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Sunday, 20 April 2014

How to Fight with your Spouse

Beitzah 20

Today’s Life Yomi is dedicated in memory of Morris Karabus z”l, by his wife Erica.  Morris was known in his small town as a “bure Yud” and was beloved by all.  May his neshama have an aliya and may he be a ‘goeie advokaat’ in the Heavenly court for the family and all of Klal Yisroel. 

It had been a long time since Ray and Shirley had enjoyed a pleasant conversation.  Every time he opened his mouth, out came a biting comment.  Of course, her response was equally vicious.  And so day by day, week by week, the cycle of hostility continued and the mountain of animosity grew ever larger between them.

Was there any way to save their marriage?

One may cook food on Yom Tov to eat.  How about offering sacrifices?

Beis Shamai says that one may only offer a shelamim, since it is partly eaten by the contributors.  Beis Hillel allows the offering of the olah, even though it is completely burned on the altar.

Prior to slaughtering the sacrifice, one would lean on the animal which symbolized the transferring of one’s sins onto the animal being offered on the altar.   According to Beis Shamai, leaning is proscribed on Yom Tov, since it is similar to the prohibition of riding an animal on the holy day.  Beis Hillel disagrees and allows leaning on Yom Tov as part of the sacrificial service.

Hillel the Elder was once in the Temple on Yom Tov to offer an olah.  Suddenly, he finds himself surrounded by students of Shamai. 
‘What’s that you got there?’ they jeered at him menacingly, ‘It isn’t an olah, is it?’
Hillel decided to humour them.  Since an olah must be male, he responded, ‘You kidding?  Can’t you tell it’s a female?’ and starts twirling its tail.  Taken aback by his comedic performance, they sauntered off.

On another occasion, a student of Hillel was in the Temple leaning on his animal when he was approached by a student of Shamai.
‘What’s that you’re doing – are you leaning?’ the Shamaian asked pompously.
‘Do you know how to keep your mouth shut?’ responded Hillel’s student, ‘If I wanted your opinion, buddy, I would have asked for it.’
The fellow scuttled away. 

Abaye contrasts these two accounts and offers advice regarding situations of conflict:  ‘When someone starts up with you, never respond with any harsher words than those of the one who began to antagonize.’  

In the first episode, Hillel managed to defuse the conflict by making light of the abuse being hurled his way.   Instead of putting them in their place and rebuking them for their disrespectful attitude, he chose to deflect attention and began twirling the animal’s tail.  Taken by surprise, they walked away from what they probably perceived as a ‘senile old man.’ 

In the second episode, the young man responds sharply to his antagonist.  Yes, he shocks him enough to send the fellow running.  But did that escalate or deescalate the conflict?  No doubt, the Shaimaian walked off harboring even greater ill-feeling toward Beis Hillel.  While the response of the Hillelian was temporarily effective in quieting the individual, in the long run, it would only have served to escalate the conflict between the schools. 

Abaye teaches that when someone is trying to pick a fight with you, you need to think ‘How can I deescalate the conflict?’  The best way to defuse the situation is to take Hillel’s approach of acting calmly and even making light of the stinging comment.  If you absolutely feel that a rejoinder is warranted, your max reaction should be calm and measured, in a manner that directly addresses the situation at hand. 

All too often, sadly, we choose instead to respond in an even harsher tone than the one who started the fight.  That only escalates the conflict. 

The right approach is to ask yourself whether what you’re about you to say will help your relationship or make matters worse.  If what you’re about to say is going to lead to greater ill-feeling, then find something else to say. 

You have the power to choose whether to build or destroy your relationship!   If you value the relationship, make the right choice!

Life Yomi dedications don’t cost a penny!  To dedicate a day of learning in honour of a birthday, anniversary or yortzeit, all you need to do is commit to sending the Life Yomi of the day (or another Life Yomi teaching of your choice) to 18 (chai) people!  You needn’t provide us with the names of recipients; all we need is the honouree’s name and occasion.  For more details, please email

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