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Thought for the Day: What is Shalom Bayis?

"Peace" is an egregious mistranslation of שלום.  The injustice is compounded by the fact that peace and tranquility are synonyms in English, leading people to fear that a lack of tranquility means that there is a lack of שלום.  I respectfully submit that nothing could be further from the truth.

R' Ezriel Tauber puts the whole issue of "shalom bayis"  in perspective with the following thought experiment.  Consider family A.  The wife in family A gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for her family, get clothes laid out for the children, and get the coffee going so she and her husband -- a very hard worker -- can have a few minutes together before the storm of family and parnassa obligations begin for the day.  She knows that her husband works hard and she wants to give him a solid start to his day out in the workforce.  Now consider family B.  The husband gets up at the gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for his family, get clothes laid out for the children, and get the coffee going so he and his wife -- a very hard worker -- can have a few minutes together before the storm of family and parnassa obligations begin for the day.  He knows that the Jewish home is the foundation of a Torah life and he wants to ensure that she has a solid start to her day in running a Jewish home.

Note well that both marriages are healthy and are working together with mutual respect and admiration.  So, says R' Tauber, if it were up to us we would definitely make a shidduch with a lady from family A and a bochur from family B.  What does HaShem do?  He makes a shidduch with a bochur from family A and a lady from family B!  They both wake up the first morning wondering where the coffee is.  What kind of terrible mistake did she make in marrying someone who doesn't appreciate the importance of the Jewish home?  What kind of terrible mistake did he make in marrying someone who doesn't understand the difficulty of maintaining a Torah lifestyle when going out into the workforce to make a parnassa?  And that, as they say, is how the fights start.

What's going on?  What's going on is that שלום doesn't mean tranquility.  שלום comes from the root meaning "to perfect".  Shalom bayis means a home that is constantly working on increased perfection.  If we had made the shidduch we would have produced a house of tranquility where everyone grows older in tranquility and dies in tranquility.  That is, a nursing home; a place you go to wait to die.

HaShem, though, produces a בית נאמן בישראל/a home that is a foundation for growth and perfection; a place of real שלום.  Both will learn how to see things from the other's perspective.  Both will appreciate the other's strengths -- and come to rely on them.  Both will face their own faults -- and have a safe place to grow.

It's not fast and it's not comfortable, but it is effective and ultimately infinitely rewarding.  After some decades you may even see things as beautiful as my esrog case.


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