Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Daf Yomi - Beitza 32 - Disagreement and Harmonious Growth

The Gemora states that there are three categories of people whose lives are not lives. One of them is someone whose wife rules over him. What is the explanation in this Gemora? Does that mean to say that none of us have lives? I came across an article by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman published in the The Jewish Observer here that explains this based on the words of the Chasam Sofer.

Even couples married for many years should keep themselves focused on Shalom Bayis. Everyone can benefit from an occasional reminder, and it pays to always be alert for advice to stay on the right track.

A lesson that the Chasam Sofer derives from Parshas Chayei Sarah stands out as crucial appreciation of the difficulties that normal people can encounter in this area. His words are both simple and profound; intellectual, yet practical; they offer sound advice for all couples to whom Shalom Bayis is sacred.

Eliezer proposes that Rivka marry Yitzchak. In response, Lavan says, “Mei’Hashem yatza hadavar – this marriage is Divinely ordained. Lo nuchal dabeir eilecha ra oh tov – there is nothing we can say, neither bad nor good.”

Chasam Sofer asks: It was understood that Rivka would marry Yitzchak. Certainly, no person would say anything bad about a shidduch once he realized that it was a sealed agreement. But, why not say something good? After all, if the shidduch was going to happen away, why not offer a positive assessment of the shidduch?

Chasam Sofer answers that the Torah (through Lavan) is teaching us a lesson regarding marriage. We often harbor the misconception that to make a good marriage, it is crucial that both partners be similar, that they be as identical as possible. But this is not true. In a successful marriage, it is important that there be differences between the two partners, as well. If two people are exactly the same, what benefit is there in marriage? Instead of one six-foot person, marriage would give you eleven-and-a-half feet of that person. He is the same; nothing has changed. Marriage would not bring any fundamental improvement to a human being.

On the other hand, if the two are different, there is a great advantage. When two people with differences join together to form a single home, there are going to be disagreements. How wonderful! They will disagree, they will argue, they will discuss… and ultimately, they will come to a decision regarding their course in life. The decision will be well thought out. It will be the result of much analysis and deliberation. And it will result in a well-planned life.

“Lo nuchal dabeir eilecha ra oh tov – there is nothing we can say, neither bad not good.” The tov, says the Chasam Sofer, is not always tov, and the ra is not always ra. Differences between husband and wife may seem to be ra, but it is not actually so. These differences may in fact be the greatest tov in the life of the couple.

Chasam Sofer gives one example of this idea, an example with which many couples would easily identify. Often (very often), one partner in marriage is a pazron, a person who is quick to spend money, while the other is a kamtzan, reluctant to incur expenses. They often disagree on how their finances should be run. How fortunate they are! Imagine if they were both pazranim, impulsive spenders; the house would come to economic ruin. No money would be saved. If both would be kamtzanim, reluctant to part with their money, the house could not be a happy place. It is because they are different – one is a kamtzan and the other a pazran – that they will disagree and their constructive dialogue will bring them to a proper, happy medium.

A Funny Thing Happens on the Way Back From the Chupa

I am fortunate enough to be in yeshiva, where I come into contact with young chassanim. They are full of enthusiasm as they tell me, “You know, it’s amazing. We’re the same. Could you believe it! I loved it in Eretz Yisroel and she loved it! We like similar foods; we have similar hobbies; we even use the same brand of toothpaste!”

Then they get married. They find that they are not so alike after all. They like the same foods, but one likes to eat out while the other likes to stay home. They both use the same brand of toothpaste, but one replaces the cap, while the other loses it. (It seems that the Ribbono Shel Olam uses this crucial factor in determining shidduchim; pairing one cap-loser with a cap-replacer.)

Suddenly, things are not so rosy. There are disagreements, then arguments, and the happy couple is not so happy. There are problems and the match made in heaven is a mismatch!

The Chasam Sofer says: “Problems? Not at all. This is a match made in heaven, a perfect shidduch! That’s precisely the benefit of marriage!”

Afraid of Disagreements?

Perhaps we can better appreciate this by referring to the chavrusa relationship. Two young men are studying together, trying to appreciate the depth of a sugya (topic in the Talmud). The Gemora introduces a concept, which can be understood two ways. Each chavrusa pauses to mull over the two possibilities.

Occasionally, you have chavrusos who will generally agree. They understand the Gemora in a similar manner. They read the Gemora, express their understanding, and move on. Across the study hall, there are two other young men who are studying together. They come to same sugya. One expresses his understanding. The other disagrees. They begin arguing. One cites a source, to support his approach; the other presents a logical counter-argument. Look – they’re fighting!

Which pair of chavrusos is ideal? Which will have a better chance of fully appreciating the sugya? The pair that agree? Or the pair that disagree? Which will pursue the truth? Which is more likely to become complacent and move on without much thought or depth?

You get the picture. We know that the best chavrusa is the one that disagrees, providing that he disagrees on the issue with intellectual honesty, and with the willingness to yield when disproven, realizing that he in truth is a winner. Now he has arrived at the truth. This is what a good chavrusa is all about.

The sugyos of life deserve the same scrutiny. Disagreements are important tools in a good, constructive dialogue. They are an integral part of marriage. No wonder couples so often disagree!

I had often heard that in-laws sometimes do damage to a marriage. It’s something I could never understand. Which parents would destroy a marriage?

Over time, I’ve observed that problems often stem from parents’ insecurity. When their child and his/her wife/husband have disagreements, the parents suffer from their failure to learn this Chasam Sofer. They fail to realize that disagreements, when engaged in with willingness to listen and mutual respect, are a part of marriage. Yes, your tatelle can learn to work things out without you!

After yeshiva, I often walk around the block to catch a bus home. One evening, as I turned the corner, I saw a member of our kollel standing at the edge of the street, looking towards Boro Park, where he lives. I realize that he’s waiting for someone. I see that he is repeatedly looking at his watch… then down the street… looking… stepping out… he looks angry. I realize that he is waiting for his wife. I sympathize.

As I walked by, I commented to him, “Yehuda, don’t blame her. Blame the Ribbono Shel Olam. He created wives that way.”

The following day, Yehuda approached me to thank me for my comment the evening before. “We were headed to an important appointment. My wife was late. When she finally arrived, she was ready for a fight. I was ready for a fight. Instead, I go into the car and said, ‘Reb Yisroel said it’s not your fault! I’ll take up my complaints with the Ribbono Shel Olam.’”

Accept differences; that’s the lesson of the Chasam Sofer. It’s a lesson for shana rishona, the first year of marriage, and a lesson for all subsequent years of marriage.

A Deeper Appreciation

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz takes this lesson a step further. In Sichos Mussar (5732:20), he refers to a “sod gadol be’yetzira,” what he calls a great secret of creation. “A woman is created to be helpful to her husband, and as a result of this responsibility, she is endowed with the ability (chush ha’re’ach) to sense the truth regarding the manner in which her husband conducts himself, in relation to his spiritual status.”

He explains that a woman’s ability to disagree with her husband regarding his conduct – and to be correct in her contention – is a gift to the husband from the Ribbono Shel Olam.

The Gemora relates that Rav Chanina ben Tradyon, one of the ten harugei malchus (Torah giants martyred by the Romans), was punished because he pronounced Hashem’s Name as it is spelled, something that is normally done only in the Beis Hamikdash. When the Romans took him to be killed, his wife was defiled as well. The Gemora relates that he was punished for pronouncing Hashem’s Name, while she was punished for not preventing him from doing so. How incredible! Rav Chanina was a gadol hador (leader of his generation), a poseik (authority) for his people. He held that he was permitted to pronounce Hashem’s Name. Wouldn’t it be expected that his wife accept his p’sak (ruling)? How could she be faulted for failing to correct him?

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz presents this question, and concludes that even if a man is a gadol hador, his wife’s ability to sense his failings rises to correspond to his level. Thus, his wife did indeed have the ability to correct him.

What men often see as a hindrance, as a burden, is actually a gift of the highest order!

How tragic it is when people turn the great gifts of marriage into problems. The very potential for disagreement and constructive criticism that marriage offers should be appreciated and utilized with great joy.

If we understand that it is inherent in marriage to have disagreements, to build from differences – and yes, to accept criticism – then we can build in our marriage.

Ishto Mosheles Alav

The Gemora (Beitza 32) teaches “There are three whose lives are not lives.” One of the three is mi she’ishto mosheles alav, a man whose wife rules over him.

Using the Chasam Sofer’s idea, we can understand this Gemora in a new light. The Gaon of Vilna teaches that there are two Hebrew words for a monarch: melech, king, and moshel, ruler. There is a fundamental difference between the two.

A melech is a king who is willingly accepted by his subjects as their leader. His commands are followed happily. A moshel rules by force, against the desire of his subjects.

Ki lashem hamelucha u’moshel ba’goyim, the Jewish people have accepted Hashem’s rule willingly, but the idolater does not accept Hashem’s dictates. To him, Hashem is a moshel.

Only when Mashiach comes will all accept Hashem’s rule willingly: “V’hayah Hashem l’melech al kol ha’aretz. On that day will G-d be King over all the Earth.”

Returning to our subject, Mi she’ishto mosheles alav, a man whose wife rules over him, lives a tough life, indeed. This is because his wife’s opinions cause him anger and aggravation; he feels threatened by her. She has become a moshel. Sad, indeed. A couple should never have a memshala relationship. The home should have an atmosphere of malchus, where the royal couple rules jointly, and disagreements that arise are cause for fruitful discussion and joyful growth.

We need to internalize the Chasam Sofer’s message. Having a disagreement does not mean that a marriage is a failure. It makes growth possible. It can make a home better than it was before. Yes, intelligent people can have different opinions.

And so, the next time you and your wife view a matter differently, declare with appreciation, “Baruch Hashem, this is a marriage made in heaven!”


ben said...

This could explain why the Rambam writes that a man should treat his wife like a malka, and a woman should treat her husband like a melech

Anonymous said...

very nice drasha. thought provoking. shkoyach

Avromi said...

Pleasure - glad you liked it.

Jerry said...

Did you ask your wife before you wrote this one?

Anonymous said...

NO she told him too

Anonymous said...

how do you explain "vhu yimshol bach" then?

That if there are disagreements, the man has the power to enforce them?

Avromi said...

Yes, and also that the nature is that the wife listens or gives in to the husband (my wife will never get to the comments section of this post).