Teshuva Starts at Home

Even if she didn't do a single thing all year long, but she lets her husband go to Uman on Rosh Hashana, she deserves all the love and kindness he can give her…

3 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 20.09.16

During the High Holidays, many women yearn to celebrate with their families. Husbands frequently protest, for not all of them enjoy the holidays with their in-laws. If they would compose themselves and clarify the truth, they'd be more than happy to accommodate their wives.


There are two ways to accommodate a wife: the first way is to give her all the love, attention and emotional support she needs. The second way is to do your own thing and to let her parents and siblings fill the void you left.


Don't ignore your wife's inherent need to cling to her family. Unthinking husbands fight against it. Remember, the more a husband is accommodating, loving and protective like a father and mother, the less a wife will run to her parents. The more he lends a listening ear like a faithful brother, the less she'll be on the telephone with her sister. The more he gives her attention like an enamored boyfriend, the less she'll seek the company of a girlfriend.


Even if she did nothing else all year long yet she lets her husband go to Uman on Rosh Hashana, she deserves all the love and kindness he can give her.


By this time, many husbands are really getting angry with me. They want to yell, "Hey, what about my wife? I'll be OK when she starts being OK!" Sorry, dear friend. We wrote in The Garden of Peace that Kabbala compares the man to the sun and the woman to the moon. She has no light of her own, and is totally dependent on the light that he reflects upon her. Therefore, the keys to shalom bayit are in the husband's hands – it's a basic law of spirituality and a basic law of creation, for even in creation, the husband is the giver and the wife is the receiver.


Husbands often lose patience with their wives because their wives won't admit their mistakes. They think their wives have bad middot (Hebrew for character traits), because they won't admit a mistake. A woman can't admit a mistake! Not even our holy ancestral mothers could admit a mistake! When Hashem promised Abraham that Sarah would have a child in old age, Sarah laughed. Abraham confronted her and asked her why she laughed; she denied that she laughed. Remember, the Midrash tells us that Sarah was on a higher prophetic level than Abraham! Hashem commanded Abraham to listen to his wife when she told him to send Ishmael away. Yet, our holy ancestral grandmother Sara couldn't admit to making a mistake. What's going on here?


Admitting guilt in a marriage is contrary to a woman's very nature. She can't possibly do it! Her entire vitality depends on receiving the love and respect of her husband. She wants to be perfect in his eyes. When she admits to making a mistake, she construes that she's no longer perfect or even desirable in his eyes, and that's devastating for her. She can therefore no sooner admit to a mistake than a husband can put a knife into his own abdomen.


When he yells at her, he's causing her pain and anguish for something she cannot possibly do. Imagine that some 7-foot brute with a whip was standing over you and forcing you to do 250 pushups. Every time you didn't succeed, he'd lash your back. You plead that you can't, and he still lashes your back. You're cut and bleeding, and he still lashes your back, whipping you mercilessly. Sound sadistic? That's just what a husband who forces a wife to admit a mistake looks like on a spiritual level – sadistic. Leave her alone. Are you perfect?


Let's go a step further: Do you know why a wife makes mistakes? It's her husband's fault. A wife is the mirror of a husband; she makes mistakes to show the husband his own flaws.


Many times, I hear from Baal Teshuva (newly observant Jews) that their wives don't want to cooperate, that they don't want to keep Shabbat or cover their hair. Here's a hard fact of life: when a husband makes real teshuva, so will the wife. A husband must know that he shouldn't be cruel; indeed, he should be understanding and tender. No wife will do teshuva because a husband yells at her.


To make genuine teshuva, take a good hard look at yourself. Don't insult your wife and don't criticize her, no matter what she does. As soon as the husband makes genuine teshuva, not just superficially growing a beard or putting on a kippa, she'll follow suit. But, if he's a phony, she'll mirror his phoniness right back in his face. Therefore, when our wives blow the whistle at us, it's really Hashem showing us our own faults – that means it's teshuva time, a time for us to mend our actions.


Remember – our true test of faith is at home with our wife. Our true spiritual level is determined by our actions at home with our wife. And, the true test of our character is at home with our wife. This is an area that we must all evaluate ourselves in this Rosh Hashana, so that this New Year, our homes become a sanctuary of love and peace, amen. Leshana Tova Tikatevu!

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