Guidance in Marriage:
Establishing and Maintaining a Peaceful Home
(A Vessel for Great Blessings)
Based on Selected Letter Correspondence by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Presented with permission, as translated and published by Sichos in English
Copyright © by Sichos In English
The Importance of Peace in General and Shalom Bayis [“Peace in the Home] in Particular
… The Mishnah rules that “Peace is the vessel that holds and sustains G-d’s blessing. Within the various types of peace, Shalom Bayis is one of the greatest of all.
Proper Shalom Bayis has a Beneficial Effect on Earning a Livelihood
… Moreover (and this is of greatest import, and it also has an effect on earning a livelihood), it is imperative that peace reign between you and your wife. For this to be achieved, it is mandatory that each of you gives a little and does not insist on always emerging victorious [viz., winning every argument,] etc.
Shalom Bayis is the Vehicle to Receive G-d’s Blessings
A blessing from God must and can be achieved through conduct in a manner of peace, the vessel that holds and sustains God’s blessing. Therefore you must make a supreme effort to achieve Shalom Bayis. Even if you think that you are in the right, and even when this is verily so, you should go about achieving your goals in a pleasant and peaceful manner.
The Full Cooperation of Both Partners
… The relationship between [the] two people [who have married] must be consistently good and stable, harmonious and sincere, which directly affects the general atmosphere in the home.
… Clearly, in order to attain such a relationship, the fullest cooperation is required on the part of both partners, and each should be willing to give it freely; that is to say, each should give it because there is a desire to give it, rather than doing so only out of a sense of compulsion.
Make Sure To Set Aside Time For Your Spouse
The Rebbe’s long-time secretary, Rabbi Nissen Mindel, of blessed memory, once related the following:
While the Rebbe was recuperating from his heart attack in 5738, one of his doctors inquired into the Rebbe’s daily schedule. Among the things the Rebbe told the doctor was, that when he arrives home, he takes time to sit with the Rebbetzin [his wife] over a cup of tea and converse. “Upon your daily arrival home, I would recommend that you act in a similar manner,” the Rebbe advised the hard-working doctor.
Don’t be Oversensitive – Don’t Fear Taking the First Step to Improve the Relationship
… In most instances, the cause of such a situation [viz., the degradation of a relationship between two individuals,] is that one person is under the impression that there is a diminution of sentiment on the part of the other person towards him [or her].
That individual further thinks that it would belittle his honor if he were the one to take the first step; particularly, when he finds no fault within himself for the degradation in the relationship.
However, in almost all instances, this [seeming distance between the two individuals] is but a figment of one’s imagination – which almost immediately becomes obvious as soon as steps are taken to bring about a greater degree of intimacy.
Do Not Accentuate the Negative Qualities of Your Spouse
Until after the arrival of Mashiach, there exists no individual who can possibly be perfect – devoid of all flaws. Thus, beyond a shadow of doubt, just as the one person is flawed, so too is the other.
Just as we have no desire to have our own flaws revealed and pointed out, so too should we not emphasize and magnify the faults of others.
Shalom Bayis Predominantly Depends Upon The Wife
In the predominant number of instances, matters of Shalom Bayis are more dependent upon the wife than upon the husband.
Achieving Shalom Bayis Depends Most Often On The Wife
In reply to your letter in which you write about the situation in your home with regard to Shalom Bayis – connected to our past conversation regarding this matter. You ask how you should conduct yourself in light of the present situation:
My unequivocal opinion is that the situation depends on the good will of both parties. In the predominant number of instances, matters of Shalom Bayis are more dependent upon the wife than upon the husband.
Thus, notwithstanding all those matters which you write about, I firmly hold fast to my previously stated opinion that with good will on your part, you and your husband [may he live and be well] will be able to strengthen your home life through the receptacle of peace, the “vessel that holds and sustains God’s blessing.”
Although our Sages of blessed memory have stated, “No two people think alike,” nevertheless there is the well-known instruction of our sacred Torah, the Torah of Life, that one is to act with forbearance.
When you will take into account how hard your husband is working in developing and expanding the concern that he founded, which under present conditions is a most difficult labor, a crushing labor that takes its toll on both body and soul, then you will realize that it is no wonder that he may be ill-tempered and at times reacts to matters in too sharp a manner.
[When you will take all the above in account,] you will then respond to your husband’s overall conduct in a totally different manner. Peace will then reign in your domicile, and as a result, blessings shall reside as well with regard to sustenance, and raising and educating your children to Torah, chuppah [marriage], and good deeds.
Since you write that not too long ago the two of you visited Rabbi … [may he live and be well] and the matter remained inconclusive, it is my considered opinion that it would be most beneficial for the two of you to meet with him again. Specifically, the two of you are to go together to meet with him.
May G-d will it that with the wisdom garnered through the counsel of many, you be able to find the path that leads to peace in your household as soon as possible.
A Wife Needs To Be Particularly Sensitive When Her Husband Faces Stress
I surely need not draw your attention to the fact that the conduct of a home in general, and particularly the relationship between husband and wife depends to a greater and larger extent on the wife than on the husband.
This is in keeping with the verse in Tanach [the Hebrew Bible]: “A woman’s wisdom constructs her home” – the very structure and ongoing preservation of the household depends on the woman’s wisdom.
This is particularly so regarding life in America, where a man’s work is associated with much stress and haste and the wife’s obligation is even greater to see to it that husband and wife enjoy a maximum of peace and serenity. The wife is able to achieve this by demonstrating the utmost measure of consideration and understanding.
[This is so] even when you imagine – and you may even be partially correct – that your husband should be capable of possessing and demonstrating additional fine qualities. For it is necessary to take into consideration that this shidduch has been decreed in heaven by God so very long ago.
We observe that when one finds a fault in one’s self, the proper path is not that of causing oneself pain over the fault, but to find a painless means to rectify the fault. Similarly and to an even greater extent should this be the case with regard to husband and wife [i.e., with finding faults in one’s spouse].
For in the final analysis, it is difficult to know what problems your husband is currently experiencing, as well as the difficulties he experienced in previous years.
When, however, he perceives his wife’s tenderness, warm feelings and strong faith in God, then one views the entire world in a different light [and his behavior changes for the better as well].
[When you will act in this manner,] then you will recognize that G-d is the Master of the entire world, particularly your own home and environment. This cognizance will assure that you will be in a better mood and in better spirits.
You will then realize that such positive behavior is beneficial for your own self, for such conduct generates affection and calm -much more than the amount of strain it cost for you to be forbearing and forgiving.
Merely, since there is no limit to goodness [thus, although I am certain that you already conduct your home with Shalom Bayis…,] I anticipate that these few lines will effect that the mutual positive Shalom Bayis and caring relationship between you and your husband will become even better and stronger.
This will affect not only yourselves, but will also have an effect on your surroundings, inasmuch as the relationship between the two of you will serve as a model of peace and illumination to others as well. May God bless you with success.
To Achieve Shalom Bayis – Act with Tolerance and Forbearance
Concerning that which you write with regard to your husband and the [present unsatisfactory] situation of Shalom Bayis:
It would be advisable for you to gloss over those particular matters that you deem to be faults of his. For even if these are truly faults, nevertheless, in these [later] years and at this [relatively advanced] age, it will be difficult to change him.
Harping on his faults and repeatedly bringing them to his attention merely serves to exacerbate the situation, as he finds it extremely difficult to change his ways. It only serves to irritate and anger him and leads to no useful purpose.
When, however, he will see that you show tolerance and forbearance and it does not affect your relationship with him, then within a relatively short span of time you will see an improvement in the state of Shalom Bayis.
A Husband Should Display Extreme Sensitivity
… You are indeed correct concerning that which you write with regard to….
Nevertheless, we have been particularly warned about ona’ahs ishto, “not to cause one’s wife pain through one’s words,” for they are tender by nature.
You should therefore see that … appeases his wife through other means as well, not merely through logical and intellectual arguments.
A Husband Should be Particularly Sensitive to His Wife’s Honor and Feelings When There are Shalom BayisProblems
In reply to your letter of the 24th of Sivan, in which you write about the Shalom Bayis situation in your son’s home [that it is in need of much improvement]:
Generally, it is customary only to respond about such matters to the person who is experiencing the problems, since only he can provide all the necessary details, while others – to use the expression of our Sages – “do not know what is in the other person’s heart.”
Nevertheless, because of the importance of the matter and also because of your importance and honor, I will express my opinion in this matter.
[My opinion is] based on the ruling of our Torah, the Torah of Life, that peace in general is great and especially peace between husband and wife. When there are differences of opinion between them, then there is also to be found a detailed directive:
This directive (cited at the conclusion of the laws of Ona’ah … ) is that one must be very careful not to cause his wife any pain … to be very sensitive to her honor, etc.
And as is to be understood from your letter, [the problems between your son and his wife] are not at all concerning matters of Yiras Shamayim (“fear of Heaven”) [where he would feel that he has to stand on principle, etc.] – to the contrary, she is very religious and observes Torah and mitzvos [her commandments], etc.
May God will it that His peace reign in your son’s house and may there be a multitude of peace there – something that leads to a multitude of blessing … With honor and blessing that you be able to convey glad tidings with regard to all the above.
Acquiescence and a Good Faith Effort Greatly Assist in Achieving Shalom Bayis
In reply to your letter from Sunday, in which you write about the [unsatisfactory] Shalom Bayis situation:
In such instances one must see to it that true friends should intervene and revive the Shalom Bayis.
It is self-understood that you on your part must undertake – not only promise, but actually carry out – to acquiesce to all her just demands. Should there be matters that are not sufficiently clearly justified, then the two of you should rely on the opinion of neutral parties.
In most instances, when the wife discerns that her husband is serious about and is making a good faith effort to achieve Shalom Bayis and is ready to yield, this itself brings about closeness between husband and wife.
As known from the multitude of sayings of our Sages, in order to achieve Shalom Bayis it is worthwhile to yield and accede to many things, even acceding to things [which, while they are not matters of law, they are however] above and beyond the letter of the law.
May God help that in the near future you be able to relate glad tiding with regard to the above.
As a receptacle for God’s speedy assistance in the above, it would be most appropriate that immediately after your daily morning prayers you should say the portion of Psalms – as they are divided into the days of the month. Additionally, prior to your weekday prayers you should give a few cents for tzedakah [proper charity].
Continue doing the above – bli neder [without a vow] – until the coming Rosh HaShanah.
Achieving Shalom Bayis by Means of Kindliness and Affability
I preface my letter by asking your pardon [for the remarks that follow] and noting that which is already known, that “Great is peace, for which reason the entire Torah was given,” as Rambam rules at the conclusion of the Laws of Hanukkah. Moreover, this is also clearly stated in a Mishnah, [that peace is] “the vessel that holds and sustains God’s blessing.”
[In light of the above,] permit me to prompt you to act with alacrity with regard to strengthening the state of Shalom Bayis in your home.
I refer quite simply to an improvement in the conditions of Shalom Bayis that exist between you and your wife [may she live and be well].
I write this in light of what I was able to discern “between the lines,” as well as “between the lines” of the conversations I had with your wife and her frame of mind when she was here.
It would be beneficial for you to be very yielding in your personal feelings and exert as great an effort as possible in this area [of achieving proper Shalom Bayis].
Husband and Wife Adjust to Each Other Through Making Allowances for the Other
… On the question of how to achieve an easier adjustment in the family life of husband and wife: Firstly, it should be remembered that it indeed occurs very frequently that such an adjustment is required, inasmuch as there are two people involved [in a marriage, individuals] who come from two different families, etc.
It should also be remembered that there is no such thing as human perfection and that one person must make allowances for the other, in the same way that one expects the other to make such allowances.
“Shalom Bayis” Between Body and Soul Immeasurably Enhances Actual Shalom Bayis
We need remember though that which is most essential: it is imperative that there exist in them “Shalom Bayis” between soul and body [i.e., the spiritual “husband and wife”]. This immeasurably enhances and makes it easier for Shalom Bayis to reign in their home.
Presented by AskNoah.org and NoahideAcademy.org with permission of Sichos in English.