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by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Quiz Time: The primary foundation of Jewish life is: a) The synagogue; b) the school; or c) the home.



Quiz Time: The primary foundation of Jewish life is: a) The synagogue; b) the school; or c) the home.

If you guessed "the home," you’d be right. But an even better answer might be one’s wife. Indeed, the Talmud (Tractate Yuma) echoes this sentiment, saying, "Ishto zo bayto — a man’s home is his wife." With rare exception, our primary Jewish values — perhaps all our values — originate in our home, and it is the wife who sets the tone, and is the principal architect and guardian of that home.

And so this week’s Torah portion begins by warning us not to marry solely for looks or exterior considerations. Doing so will bring dissension in the house, and ultimately lead to children who rebel against the values we cherish. Successful marriage is based upon shared goals and outlooks, combined with an intense desire to help our partner excel in every facet of life.

This theme of building a solid marriage — and ending a failed one — is reflected over and again in this week’s Torah portion. Let’s focus on just one verse: We are told (Deuteronomy 24:5) that a newly married man is exempt from army service for one year, "vsimach et ishto — in order to rejoice with his wife."

Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, translates "vsimach" as meaning that a man is obligated to make his wife happy, particularly during their first year together. Rashi disagrees with the Targum, who says the mitzvah is for the man to be happy with one’s wife, for if this was the meaning of the verse, it would have read "vsamach," and not "vsimach."

But Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, the dean of the Talmudic University of Florida, beautifully reconciles the explanations of both Rashi and the Targum. Says Rabbi Zweig: What is the key to a man being happy with his wife? It is doing everything in his power to make her happy, to meet her every need, to shower her with love and care, to sublimate his own agenda in order to elevate her, and see to it that she always feels fulfilled and appreciated.

There is a deeper, more complete and lasting joy that emanates from giving, as opposed to receiving. And the ultimate person to whom we can give — and thus the source of our greatest joy — is our spouse, who is the repository of all our deepest emotions and feelings.

Having just returned from several weeks away from home, I can truly relate to the thrill derived from bringing happiness to your wife. Giving really can be the grandest form of getting.


Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana’ana, Israel.

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