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Gadol Shalom Bayis -- the Greatness of Shalom Bayis

In the parasha, "Va'yeitei", when Rochel Imeinu finally becomes pregnant and gives birth, the Torah quotes her as declaring, "Elokim has removed my shame." (B'reishis 30:23). Rashi quoting chazal explains her to be referring to the following idea:
As long as a women does not have a son, she has no one on whom to blame her mistakes. One she has a son, she can blame him. "Who broke this dish?" "Your son." "Who ate the figs?" "Your son."
Is it possible not to be shocked by these words?  Rashi says that the simple, plain meaning of these words and the revealed reason that Rochel Imeinu -- who has waited years to have a child, constantly davening and working on her midos -- is to have someone to blame?!?  And she even names her first son as a memorial to that idea!

"Sichos Mussar" (R' Chaim Shmulevitz), explains that this showed the great importance that the Avos haK'doshim gave to Shalom Bayis. Can we even imagine, asks the Sichos Mussar, that Yaakov Avinu would even notice a broken plate or some food missing; let alone be angry? Even so, Rochel Imeinu gives thanks and praise to have another avenue to shunt away the slightest possibility of a disruption in the shalom of the home -- especially between a husband and wife.

Still... to blame a child, even for the most noble of reasons, even though the child will not be held accountable (he is only a child, after all), seems somehow beneath the dignity for our holy ancestors. On further discussion with a good friend, we came to a better understanding of what the Sichos Mussar wants to impart.  To get there, we started by first examining what the concept of "shalom" is.  One of the most oft repeated t'filos that we add to the end of our discussions with HaShem is: "Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu"; we ask HaShem who makes "shalom" in heaven, to also make "shalom" down here.  R' Yaakov Kamenetsky notes that no one is fighting in heaven, so the word shalom cannot mean to "peace" in the sense of a cease fire.  Rather, "shalom" means that everyone has clarity on their job and is doing it.  Shalom bayis is all about communicating and responding to the other party.

We are not talking about actually blaming the child, rather we are saying that the woman will now be able to offer a reason to her husband that things in the house are no just so... a reason that he can appreciate. We all have different lists in our heads of things we need to to and their priorities. Men and women, especially, though, tend to have much different ideas on how to prioritize. And even when the husband may be able to intellectually appreciate that his wife has a different list of priorities, it is just that -- an intellectual understanding. Of course Yaakov Avinu will not be perturbed by a broken plate or a missing fig, and of course he will be sensitive to his wife's concerns. Rochel Imeinu, however is excited that now she has a way to help her husband feel (not just know) her daily struggles. The shalom bayis referred to here is not a matter of avoiding arguments, rather it is a matter finding new ways to truly communicate. Communication is much more than broadcasting one's thoughts and feelings.  True communication is to express my thoughts and concerns in your language.  Each partner striving to not only understand the other, but also to make themselves more understandable to the other -- each using the language of the other. The wife wanting to explain herself to the husband in his language, the husband wanting to explain himself to his wife in her language.


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