Shalom Bayis (Peaceful Marriage)
The Crucial Trait of Kavod
























The Talmud makes unequivocal and clear that marriage obligates both spouses to give enormous kavod (honor, respect) to each other. The Talmud goes so far as to say that a marriage requires kavod in order for there to be peace. A husband must give his wife more kavod than he gives to himself (Yevamos 62b) and a wife must set aside her kavod for the kavod of her husband (Kidushin 31a). Kavod is basically one of the main measuring rods for whether the Torah defines a marriage to be good or not. There are numerous halachic and moral requirements that make kavod - and, therefore, a peaceful marriage - practical.

In my counseling work with troubled or difficult marriages, or with singles who have patterns of stormy or futile relationships with poorly chosen partners - these all typically having unmanageable and displeasing conduct and emotions - one of the things that is central and recurrent is that, in relationships, WHERE THERE IS TROUBLE, THERE IS NO KAVOD. WHERE THERE IS PEACE; THERE IS MUTUAL, CONSTANT AND TRUSTWORTHY KAVOD. I repeatedly tell people who come to me for counseling, "If you want different results, you have to do different things." Kavod makes any relationship - with anybody [e.g. spouse, neighbor, friend, stranger on the street or train, co-worker, Jew, Gentile, male, female] - significantly better than it would otherwise be.

Since there is so much trouble and difficulty "out there" in male-female relationships, I see fit to write a significant and somewhat comprehensive nine-part series that will study, for the benefit of my readers, the subject of kavod in marriage. I plan to address it from many aspects to really drive home and concretize this mida (trait) which is "life and death" for peace in marriage. I will define kavod, give you a collection of Chazals (teachings from the sages) on what kavod is or how it applies in marriage, stories of gedolim (Torah leaders) whose behavior, instruction and midos (character traits) give us role models, and teachings from seforim (holy books), Torah authorities and baalai mussar (masters of Torah self-perfection).

Before starting to write about kavod for spouses, I want to mention an often overlooked and crucial element of kavod in marriage - kavod for HaShem. We say, during the wedding ceremony, "shehakol bora lichvodo" (everything is created for G-d's kavod, including marriage!). How many people actually keep Him in mind at all times during practical life in general, and during marriage relating in particular? The Torah requires that each Jew be holy (Leviticus 19:2), sanctify G-d (Leviticus 22:32) and never profane G-d (Leviticus 22:32). How many people strive to be holy and a kidush HaShem (sanctification of G-d) in ALL of their actions, especially those seen by, or having impact upon, any other person(s)? How many people are aware that, in the Torah, the closer any person is to you, the higher the behavior standards that are required of you towards them? How many people are aware that everything in life, including intimacy, must be conducted with many halachos of holiness, awareness of HaShem AND unselfishness [e.g. Orach Chayim 231:1, 529:4 with Mishnah Brurah #22, Evven Ha'Ezer chap. 25]? Behavior in life - including marriage - impacts on defining how much we REALLY have or do not have kavod for Him! Kavod for Him is a constant obligation and how much we truly have is reflected in everything we do.

WHEN YOU WITHHOLD DUE KAVOD FROM YOUR SPOUSE, YOU WITHHOLD DUE KAVOD FOR HASHEM. WHEN YOU GIVE DUE KAVOD TO YOUR SPOUSE, YOU GIVE DUE KAVOD TO HASHEM! Further, the gemora says that when a couple lives together the way G-d wants, "the Sh'chinah (Divine Presence) dwells with them," but when the couple does not live together according to G-d's will, the Sh'chinah removes itself from the couple and their marriage "is consumed with fire" (Sota 17a). Since kavod is essential for shalom bayis (marital peace), and shalom bayis is essential to have the Divine Presence dwell with a couple, THEY MUST STEADILY DWELL WITH KAVOD FOR EACH OTHER. DOING THIS GIVES KAVOD TO G-D AND BRINGS HIM INTO THEIR MARRIAGE!

King David says, "I place HaShem before me always" (Tehilim 16:8). This verse is brought as halacha and is described as an all-encompassing principle of the Torah [Orach Chayim 1:1, Ramo]. The Brisker Rov said to his son Reb Berel that always concentrating on this verse, keeping G-d with you and considering Him your master, is a segula [aid] for Divine protection. King Solomon says, "In everything that you do, know G-d" (Proverbs 3:6) and this is required as practical halacha [Orach Chayim 231:1]. The first step to being a happy and successful person is ALWAYS recognizing that HaShem is EVERYWHERE and that nice, proper behavior is defined - and evaluated - entirely BY HIM.

HaShem always takes the side of the one persecuted or pursued. This has serious ramifications in any relationship. It also provides an important lesson in keeping aware of HaShem in how you treat any other person.

The gemora [Bava Kama 93b] says, "A person must always be from among the persecuted and never from the persecutors." We have a rule that Torah must always be as concise as possible, whether the written or oral Torah. When a wording in Torah (e.g. Talmud or Bible) is longer than it could be, even one letter or word longer than the minimum way of expressing the point, the Torah source is adding something.

The Kotzker Rebbe, known for his sharp and insightful teachings, asked, "Why does the gemora add the word 'always?' Without it, we are still taught the gemora's message to never persecute or pursue a victim." The Kotzker explained that the gemora understands human nature. There are people who can provoke, irritate or instigate another. The second person reacts and then behaves like a persecutor. But, the first person, who aggravated and provoked the second person, is really the one who "persecuted" the second person into being a persecutor! The first one tries to blame the second one for persecution, when the first one is the truly guilty party! Therefore, the Talmud says "ALWAYS" DO NOT BE A PERSECUTOR - including the type who is responsible for PERSECUTING THE SECOND PERSON INTO BEING A PERSECUTOR OF THE FIRST PERSON! Be aware that HaShem always takes the side of the "victim," even when the other is pretending to be a victim who instigates the other into fighting or offending.

Pirkei Avos asks, "Who is honored? The one who honors G-d's creations." Your spouse is a creation of HaShem. The Torah (Deuteronomy 14:1) says, "Bonim atem Lashem (the Jewish people are the children of G-d)." Your spouse is a child of HaShem and HaShem is your spouse's "parent." You would treat someone of noble or illustrious ancestry with honor...a child of HaShem all the moreso! All Jews descended from Yakov (Jacob) - we are all cousins! Your spouse is "mishpacha" (family) - and was even before you married! You must treat him/her with kavod. If you give kavod to your spouse, you give kavod to HaShem. Then, your spouse and HaShem give you kavod! You make yourself as honorable as you make HaShem and people honored.

We are not only required to honor G-d. The Torah [Deuteronomy 6:13] says to FEAR G-d. The gemora [Pesachim 22:1] says that this includes having fear for talmiday chachomim. Loyalty to G-d includes due reverence for His Torah's teachers and sages. For us, this amounts to obeying the written and oral Torah, as well as the sages of all generations also. This is a safeguard against sins, misfortune and error. The Mishna [Peah 4:1] says that if 99 people tell you what they want to say and one speaks according to halacha [Torah law], we do not listen to the 99 [regardless of their larger number] and we DO listen to the one person who speaks according to halacha. There are many out there who have advice and agendas, who would like to tell people what to do. When they do not have Torah, we do not listen to them in matters addressed by our Torah, including marriage. Accordingly, Pela Yo'etz writes (in the section on "zivug [getting married]"), that the marriage which operates by following G-d's Torah and our sages is the marriage which will be blessed by G-d and be happy. This couple will have a pleasant, calm, fortunate and good life; and will have a sweet lot in olam habo (eternal life). In this series, we shall take a good look at what Torah and its sages tell us about having a successful and spiritual marriage relationship.



"The man who loves his wife as much as himself and who gives her more kavod than he gives to the person referred to by the verse (Job 5:24), 'And you will know for certain that your home is peace'" (Yevamos 62b). Here we see the Talmudic source for the imperative for a man to honor his wife enormously WITH THIS BEING DIRECTLY TIED TO THE LEVEL OF PEACE THAT WILL EXIST IN THEIR HOME. The pattern of kavod starts with the man giving love and great kavod to his wife. When she feels secure that he loves and respects her, the nature of the Jewish wife is that she will, of her own volition, give love and kavod back (these days, we must specify that this "system" refers to people who are "psychologically normal" and truly mature enough to marry, not advantage-takers nor those who are selfish or troubled!). Chazal are telling us that if he takes the initiative and sets the tone as being one of kavod, the giving of kavod will end up being mutual - and the home will be peaceful.

In setting a "kavod tone" for a marriage, Chazal tell us that the man must take the lead. Once a man makes his wife secure that she has his genuine love and respect, any psychologically normal woman will give these back in kind, of her own volition, so that these are exchanged mutually; and the result will be steady and sustained peace.

Let's get some understanding and insight into the depths of what kavod (respect, honor) means and requires. Let us start by studying four statements from Chazal. When viewed in the aggregate, these four teachings will give you more basis for understanding and applying kovod.

1. "Who is honored? The one who honors others (Pirkei Avos, chapter 4)." Why is this so?

The word "kavod" (honor) is from the same Hebrew root as the word "kavaid" (heavy). When I am out for my own kavod, my self-interest comes across to the other person. Everyone wants to be honored; to be regarded, recognized, responded to, to matter, to have one's feelings satisfactorily addressed. This is human nature. When I am after my own kavod, my treatment of you automatically diminishes or negates your kavod. I am "heavy" and you are "light." This is communicated, even if subtly, even if only conveyed subconsciously under the surface level of awareness. Sooner or later, a message sinks in that I am indifferent to your needs or importance as a person and I am, instead, bombarding you with my quest for my needs and establishing my importance over yours. This puts you on guard, puts you off to me, puts "relational distance" between us. My needs are antithetical to yours. I focus on and am concerned about my being or your being, my importance or your importance. It's either/or. It's mutual exclusion.

When, in our relationship, I present my offer of kavod and my treatment of kavod, the message is that I am there for your good, honor, needs, security and well-being. I am delivering the kavod that you need. I attribute weight to you. I'm there for you. I make clear that you matter. I'm a gainful force for you. You sense that I can be trusted. You're not on guard, the barriers are down, you're not diminished, you're not threatened with anything, you don't have to be on any defensive. I'm not any kind of enemy. I do nothing that excludes, erases or diminishes you. This warms you up to me. You sense or know that I am your advocate. Further, it is human nature to recognize a person's respect for another as an exalted quality. When I am there for you with freely given respect and honor, and you recognize me as a person who gives respect and honor, then kavod FROM you is evoked. You give back in kind. When I furnish unconditional kavod to you, you spontaneously have it for me. We both voluntarily provide kavod to each other. Everyone wins. Both receive kavod.

2. "Who is honored? Haborayach min hakovod (the one who flees from honor)." It is not enough to merely offer kavod in a manner of: "I'll give you some if you'll give me some." The second that you show an iota of pursuit of kavod for yourself, that undoes the sincerity and credibility of your seeming offer of kavod (which turns out to be false and self-serving). This is effective only when you have assimilated the idea of giving kavod to the point where you sincerely evade and flee from kavod, without false modesty or pretense. Such is the demonstration that your offer of kavod to the other is authentic and trustworthy.

The human nature response is to feel kavod for the one who offers it unconditionally and fully. Your obvious, exclusive and sincere concern is for me and my welfare, my dignity, my feelings and my being. To the extent that this is genuine, this evokes my warmth, admiration, security and respect towards you.

Honor flees from the one who flees after honor (Yerushalmi Sota 9). The gemora (Eruvin 13b) says that the person who tries to make himself high, G-d lowers; tries to make himself big, G-d humbles; tries to push, G-d pushes him back; the one who makes himself low, G-d raises high; makes himself humble, G-d exalts; is yielding, G-d brings to success. "Kavod flees from one who flees from kavod, but looks over his shoulder to see if it is catching up with him." (Chofetz Chayim). "When I fled from honor, honor fled after me" (Yehuda HaChosid). In a parallel fashion, the one who offers kavod, and refrains from taking it for himself, and who truly flees from it for himself, receives kavod.

3. "Ratzono shel odom zehu kevodo (what the person wants, that is his honor;" Yerushalmi Pay'a, chapter one, halacha one; elaborated in Sefer Chasidim, section 152). Kavod is defined by the will of the other. A classic example is calling a person by any non-disparaging name that he wants to be called by (any disparaging name is prohibited by Jewish law - even if the person agrees to the disparagement - gemora Bava Metzia 58b). When you do or give what a person wants, on condition that it is sincere and is no violation of Torah law, that is giving that person kavod. In practical relating, this manifests the imperative to respond to the other person, based on the other's will, identity and feelings. There is no room for projecting or imposing your taste or perceptions onto the other person. This is utmost contempt. Your definition of honor may actually hurt or offend the person. This will deteriorate the relationship. The other person defines what is or is not his/her honor.

4. "Let the honor of your companion be as dear to you as your own (Pirkei Avos, chapter two)." Just as you are sensitive about your kavod, your feelings, the regard people have of you, how people treat you; so is everybody else also. Treat the other person's kavod and feelings as if they are precious, with the same sensitivity, value and importance that you would wish your kavod to be treated with.

In marriage counseling, I see that most problems reveal, through the objectionable behavior, that there is a lack or absence of kavod. If the same offensive behavior would be done to the perpetrator, that person would not like it. When the person acts offensively, neglectfully or abusively to the other, that person does not see the rottenness or offensiveness of the treatment; or they excuse it because of some blame or "defect" that they unilaterally judge to be in the victim.

Any relationship, never mind marriage (in which there is halachic union as well as steady and close lifelong contact), does not work like that. The Torah obligation of kavod requires both spouses to not only treat the other properly, but to do so seeing the other's kavod as being as important and dear as each one's own - and acting on this as a "standard way of life" at all times.



To help make kavod meaningful and concrete, let me include in this series a brief anthology of some practical forms of honor due to a spouse - sourced from Chazal, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, seforim and gedolim. Some of this may be a little humbling for this "sophisticated" generation.

When G-d gave the Asseress HaDibros ("Ten Commandments"), He started by saying "Anochee (I am G-d..."; Exodus 20:2). From this, the Lechevitch Rebbe said that no person can consider himself an "I." Only G-d can consider Himself an "I." Everyone else must be completely humble. G-d only gives to others, He never takes. G-d's greatness always comes together with his humility (Megila 31a). We determine how great one is by how humble he is, how much he gives to others and how much responsibility he accepts. The word "nasi [president]" comes from the same root word as "naso [carry]." In our Holy Language, leadership is determined by how much responsibility one carries on behalf of others. Moshe was the greatest person who ever lived because he was the most humble. He said that he was as nothing (Chulin 89a). He spent his entire life giving of himself and caring for others. Moshe even strove to make peace with the provocative, nasty and rebellious "low-lifes," Doson and Avirom (Numbers 16:25). Moshe was the most humble person who would ever live (Numbers 12:3).

When he was an elderly widower, Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian ("Lev Eliyahu," 1876-1970) was a guest for dinner at the home of a certain couple. At the end of the meal, the couple had to excuse themselves for something that required them to leave the rabbi alone for several minutes. When they came back, the couple was astonished to find that the venerable and humble rabbi had, quietly and without any fanfare, washed and dried all the dishes. Remember that in personal relationships, when you each make yourselves small to make the other great, when you each optimize responsibility and giving, and each refrain from taking or neglect, you each end up honored and your relationship ends up peaceful. By each being "small" in marriage, you each will be great. Neither spouse should ever be demanding nor do anything to make the other feel hurt, offended, embittered, small, embarrassed, jealous or taken advantage of. Each should seek to make the other happy, satisfied, comfortable, important and secure; and generally behave like a "mentsh;" in everything they do. Now, let me provide some essentials of practical marital kavod required by our Torah.

1. KAVOD DUE FROM A HUSBAND. A man may look at a woman's beauty so that he will want to be married to her, but he may not look at a woman disrespectfully or as a physical object (Evven Ha'Ezer 21:3). A husband has to spend on his wife according to his financial station, even a bit more, including colorful clothes for yom tov and for jewelry; and he must share the honor of his social standing. He must announce his coming into and leaving the house. He must talk with her regularly about the house and children; he must see and appreciate her efforts with the home and children. When he travels away, he must communicate regularly and have gifts for her upon his return. He should regularly do things that will make her happy, and show - in ways that SHE WILL BE PLEASED BY - that he is thinking of her and that she is important to him; and treat her like she is a queen. The way he talks to her should make her feel happy. He should let her manage the home, just looking on enough to make sure there is nothing objectionable in the eyes of halacha. He should never be depressed or excited in front of her or tell her about worrisome problems about which she cannot offer practical help. He may never frighten or pain her. He must give genuine consideration to her opinions, advice and feelings - and never hurt or cheapen her feelings.

2. KAVOD DUE FROM A WIFE. A wife has to cook, keep house, care for children, train her daughters and treat her husband like a maidservant treats a king. She should obey him and put his will before hers, keep his minhagim and p'sokim (religious customs and heritage) so that they have achduss (unity), let him manage spiritual issues and be the authority of the family. She should refrain from anything he hates and should not nag, pressure, embitter or criticize him. She should be supportive and encouraging when he is upset, pressured or troubled; of his Torah learning; and of his work and life mission. She must be modest in dress and demeanor. She must personally serve his meals and take the utensils from the table, even if the couple has domestic help.

"The sages said in a midrash that one wise woman directed her daughter when she was about to marry, saying to her, 'My daughter, stand before your husband like before a king and serve him. If you will be like a maid to him, he will be like a slave to you and he will honor you like his master. And if you will make yourself big upon him, he will be like a master over you against your will; and you will be, in his eyes, cheap like a maidservant'" (Menoras HaMeor, portion "To Marry a Wife," section four, chapter two).

Kavod is attributing honor, weight, value, significance, respect and esteem to the other person; it is willful adaptation of your behavior to actively and consistently demonstrate these uncompromisingly and unconditionally in the most dignified, reverent, sincere, responsive and thorough fashion; specifically done so as to be for the good of the other. In marriage, it is not enough to give kavod as much as you receive it. Only when both partners give more to the other than they give to themselves is kavod given enough.

At a six-week workshop I did, one sincere man asked how does one actually "do" kavod. Since the question was asked by a man, I asked the women in attendance to say what gives them kavod in practical terms. I will summarize the "survey" to give some insight into how kavod is manifested as a practical matter. Hopefully, this will also help sensitize you to being a more "kavod-giving" relator. By giving enough kavod to the opposite gender, you will have a more peaceful and successful relationship.

To make a woman feel kavod, do things that indicate that the man is thinking about her. Give her compliments. Give little presents - which don't have to cost money, as long as they show that the man is thinking of her. If the present shows interest (e.g. if he made it himself, or if he surprises her with something that shows responsiveness to something she said she likes) that can be quite effective. A woman likes to be made to feel important, like she matters, like she is cared about. Do frequent kindness and make her constantly feel secure and cherished. In every thing you do with or for her, show respect and consideration. Even when she is upset, stay calm and gentle. Rav Yehuda's wife used to get hot-tempered and unpleasant. Whenever she did, he fixed the situation be giving her kind and appeasing words (Yevamos 63b).

Look for ways to be thoughtful, courteous and polite. Pay attention while speaking with her and ask her how she feels about things you are discussing (e.g. things you are saying, requesting, planning, suggesting or considering). Ask her for advice and act on as much of it as is humanly possible. It shows her that she is important when you show that she has impact on your behavior, views or decisions; or makes contribution to your life. Constantly express profuse appreciation. Hold a door for her (this does NOT violate tzneeyuss [modesty laws] and it DOES fulfill kavod). Say, "I married you to make you happy," and then keep acting like you mean it! The bottom line basically is: she must securely feel that she is cared for at all times and that she is the most important person in the world to you.

I must specify that today there are many psychological conditions that can block this "system" which was built by G-d into "normal" human nature. I tell people, "Normal rules apply to normal people. Normal rules do not apply to abnormal people." If this "kavod system" does not work, the need professional help is indicated. In a reasonably healthy couple, if a man makes his wife "emotionally trust" him, she will voluntarily love, respect and help him; and they will have constant peace.



Let us study some marriage-related writings of the Chazone Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaia Karelitz, 1878-1953), a tzadik (flawless, virtuous person) and one of the most prominent, brilliant and admired Torah scholars of his time. The Chazone Ish wrote in a letter to an engaged young man, "Pay attention every moment to the fact that a wife has pleasure from being attractive in her husband's eyes. Her eyes are always looking to him and she always hopes that she is adored by her husband. She needs to be praised for her cooking the meals which she serves and she brings to him every single day. If she hangs a picture on the wall or places a plant on the table, she does all this for him and he is obligated 'TO SEE AND TO RECOGNIZE' good on every occasion. He must speak to her about matters of the house and of the children. All the time that he does not pay attention to her, to the matters of the house, to her work and to her efforts and to her burdens, even if in relation to things that he considers to be small things, over the course of time, he is going to distance her from him, and separate them apart from one another, and this will lead, more and more, to fighting, Heaven forbid."

Note in the quote above that the Chazone Ish made a point to use double language: "liros ulihakir," which means to say that the husband has "to see and to recognize" - to really notice and appreciate - all household and family things and his wife's efforts regarding them. While these things seem small in a man's eyes, they are life itself to a wife. He has to understand the woman's mind, feelings and needs. He has to constantly be diligent and sensitively responsive to his wife, her efforts and burdens, her appearance and that of the house, her handling of the children. Whenever the husband does not abide by this, the wife cannot feel fulfilled, at peace, loved, respected or appreciated.

The Chazone Ish is making a central point. Whereas a man may not be able to comprehend, if he lived to be a million, a flower pot or a picture hung on a wall to be a big deal, the wife puts her heart into seeking an environment that he will approve of, that she is responsible for and THAT SHE WILL BE LOVED FOR. It's never the flower pot or picture. Her heart is on the line. He is understanding his wife's heart...hopefully, to love her heart with his. The Jewish home is for the perpetual practice of chesed (active kindness). The world is for the perpetual practice of chesed. How central to life is practicing chesed with one's spouse and children!

The Chazone Ish wrote that it is obligatory for a husband to make his wife happy constantly, to show love, closeness and endearment. When Pirkei Avos says, "Do not speak too much to a woman, including one's wife," this is only for non-necessities or for that which is frivolous. This does not apply AT ALL during the first year of marriage, when the relationship is solidifying, nor to any refraining from communication that will result in his diminishing of kavod, closeness, derech eretz (civil, polite or thoughtful behavior), unity, gentleness or peacefulness towards her. He must speak with her about all needs of life, of the home and of the children. When he goes out he must say to his wife where he is going and when he comes back, he must say what he did, whether for big or small things. The Chazone Ish teaches that these things convey concern, value, attachment, importance and respect to her.

A kollel wife complained to the Telzher Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, that her husband did not help around the house and did not take out the garbage. The Rov asked the young man why. He replied that it was beneath his dignity since he learns Torah. Early the next morning, the Rosh Yeshiva showed up at the man's door. He asked what the Rosh Yeshiva was there for. The rov said he came to take out the garbage, since the young man was too important a person to do it. The fellow got the message: a genuine Torah Jew makes a "seder [regular set time]" for marital peace, responsibilities at home and for being a mentsh; not just for Gemora, Rashi and Tosfos.

In the 1930's, the Kaminetz Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Boruch Ber Leibowitz, came from Europe to America to raise funds for his yeshiva. He came to the home of a wealthy man, who opened the door and recognized the Torah giant who was standing in front of him just outside his door. Since his wife was listening to secular music on the radio, the man was frightened and embarrassed. The man excused himself for a moment, went to his wife and demanded that she immediately shut the radio. He then came back to the door and meekly asked the Rosh Yeshiva what he could do for him. The Rosh Yeshiva whispered to him to step outside with him. The man was nervous and he expected a severe rebuke for listening to popular music [which then was not filthy, as it is today]. The Rosh Yeshiva said, "Your wife was having hano'a [enjoyment] from listening to that music. Go inside, apologize for making her turn it off, beg her to forgive you, put the music back on, and then I will talk to you."

Rabbi Akiva Eiger was one of the Torah giants in Europe approximately 200 years ago. He was busy as the leader of his community. He taught 36 regular classes every day. Townspeople were coming to him constantly with their issues. He received Torah questions from all over the world (there was only mail in those days - all replies had to be slowly hand written). He was a very busy man.

In his reply to a letter, he wrote that after a full and hard work day, he would make a point to speak to his wife until midnight each night. They would discuss Torah philosophy and observance. He considered her opinions, regarded her with dignity, attributed importance to her input. He appreciated her character and intellect. He also, in that letter, praised her for shielding him from monetary worries, allowing him to engage in Torah scholarship (The letters of Rabbi Akiva Eiger). No man can say he is too busy, whether with Torah or secular pursuits, to speak to his wife as much as is required every day.

Several years ago, a young rabbi arrived at his wedding day. His learned grandfather was in his late eighties and had been married sixty years. His grandfather pulled him aside before the ceremony and spoke as follows.

When his wife had become a nida, when they were physically forbidden to each other, he would buy her flowers for shabos. He, also specifically then, bought her presents and gave her compliments for her cooking or for things which she did. When she came home from the mikva, he took his wife out on a "date," to spend time with her, so that she would feel that he had a complete, not only a physical, interest in her, and that his love for her was unconditional.

He made a point, throughout their relationship, no matter how busy, tense or difficult life ever was, to regularly spend what we now call "quality time" with her. He would talk to her about his Torah learning, decisions, activities, about what was going on in each of their lives. Through this he created in her the sense that he is truly sharing his life with her and that she should constantly feel involved in his life. Through these actions he kept showing to her that she is an unmistakably important part of his life. He kept showing that HER BEING IMPORTANT WAS IMPORTANT TO HIM.

However, he was always making sure never to unnecessarily burden, trouble or worry her. He would only tell her his problems when she could, as a practical matter, help him or encourage him. If it were something negative, he would only tell her when there was a benefit to be derived from the telling. He would share what was going on so that she would feel she was important and involved in his life. He was steadily showing that she was valuable in his mind and heart.

When they had a difference, they approached each other as if the other were sage counsel with a wise and weighty opinion to be seriously considered. They consistently discussed differences with gentleness, adaptability, open communication, respect and calm. They would always together work out a resolution that was peaceful, amicable and mutually agreeable.

The point of all of this is that this couple (i.e. the grandparents of the rabbi) NEVER ONCE had a single fight in their entire 60-year long marriage. The grandfather was beckoning to his grandson to conduct the marriage that he was on the verge of entering into in the same "kavod-rich" way, and so that the grandson would enjoy the same blessing of nonstop lifelong peace in marriage as a result.



King Dovid wrote, "Turn from bad and do good (Tehilim 34:15)." First we clear away what is bad and then pursue pure good. Accordingly, the first step in producing a happy spouse is: NOT producing an unhappy spouse. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 59a & b) brings several marriage-related teachings.

"Rav said, 'A man must always be careful to never pain his wife. Because her tears come readily, her pain comes quickly.' Said Rabbi Elazar, 'Since the destruction of the Holy Temple, the gates of prayer [in Heaven, where prayers have to pass] are shut, but the gates of tears are not shut.' The gemora is saying that if a husband pains his wife and she cries real tears, the tears go directly to HaShem and He takes up her defence forcefully and punitively.

"Rabbi Hisda said, 'All the gates [in Heaven] are shut except the gates of [prayers arising from] pained feelings'...Rabbi Elazar said, 'All punishments come through an intermediary, but punishment for causing pained feelings comes directly and rapidly from G-d.'

"Rav also said, 'A man who acts upon his wife's advice will fall'...Rabbi Papo expressed objection to [his colleague] Abayai, saying, 'Everyone says, "If your wife is short, bend down and listen to her whisper"' [go out of your way to obtain and act upon the advice of your wife - a seeming contradiction with the authoritative Rav]. It is no contradiction [because each spouse has a specific domain of leadership]. He is the leader in religious matters, she is leader in household matters.

"Rabbi Yehuda said, 'A man must always be careful that there be food in his house, for over matters of [insufficient] food a fight is guaranteed to come.'

"Rabbi Helbo said, 'A man must be always careful with his wife's honor because blessing is found in his home only because of his wife, as the Torah says [Genesis 12], "And [G-d] gave good to Avraham because of her [Sara, his wife]." And, accordingly, Rava said to the men of the town of Mehuza, 'Treat your wives as precious because this is prerequisite to becoming wealthy.'"

Many other sources in Chazal teach us how not to mistreat a spouse.

Chazal impose enormous obligations upon the Jewish man to give kavod to a bas Yisroel (Jewish woman). The gemora (Sanhedrin 75a) tells of a young man who was in love with a young woman who would not marry him. He asked his rabbi if he could at least look over a wall to see her. The rabbi said that he can't even enjoy looking at her small finger. The young man said he has to see her or he will die. His rabbi said that it is better that he should die and than to not look at a Jewish woman disrespectfully or immorally.

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter eleven) teaches that "He who hates his wife is as one who murders."

Derech Eretz Zuta (chapter nine) teaches, "A house with dissention is destroyed."

Tractate Shabos (62b) says that a man must never give a wife cause to curse him, for a justifiable curse (e.g. not spending on her in accordance with his means) can bring poverty.

Tractate Chulin (89a) says that the world is kept in existence in the merit of the one who keeps restrained and quiet at the time when a fight the merit of the one who humbles himself.

In tractate Taanis (20b), Rabbi Ada Bar Ahava was asked by his students to what he attributed his extraordinarily long life. He said, "I was never stern within my house."

Tractate Nida (31b) says that a man can be appeased, a woman cannot be appeased. Watch out for the feelings of a wife! Be very careful for her sensitivities and emotions. Even if a man tries to appease his wife after he has hurt her, some of the pain will continue to stab her and stay within her. Once a husband has put that impression, that sting and that insecurity into the woman's emotions, they are very difficult and slow to go out of her. Never hurt or upset a wife in the first place, but if, Heaven forbid, you do, be very big and forthcoming and make amends rapidly, sincerely and fully. It's not a question of what the man thinks is right and wrong or what is reasonable. It's entirely a question of what will or won't work. This is the reality according to which G-d created female nature. The wife may never use this to take advantage of or to manipulate him. The point is not for her to have a way to abuse him. The point is that there won't be abuse by anybody.

"A MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE AND NOT FOR PAIN." This Chazal (Kesubos 61a) makes it clear: if it hurts, it is not the Torah's idea of a marriage! Marriage is for home, children, family, fulfillment, refuge from the world, mutual support and concern. Marriage partners, by definition, are instruments: for each other's happiness and well-being and for the achievement of each one's purpose, goals, potentials, spiritual perfection and eternal life. This gemora also says that a wife should raise her man up and be responsible for her duties. A practical message here is that a woman should never nag, criticize or "put down" her husband; or she'll alienate his affection. She should constructively bring out his potentials. The text of the wedding ceremony refers to a married couple as "rayim ahoovim (loving friends)." There is no other Jewish option but for a married couple to be best friends who love each other.

Bava Metzia (94a) tells us that if a man marries a woman on condition that he is exempt from any marriage obligation imposed by the Torah, the marriage takes effect but the condition does not. Rashi writes that this is because "there is no such thing as half a marriage." In other words, a marriage and its obligations are synonymous. It's a "package deal."

Pirkei DeRebbi Eliezer (chapter 13) says that G-d put his name between husband and wife: He put the letters "yod" and "heh" (which form a name of G-d) into the names for "ish" and "ishah" (Hebrew for "man" and "woman"). G-d said: If the couple will go in My ways and observe My laws, then My name is between them and this will save them from all trouble and anguish. If they will not go in My ways and observe My laws, then, when I am taken out of their marriage, they take the "yod" out of "Ish" and the "heh" out of "ishaH" and that leaves them with only "alef" and "shin" which spell "aish [fire]" and that fire will destroy them.

Tractate Brachos (64a) tells us, "Talmiday chachomim increase peace in the world." If someone does not increase peace in the world, the person is, by definition, a coarse ignoramus. If he has knowledge but does not increase peace, he is not a true Torah scholar. One who does not act in accordance with his learning level is a "donkey carrying books" (Chovos HaLevovos, Chapter four Avodas Ha'Elokim/Service Of G-d); he is like one who fills a basket with many books of Mishna or halachos (laws) and has no understanding of, nor ability to reason about, what is inside (Rashi, Megila 28b). If one is a true Torah scholar, he builds peace between people.



In the previous installment we studied Chazals on how to not mistreat a spouse. In this installment we proceed with to how to treat a spouse properly.
The gemora argues about whether we should say that a bride is as she is, even if she is ugly, or whether we should call every bride "beautiful and charming." Bais Shamai says that since the Torah says, "Distance yourself from anything false" (Exodus 23:7), we must always say the truth. Bais Hillel says that real truth is having a pleasant disposition with people (Kesubos 17a). We hold like Bais Hillel. This presents itself in my marriage counseling work over and over. One party will say something mean, bullying or offensive; justifying it because they are "speaking the truth!" They think that reporting of something disrespectful, selfish or hurtful is validated because it accurately expresses their true feelings. If, in any context, one is not pleasing to other people, he or she is not honest, that person is plain rotten. This gemora tells us: G-d's truth requires never being hurtful or nasty; truth is being pleasant, when it comes to other people and their feelings or dignity.

Tractate Shabos (152a) says, short and to-the-point, "the happiness of one's heart is a wife." A wife must make sure that she makes her husband's heart happy.

"A woman's joy is her husband" (Rosh HaShana 6b). It is the woman's nature to find happiness in being married and it is the man's obligation to see to it that she remains happy from being married to him. Rashi writes (on this) that it is imperative that a man make his wife happy, and a "classic" way to do this is to give her nice clothes that will please her.

Kidushin (34b), also short and to-the-point, says, "It is a man's obligation to make his wife happy."

Midrash Beraishis Raba teaches how a husband should take care of a wife. The Torah writes (Genesis 12:8) that Avraham prioritized his wife before himself. Avraham traveled and pitched "oheloH (his tent)." In Hebrew, the suffix "H" makes a noun possessive in the feminine gender (i.e "her" object). The masculine possessive comes with the vowel "O" as a suffix (i.e. "his" object). The Torah in Genesis 12:8 uses the strange combination of vowel "O" and the consonant "H" with the noun "ohel (tent)." The translation of the text as spoken is "his tent," and the translation of the text as written is "her tent." So what is the meaning of the Torah's placing of this unusual vowel "O" and consonant "H" together, when it should only be one or the other? The midrash explains that Avraham first pitched the tent of Sara, his wife, before he pitched his own. We see this because the "H" is a consonant, which is more dominant in Hebrew grammar, than a vowel ("O"). The Torah is teaching us that whenever a husband needs to do something for himself and for his wife, he must take care of his wife's needs first. This will apply to all forms of help, respect, kindness and consideration for his wife; whether practical or emotional.

Derech Eretz Raba (chapter four) says, "One should always be pleasant when entering and leaving" (especially his house).

Derech Eretz Zuta (chapter three) says, "Be humble and beloved to all, and even moreso to your own household."

Tractate Chulin (58b) has an agadata (allegorical story). "For seven years a female mosquito quarrelled with [her "husband"] a male mosquito. She said to him, 'I once saw a human being from Mechuza [a town whose people enjoyed swimming] bathing in water. When he came out, he wrapped himself in a sheet. You came and settled down upon him and sucked out blood and you didn't let me know!'"

We see from this agadata that a husband must share the pleasures of life with his wife or she will nag him "for seven years," meaning to say, for a long time. He must not keep or sneak them for himself and not hide from his wife what he does with his time. The Chazon Ish, possibly learning it from here, said that a husband must let his wife know when he's leaving, where he's going, what he is going to be doing and when he is going to be back. If he goes away on a journey, he must, every day, phone or write her a letter; and bring her gifts from the places that he visited. If he deprives her in any such ways, she will feel bad and "drive him crazy" about it [just like the "mosquito wife" did] "for seven years."

Tractate Chulin (84b) says that a man should eat and drink less than in accordance with what he can afford, dress himself in accordance with what he can afford, and he should honor his wife and children more than in accordance with what he can afford. The wife and children are dependent on the husband, and the husband is dependent on the One Who Spoke And The World Was Created. We see from this gemora, that the man must supply his family's needs, even if he has to sacrifice some things he would want for himself, in order to accomplish this. He shall ask HaShem to provide for him in an ample and honorable way (in conjunction with doing permissible and honest hishtadluss [work-effort]); and have faith in HaShem to supply all that he is responsible to give to his wife and children.

Tractate Chulin (141a) says, "Great is peace between husband and wife."

Rabbi Yosi called his wife his "home," never his "wife" (tractate Shabos 118b)." Rashi explains that Rabbi Yosi spoke with wisdom even in his plain speech. By referring to his wife as his "home," he is adding a message that she is the ikur ("essence"), the central figure of their house. Madrich LeChasonim [Guide To Grooms] explains Rabbi Yosi beautifully by writing: the home is the essence of life, the wife is the essence of the home, therefore the wife is the essence of life, to the husband. She transforms a "mere building" into a "home" and into a refuge from the world, where he may have fulfillment and independence.

Tractate Sanhedrin (76b) says that a husband should adorn his wife with attractive jewels and ornaments, to make her more respectable (this is a practical, concrete way of attributing honor to his wife). Besides giving honor, these make a woman very happy (even though men may have trouble understanding why!).

Tractate Kesubos (62b-63a) recounts how Rabbi Akiva's wife sacrificed to enable him to learn Torah and how he honored and appreciated her. Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest sages of the Talmud, grew up knowing no Torah. He was an uneducated shepherd. His employer's daughter recognized that he was modest and of superlative character. She said that if he would learn Torah, she would marry him, and he agreed. He married her and he went away to yeshiva. Her wealthy father, infuriated that his daughter would marry the shepherd, disowned her. She lived in abject poverty and by herself for twelve years. When he returned, he had advanced to the point at which he had twelve thousand disciples. When he was arriving home, he heard an old man say to his wife, "How long will you live as a widow?" She replied, "I would have him learn another twelve years." Rabbi Akiva said, "This is her will," and he immediately about-faced and returned to yeshiva for another twelve years. When he returned home, he had twenty-four thousand disciples. When she heard that Rabbi Akiva was finally returning, she ran to meet him. Her clothes were those of a poor beggar and she fell on her face to kiss his feet. His students, thinking that this strange woman was publicly dishonoring their rabbi with immodest behavior, were about to push her aside. He told them to leave her alone and said to them, "All of my Torah and all of your Torah is hers!"

Nedarim (66b) tells us that a wife must do her husband's will, even when she does not understand his reason. For doing what he tells her, she will be blessed.

Tractate Brachos (61a) says that Elisha the Prophet followed the words and advice of his wife. Even though he had the attribute of prophesy, he was able to recognize that there was merit and wisdom in his wife's words and advice.



AIn the previous generation, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was one of the world's leading Torah authorities. One time a visitor came over to his house to talk to the sage. All of a sudden, in the middle of the conversation, the rabbi started buttoning his coat, straightening it and making it very neat. It seemed very out of context and the visitor was puzzled. Rabbi Auerbach explained, "The Talmud says that when a husband and wife dwell together in peace, the divine presence dwells with them. My wife and I dwell in such peace. Since it is time for her to be coming home, the divine presence is coming. Should I not be presentable?"

Several years ago, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach lost his elderly wife. It is customary, when one spouse loses the other, for the survivor to ask for forgiveness for anything the surviving spouse did to hurt the deceased. While eulogizing his wife, Rabbi Auerbach put his audience into shock by saying emphatically, as if speaking to his wife, "I do not forgive you and I do not ask you to forgive me!" Seeing that the audience was stunned, and that such a seemingly radical statement from such a venerable scholar was entirely unexpected, he continued, "Let me explain. In 54 years of marriage, my wife never once hurt me, and I never once hurt my wife. Forgiving is not relevant when there is nothing to forgive."

When Rabbi Shlomo Heiman, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshiva Torah VaDaas in Brooklyn during the early '40s, passed away, a group of his devoted disciples went to make a shiva call (a visit to comfort a mourner during the seven days of mourning) to his widow. She told the group that she was going to tell the young men how to be husbands who will make their wives happy.

The Rosh HaYeshiva was a busy man. He always made a point to have at least one meal, generally supper, every day with his wife, making it a point to talk with her on whatever she felt it necessary to talk about, for 45 minutes to an hour each day (spending what we call today "quality time").

Every evening from 8:30 to 10:45 she would go out to raise funds for poor orphans. When she came back tired each evening, she always came home to find the kitchen table set. On it were a teacup, sugar, tea, a plate with cut cake. The kettle had freshly boiled water. Each night she would protest that this service does not befit a busy, esteemed Rosh HaYeshiva. He would protest back that she was making busy rounds and that she is tired and needs refreshment. When she would go back to the bedroom to pull down the sheets, she would find, each evening, that her husband had already done the job.

A young man came to the Steipler Gaon (who was one of the leading Torah authorities in the previous generation) in B'nei Brak, Israel, with a problem. He was in kollel learning full time. His wife was working to support the family and was raising the family also. The family was growing and needed more time and attention than his wife could now furnish. The wife required that the husband take a half hour a day from his learning to provide help with the children. The young man asked the Steipler which half hour in his chock-full learning schedule should he give up in order to give a half hour to his wife. The Steipler sat and patiently went through this man's schedule with him, including what he was doing in kollel and what was happening at home in the family's schedule. The Steipler went through every segment of the day and chose a half hour time that would be the greatest help to the young man's wife and children.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelovits, z'l, former Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, said, "An irresponsible person is a fool. Responsibility is the foundation of being a human being."

Orchos Tzadikim writes that the wise person is able to make bad things into good things.

Normally flattery is considered a sin. Orchos Tzadikim writes that a husband may flatter a wife for marital peace. He should speak gently, appealingly and appeasingly to his wife, to make her happy and comfortable.

Rabbi Yakov Kaminetsky was famed within his lifetime (1891-1986) for being a tzadik (a righteous person who fulfills all of the Torah) and talmid chochom (scholar). Three stories about him involve his Torah-saintliness in marriage.

A few years after his first wife passed away, Reb Yakov (as he is affectionately called) felt ready to re-marry. He was about sixty. Reb Yakov was Lithuanian and followed the customs of Lithuanian Jewry. His second wife was Polish and followed the customs of her part of Poland. Reb Yakov, also, had a private custom of never eating dairy on Fridays. He said he had no idea why, but that it was a custom in his father's family. He was confident that it had a holy basis and he observed it uncompromisingly.

He married his second wife shortly before the holiday of Shevuos. It is customary to eat dairy on Shevuos. As it turned out, Shevuos that year came out on Friday. His wife's custom for the first day of Shevuos was to prepare a lavish dairy kiddush, and then serve a traditional meat meal after the kiddush. They were married such a short time that they couldn't have possibly learned all of each other's customs. The rebitzen thought that she would please her husband by preparing a generous dairy kiddush featuring that Shevuos favorite: cheesecake! On a Friday.

Rabbi Kaminetsky came home from synagogue with a gathering of guests, all yeshiva scholars. When he walked in, his bride was proud as a peacock. She honored her husband and yom tov as if for a king. The house was nearly wall-papered in various kinds of cheesecake! She had evidently spent enormous time and care, buying, baking and preparing a royal spread. It was obvious that her intentions had been extremely selfless and noble. Inside himself, he was aghast. While he knew he had to express delighted surprise to his rebitzen, he was in a real dilemma. He had an obligation to never eat dairy on Friday. He also had an obligation to keep a wife happy. Not eating would break her heart. Eating would break the vow to never eat dairy on Friday.

She said that she had to go into the kitchen to make some last minute arrangements. He had a moment to think. He turned to the three among his guests who were the greatest scholars. He explained the dilemma. "You three are Torah scholars. You can form a bais din [Torah court]. You will do 'hataras nedarim'" [the Torah court procedure for canceling vows, which may only be done under certain conditions - fortunately this case contained an allowable condition - ask your local orthodox rabbi if you have practical questions].

They finished the vow-canceling ceremony just in time. "Frumkeit" is no justification to hurt any person's feelings. Reb Yakov had his priorities straight. He greeted his wife with a warm smile and appreciatively ate her cheesecake. On a Friday. This is "real frumkeit."

Story number two about Reb Yakov tells of him coming to a dinner sponsored by a major Torah organization. He was with Rabbi Shnayer Kotler, late Rosh HaYeshiva of the prominent Lakewood Yeshiva. Appreciate that BOTH WERE VERY HUMBLE MEN.

Both of these distinguished Torah giants were about to come in the main entrance of the banquet hall. Reb Shnayer said, "Let us not go in this way. I know of a back entrance. If we come in this way, everyone will stand up to give us honor. Let us not impose on an entire crowd."

To his astonishment, Reb Yakov said insistently, and surprisingly out of character, "Let us enter specifically through this main door."

"But, why?" said Reb Shnayer, in amazement at his friend who was world-famous for humility.

"Our wives are in there," Reb Yakov replied. "When the entire crowd stands, this gives honor to our wives."

Once Reb Yakov, who lived in Monsey, was in New York City for a simcha. A young man from Monsey was asked to give the tzadik a ride home. He gladly agreed and eagerly introduced himself to the Rosh Yeshiva as his ride. Reb Yakov said that he first had to inspect the car before he could accept the ride. He got into the back seat and sat for a moment. He then came out of the car and said he would accept the ride. The reason he went into the car first was to make sure the seat would be comfortable for HIS WIFE.



King Dovid writes, "Turn from bad and do good" (Tehilim 34:15). An important part of doing good is to turn from - and not mix in - any bad. Good must be pure and this includes giving kavod to and being pleasant with one's spouse.

There is a rule that everything in the written or oral Torah must have the briefest possible wording. Whenever a wording is longer than the shortest way possible, even by only a word or letter, the extra is intentionally there for an additional teaching.

Pirkei Avos (chapter three) tells us, "All who are pleasing to people are pleasing to G-d and all who are not pleasing to people are not pleasing to G-d." Hebrew could convey "pleasing" in a single word (e.g. noam, me'urav, etc.). Yet, in this mishna, Chazal chose a two-word expression to convey the concept, "nocha haimenu." "Nocha" is from the same root word as "menucha" (rest). A more technical translation than "pleasing" might be, "All whose spirit is restful from him." This tells us something very profound.

A person may consider himself nice and pleasant to people. However, some people might be nice in some ways and not nice in others. They say, "Because of the part of me that's nice, I expect G-d is happy with me." Chazal are telling us that G-d is specifically NOT PLEASED by people who are only PART NICE, who are a MIXTURE of pleasant and not, who are nice to some people and not nice to others, nice at some times but not at other times, who are nice in some ways but bother and hurt people in other ways, who are nice under some conditions but not nice under other conditions.

Only when a person is nice at all times, with all people under all conditions; such that people are AT REST from him [nocha haimenu]; they are calm, satisfied, comfortable with him and have peace of mind about him; his pleasantness is pure and complete; only that person is the one who G-d is pleased with!

The famed commentator, Rashi, writes (on Yevamos 62b and Bava Metzia 59a) that a husband must never disparage, insult, cheapen, shame, disrespect, neglect or hurt his wife in any way; these are harder on a woman than on a man; these are more severe to a woman than to a man.

Rambam wrote [Hilchos Ishus 15:17-20] that a husband is to approach his wife (for physical relations) never by force or pressure, but only by obtaining her will through first talking nicely to her and making her happy. He must honor her more than he honors himself and love her as much as he loves himself. He must spend money on her to do good for her. The more money he has, the more he is to spend on benefitting her. He must never be frightening, depressed or angry with her. His speaking with her must always be gentle. The Torah also commands the woman in conduct. She must be extremely modest (especially regarding demeanor, clothing and covering of her hair). She should minimize levity and silliness, she should not speak on the subject of marital relations, she should not refrain from being with her husband, especially when this will pain him. She should obey all of his words, instruction and will. She must honor her husband exceedingly and view him as a high-level officer or as a king, and she must distance herself from anything he dislikes. Rambam concludes that this is the way holy men and women in the people Israel conduct themselves in their marriages, and through this, they will live a beautiful life together.

A certain Jew used to regularly beat his wife. After she no longer could take it, she disclosed her husband's habit of beating her. Word got to some chasidim of the famed Satmar Rov, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, and they met the man and brought him to the saintly Rov. When the Rov asked why the man beat his wife, the man's answer was that ever since he was a child he used to beat up his sisters. The Rov told the man - in no uncertain terms - that he was never to hit his wife ever again and that he had to differentiate between the behavior of a reckless, mean little child and a married adult.

The Torah says, "Make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them" (Exodus 25:8). The sanctuary is singular, yet G-d speaks in the plural ("them"), which seems to be a contradiction. The sanctuary - a lifeless collection of wood and stone - is really a model to motivate each Jew to purify his heart, perfect himself, develop fear of G-d and obey all of the Torah. G-d wants each Jew to makes him or her self into a holy sanctuary so that G-d will dwell within each of "them" (Me'am Loez). From G-d's writing that He wants to dwell within "them," we learn that each Jew should make a "mikdosh mi'at" (miniature holy sanctuary) of THE JEWISH HOME (the Lubavitcher Rebbe, z'l, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson).

[NOTE: the material in the rest of this installment is collated from the book, "Love Your Neighbor," by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Jerusalem, and is used with his consent. These stories show that the mitzva to love and respect one's fellow Jew apply to the person one married!]

Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam was one of the principle disciples of the famed mussar giant Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. Soon after his disciple married, Rabbi Yisroel asked, "Reb Naftali, do you do chesed?" The word chesed has both the general meaning of active lovingkindness and the more specific meaning of an interest-free loan. Since the word is commonly used in the latter fashion, that is how Rabbi Amsterdam understood his teacher's question.

"Rebbe, I don't have money to lend to others."

"I was not referring to chesed through money. I meant doing chesed by helping your wife in the house. You must know that marrying does not mean that you took a maid to serve you. The sages say that 'one's wife is as himself (ishto kigufo)'. Marrying means you took a WIFE." (B'tuv Yerushalayim, p. 392)

Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam moved to Jerusalem in his old age. He married an elderly woman and soon after their marriage, she became quite ill. Although he was a weak man of eighty, he had to take care of her. He tended to her faithfully. He kept the house, including all cleaning and washing. He did not feel sorry for himself. Rather, he cheerfully accepted the situation and appreciated the opportunity to do chesed (active lovingkindness; Migdolay Yerushalayim, p. 180).

Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel headed the esteemed Slobodka Yeshiva for a half a century. He taught and inspired very many disciples. One summer night Rabbi Finkel was giving a lecture to some former students before maariv (the evening prayer). It was growing late into the evening. His wife whispered quietly to him, "They have wives." Although he had not completed his ethical discourse, he stopped and said, "It is time to start maariv." One of the students replied, "Our wives won't mind."

Rabbi Finkel responded, "I'm not certain that is true. Regardless, you don't have the right to make them wait. Also, my wife is hungry by now and I don't have the right to make her wait."

Upon completing maariv, he insisted that all of the students return home immediately. (Tenuas HaMussar, vol. 3, p. 250.)

Another marriage-related story is brought in Tenuas HaMussar about Rabbi Finkel. He once asked one of his students if he helped his wife in the house before shabos. The student replied that he did, and added that he well appreciated the importance of honoring shabos and that he knew that the Talmud (Shabos 119a) relates that even the most prominent sages performed menial tasks to prepare for shabos.

Instead of praising the student, Rabbi Finkel admonished the student for his attitude, saying, "It's a Torah commandment to help any Jew who needs assistance. This applies to even a total stranger. All the moreso to your wife! Friday afternoon, women are usually tired, and it is a very big mitzva to assist one's wife."

Rabbi Yitzchok Blauser used to say that a man should treat his wife with as much respect as he would treat a stranger. Just as a person is careful to treat strangers politely, so should a husband treat his wife politely (Kochvay Or, vol. 2, p. 16).

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem in the previous generation, said that troubles begin for a couple when the husband is only concerned that the wife meet her obligations to him and the wife is only concerned that the husband meet his obligations to her. If a husband will fulfill his obligations and the wife will fulfill her obligations, they will live a happy and tranquil life together.



The Talmud and legal codes cite kavod (honor, respect) between man and wife as prerequisite for a happy, peaceful marriage. We have been examining in this series many aspects of this, from statements by the sages to stories of tzadikim. This is all very well and good, in fact fundamental to the subject. But I want to conclude this series by drawing from some of my practical marriage counseling experience to bring the idea of kavod home and make it concrete for my readers.

One of the the most common causes of trouble in couples, as seen in my work experience, can be boiled down to: one or both spouses do not "make the other count." Each does what he or she wants to, disregards the feelings or diginity of the other, is selfish and inconsiderate. The person does not "get it," either. He or she can't figure what is bothering or wrong with the other. "Must be the other is a mental case" or "just impossible to please." The person does whatever he or she wants - stays out late, fails to perform responsibilities for spouse and children, is as messy as a pig, is spiteful, secretive, controlling, critical, angry or begrudging. What is really cute is how, when this disrespectful person is treated with the same terrible behavior, the person almost without exception cannot stand the person who treats the person so badly, gets furious and has some unpublishable words for the offending party. In a nutshell, the disrespectful person makes the other feel as if he or she does not count.

No one can live with a spouse for too long and feel that they do not count. Some people will have some more patience, some less. It is usually a matter of time. When a spouse is made to feel that he or she does not matter, when the spouse is hurt and deprived, it is unbearably painful. Young, idealistic and naive people will justify the other's malfeasance for a while. They expect that it will pass, or think that perhaps they are judging the other too harshly (when they consider the partner to be bad). After a number of months or years, harsh reality sets in: this is really who they married. The prolonged pain cannot be endured endlessly. The other one's neglectful or malevolent behavior is incessant. He or she goes his merry way, unbending and unyeilding, taking positions and not budging.

At some time or other, it becomes intolerable. The prospect for peace is in very serious trouble. The foundation of the marital edifice is sorely cracked. The offender keeps doing what suits him or her. The other one's pain, needs or dignity do not matter. In some variation or other, this is the basic underlying pattern of much of my marriage counseling work. Trouble is there as much as kavod is NOT there.

For marriage to be peaceful, for a couple to have a genuine relationship, each must be focused, as a full-time matter, on making the other count. We have shown how the Hebrew word kavod (honor) is related to the word kavaid (weighty). The other must hold enough weight in your mind, decision-making, attitudes and behavior that you are impacted by the presence or needs of the other person and will make adjustments to fulfill responsibilities to the other's comfort and well-being, and to deliver happiness to the other person - steadily.

Michtav Me'Eliyahu says to study kindness the way a tradesman studies his profession. To be an expert at marriage, you must study the person you are married to the way a scholar studies for a Ph.d or, lehavdel, for s'micha. An engineer has to study every aspect of building bridges, the weight metals can carry, the effect of wind on a high structure - everything that goes into making a lasting bridge or building. A jeweler must learn how to cut a stone, fit it into a ring, differentiate valuable jewels from imitations. To become a rov, one must master the Gemora, Rishonim, Shulchan Oruch, poskim and mussar, under the guidance of a gadol [leading authority]. To succeed at any profession, one must delve into it and become expert to the point of knowing it inside and out - and being able to professionally handle sudden or difficult questions.

This is all true of being a successful spouse. Each must study the Torah rules for how to behave, communicate and treat each other. Each must further study the "fine art" of knowing the other as an individual person and as a member of that perplexing opposite gender.

Proper marital kavod is a rich and sensitive blend of 1. universal and objective factors cited by Chazal [our sages], gedolim [our leaders] and seforim [our holy books], 2. subjective factors such as responsiveness, adaptability, concern and esteem delivered good-naturedly to the unique person who is your spouse as well as 3. the sharing of each one's benefits in life (e.g. social status, money, personal strengths or virtues and talents).

To achieve the level of kavod required by the Torah, one must be very attentive to his or her individual spouse. What "makes this person tick?" What do I have to do to make this person comfortable, happy, never unhappy, never offended? How can I attribute "weight," significance, importance - how can I make this person matter more, as much as possible? How can I be an authority, scholar and professional in respecting, pleasing, understanding and getting along with this person? In what ways must I sacrifice, extend myself, address this person's feelings? What is my spouse's side to the story? How must I be responsible to this relationship and our family?  For all decisions that impact the other spouse or the family, each must consult the other before taking any action. The rabbis wanted to appoint Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaria as nasi [religious president] because he had all necessary qualifications. Before agreeing to accept this extraordinary honor, he first went home and asked his wife her opinion [Brachos 27b].

Great rabbis, such as Chaim Shmuelevits and Eliyahu Dessler, have stated that major marriage troubles come when each focuses on what the other owes me and tranquility comes when each focuses on what each must be responsible for to the other.

It should be a pleasure to do chesed [kindness] for the other, to address the other's needs, and to raise this person's esteem among other people, too. Certainly, you must each train the children to respect your spouse - and not ever tolerate disrespect by them for your spouse.

If you boil it all down, it becomes basically a question of: how can you make this person who is your spouse count? To have meaningful and sustained peace, you have to be able to make that person so important that respect becomes second nature, automatic and spontaneous. The same way that an emergency-room doctor has to think on his feet and make split second moves that mean life or death, you have to be "professional" enough to handle whatever complications that life throws at you - and come out a "winner," based on your perfected judgement, knowledge, training and expertise in matters of shalom bayis [marital peace].

All of this takes time and effort. The alternative is risking making the other not count - so much so that you might not be worth the other person living peacefully with. No more than you would stick your hand into a fire, you should see disrespect as not being an option in your marriage. If you treat the other as if he or she does not count, the better cases end up in the marriage counselor's office, the worse cases in bais din.

Make each other count. Make each other matter. Live a life of respect, care, communication, giving and dignity. Do what it takes - as a practical matter - to constantly make your spouse happy to be with you and able to get along with you.

The couple that lives with respect lives with peace. The couple that lives with peace lives with the Divine Presence. The first goal of marriage is for the couple to bring each other to olam habo [eternal life]. The first prerequisite for achieving olam habo is bringing G-d into your married life. The key to all this is kavod.




In my counseling and workshop experience, people repeatedly tell me that they won't marry, or stay married, without love. What is called love in Western Society today is not love at all. It is an internal emotional reaction within a person to another person. The feeling is response evoked by psychological association with what the other person represents for the person's inner emotions, needs, subjectivity, psychological history and longings. Therefore, the feeling is defined, characterized and colored by the internal personality content and experience (often negative and intense), and (when not healthy and workable) by internal lackings. This means that the thing which is felt as love is actually self-directed emotion, not love for the other person. It stems from what is wrong, unhealthy, lonely and/or missing within; from what is NOT THERE and what is NOT WORKABLE. When the needs cease to be met, or when the cost of a relationship exceeds the gain, that feeling dies. There never was love. Since the "love" never stemmed from a "something," the relationship must eventually also end up a "nothing." One cannot fill an emotional void with a futile relationship. It is filled by psychological repair AT THE ROOT of the personality, which can then be followed by a real and strong relationship between two wholesome, communicative and mature partners. It is important to note that miserable people can put on a lovely act for the public (often fooling themselves too); appearing to be personable, functional and generous; while being intolerable brutes and/or irresponsible deadbeats in their close relationships.

After the relationship ceases to be emotionally worth it, or capable of providing the needs it once supplied, or when the emotional needs that once were there change or cease, the SELF-SERVING AND SELF-GRATIFYING FEELING that was CONFUSED WITH LOVE no longer exists. Because the underlying motive and appeal of the relationship was self-serving; extending oneself, sacrificing, giving in, adaptability, patience, compromising, contribution and commitment are not practical options (grandiose lip service, perhaps; but no real, unconditional and sustained effort or giving). The person will fault-find, blow up furiously, evade the other person or relationship responsibilities on some important level, close down, be spiteful or vicious, provoke or find any number of ways to quit the relationship or challenge the other person into quitting it (this is called in Psychology "Approach-Avoidance"). In our community too today, people commonly "fall in and out of love."

The only person who mattered all along was self. There was no weight, importance, gratitude, respect or love for the other person. In fact, there can eventually be extreme blindness to the impact of one's behavior, callous indifference, rigidity, and/or sadistic cruelty to the other person. As long as the other person suited self, the relationship was fine and attractive (sometimes even to a compulsive or desperate extent). It was fine, however, ONLY as long as the relationship essentially suited SELF, and gave what was needed.

Often this comes from abuse, dysfunction or other kind of emotional harm and/or from a lack of wholesome role model during young years. For example, a woman from a broken home was only attracted to men who would treat her like trash because she had no role model for a loving or enduring marriage. She had been hurt so much for her entire upbringing that she closed off her feelings and perceived emotional pain to be normal. She had no self-respect and she couldn't understand that a relationship should require commitment and shouldn't have constant angry fighting. She fixed herself by getting counseling and finally found a stable marriage. I know of several cases in which fellows from deficient homes were severely critical of their wives who, due to their own problems, could never adapt to change their offending ways. After a while, these fellows couldn't cope with their dissatisfying marriage. They abandoned their wives and disappeared. In one case I blame the destructive, shallow and irresponsible matchmaker, who knew both parties came from broken homes, and thought that two neurotics add up to one normal couple.

Sometimes the elusiveness of love is more subtle. For example, a single woman told me that she was repeatedly attracted to unreliable and dysfunctional men who were always a "challenge" and offered her no serious relationship. She claimed her home had been normal; her parents were loving, kind, supportive and nurturing. In exploring it, we discerned that her father was a hard-working man who came home late and deprived her of his time. He treated her like a princess when he was there but he was there far too little for her developing emotion's needs. So, when she grew up, she needed to chase futile relationships with men who could make her feel "validated," important and approved of by "rescuing" them.

Besides psychological disturbance and deficiency, the inability to seek, share and maintain a genuine and lasting love relationship can stem from plain old-fashioned selfishness, immaturity, superficiality, ego, greed, bad midos, peer-pressure (choosing a spouse for externals that don't identify or characterize the individual person, such as his/her yeechus-family, profession, learning, social status, talent, charisma), etc. We continuously hear of people marrying an impressive "catch" who, in the long haul, turned out not to be a nice or impressive human being. Conversely, humble, good-hearted, down-to-earth, respectful, trustworthy people generally make successful spouses and parents. Often, one's relating difficulties come from a combination of factors, and relationship problems are compounded by the dynamics of two complex personalities being drawn to, interacting with and inciting one another. Unless you are truly capable of dealing with and responding to the other person as the other truly is - and NOT merely in accordance with what you wish, feel, expect, need, demand or imagine; NOT what would be self-serving or convenient; NOT with a taking, using or entitlement orientation - but based on what the other genuinely is, feels and needs - you won't be able to peacefully live with the other person for too long.


When I counsel people or give live lectures, courses or workshops, one of the themes that I recurrently see is modern society's preoccupation with, and misconception of, love. "I
won't marry [or stay married] without love."

The Hebrew word for love is ahava. The word aHAVa has a common root with the Talmudic word, HAV, which means to "give." Right away, we clearly see that "true love" is related intrinsically to "giving." Giving is the secret to building true love. Psychologically and spiritually, I'm investing and transferring a bit of my being into you when I give, if it is sincere and truly for the good of the recipient. With each act of giving to you, I add another unit of love for you in my heart. If, on the other hand, I take from you, or if my giving is self-serving (you'll give me some benefit back), I just increase self-love. True and lasting love is a product of ongoing and unconditional giving, for the benefit or pleasing of the recipient. (Michtav Mi'Eliyahu, Kuntrus HaChesed).

Love, being an emotion, is subjective and limited to the extent that you have emotional "fuel." It may be powerful fuel, but it only goes as far as your emotional "fuel supply" goes. If the needs, feelings, perceptions or reality of your spouse; the marriage; or the pressures and tribulations of "real life" ever exceed the measure of your "fuel," the "fuel supply" will not be adequate to deliver, owing to the limitations of 1. subjectivity and of 2. your emotional energies. The "fuel" of subjective emotion can, on one or more occasions, run out. What about when the needs of your partner or the demands or responsibilities of your marriage exceed your subjectivity or your emotional limitations? You have: dead love. In marriage, two people live with each other constantly and intimately. Love is a subjective and limited emotion, which is constantly tested and eroded by the pressures and tribulations of life. When you want love first, sooner or later you end up with nothing. First comes giving, then love. When each spouse gives to the other as each wants the other to give to him or her, love in both for one another will build.

What is wonderful about this is that one can choose to build and add love, with each act of giving. You can give a present, a compliment, a smile, encouragement, a helping hand, patience, write a poem. When you go through the psychological process of deciding to sensitively "tune in" to another person, and deliver something beneficial or pleasing to that person, the psychologically normal person will feel warmth, attachment and love towards the recipient. Even if you have a difference or argument; give, bring a present, do something helpful or nice, praise your spouse for something. When you exhibit the effort and giving, you will 1. break negative feelings within yourself for the other, 2. build love for the recipient, 3. send a strong message to your partner that the relationship is bigger and more important than the difference, argument or your side 4. contribute to a stronger, closer and more trusting relationship and 5. develop the unconditional love which Pirkei Avos says will last forever.

A baby is completely self-absorbed. This must be grown out of before one accepts the responsibilities which accompany entering a chupa (wedding canopy). Unless each partner is truly capable of giving on behalf of the good of the other, capable of dealing with and responding to the other person as the other truly is - and not merely in accordance with what you wish, feel, expect, need, imagine, or what would be self-serving or convenient - but based on what the other genuinely is - you won't be able to peacefully live with the other person for too long. No one gets married to be shortchanged or taken from. Even a patient person who is married to a taker can get depleted.

When people fall "out of love," everyone is stunned by how something that was once so nice and beautiful can degenerate to such a malevolent opposite extreme. The feeling that they had was not love; it was self-love. The orientation was taking, not giving. The relationship stimulated some selfish emotion and/or gratified some selfish want or need. Without genuine love-of-other; developed by unselfish, ongoing and unconditional giving, the couple enter into the relationship WITH A "ROUND TRIP TICKET." When mutual and constant giving comes first, you have a ONE-WAY TICKET to lifelong love between husband and wife. But love is not the whole story.


The Talmud (Yevamos 62b) says that "The man who loves his wife as himself and who honors her more than himself" will have a peaceful marriage. Why does the teaching address itself to the man? The ultimate goal is peace which requires participation by both the husband and wife. Why love as much as self? Why honor more than self? How does this add up to peace? How (if it starts only with the husband) do we get to where there are peaceful results that are equal and reciprocal?

This "formula for peace" places emphasis on kavod (honor, respect). Indeed, when brought in halacha (law), enormous, even excessive, measures of kavod are obligatory for the husband and wife in treating each other (e.g. Rambam and Tur). Kavod comes from the same root as the word kavaid (heavy, weighty). Kavod, we see, is attributing weight, substance, existential heaviness, to the one whom I respect or honor. And, it is of such a nature that when one treats a spouse with enough kavod, this will contribute to peace.

"Who is honored? The one who honors the other (Pirkei Avos, chapter 4)." Why is this so? When I am out for my own kavod, my self-interest comes across to the other person. Everyone wants to be honored; to be recognized, responded to, to be important and have his feelings addressed. This is human nature. When I am after my own kavod, my treatment of you automatically diminishes or negates your kavod. I am "heavy" and you are "light" so I'm indifferent to you. I bombard you with my ego and quest for my needs. This psychologically puts you on guard, puts you off, puts "relational distance" between us. My ego and needs are antithetical to yours. It's either/or, mutual exclusion. When you relate to me, you want (in psychological and human terms) to be "heavy," not "light."

When, in our relationship, I present my offer and treatment of kavod, the message is that I am a gainful force for your good, honor, needs, security, well being, ego and feelings. I am delivering the kavod, weight that you need. I'm there for you. You matter. You are important. You sense I can be trusted. You're not on guard, the barriers are down, you're not diminished nor threatened. This psychologically warms you up to me, your advocate. Kavod FROM you is evoked. You give back in kind. When I furnish unconditional kavod to you, you spontaneously have kavod for me. We both voluntarily provide kavod to each other. Everyone wins.

In marriage, there are objective standards, needs and responsibilities which are beyond yourself. When there are occasions which require getting outside of yourself and beyond your limitations or subjectivity, you must respond and rise to each such occasion. This is accomplished by attributing "weight" through objective kavod, beyond the limitations of your subjective emotional "fuel supply" of love. This explains why, to have peace, it is not enough to fuel your beneficence towards one another with love alone. Being emotional and subjective, love can get two people attached, but if the demands and pressures of life or of the relationship require more than the limited supply of subjective and emotional love, the relationship's "fuel supply" runs out. Emotional love can be a projection from your mind, which can be "off target" about the other person's reality. Together with kavod, the relationship can withstand the vicissitudes of life, and maintain shalom. Kavod is the insurance that causes one to relate objectively outside of oneself to the other person; with honor, recognition and kindness; beyond the limitations of your emotional powers or subjectivity, based on what the other person really is. Your partner is a reality outside of yourself, different than yourself, and with needs, feelings, dignity, sensitivities, quirks, shortcomings and an individual identity. Kavod assures RELATING AND RESPONDING TO THE OTHER'S REALITY ("on target"). Further, it is a reality of a woman's nature that when her husband gives her kavod, and makes her SECURE that she has it, she will automatically and actively give it back. The kavod response inclination is more in the nature of a wife than in a husband. If the man takes responsibility to first and ongoingly give kavod, we are assured that both spouses, if psychologically normal, will give kavod.

Almost every time (whether in my professional experience or in people I know personally) that I see a married or "serious" couple going sour, after having had some form of amazing love, the breakdown to viciousness and hostile alienation is directly proportional to how much KAVOD WAS NOT THERE pretty much all along. Only with genuine and reciprocal kavod, and when kavod is paramount and constant, does a couple have shalom bayis.