Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
The Gemara teaches us that divorce is like a miniature destruction of the Holy Temple. That being so, strengthening shalom bayit - marital bliss - is tantamount to rebuilding the Holy Temple.
Imagine any blessing in the world - money, success, good health, good children; with marital peace, what we call in Hebrew shalom bayit, you get all the best blessings in one package deal.
When we talk about the blessing of marital peace and the true love between a man and his wife, we certainly won't be talking about the type of couples that argue all day long - may Hashem have mercy on them. The ones that argue all day long aren't making an effort to improve their marital peace, so today's lesson won't help them. They have to decide to stop blaming each other and to first begin working on themselves. Also, we won't be talking about the type of couple whose marriage is like a set of parallel lines. Sure, they don't fight because they never talk to each other; one's on the computer and the other one's watching TV. They're like a couple that speaks two different languages. They don't communicate at all. They may not be at war, but they don't have a marriage at all. In order to have marital peace, you first must decide that you're going to live a married life with each other.
Few people in this generation have true shalom bayit. You can probably count them on one hand. True marital peace means that the husband and wife are deeply in love with one another. They can't imagine being without each other, just as they couldn't imagine living a life without an arm or a leg, Heaven forbid, because they really feel like one. To tear them apart would be like trying to tear away a limb from a person, G-d forbid. They're dedication to one another knows no boundaries. Even more, they cherish each other and respect each other, speaking to each other like a queen speaks to king and vice versa. In their worst nightmare, they wouldn't dream of hurting each other.
Not only that, but they're best friends. They confide in one another and simply enjoy each other's company. They're together. They're truly connected. They know what makes each other happy and they're always thinking of new ways of how to bring joy into each other's lives. This all is true marital peace - true love between a man and his wife.
What many people call marital peace is none other than a ceasefire or non-belligerence armistice. But shalom bayit is neither the Oslo Agreement or the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. It's all the love, dedication, understanding, mutual respect and attention that constitutes a dream friendship. If you don't have this kind of shalom bayit, then you should be praying for it every single day. And, if you're not yet married, you should be praying for a partner with whom you'll be blessed to establish such a relationship.
Shalom bayit doesn't mean "getting along". It also doesn't mean being able to stomach one another. That's simply a "peace treaty" but not marital peace. The word "married" in Hebrew means literally "carried", when I carry my wife in my heart and mind wherever I go. So, marital peace is a lot more than non-belligerence. Both husband and wife have to work hard for such marital peace. There are three conditions that have to be met in order to attain such shalom bayit:
First, you have to believe that you're capable of building the perfect marriage. This is a spiritual job. King David said in Psalm 127, "If Hashem won't build a home, then the builders are working for nothing." Most people interpret this passage as talking about the Holy Temple, but a marriage is a miniature Holy Temple. Marriage is a spiritual building; in order for it to be built properly, husband and wife must be totally committed to Hashem, otherwise they won't have the type of long-lasting true love that we described.
Second, you have to pray for such a marriage. Shalom bayit is something that should be included in our personal prayer, every single day.
Third, you must be prepared to work hard to develop such a level of marital bliss. With Hashem's guidance, that's what we'll talk about now.
In the "Sheva Berachot", the seven nuptial blessings, we say: Sameach TeSamach Re'im Ahuvim, KeSamechacha Yetzircha BeGan Eden MiKedem. Baruch Ata HaShem, MeSame'ach Chatan VeKalah
"Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the garden of Eden, so long ago. You are blessed, Hashem, who makes the bridegroom and the bride happy."
In the blessing, we have the secret of perfect Shalom bayit. The literal translation of Re'im Ahuvim, the "loving couple," is actually "loving friends". Our sages who codified our liturgy are teaching us that being best friends is the prerequisite to being lovers. Imagine the deepest friendship, where you'll gladly give your lives for one another. Imagine mutual commitment and loyalty at all costs. That's the friendship that leads to true love. Anything less is not the real deal.