The tzaddik of Yerushalayim, R’ Aryeh Levine zt”l, was once asked: what is the most important bit of advice to offer a young couple? Is there one concept, one phrase or nuance – one magical word that can sum up the epitome of a Jewish marriage?
R’ Aryeh thought for a moment and then answered. “The Shulchan Aruch discusses a controversy regarding how to position a mezuzah on the doorpost. One view is to stand it upright before making the berachah and fastening it to the post, whereas the other view is to place it lying side-ways and attach it that way. In the end, though, the Rema rules that in order to satisfy both opinions, we position the mezuzah ‘B’alachson’ – slanted, and in this way, we fulfill the mitzvah.”
Explained R’ Aryeh, “When a newly married couple walks into their house/apartment for the very first time, the first mitzvah that they see is the mezuzah hanging on a slant on their doorpost. The mezuzah calls out and teaches them that compromise (p’shara) is the ideal manner with which a husband and wife should conduct their life together. There may be two opinions in every situation, but if a couple is willing to bend and compromise, they will ultimately succeed.”
Concluded R’ Aryeh, “If you want to live together and enjoy a wonderful married life, place it ‘B’alachson’ and you’ll see how wonderful it can be!”
A relative of R’ Shlomo Heiman zt”l, the Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaas, once offered him one of the apartments in his summer home, where the two families would share a kitchen and eating area. R’ Shlomo asked his wife to figure out if their modest income would cover the expense of such a venture. She made the computations and announced that the apartment would be within their means. R’ Shlomo asked to see the figures, an unusual request for him. He checked them over and then told his wife, “You forgot to add in one expense.”
“What did I forget,” she inquired, puzzled.
R’ Shlomo explained, “When two parties share living facilities, questions tend to arise: How much should each side contribute to the expenses? Who used more electricity? Who used the telephone more, and so on. When those questions come up, often that is where arguments begin. To avoid this, one should set aside some money – ‘Sholom Bayis money’ – from the start, in the event such problems arise. Then one will have no difficulty in paying what he owes.”
The doctor gave R’ Avigdor Miller zt”l the grim news. The fainting spells he had been experiencing had finally been diagnosed, and the doctor decided that surgery was needed. R’ Miller did not agree to the surgery immediately, despite the doctor’s warnings. But after spending some time thinking it over, he finally relented. The surgery went well, and before long R’ Miller was back to his usual hectic schedule.
A few days after the surgery, a prominent Rov paid R’ Miller a visit and inquired how he felt after the operation. “You know,” R’ Avigdor remarked, “I had complete faith in Hashem that I would be fine, and I really didn’t need the surgery. But I decided to go through the operation for my Rebbetzin’s sake.”
He went on to explain that every morning, his wife would wake up early to escort him down the steps on his way to davening. She was afraid that her husband might faint and hurt himself.
R’ Miller looked at his guest and shrugged, “I can’t practice my emunah on my wife’s account,” he concluded. “So I agreed to have the operation.”
“One has to extend himself so far for his wife – even to the point of undergoing major surgery?” the Rov exclaimed.
“For a wife,” said R’ Miller emphatically, “one must do far more!”
While waiting to pick up his wife from the airport, a newly married young man couldn’t help but notice another man who had just deplaned, walking swiftly towards a lady holding a baby, flanked by two young boys on each side. As the man approached his anxiously awaiting family, the two boys, ages 8 and 10, ran forward, arms outstretched, loudly yelling, “Daddy.” The man laid down his bags and took the boys into his arms, hugging and caressing them, and in a low voice mouthed the words, “I missed you two so much.” This continued for another minute until the man finally stood up.
All the while, the baby girl was squirming excitedly in her mother’s arms, never once taking her little eyes off the wonderful sight of her returning father.
The man leaned in close and gently took the child from her mother. He kissed her and held her close to his chest while rocking her from side to side. The little girl instantly relaxed and simply laid her head down on her father’s shoulder, motionless in pure contentment.
After several moments, he handed his daughter back to his wife and turned his attention towards her. They stared at each other, beaming big smiles at one another. “I missed you,” he barely was able to utter the words as the emotion gripped his voice. She, too, had no words in response, but the look in her eyes bespoke volumes of her caring and love for her husband.
For an instant, the onlooker thought that they reminded him of newlyweds, but he knew by the age of their children that they couldn’t possibly be. Suddenly, and without warning the transfixed young man heard his own voice exclaim, “Wow! How long have you two been married?”
At first, it seemed as if they hadn’t heard him. But then, without taking his eyes off his wife’s shining countenance, the man beamed at his wife and replied in a slow and unhurried tone, “We’re happily married for twelve years.”
Without even pausing to think about what he was saying, the onlooker blurted out again, “Well, then, how long have you been away?”
The man finally turned and looked at him. “Two whole days!”
Two days? By the intensity of the greeting, he’d assumed they’d been apart for at least several weeks, if not months. His shocked expression betrayed him, and he said almost offhandedly, “Well, I hope my marriage is still that strong after twelve years!”
The man suddenly stopped smiling. He looked straight at the newlywed, and with a forcefulness that burned, he pointedly remarked, “Don’t hope, my friend – decide!” Then he flashed his wonderful smile again and waved as he and his family turned and strode away.
The young man was still watching that exceptional family when his wife, who had finally exited the plane, came up to him and asked, “Hey, what are you looking at?”
Without hesitating, and with a curious sense of certainty, he answered, “Our future!”
By Rabbi Dovid Hoffman