23 Kislev 5782 / Saturday, November 27, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeishev
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Respect at all Cost    

Respect at all Cost

Let me tell you about two contemporary tsaddikim, and the lengths they go to in order to avoid harming or insulting anyone on earth, especially their wives…


Today's message is short, but it's powerful. I'm going to tell you two short stories about two prodigious contemporary tsaddikim, and the lengths they go to in order to avoid harming or insulting anyone on earth, especially their wives.


One of the biggest tsaddikim alive discovered right after his wedding that his young bride had serious emotional disorders. The girl's parents kept this secret, rendering the entire match a mekach ta'ut, a transaction based on false pretenses. Everyone urged the young man to go to the Bet Din, for they would grant him a quick annulment and an automatic divorce. The young man refused, saying, "How can I cause such humiliation to a daughter of Israel." For years, he suffered unspeakable tribulations. Yet, he had children with his wife and raised a wonderful family.


The true tsaddikim go to mind-boggling lengths to prevent hurting another human being. In case you're not satisfied, I'll tell you another story:


The wife of a well-known rabbi in Jerusalem died. Afterwards, someone offered him a shidduch, a marital proposition. People told him to reject the proposal, saying that the woman was a shrew who would certainly cause him tremendous grief. They said that the woman wouldn't let him learn Torah and would make all kinds of trouble for him. They said, "Rabbi, you are respectable and middle-aged; do you have the patience at your age to undergo such a test?"


The rabbi didn't answer them. He simply thanked them for warning him and said that in any event, he was interested in that particular proposal. Other rabbis and community activists came to the rabbi to warn him. He didn't argue with them either, only thanked them for their concern.


One of the "concerned" people was especially (or insolently) straightforward and said, "Honorable rabbi, tell me the truth – everyone is warning you but you continue despite what everyone says. Why make yourself miserable in your remaining years?"


The rabbi answered, "Let me explain – a few years ago, when my wife was still alive, that bothersome woman was in our home and she truly bothered me with her yelling and shrill voice. That particular day, I lacked patience and I asked her to stop shouting. This insulted her deeply. The poor woman is alone in the world with no husband and no family. I asked her to forgive me. She said, 'You insulted me – you're a rabbi and you should know better. I'll never forgive you.' Now that someone has suggested this shidduch, I hope that by marrying her, she shall forgive me."

The rabbi was willing to withstand years of bitterness with that shrew just so that she would forgive him. She did forgive him and he did suffer.


Look at what tzaddikim are willing to do to placate someone whom they might have insulted! Look at the efforts they are willing to go to so that another human being won't bear any resentment against them. This righteous rabbi was willing to subject himself to prolonged emotional punishment, just so that the woman would forgive him!


We are retelling this story so that everyone can understand how serious insult and humiliation are, and so that everyone exercise special caution lest he or she cause anguish to anyone in the world. What's more, if anyone caused you pain or sorrow, make an effort and forgive right away. That is the path that upright people take.


We gave two examples of marriage to show that there is no limit to the efforts a man must make to preserve his wife's dignity. No one was ever on the losing side for having respected his wife.

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