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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Is a pea ruining your beauty sleep?

Daf Yomi Gittin 6

The Book of Judges tells the story of the Levite who married a concubine.  Their relationship was more than a little rocky and she ends up going back to her parents’ home.  After four months, he sets out to bring her back.  He is welcomed in by his in-laws with open arms, so much so that they are reticent to let the couple leave.  But finally, he puts his foot down, and although it is late in the day, they set off back home.

They have barely been on the road for an hour when it starts to get dark.  They decide not to spend the night in Jebusite country and continue on to a town called Givah, in the tribal area of Benjamin.  There, they begin knocking on doors, but nobody will have them for the night.  Settling down on a park bench, an elderly man notices them and hurriedly invites them to his place, knowing that the townsfolk are dangerous.   But word gets out of the visitors and they come banging on his door, insisting that he release his guests to be ‘known’ by the ruffians.

They send out the Levite’s wife who is violated and treated so horribly that by the end of the night, she keels over and dies.  The Levite takes her body home and proceeds to send packages to the leaders of all the tribes of Israel telling them what occurred and seeking justice.  They are mortified and demand that the Benjaminites hand over the perpetrators.  Refusing to do so, the eleven other tribes declare war on Benjamin.  Hundreds of thousands die in the civil war and Benjamin is decimated.

A few years pass and there are hardly any Benjaminites remaining amongst the nation of Israel.  Tu B’Av (15th Av) rolls around – the festival of shidduchim – and the elders of the people are in a quandary.  On the one hand, Benjamin has been excommunicated from the nation and no other tribe is intermarrying with them.  On the other hand, if they continue along that path, there will no longer be a tribe called Benjamin.  They decide that while that cannot officially change the decree against intermarriage with Benjamin, they will turn a blind eye if any Benjaminites decide to join the Tu B’Av celebration.  And Baruch Hashem, the tribe of Benjamin is spared from extinction. 

Concerning the concubine who left her Levite husband and returned to her parents’ home, it is written, “And his concubine strayed from him.” 
Rabbi Evyasar taught: He found a fly in his soup.
Rabbi Yonasan taught: He found a piece of hair.
Rabbi Evyasar found Elijah the Prophet and asked him, “What is the Almighty occupied with?”
“He is busy with the subject of the Concubine in Givah,” he replied.
“And what is He saying?” he asked.
“Evyasar, my son, says this.  Yonasan, my son, says this.”
“G-d forbid,” responded Evyasar.  “Could there be any doubt before Heaven?”
Eliyahu replied, “This opinion and that opinion are the words of the Living G-d.”

The Levite gets upset at his wife and as a result, hundreds of thousands of people die.  What was the cause of all the mayhem?  Why was the Levite upset at his wife?   According to one opinion, he found a piece of hair in his food.  According to another opinion, he found a fly.  But, in the eyes of Heaven, both views are correct.  What does that mean?

According to one opinion, she left him when he found a piece of hair.  The meaning is that sometimes we get all upset over nothing, allowing ourselves to be separated from our loved ones.  A tiny little piece of hair, and thousands dead!  But sadly, many relationships break down over the silliest, most meaningless reasons.   I knew these brothers who didn’t speak to one another for years, because one forgot to invite the other one to a birthday party! 

According to the other opinion, it was a fly.  How is a fly different from a piece of hair?  As tiny as a hair might be, you still could feel that the other person was careless.  But a fly?  That’s not even their fault!  The Levite got upset at his wife over something completely outside of her control!  For all we know, the soup was fine until she served him; she walks away, the fly lands in his soup; and now it’s her fault?!

The meaning of the fly is that sometimes we bring external issues into our relationships and they end up being the cause of our issues.  You might have had a terrible day at work.  You spent the whole day as calm as a summer sea – your coworkers were amazed at the way you maintained your cool.  But then the second you get home, it all boils over.  You begin to lash out at your spouse and kids.  Why?  What did they do to deserve your wrath?  Answer is they did nothing; they’re just the beanbag for all your pent-up frustration.

That’s the fly that destroys thousands.  The fly wasn’t your wife’s fault; it flew in externally.  But now you are allowing that external circumstance to wreak havoc on your relationship with your loved ones.

And we could flip it the other way around as well.  The Levite gets angry over the fly and his wife storms out.  Why?  She should have realized that the fly had nothing to do with her, so whatever he’s upset about is his problem, not hers.  All too often, our loved ones get upset and we take it personally.  If your spouse gets angry, ask yourself: Did I do anything to deserve that reaction?  If not, chances are they had a tough day at work or something.  They don’t need you to walk away; they need your shoulder to lean on!

Life is too short to allow the little things to ruin our relationships.  Only princesses get upset about a little pea.  Don’t get upset over tiny nothings.  And don’t allow external issues to get between you and your loved ones.  May you grow in your love and peace with those dearest to you by focusing on the big, important things that keep you together!  

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