12 Tishrei 5782 / Saturday, September 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Ha'azinu
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The Marital Peace Quiz    

The Marital Peace Quiz

Pop quiz! A question every BT has at some point - how do you uphold the Torah when dealing with someone important who wants you to break it, and still have peace?


I’ve got a pop quiz for you this week! Don’t worry, it’s multiple choice. I am going to call it: The marital peace quiz. I am writing it from the man’s perspective, but it’s true of both sides. Furthermore, I am using marriage as the example, but this rule applies to every important relationship. For instance, you can imagine a parent pressuring a child instead.


Yehuda comes home from work, and Ruthie, his wife, asks him to join her at a non-kosher restaurant, or another place where he will certainly transgress other severe prohibitions. What should Yehuda do? 


Option 1: "To be zealous for the envy of G-d the Lord!" and go to war on his wife. Yehuda should yell at her for daring to want such a thing, insult and demean her, telling her that she is “leading others to sin,” besides showing her "who the man is," and put her in her rightful place. 


Option 2: To go in the way of shalom – peace. He decides to go along with what she wants by either accompanying her without eating, and deciding to do his very best not to sin along the way. If he sins, well, it was for the sake of martial peace, so it must be not that bad… 


Option 3: Yehuda should be “zealous for the honor of Hashem” only between himself and his Creator. He knows that he cannot agree by any means to transgress the Torah, nor allow himself to go to a place where there is even a possibility or concern that he will transgress the Torah.  


However, between himself and his unfortunate, distant wife who does not yet appreciate the light of the Torah or succeeded to overcome her Evil Inclination, he is all peace. Yehuda should step aside for a moment to pray about the situation. He should say to himself, “I am part of The Most Important Thing is Peace group! How great is peace!  Anything  you win with arguments, you eventually lose. Marital peace always comes first! I want peace!”  


Then, he should tell her lovingly and gently: "My dear wife, you know how precious you are to me and how much I want to make you happy. To go to places that the Creator has forbidden me to go, or eat food that He has forbidden me to eat - I can never do that under any circumstance. But come, let us sit together and figure out different options that we can enjoy together and that will make you happy, in a way which is also kosher and permissible. If we find it necessary, we can go to a rabbi and get his advice. The main thing is that we protect the peace and love between us, because that is the most important thing.” 


So which option do you think is the correct one? I hope that you already understand the answer on your own. 


True Shalom  

Before I explain why this is the correct answer in depth, let’s discuss another puzzling episode in the Torah. Pinchas is zealous for G-d and kills Zimri in the midst of an immoral act done purposefully in order to uproot the foundation of the Torah. By doing so, Pinchas stops the plague Hashem sent to people due to their immorality, merits to have a Torah portion named for him, plus Hashem makes with him a covenant… of peace! Yes, specifically a covenant of shalom.  


How could that be?! This teaches us that true shalom is not a shalom of submission and doing anything for a cease-fire, nor does shalom permit transgressing the Torah, God forbid. Real shalom is the peace that comes with a passion and zealousness for Hashem! Shalom means being totally faithful to the truth, even to the point of self-sacrifice. 


Walking on a Thin Rope 

The vast majority of the Jewish people in our generation are not sinning purposefully against Hashem, nor are they acting out of outright defiance of G-d like Zimri. They are simply following the lies of the media and are fired up by the Evil Inclination who "celebrates" on the streets. No one is evil or guilty, really. Therefore, they should not be subject to any sort of zealousness for the sake of Hashem’s honor, whether through verbal assault and certainly by way of violence, God forbid.  


Hence, the zeal for Hashem’s honor certainly must be great, but directed only towards ourselves. We must be absolutely devoted to every aspect of truth, and be prepared to sacrifice for it, in order to fulfill Hashem’s will. But with regards to others – only “to love peace and pursue it, love everyone and bring them closer to Torah.” Towards others, we must be filled only with love, warmth and understanding, judge them favorably and find their positive qualities, explain the truth gently and pleasantly, and radiate Hashem’s light to bring people closer to Hashem. 


The Middle Road in Marital Peace 

This is true and necessary in every area of life, and all the more so with regards to peace in the home.  


A lot of people mistakenly think that since I am so encouraging and emphatic about maintaining peace, this gives them blanket permission to do whatever their spouse says, even if it means transgressing the Torah G-d forbid. I want to make it abundantly clear - G-d forbid someone should think this is the case! Transgressing the Torah is forbidden in any situation, and it is extremely destructive to the home and the individual. 


However, recognizing that the Torah must be upheld does not mean that you treat your spouse like an enemy of Hashem, and wage a war or a boycott. Just as it is forbidden to transgress the Torah between man and G-d, so too it is forbidden to transgress the Torah between man and man! It is forbidden to demean, shame, humiliate, insult, or yell at anyone – especially your close relatives. It is also forbidden to pay back evil to someone who has done good to you, such as your spouse. 


Instead, you must act with understanding towards the other party. Some things are difficult for them, they have their own history and skeletons in their closet. Hashem doesn’t want you to be arrogant and lord your own “righteousness” over them. Rather, He wants you to have mercy and help them with their difficulties. 


How do you maintain your own zealousness to keep Hashem’s Torah and at the same time maintain peace with the other? Prayer. You must tell yourself, “I am not willing to let go of peace at any cost! Peace comes first! I love every Jew and I want to be at peace with every Jew!” and at the same time “I am not willing to transgress one iota of the Torah!” Then pray and work until you find a satisfactory solution that includes both. 


The Zeal of Pinchas in Our Generation 


This golden mean is certainly the right path to take for peace in the home, but it is also true regarding the whole subject of helping others return to Hashem.  


On the one hand, we all must go out and teach others Torah and emuna. On the other hand, we ourselves must take caution to safeguard the Torah and not exceed its boundaries by even a hairsbreadth. 


On the one hand, we love every Jew. But that doesn’t mean that every Jew has to be our friend, or our children’s friends. Nor should we let others influence our service of Hashem.  


G-d should help us to not transgress His will in the slightest, and also strengthen peace both within our homes and all the Jewish people. May we all return to Hashem with peace and love, without epidemics or suffering, and may the full Redemption come quickly and in our days, amen.  


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