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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Stop wallowing in your negative thoughts!

Daf Yomi Yevamos 94


Justin and Jessica were having marriage issues. 
“I just find everything he does so annoying,” Jessica tells me, “he always leaves the toilet seat up, he doesn’t roll the toothpaste tube, he leaves his dirty socks lying around.”
“Tell me some things you like about him,” I inquired.
“I can’t really think of anything,” she says.
“Come on, there must be something you like.  Why did you marry him?”

The Mishnah states: A woman whose husband went overseas was told ‘your husband died.’ And so she remarried, only to then have her first husband reappear.  If she had remarried without the court’s consent, she may return to her first husband, but if she remarried with the consent of the court, she must leave both men.

The Gemara derives: From the fact that she may return to her first husband if she remarried without the consent of the court, we must conclude that it refers to a case where she was informed by two witnesses.  And the case of the court’s consent must be dealing with a case of only one witness and so we see that for such situations, a single witness is believed.

They asked Rabbi Shaishes: What is the law regarding the strength of a single witness concerning permitting a woman to perform the levirate marriage with her brother-in-law?  Is the reason for allowing the testimony of a single witness because a person would not lie about a matter that may later be revealed?  Or do we say that the reason a single witness is believed is because the widow will certainly do her own solid investigation before remarrying?  In the case of her brother-in-law, however, she will often be fond of him and fail to do her homework before marrying!

The Gemara clarifies: That is not the real question.  In fact, even she herself is believed in such a case, as we learned in a Mishnah, “A woman who said ‘my husband died’ may remarry, or even perform the levirate marriage!”  Rather, with what situation are we dealing here?  Where she does not want to marry her brother-in-law and is seeking to annul the levirate marriage.  Is the reason for allowing the testimony of a single witness because a person would not lie about a matter that may later be revealed?  Or do we say that the reason a single witness is believed is because she will do her own solid investigation before remarrying?  In the case of her brother-in-law, however, she may despise him and fail to do her homework before seeking annulment!

Tosfos asks why the Mishnah allows her to perform the levirate marriage based on her own testimony but does not permit her to annul.  They explain that the feeling of hatred is more controlling than the emotion of love. 

Ever noticed how negative emotions have a terrible habit of festering and growing ever stronger?  Unfortunately we allow ourselves to easily forget our positive experiences in life.  But negative thoughts we love to dwell on, hashing and rehashing our ill-feelings.  When you have a negative thought, the best way to deal with it is to banish it immediately and not allow it to take control of you.

That’s what happens when a relationship turns sour.  Suddenly you’re dwelling on all the things that annoy you about the other person.  But if you would simply do a ‘Ben Franklin close’ and draw up two columns on a sheet of paper – one with the good stuff and one with the bad stuff – you’d see how much positivity exists in your relationship.

If you want happiness and satisfaction from your relationship – whether with your spouse, or siblings, or colleagues, or your rabbi! – you need to stop dwelling on the negative and start focusing on the positive!  Don’t let the negativity fester; it only gets bigger and bigger.  Banish the thought immediately and remind yourself of all the good qualities of the other person.


It’s easy to become controlled by negative thoughts.  The evil inclination has a way of tricking you into enjoying wallowing in your misery.  But you’re not helping yourself.  May you merit the clarity of mind and spirit to immediately dismiss any negative thoughts and always dwell on the positive in your relationships and life!