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Shalom Bayit

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From the Jewish Marriage page 41 – 44

Shalom, as the word which is used to describe “peace”, relates in a fundamental sense to the word shlemut, or “completeness.” Shalom disconnected from shlemut  peace disconnected from “completeness” is a peace which manifest itself as mutual nonaggression, peace as the absence of war. Shalom with shlemut is peace with harmony, peace with cooperativeness, peaces which moves toward completeness. It is this higher level of peace which is so exalted, and should be the ever present goal of our personal and communal strivings.

The ultimate goal

The ultimate goal, of course, is true peace which permeates the entire world, but that is too massive a task to be thrust any single individual. However, each individual  can make a contribution toward this all encompassing goal by working to create peace in his or her immediate environment.

Having done all that is within one’s power to effect peace is thus seen to have much more than local implications.

Primary focus

The home is the primary focus where one’s obligation to effect peace unfolds. Here is where one is able to have a significant input if not control, over peace of the world, the world of one’s home, in its true sense as desired in marriage, is best translated as “domestic bliss”, Shalom Bayit is not the peace of sameness or absence of conflict. It is the completeness of opposites, the translation of differences into more effective action and greater love, incorporating the wisdom gained from shared opinions and give-and-take. To be conversant kənˈvərsənt –adjective–familiar with or knowledgeable about something — Middle English: from Old French, present participle of converser (see converse). The original sense was ‘habitually spending time in a particular place or with a particular person’. in the ways of shalom bayit is to be conversant in the ways of local-cum-global peace.

It is to have an exemplary home which is a model for other homes, eventually all homes. It is lamentable that not enough attention is given to the mastery of shalom bayit formulations upon entry into marriage.

Whose is the obligation

Whose is the obligation to create shalom bayit, domestic bliss? Simply stated , it is the obligation of both husband and wife. That the home should be fortunate enough to enjoy such tranquility and harmony is ultimately a Godly blessing, but it is a blessing and harmony which comes only after the couple work to be eligible for and worthy of that blessing. To be worthy, each of the couple must see shalom bayit as an obligation directed not at the other but at the self.

Shalom Bayit is a personal responsibility that beckons each of the partners to make demands on their own selves toward improving the home atmosphere. It is generally a good practice, in areas related to living a life of responsibility, to be very demanding on one’s self.

It is a practice which makes for better marriages. Rather than waiting for the other to change, or make a move, one should take the initiative; the other will likely follow. Waiting for the other is stand offish, leads to frustration, and can build up abundant hostility. It can ruin what could have been blissful. This is the active side of shalom bayit. There is another side to shalom bayit, the preventive side. In this, the most appropriate advice is: do not provoke, do not become provoked. Do not provoke, do not introduce strife or contentiousness into the home vocabulary, and go out of your way to prevent strife situations from developing.

Do not become provoked

Do not become provoked if situations arise in which expectations have not been realized, request have not been heeded, or the normal household has been upset; do not react with anger to your spouse, to whom you may attribute this unwarranted situation. Instead, assume that understandable circumstances have caused the problem, rather than bad intentions. Again, one should not stand on one’s rights or be touchy concerning the honor that is due. Rather than demand what you are convinced belongs to you by right, be flexible and forgiving, not ridged and unforgiving..

…Great sages allowed themselves to be humiliated if that humiliation preserved the peacefulness of a home. This was reason enough to forgo accepted protocols, even to turn a blind eye to obviously contemptible disrespect.

These sages did not want to be associated, however with marriage break down. They saw each union as personally and communally significant, and were perhaps fearful that one marriage collapse would pave the way for more, making it acceptable, then maybe event trendy.

The sages were working in the background of event more astounding precedent. Manipulating the truth to preserve peace is permitted. In order to preserve the shalom bayit of Abraham and Sarah, God personally manipulated the truth. Even that however, is not the astounding precedent. The astounding precedent relates to the very severe transgression of erasing God’s name. If such erasure could possibly restore the shalom bayit of an estranged husband and wife the erasure is mandated.  

…If God allows scared Godly principle to be compromised, this means that God is effectively declaring that God and God’s honor will be allowed to stand in the way of husband and wife harmony. Duty to God should thus not be used as an excuse to deny one’s domestic responsibilities. Insisting that one’s learning and talmudic scholarship are to important and therefore one need to not help with the dishes, or other house cleaning, is a dam that uses God in a way that God refused to be used and is thus an abuse.* Shalom bayit it is patiently clear, is a priority item par excellence in the Jewish home.

*The Talmud, Megillah 27a (see also Yoreh De’ah 270:1 and Hilkhot SeferTorah 10:2) allows for the sale a Torah scroll to marry, one of the rare instances such a sale is permitted. The Torah is the basis of community, but it is through marriage that community itself becomes a reality.

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