Marriage and Relationships

Marital Tune-up and Preparing for Rosh Hashana

Marriage Mechanic 23.9.19
Nothing is more frustrating for a couple than not getting along, especially when the husband and wife can’t pinpoint any particular problem. They love each, are more than compatible, yet constant bickering blemishes their marital bliss. They simply seem to be arguing all the time as if some inexplicable atmosphere of tension hovered in their home.

On a spiritual plane, such an inexplicable atmosphere of tension is the result of the couple's uncorrected past sins, which enable stern judgments from Above to linger over their household and disrupt the peace in their home.

It’s ridiculous to let marital peace elude you. The little bickering – unchecked – can escalate, Heaven forbid. A little fine-tuning, especially before Rosh Hashana, will help us nip it in the bud.

Here's how:

Every day we are judged in the Heavenly courts on all of our thoughts, words and deeds.

Every day, each of us is judged about every aspect of our lives. When a person is found guilty of a transgression, he or she is dealt with accordingly. They'll invariably incur some sort of suffering designed as a wake-up call to initiate self-assessment and teshuva for the sin they committed.

Once the judgment has been decided, some form of creation – whether mineral, plant, animal, or human – acts as an emissary to deliver the assigned affliction.

As a result of these judgments from Above, many families find that their home lives are full of strife, arguments, disputes and aggravation. In homes like these, the husband or wife wonders: "I only said one word! How did it blow up into a full-scale fight?" The reason that small issues blow up into such huge arguments is because the Heavenly court has sent a number of judgments down on to their home, causing even mundane matters to become a source of friction and suffering. Once again, that’s the “inexplicable atmosphere of tension.”

As long as they have spiritual “dirty laundry”, in other words, misdeeds that they haven’t atoned for, the husband and wife will have a difficult time in getting along because The Divine Presence is lacking in their home. Until they manage to mitigate the harsh judgments that have been leveled against them, nothing will bring The Divine Presence back. So really, no marital consulting will be effective if the husband and wife don’t repent and thereby erase their outstanding spiritual debits.

Either a couple lives in harmony and the Divine Presence dwells within their home, or they live with the fire of constant strife. There is no third option. A married couple can’t act like two strangers in a Cold War under the same roof with no need for the Divine Presence to be in their home as long as they are acting civilly towards each other. A married couple is a union of two opposites – both spiritually and physically. Without the Hashem’s presence in their home, they can’t even stand to be in each other’s company!

Our sages list a number of transgressions which result in the Divine Presence leaving a person’s home. I prepared this list as an aid for preparing for Rosh Hashana, thus enabling us to identify our shortcomings, get rid of them, and fine-tune our marriage accordingly by bringing the Divine Presence back into our home. They include the following:

  1. Immodesty. For Hashem to allow His Divine Presence to dwell in a couple's home, the man and wife must be modest and holy. The Torah says (Deuteronomy 23:15), “So that He should not see anything unseemly among you and would turn away from you.” If a woman wants the Divine Presence to dwell in her home, she must dress modestly, even in the privacy of her home. Hashem observes the laws of His holy Torah; consequently, He turns away from immodesty.
  2. Flattery. This doesn’t refer to giving a compliment, but it means telling evil that it’s good.
  3. Dishonesty. The Divine Presence can dwell only in a place of truth.
  4. Slander and Gossip. Hashem despises wanton speech, for our powers of speech were meant for holy purposes such as prayer.
  5. Malicious Jest. Hashem loves every human and is sorely grieved in an atmosphere of people making fun of others.
  6. Sadness. The Divine Presence departs from a place where there is no joy.
  7. Anger. Anger is the main reason that Divine Presence departs from a person's home. Marital peace requires an anger-free home.
  8. Dissatisfaction. Whatever their circumstances, a couple should always make every effort to be happy with their lot in life. The Torah warns (Deuteronomy 28:47), that calamity results "Because you did not serve the L-rd, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart."
  9. Whining and Complaining. The single biggest thing guaranteed to bring down a harsh judgment on a person is whining and complaining, for they indicate that a person doesn't appreciate all the many blessings that the Almighty has given him/her.

Teshuva – penitence - not only mitigates harsh judgments, but it enables a person to connect with G-d. Once connected with Hashem, one’s life becomes much smoother. Without teshuva, life becomes a thorny path of endless tribulations. Without Divine assistance, even the smallest undertakings are difficult and unsuccessful. Such a life is full of bitterness and suffering.

People receive tribulations to encourage them to atone for their transgressions. When people scrutinize their own deeds and atone for them, the Almighty has no need to send them any additional suffering. As such, nothing can fine-tune a marriage like a bit of daily teshuva.

Blessings for a wonderful New Year 5780, LB


Togetherness and Good Health

Healthy Together 16.7
Does this sound familiar?

Your spouse or the someone you care about is overweight and sorely out of shape. Whenever he/she gets pressured by anything, they console themselves with chocolate croissants or donuts. You've tried everything to get them to diet and/or exercise, but even if they loses two pounds in one week, they'll gain back four the next. What do you do? You're trying your very best not to look at attractive members of the opposite sex, but with your partner more and more turning you off, it's getting to be increasingly challenging...

The above scenario is a compendium of real ones that I deal with in personal, health and fitness coaching. The more I've been hearing such stories, the more I felt the need to lay out a few guidelines that will likely help you and your spouse to improve your quality of life, physical and emotional health and relationship as well. Try implementing the following suggestions:

  1. Your prayers for your spouse are formidable, much more powerful than you can ever imagine. Invest a few minutes of prayer for them in your own words. Ask the Almighty to uplift their self-esteem and to help you give them the love and attention that they need so that they won't have to find solace in sweets, which are poison for the body.
  2. Buy your spouse a gift of a new pair of walking shoes and take walks together; start with a few minutes and work it up to an hour, at least three times a week. If you have small children, it's worth it to pay a babysitter during this hour. You can't imagine what it will do for your health and relationship.
  3. Diet never helps. You must influence your spouse to change their thinking and lifestyle, but this should be done as a couple, for they'll be much more willing if it's done together. Cakes, cookies, ice-cream and other sweets as well as soft-drinks and other sugary manufactured foods should be considered taboo, for these substances destroy health. Together, go on an eating regiment (lifestyle, not diet!) that is based on foodstuffs that are unadulterated by manufacturers. Get all white sugar, corn syrup solids and modified starches out of your life - that includes cereals, cakes, cookies and most manufactured foods. Compensate with the best fruits, veggies, fish, meat and poultry, and cheeses. Once you lower carbs, you can enjoy nuts and seeds without worrying about gaining weight.
  4. Like all of us, your spouse thrives on love. Make the first move and give him/her that love, and I promise that they'll bend over backwards to please you. Meanwhile, offer your spouse the incentive of a nice chuck of money to buy new clothes every time they drops a size or two. The new clothes will cost only be a fraction of doctors and meds required for treating the ailments that result from neglecting diet and health.

Start with the above four steps and keep me posted. I'd love to reprint your success stories. Remember, togetherness is the beginning of good health and real happiness. You'll be amazed to see how soon, you'll look like a magazine cover couple. My prayers for your success and good health. Blessings always, LB


Hubby Wants a Handout

Handout 19.6
Dear Rabbi Brody,

My wife is a remarkable person. She’s responsible with money and our house is always in decent shape, in other words, there’re never dirty dishes in the sink by the end of a day and things always look presentable. Just one thing makes me really miserable. My wife is an artist, and she spends hours on end in front of the canvas. I feel like she pours her entire heart out in her paintings, and there’s nothing left for me. I’d like to walk or talk in the evenings, but right after dinner, she’s back down in our basement (her studio) painting away until the wee hours. I feel really neglected, especially now that all our kids are married and out on their own. Please give me some advice, because I’m getting more and more resentful of my wife’s painting and our marital peace is eroding – I can feel it. With appreciation for your taking the time to read this, HJ from New Jersey

Dear HJ,

You’ve given me a lot of info, between the lines too. But, be happy – G-d willing, with a little fine tuning, your situation will soon be much better.

First of all, have you thanked Hashem for your marvelous blessings? Do you know how many people complain to me that their wives are either slovenly, or spendthrifts, or both? By your admission, your wife is both careful with money and a good housekeeper. That’s magnificent, and you should truly be thankful.

Second, many people have unbelievable shalom bayit (marital peace) breakdowns when they’re suddenly left alone with no more kids at home. So many husbands and wives drive each other crazy. Yet, your wife has found a lovely emotional release of oil painting. That too is a blessing! The love she used to pour into her children’s souls when they’d come home from school every day is now being poured into the paintings. I’m sure that her paintings are most expressive.

Wait, HJ, that’s not all: your wife is not leaving the house for hours a day, testing your imagination as to her whereabouts. She’s home. She’s not at the country club neglecting her home, nor at the shopping mall squandering your money.

So here’s the bone of contention – you want the love and attention that the paintings are getting. In the meanwhile – as long as you lack that love and attention – you’re getting more and more resentful. Let’s see how that affects your marriage:

Practically, HJ, you’re in line for a handout from your wife. According to Kabbala, you are now a female, because in a relationship, the man must give and the woman receives. That’s how Hashem created the world. Procreation is accomplished by the man giving and the woman receiving. Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says that the husband is the sun and the wife is the moon. She has no light of her own, so he must shine light on her. So if you want to receive, HJ, you are playing the spiritual role of a woman; two women can’t get along in the same kitchen…

Since you are not shining light on your wife – only resentment – she looks for light in her paintings. They smile back at her.

Now, let’s move over to the positive mode. Don’t wait for a handout from your wife. If you want light, go to the Torah – she’ll shine infinite light on you. Go speak to Hashem in personal prayer – He’ll listen to your every word like the most loving Father he is and He’ll give you all the attention you need. Torah and personal prayer are the place to fuel up emotionally and spiritually. Your head should be in a tractate of Gemara and not into your wife’s daily routine. Give her space, especially since she’s such a good wife.

Instead of resentment, take interest in her art. Go downstairs to the studio and bring her a cup of her favorite tea while she’s painting. Compliment her and take genuine interest in what she’s doing. You’re not going to beat her, so join her! Take her to an art gallery on Sunday and for a walk in the park afterwards. Smile at her and never frown. Give her the light and she’ll soon be enchanted by you. Suggest topics for her to paint. Proudly frame her best paintings and hang them in the most prestigious wall of your home. Give her the love and lavish her with attention and I guarantee you that you’ll get it back with big dividends!

With blessings and prayers for your success, LB


The Love Barometer

Love Barometer 31.5
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm one of your non-Jewish readers, but since I consider you both my health and spiritual coach, I depend on you for body-soul guidance. So first of all, thanks to you for opening your heart and for being there for me, and thank you for your lovely new website. You have an uncanny way of writing and saying what I always need to hear.

Here's my issue: I've been dating someone for 6 weeks, and he already says that he loves me and wants to marry me. He seems special, but this is really too fast for me, and to be honest, my head is more than a little bit in the clouds. On the other hand, I'm afraid of losing this dude. What do I do?

Sincerely, Connie from Southern USA

Dear Connie,

“He already says that he loves me…” - Real love is only possible after marriage, when the two partners have a mutual commitment and a common goal. What people in today’s world refer to as “love” is basically nothing more than animal urges and Hollywood-style flash-in-the-pan infatuation that is ever so short-lived as soon as those urges are temporarily satisfied. To be candid, lust is not love, and many people discover this only after they’ve been badly hurt and taken advantage of. I don’t want that to happen to you, Connie.

At any rate, you can try this "love barometer" on your boyfriend - it's simple and foolproof:

1) How often does he think about you: Once a day, once an hour, once a minute? This is reflected better by deeds (notes, phone calls, text messages, small acts of kindness, little presents, etc.) than by words.

2) Ask him if he knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If he answers that he can't possibly know the answer because he doesn't know you well enough, then his proclaimed love for you is none other than an illusion. How can he love what he doesn't know?

3) Is he a good listener? Does he value the things you say and treat you with respect? Don't confuse lustful flattery with respect.

4) When he speaks to you, close your eyes and listen to his voice: Is there friendship, kindness, and compassion in that voice, or only lust? Don't let physical attraction overwhelm your good judgment.

5) Is he interested in your family background? Is he interested in meeting your parents and taking you home to meet his? This is a sure-fire sign of an individual with serious and honorable intentions. On this point, if he passes the test so far, I urge you to meet his parents and other people who are close to him. One’s family and friends can oftentimes say quite a bit about a person.

6) Does he talk to you about his goals, dreams, and aspirations? Are they materially oriented or spiritually oriented? Can you identify with them?

In picking a partner for life, you're better off using your brain than your heart. Is the person kind and considerate? Is he even-tempered? Is he decent? Is he dependable? Is he modest? Does he come from a family with healthy interpersonal relationships? Do you have a common goal? In order to make a decision, you need to do some serious homework and check out this guy.

Once again, meet his parents. If he has a connection with a clergyman, by all means make an appointment with that clergyman. Talk to his friends and acquaintances. Speak with his roommates or colleagues. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet like substance, gambling, or porno addictions. You'll be saving yourself from unpleasant surprises and raising your chances for future success.

Don't worry - if he really cares about you, you won't lose him in the extra few weeks that you’ll need to be doing your legwork and homework. If he's only trying to use you for a good time, then let him walk and good riddance. Whatever you do, don't let meaningless coffee-house expressions of love make your head spin.

Connie, the most important effort in finding the right mate is prayer - the more the better. Keep me posted. Blessings and smiles always, LB