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Parshas Yisro - Maintaining A Jewish Home        19 Shvat 5782

01/21/2022 09:29:39 AM


It does not take much for Jews to come up with reasons to celebrate an event and use it as an excuse to eat! The rabbis explained there is no true joy unless one has wine and meat. Of course, wine and meat have been highlighted for their spiritual purpose, going back to the time of the Beis HaMikadash, the Holy Temple:  wine was used as libations for the altar and meat was from the sacrificial offerings. So, it is only today, lacking the Temple, that we substitute all other foods for celebratory reasons, but even during the time the Beis HaMikdash was standing we looked forward to eating  as a means of celebrating with simcha and joy.

One of the reasons Yitzchok Avinu asked Eisav to bring him food was not because he was hungry. Think about it,  his wife, Rivka, overheard the entire conversation and direction that Yitzchok had with Eisav. If Yitzchok was hungry, he easily could have asked Rivka for lunch! Apparently, it was  by design that Eisav prepared the food and Yitzchok became full and satisfied from that specific food. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that a person is able to offer a more complete blessing, and, more importantly, one that will come to fruition when accompanied by a special meal. So clearly, goodness and blessing can be brought to a higher, more complete level through a full stomach. Hence, food and drink (in proper measure) are an integral part of our culture. You may correctly comment at this point that food is a component of every culture. Here, too, I am not speaking of the culture in terms of cuisine, but more specifically in the spiritual sense. The purpose of a Jew is to use food to bring us closer to God, the same way as was  in the Beis HaMikdash.  

On Simchas Torah, the last person called to conclude the Torah is called “Chosson Torah” while the person honored with the first reading of Bereishis is called “Chosson Bereishis”. Both aliyos occur with great fanfare and the spreading out of a talis over the bimah, creating a Chuppah a wedding canopy. Just as a wedding between a bride and groom, celebrated with a festive meal, so too a Chosson - or Chattan  - the groom of the Torah also is accompanied by a reception to celebrate the “wedding” the groom has with the Torah, his “bride”. The minhag Yisrael, the custom in the Jewish world, is for these two individuals to provide a kiddush either on the day of Simchas Torah or another Shabbos during the year.

In life there are always two ways of looking at a situation or an event. A few examples: the celebrating of an anniversary could be viewed that another year of marriage has passed, or it is the re-creation of a new year of married life on the horizon. Likewise, when we finish a Mesechta/tractate of the Talmud, we not only finish but immediately begin the next Mesechta in the cycle. On a personal level, Parshas Yisro is my anniversary for writing this weekly message. It is a celebration of completing twelve years and at the same time starting the thirteenth cycle. Shavuos and Simchas Torah are recognized for the day the Torah was given and the completion of the Torah reading cycle. Nevertheless, there is more to the celebrating of an event with just food. Rather, there is a bond, a deep connection that we are focusing on,  creating a joy among all of the celebrants. Parshas Yisro highlights the story of the giving of the Torah and the symbolism of the marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people.

In this week’s Parshas Yisro the Torah states in Shmos 19:8 "ויענו כל העם יחדו ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה, וישב משה את דברי העם אל ה'"  “All the people answered as one and said, All that God has spoken, we will do”. The Jewish people answering was the commitment to the marriage of the Jewish people to the Torah and Hashem. The key element in this holy union was the acceptance and commitment to follow the Torah and observe the Mitzvos. If the Torah is observed, then Hashem’s presence is present in the home. The guideline of the Torah is what creates a smooth and meaningful ride through life. When I process the word ‘smooth’ relating to life, I understand it to mean there will be a tranquil home, a home filled with peace -  shalom bayis. Peace in the home, however, is not limited to marital harmony; it extends to every aspect of family dynamics. Having a house imbued with Shalom Bayis means there is tranquility between parents and children, among siblings, and between the parents themselves. Furthermore, Shalom Bayis exists when other people, such as relatives, guests and even strangers come into your house. How do we react and behave? If a Torah environment is primary, then Shalom Bayis will permeate all who are in the house. 

There is an old saying, “happy wife happy life”. This saying should be expanded to include all aspects of our lives.  A happy person will have a happy life. Mental health professionals have found people who lead tranquil, calm lives and have a peaceful home will live a happy, more productive, fulfilling life. Shalom Bayis does not necessarily mean there are not differing opinions and subtle arguments. Rather, Shalom is something to work on, something to be achieved. The Talmud is replete with disagreements, arguments among the great sages of their time. With this said, never do we find a hatred or animosity.  To the contrary, there was always love and respect shown among them.

Parshas Yisro is the crossroads, the anniversary of the story of the great wedding that took place between the Jewish people and the Torah. There are times when the house has its challenges. There are times in all our lives when we may need to seek out help in order to strengthen our shalom bayis.  At any time, I am always available to help couples with even very small issues; correcting, working out solutions to small issues avoids their growing into big ones.  An anniversary is an opportunity to look back at what we’ve gone through and to look forward to what we need to accomplish. The key element is to know how we bring that ‘Shalom’ back into the fray. An anniversary, birthday or any day of reckoning looks back to the beginning.

For Shalom Bayis, we look back to the day we walked into that bayis/home. There was marital bliss and happiness. Think back to the principles and values that each spouse brought into their home. We go back to the blessing that was showered upon the young couple - that they should merit to build a Bayis NeEman B’Yisrael, a true home among the Jewish people. Just as the groom is about to slide the ring onto the finger of his bride he declares, הרי את מקודשת לי בטבעת זו, כדת משה וישראל"  “Behold you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moshe and Israel”. It is by the laws of the Torah upon which this marriage will be based. God’s presence and Shechina rested over the mountain at the time of the giving of the Torah. It is therefore a requirement for Shalom Bayis to exist with Hashem’s Shechina resting over the home as a result of the Torah being part and parcel of that home. May we all merit Shalom Bayis in our personal homes and may Klal Yisrael merit Shalom in the House of Israel through our dedication and learning of Hashem’s Torah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784