a project of Eishes Chayil

Make Your Spouse Happy

You shall observe the Feast of Booths [Sukkos] seven days, after you have gathered from your silo and from your winepress: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, that are within your gates.

Rabbi Bruka from the town of Chuzoi, could usually be found in the marketplace of Left. Eliyahu Hanavi regularly visited him. Rabbi Bruka once asked Eliyahu, "Is there anyone in this marketplace who will definitely merit the World to Come?" "No," answered Eliyahu.

After some time went by, two brother passed through the marketplace. When Eliyahu saw them he spoke up and said, "These two will definitely merit the World to Come."

Rabbi Bruka quickly went over to them and asked them, "What do you do [to merit the World to Come]?"

The two brothers answered, "We are jokers who are happy and cause other people to be happy. When we see someone depressed we go over to him and make him happy. And when we see two people who have quarrel between them, we go to them both to make peace between them."

The two brothers decided that their task in life was to make other people happy. This should be our task in marriage also, where happiness is a basic key to success.

"Let me know the path of life." King David said to G-d, "Master of the Universe! Let me know through which open gate I can enter the World to Come." G-d replied, "Great happiness shall be on your face." [the word "full" or "great" has the same letters as the word "seven," but with different vowels.] In connection with this it is said; these are the seven mitzvos of the holiday of Sukkos: the four species, the sukkah, the mitzvah of happiness, and the sacrifice of Chaggigah. We learn from here that with these seven mitzvos of Sukkos, a person can earn the World to Come, which is also described as being, "on your face."

What was G-d's answer to David's question about how to obtain the World to Come? What is so special about the mikvos of Sukkos that they can earn us the World to Come? It cannot be by chance that Sukkos comes right after Yom Kippur, but what is the real connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkos?

One of our biggest problems that prevents us from progressing in doing mitzvos and learning Torah, is an attitude of sadness and despair. Our yetzer hara may try to tell us that we are hopeless sinners and that there is no chance of us spiritually raising ourselves up at all. Hence we might as well give up fighting to improve, and instead we should simply do whatever we want. The Chazon Ish wrote: "The greatest weapon that the yetzer hara has is despair." We must say to ourselves that we are great and have a wonderful future before us. This way we will be encouraged to continue on and win the fight against the yetzer hara.

This is the same answer that King David received from G-d when he asked to be told the sure way to get into the World to Come. G-d replied, "Great happiness shall be on your face." Happiness is the key to doing more mitzvos and learning more Torah, which are in turn the key to the World to Come.

This midrash also teaches us that all the mitzvos of Sukkos are connected to happiness. We can learn this very pointedly from the words of our prayers in which we call the holiday of Sukkos the "day of our happiness." Calling it the day of our happiness implies that joy is the very essence of Sukkos. All the mitzvos of Sukkos have the purpose of adding to our personal rejoicing, and we should try to feel the delight of this special holiday.

This helps explain a possible connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkos. On Yom Kippur our sins are forgiven. So naturally we are enthusiastic, because we are starting a new page, clean of any sin. However, we need a good push to keep up this momentum. The best push we can get is happiness. If we are truly happy, then we will be optimistic and full of confidence. We will maintain the hopefulness and the energy necessary to fight our yetzer hara. The mitzvos of Sukkos are intended to instill in us a deep elation, and so this holiday is the best sequel to Yom Kippur.

Now we can understand G-d's answer to King David that the open gate to the World to Come is happiness. Being in a state of constant joy assures us victory against the yetzer hara which is trying to prevent us from meriting the World to Come.

My son, Yonah, brought me proof of this from the Talmud which appeared as the opening story in this essay. Eliyahu Hanavi pointed out the two people in the marketplace who were worthy of the World to Come. When asked about their good deeds, the two brothers replied that they make sad people happy and bring peace when people quarrel.

But why should these two people be worthy of the World to Come if all they did was make people happy? The answer is, as we pointed out previously, that the clear path to the World to Come is through the gate of happiness. In essence, these two comedians were causing other people to be worthy of the World to Come, so obviously they also merited entrance into the World to Come as a reward for their kindness.

We can similarly explain the other reason given in the Talmud: that they made peace between people who quarreled. When two people quarrel there can never be good cheer. Quarreling generates the exact opposite of happiness. It causes aggravation and anxiety to everyone involved. When people argue there are no winners. This is especially true in a marriage, where the relationship must be built on love and trust. When there is a quarrel, love and trust are diminished, and therefore the couple's happiness is also reduced.

We must try to instill as much happiness as possible into our marriage. There is always room for a smile, a laugh or a joke, and there is never place for quarreling or anger. We need happiness to get into the World to Come, and if we quarrel it is as though we are throwing away happiness with our very own hands.

It's Nice to be Right, But Even Nicer to Have a Peaceful Marriage

I once asked a woman who never quarreled with her husband what was the secret of their domestic peace. She told me, "My husband never answers back when I fly into a tantrum. He just sits there and keeps his mouth shut. You can't quarrel with such a man!" It takes two to quarrel. If one is not going to answer the other person's charges, then there cannot be a dispute.

The second method to avoid a quarrel is to give in. "You are right and I am wrong." "I am sorry that I made a mistake and it won't happen again." "You win, and I lose." With answers like these the whole quarrel loses it momentum and dissolves into nothing.

If we insist on being stubborn and are not willing to give in to our spouse, we are deliberately causing a rift in our marriage. We must realize that it is nice to be right, but it is even nicer to keep your marriage intact. Keep in mind the relative importance of "winning" an argument against the importance of having peace and quiet at home.

Sukkos is the holiday of happiness, and any quarrels that we may have on Sukkos are contrary to the goal of the holiday. The greatest joy arises when there is domestic tranquility. The more happiness we bring into our marriage the more happiness we will have in our lives, and the more happiness we have in our lives, the greater will be the chance that we will earn a place in the World to Come.

Show Your Love

And you shall sacrifice a completely burnt fire offering, of a sweet savor to the L-rd: one bullock, one ram, seven lambs of of the first year.

Rabbi Avraham Gelanti, one of the great sages of Safed, came to the Ari'zl, requesting to receive guidance which would help him remedy anything he had done wrong. At first the Ari'zl did not want to answer him, but rather claimed, "Who am I to point out the mistakes of someone as honored as you!" But Rabbi Avraham was adamant.

The Ari'zl then looked at his forehead and through his kabalistic powers came to the following conclusion, "I see that there appears on your forehead a taint of the sin of stealing."

Rabbi Avraham was astonished, and went home feeling downcast and despondent. He removed his regular clothes and dressed himself in deep mourning; that is, he wore a simple sack and put ashes on his head. Rabbi Avraham sat down on the ground and cried, trying to search his mind to figure out how he had sinned.

For his livelihood, Rabbi Avraham had a knitting and spinning workshop. He immediately gathered his workers together, and requested that they voice any claims they might have for overdue payment. They replied, "The money that you have given us until now has had a special blessing in it, that it was always sufficient for our needs, so we never bothered to calculate our salaries exactly."

Rabbi Avraham admonished them and said, "This is the problem. I have been guilty of stealing, since you have taken salaries without making proper calculation. Therefore, if you agree to calculate your salaries with precision, then I will be released from this sin. Otherwise, please stop working for me, as I don't want to have to enter gehinnom for the sake of my workshop."

Rabbi Avraham continued, "But now I must remedy the mistakes of the past. I will put money in front of you all, and anyone can take as much as he wants. But afterwards everyone should say, 'I have received all the money that the owner owes me. And if he owes me more, I forfeit the amount entirely.'"

The workers immediately forgave him, and no one took any of the coins which Rabbi Avraham put before them, except for one elderly woman, who bent over and took two coins.

Returning to the Ari'zl, Rabbi Avraham told him of the incident in the workshop. The Ari'zl told Rabbi Avraham, "That woman is an expert knitter, and deserves a higher salary than the other workers. However, she received the same salary as the rest, so you were being accused in Heaven, as this behavior was not proper. But now that this matter was corrected, the sin of stealing has disappeared from your countenance.

Rabbi Avraham's mistake was not being more scrupulous in providing the fitting compensation for his workers' skills. In marriage too, we must be scrupulous in showing our love, which is the compensation our spouses deserve and long for.

"And you shall sacrifice a completely burnt fire offering." Rabbi Pinchos bar Chana said, "The seventy oxen that Israel sacrificed during Sukkos were for the seventy nations [representing all the nations of the world] that dwell in tranquillity . Rabbi Berechya used to make the calculation as follows.

On the first day of Sukkos there are thirteen oxen and on the last day seven, which make a total of twenty oxen. On the second day of Sukkos there are twelve and on the sixth day eight, which together make twenty. On the third day of Sukkos there are eleven and on the fifth day nine, which together make twenty. On the fourth day there are ten, which all together make seventy.

G-d said, "My children, all the days of Sukkos we are busy with the guests (bringing the sacrifices representing the other nations of the world.) Now you and I will have a meal together. That is as is written, 'One ox and one ram.'"

Why do we have to bring sacrifices for the other nations of the world? Why can they not bring their own? Why is this done specifically on Sukkos? Why are all the nations called 'guests'? What does the idea of having a meal with G-d represent?

Bringing sacrifices for the nations of the world shows that we are trying to appease them. We are not trying to conquer them, but want only to pacify them, so that they will leave us alone.

We see this same phenomenon when Ya'akov sent many animals and presents to his brother Esav, just before their encounter. It too, was an effort to appease outsiders, Esav and his family, lest they implement their plan to harm Ya'akov's family when they met. Our attitude towards other hostile nations of the world should be that we try to appease them, so that they will let us live in peace. We have no will to conquer the world or show our prowess.

Therefore, we try to pacify the nations by bringing sacrifices on their behalf. There is no need for them to bring their own sacrifices, since we have already taken the initiative, in order to be able to live in peace with them.

The time for doing this is specifically on Sukkos, perhaps because Sukkos is the first holiday of the year after Yom Kippur. Therefore right after Yom Kippur, which formally concludes the atonement process, we begin to pacify them, so that we will be certain to have a good year, unpersecuted by the nations of the world.

One might think that all the nations are important to G-d and that is why we are bringing sacrifices in their names. Therefore the midrash emphasizes that they are only considered "guests" in the eyes of G-d. G-d's children are the children of Israel. To show that we are special to Him, the Torah added an extra day to Sukkos, Shmini Atzeres, on which only one ox and one ram are sacrificed. Just as Israel is a singular and distinct nation in the world, as we say in the Minchah prayer on Shabbos, "one nation in the world," so too their sacrifice must be singular, one and no more. To show His love for Israel, G-d invites them to have a special private meal with Him.

Love is Like a Plant That Needs Nourishment

Similarly, in a marriage, we often become busy with the children, with other relatives, or with guest. However, it is important that a husband and wife also set time aside especially for each other. Every couple needs time when they can be completely alone together. This helps the relationship between them grow, and become refreshed and nourished.

When spouses love one another they must reinforce that love by showing it. Just as the muscles in our body develop more fully when they are used, so too does love blossom when it is constantly shown. On the other hand, if the marital relationship does not receive the proper attention, even if the bond was once very strong, it will eventually wither. It is similar to a plant that needs constant watering or it will die. So too must love and attention be constantly shown, or the union will decay.

When a couple first gets married, they are full of enthusiasm. They feel deeply in love, and will do anything for one another. But as time goes on, this enthusiasm cools down as the routine of everyday life sets in. To stir up the old enthusiasm make specific plans to spend time together. Find the time to do something special with you spouse, whether it is going out together, having a special meal, a walk together. Any situation where you can be alone and give each other the proper attention is extremely important. Even when a person is constantly busy with family and business, he must set aside specific times to be alone with his spouse. In addition, a couple can continually show their love for each another through words and small thoughtful gestures. With continuous watering and attention, marriage flourishes and will surely blossom and bear fruit.

a project of Eishes Chayil