Our Sages say that the Divine Presence is part of a marriage when there is peace between husband and wife. 6 In that respect, every marriage is a miniature Mishkan where G-d manifests His presence. And so, too, just as at the time of the building of the Mishkan there were many delays and trials until it was finally built, in marriage also there are many delays and trials until the marriage becomes a solid and permanent structure.
just people were deriding Moshe, so too in marriage we might find that parents or friends deride our spouses and try to discourage us from succeeding in marriage. It is up to us as G-d-fearing men and women not to pay attention to those who try to discourage us from our holy goal of building a strong marriage.
Building the Mishkan did not take a day, but rather it took much longer until it was complete and perfect. So, too, is marriage. You cannot build a lasting relationship in a short while, but rather you must slowly build trust and love between you. The more you give and share, the stronger the bond becomes. The more you are selfish and want to take for yourself, the more you drift apart. Building a marriage is like building a house. It must be built brick by brick and there are no shortcuts to constructing such an eternal structure.
1. Shemos 39.33
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