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Friday, 30 October 2015

Shalom Bayis is the status quo, don't destroy it!

Daf Yomi Sotah 3

Tefillah (Jewish prayer) is divided into three parts: First we praise Hashem, then we beseech Him for our needs, and finally we thank Him for providing us with our needs.  The grand structure of the davening follows that pattern and the Shmoneh Esreih, the pinnacle of the service, follows the same pattern.  The first three blessings are praises, the next thirteen are requests, the final three are thanks.

But looking at the final bracha, where is the thanks?  The bracha of Sim Shalom seems to be additional beseeching.  We turn our eyes Heavenward and say, “Place peace, goodness, blessing, life, grace, kindness and mercy upon us and all Israel your people. . . .”  What is this blessing doing in the thanks section?  It should be positioned among the other brachos of request!

Concerning the husband of the sotah (suspected adulteress), the Torah states, “and a spirit of kinah passed over him and he coveted his wife.”
Reish Lakish taught: What does ‘kinah’ mean?  It refers to a matter that has caused anger between her and others.  Rav Yeimar bar Shlemya taught: It refers to a matter that has caused anger between him and her.  We see that both rabbis maintain that it is forbidden for a man to covet his wife with the sotah declaration, since it promotes anger. 
And Rav Chisda taught:  Anger in the home is like a worm in sesame seeds.

When a worm hides in the vat of sesame seeds, you don’t know until much later.  It begins to eat away at the sesame from the inside.  Little by little, the seeds begin to diminish and rot until one day you discover the worm that has spoiled everything from the inside out.

That’s the problem of anger and ill-feeling in a marriage.  To begin with, it’s just a mean comment here, a sour face there, but little by little the marriage is being eaten away from the inside.  To outsiders, the marriage seems wonderful, but you and your spouse know that inside it is rotting away.

Why do we thank G-d for placing peace and blessing in our lives in the form of a request?  We are really aiming at ourselves when we make the final bracha of the Shemoneh Esreih.  G-d has brought peace into your marriage and into your life.  G-d has given you goodness, blessing, life, grace, kindness and mercy.  He has worked hard to bring that awesome person into your life.  But sometimes we upset that balance.  We get angry and begin to destroy the blessing the Almighty has bestowed upon our lives.  In this final bracha, we thank G-d for his blessing and ask him for the strength to sustain what He has given us.

A great example of this understanding of the final bracha is the line where we say, “Bless us, our Father, all of us as one.”  In this phrase, we acknowledge the following: When does G-d bless us?  When we are united as one!  We need to make the effort to sustain the blessing Heaven has already ordained in our lives.

Shalom bayis is the status quo.  If you don’t have peace at home, you are doing something to upset the peace.  You have brought anger into your sanctuary and chased G-d away.  That’s the deeper meaning of Rav Yeimar’s teaching: anger doesn’t only create a separation between us and those around us, it separates Him from her – our Father in Heaven from His beloved people.  Asking G-d to place peace, goodness and blessing is an invitation to come back into your life if you’ve chased him away.  It’s not just a request; it’s a declaration of gratitude that the Almighty will return to your home.  But only if you do your part to expel the idolatry first – the anger and ill-feeling you’ve been sustaining.

Let go of any ill-will you have.  Every comment that comes out of your mouth must be to build your spouse and your marriage.  When every comment and action aims to build and grow, eventually even your thoughts will follow suit and you will feel incredibly drawn to your spouse.  May you merit maintaining the peace, goodness, blessing, life, grace, kindness and mercy that Heaven has placed in your life!