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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Itemizing the bill for your spouse

Daf Yomi Nedarim 67

Yossi is not religious but his wife and kids are.  That’s the premise of a piece doing the rounds from  When they got married, he was frum, but later dropped it all.  Nevertheless, he’s committed to his wife and family.  So every Shabbos, he makes Kiddush and goes through the motions to make his other half happy and maintain his marriage.

Is that praiseworthy?  Is he acting G-dly or are they just fooling themselves?

Mishnah: If a young girl was betrothed, her father and groom have the power to annul her vows together.  If the father annulled but the groom did not, or the groom annulled but the father did not, the vow is not annulled.  And it goes without saying that if one of them confirmed the vow (and the other annulled) that it remains in force.

Gemara: Why do we require the final clause of the Mishnah?  Once we’ve learned that if either were to annul without the other it would be meaningless, why do we need the additional teaching about one confirming the vow?
It is necessary for the following scenario: For example, one of them annulled and the other confirmed.  And then the confirmer went back and revoked his confirmation.  I might have thought that whatever he established he has uprooted (and therefore his subsequent annulment should take effect).  Therefore the Mishnah clarifies that they must both effect the annulment at once (without an intervening confirmation).

This Kveller couple’s arrangement is certainly admirable.  Here is a man who doesn’t believe in anything and is willing to submit his will and lifestyle to his wife’s choices for the sake of his marriage!

Unfortunately, however, he’s blown it all by writing the article.  Here was an opportunity to serve his wife and family with no personal motive, completely and utterly to make his wife happy.  By publicizing his ‘act of altruism’ to the whole world, “whatever he established, he has uprooted.”  Now, the whole world knows what a “wonderful” husband he is.  Once you’ve told everybody and presented yourself as a martyr, you’ve lost your special status.

In fact, it’s not even about publishing it for the whole world to see.  When you do something special for your spouse but then go ahead and tell them, ‘whatever you established, you have uprooted!’  

Let’s say one day your spouse was out.  And so you decided to spend the day getting the house ready for them – you mopped the floor, did the washing, mowed the lawn.  That’s fabulous!  And no doubt, they will feel incredible when they get home.  But if you were then to start listing for them everything you did - how you martyred your day while they were out enjoying themselves - you’ve just spoiled a beautiful moment.  ‘Whatever you established, you have uprooted!’

Your job in life is to be devoted to your spouse.  You don’t get bonus points for serving them and making them feel wonderful.  That’s what you signed up for when you got married.  Once you start handing them the ‘bill’ for everything you did or worse yet, start kvetching to them, or even worse yet, start bragging or kvetching to the world, you’ve wasted all that hard work and dedication!

And of course it’s true not only of marriage, but any relationship.  Once you start telling your friends, community associates, or colleagues everything you’ve done for them, ‘whatever you established, you have uprooted.’  Nobody wants to hear you kvetch about everything you do for them. Nobody wants to hear what a martyr you are.  Just get on with it and work to build and fortify your relationships without any expectation and without feeling the need to hand in the laundry list at the end of the day!

Look for every possible opportunity to make your spouse feel special.  Strengthen every relationship in your life without diluting your accomplishments with the need for accolades and adulation.  May you merit being the most dedicated partner and associate by maximizing the contributions you make that nobody ever recognizes!

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