Shalom Bayis Predominantly Depends Upon the Wife

In the predominant number of instances, matters of Shalom Bayis are more dependent upon the wife than upon the husband.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 80)

The Jewish Woman as Foundation of the Home

.. The role of the Jewish woman is of crucial importance, since it is she who is the Akeres HaBayis, the “foundation of the home.” It is the wife who largely determines the character and atmosphere of the household. ...

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 15 Teves, 5739)

The Effects of the Wife On Family Unity and Shalom Bayis

.. There are crucial moments in the life of our people, especially in the area of Torah and Yiddishkeit, where the Jewish woman plays a most important role.

Here the woman holds the main keys of harmony between parents and their children, parents vis-à-vis each other, and the children in relation to one another.

In this area the wife and mother clearly has a decisive role, and in most cases even a more decisive role than the husband and father. This is one of the reasons why the Jewish woman bears the title of Akeres HaBayis, the “foundation of the home.”

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated “In the Days of Sefirah,” 5728)

At Times Too Much Communal Work
Can Be Detrimental to Family and Shalom Bayis

By and large, each and every individual has his or her tafkid (function and role) [in life], (as mentioned as well in this year’s letter addressed to the general public, michtav klali).

For the time being, your tafkid is exclusively that of the chinuch (the education and training) of your children sheyichyu, conducting the household; and [your responsibility] with regard to your husband sheyichye. Your communal work acts as a detriment to the above.

Your participation in shiurim (Torah lessons) during those times when you are free from the above [responsibilities] suffices [for the time being, and you should not presently undertake anything else].

(From a handwritten response of the Rebbe)1

Achieving Shalom Bayis Depends Most Often on the Wife

In reply to your letter in which you write about the situation in your home with regard to Shalom Bayis — connected to our past conversation regarding this matter. You ask how you should conduct yourself in light of the present situation:

My unequivocal opinion is that the situation depends on the good will of both parties. In the predominant number of instances, matters of Shalom Bayis are more dependent upon the wife than upon the husband.

Thus, notwithstanding all those matters which you write about, I firmly hold fast to my previously stated opinion that with good will on your part, you and your husband sheyichye will be able to strengthen your home life through the receptacle of peace, the “vessel that holds and sustains G‑d’s blessing.”2

Although our Sages of blessed memory have stated,3 “No two people think alike,” nevertheless there is the well-known instruction4 of our sacred Torah, the Torah of Life, that one is to act with forbearance.

When you will take into account how hard your husband is working in developing and expanding the concern that he founded, which under present conditions is a most difficult labor, a crushing labor that takes its toll on both body and soul, then you will realize that it is no wonder that he may be ill-tempered and at times reacts to matters in too sharp a manner.

[When you will take all the above in account,] you will then respond to your husband’s overall conduct in a totally different manner. Peace will then reign in your domicile, and as a result, blessings shall reside as well with regard to sustenance, and raising and educating your children to Torah, chuppah, and good deeds.

Since you write that not too long ago the two of you visited Rabbi ... sheyichye and the matter remained inconclusive, it is my considered opinion that it would be most beneficial for the two of you to meet with him again. Specifically, the two of you are to go together to meet with him.

May G‑d will it that with the wisdom garnered through the counsel of many, you be able to find the path that leads to peace in your household as soon as possible.

Also known is the blessing of our Sages, of blessed memory,5 “When husband and wife merit (a statement made in the plural, i.e., when they both merit, which is to say that it depends on both of them) the Divine Presence resides in their midst.”

And G‑d has already promised,6 “Open up for Me [but the space] of the head of a pin, and I shall open up for you [a space as broad as] the opening of the Ulam [in the Holy Temple].”

The gist of all the above is, that the wife is deemed in the Holy Tongue as Akeres HaBayis, the mainstay of the home; the main conduct of the home — in a general sense — depends on her, as well as the degree of peace and harmony that dwells in the home in particular.

“There is nothing that can stand in the way of one’s will.”7 I do not intend to imply by this that — as you expressed in your letter — that you are to suffer afflictions, Heaven forfend, as long as you remain married.

Rather, [my intention is] that you overcome the blandishments of the evil inclination, and together with your husband build a home in Israel in a good and auspicious hour — a home filled with peace and blessings, and one which prompts others in your environs to act in a similar manner.

I await glad tidings from you, in which you declare that you have decided with the utmost force and vigor to do all that depends on you in fulfilling that which I mentioned above. May G‑d grant you success.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 80)

The Effects of the Jewish Woman On Family Unity

The Jewish people began with one family, that of our father Avraham, and ever since then the Jewish family has been the foundation of our people.

In the family, too, each member is a separate individual, with a particular function and purpose in life assigned to him and her by Hashgachah Peratis, by individual Divine Providence. Unless there is unity in the family, there can be no unity of the Jewish people.

How is family unity achieved? ... When all the members of the family accept the One Torah from the One G‑d in such a way that the Torah and mitzvos are the only essential things, and all other things are merely secondary and have significance only insofar as they are related to the essence — then there is true unity in the family.

In attaining this family unity — bearing in mind also that Jewish families are the component parts of the Jewish people, hence the basis of the unity of Klal Yisrael, as mentioned above— the Jewish mother and daughter have a most important part, as they both are mainstays of the home, a point thathas been underscored on previous occasions.

Needless to say, the said unity must be a constant one, without interruptions. This is to say, it must be expressed not only on certain days of the year, or certain hours of the day, but in every day of the year, and in every hour of the day.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated Lag BaOmer, 5731)

The Home and the Home Atmosphere Largely the Domain of the Wife

The Torah portion Bechukosai begins with the Divine promise: “If you will walk in My statutes, and keep My mitzvos and do them” — then G‑d will bestow all the blessings mentioned further on in the portion.

The question that poses itself is obvious: Surely G‑d’s mitzvos must be fulfilled not for the sake of material rewards, but for their own sake, because G‑d commanded them.

With regard to the actual reward, the reward for the performance of Torah and mitzvos is sure to come as a matter of course [but this should not be the main intent in their performance], since the mitzvos were given for the benefit of the doer, both in this life and in the eternal life that follows.

One of the many answers — as also explained at length in the Ramban — is that while the mitzvos must indeed be fulfilled unconditionally and without regard for reward, there are inevitably various distractions and difficulties connected with the material aspects of daily life.

When such distractions are at a minimum, it requires no special effort to carry out the mitzvos fully and completely. But when material circumstances are not quite so satisfactory, though the same performance of the mitzvos is expected, it requires a greater effort, for it is obviously harder to concentrate on Torah and mitzvos when one has to overcome outside pressures.

Thus, G‑d’s promise of material rewards is not meant to provide the reason for keeping the Torah and mitzvos, but is a promise that where there is a firm resolve to walk in G‑d’s way and keep His mitzvos, He will make it easier [to fulfill His commandments] by providing all of one’s material needs and by reducing outside pressures to a minimum.

The above focuses immediate attention on the home and the home atmosphere, which is largely the domain of the wife and mother, the Akeres HaBayis.

Even when things seem not at all as one desires, or even if, G‑d forbid, this is not just a product of one’s imagination, it is largely up to the Akeres HaBayis to ensure that the home should at all times be permeated with the light of Torah and mitzvos, in an atmosphere of peace and harmony and joy, for the benefit of the whole family. For it is in the home that the husband and children find comfort and inspiration to deal with the pressures outside the home — at business and in school.

Since this great privilege and responsibility has been given to the Akeres HaBayis, it is certain that the ability has been given to her to carry this out fully, as it has also been given to the Jewish daughters who are preparing themselves to take their place as Akeres HaBayis.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated “In the Days of Sefirah,” 5738)

The Effects of a Spiritual Pilgrimage On Shalom Bayis

I received your letter in which you discuss the question of your husband’s trip, which has entailed certain difficulties [with regard to Shalom Bayis, etc.], and you ask my opinion whether the trip was justified.

Let me begin with some brief introductory observations:

In the view of our Torah which is called Toras Chayim, the “Law of Life,” and especially as emphasized in the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus, whose 200th anniversary of his demise we have recently observed, a husband and wife are not two separate entities, but are one.

As in the case of the physical body, when any part is strengthened and invigorated, it automatically adds vigor and strength to all the other parts. How much more so is this the case with a husband and wife who have been married K’das Moshe v’Yisrael [“according to the laws of Moses and Israel,” wherein] the benefit to one benefits both.

Therefore, there can be no question that the benefit that your husband expected to derive from this trip — and I trust he unquestionably did derive it — will be fully shared by you and the rest of the family.

Another point is that the Jewish festivals in general, and those of the month of Tishrei in particular, have lasting benefits. Similarly, the Festivals of Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, which are the “Season of our Rejoicing,” are not intended to bring true joy and inspiration only during these days, and when they are over they are forgotten.

Rather, their purpose and intent is that the Jew should draw from them stores of joy and inspiration to last him throughout the year and every day of the year.

Since this joy and inspiration is related and connected to Torah and mitzvos, it follows that this joy truly permeates one’s entire being and serves as the font for a harmonious and happy Jewish life.

Add to this the fact that one’s state of mind is a powerful factor and force, not only with regard to one’s spiritual life, but also one’s physical and material life. For it is a matter of common experience that when one goes about his affairs in a happy frame of mind, with faith and confidence, he is bound to be more successful.

Applying all the above to your Jewish family life, it is well to bear in mind that at all times, and especially in our time, it is not a simple matter to set up a truly harmonious Jewish life. A young couple inevitably experiences certain difficulties, trials, and sometimes even crises.

However, when one realizes that these are only trials designed to strengthen the foundations of the home, which is to be an everlasting edifice (binyan adei ad), and as the Torah states, “For G‑d tries you to make known your love [for Him] etc.” (Devarim 13:4), one appreciates them in their true perspective.

For, in sending these difficulties and trials, G‑d also provides the capacity to overcome them. Far from being discouraged by such difficulties, they should be considered as challenges that are meant to be overcome, so that we can reap the benefits that are inherent in them.

Finally, human nature is such that when one has various problems to cope with, it is more difficult to cope with them in isolation; it is much easier to overcome them by being part of an environment and belonging to a society that is permeated with the same approach and the same way of thinking. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why certain things in Jewish life require the presence of at least a Minyan of ten people.)

After all the above observations, you should consider the fact that your husband has been given the very important function of being connected with the cause of Chinuch al Taharas HaKodesh, educating Jewish children in a pure and holy way, and the general development of ... which has great promise for the future.

In addition, your recent settlement in the town of ... also requires special reserve of strength and capacities. The more one is equipped with faith in G‑d, confidence and joy, the better one can cope with all these problems.

Your husband’s visit here brought him into personal contact with other young men similarly situated, and in some cases even with more difficult problems, and the mutual benefit derived from such contact is simply inestimable.

Even if the trip entailed certain personal sacrifices on his part as well as on your own, these sacrifices will be more than compensated by the benefits — not only in terms of spiritual benefits but also in terms of material benefits, as indicated above.

.. It will gladden me to hear good news from you in connection with all the above.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, dated 25 Tishrei, 5721)

A Husband’s Tireless Efforts for the Sake
of Judaism Should Not Inhibit Shalom Bayis

In reply to your letter from the end of Shevat, in which you write about your husband shlita’s work habits [i.e., his working constantly and unflaggingly] since he returned from [a visit] here:

You note the [untoward] effect this has had with regard to the family, since he is so occupied, etc. Moreover, you note that even among Anash, people are taken aback by his manner of conduct.

First and foremost, I must repudiate your latter complaint [that community members are taken aback by his manner of conduct]:

The very foundation and beginning of all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch is that “one should not be mortified by those who mock [and scoff at their proper manner of conduct].”

This is particularly so when the possibility exists that the reason for their scoffing is envy and the like. Would only there be [the true and proper manner of envy]: “Envy of scholars leads to an increase in wisdom.”8

With regard to your actual grievance: Understandably, you are by and large correct [in your statement] that a husband and father should devote time to his wife and children, as it is patently obvious that this mitzvah is no less important than any of the other mitzvos of our sacred Torah.

Also well known is the statement of the Rebbe (Rashab) Nishmaso Eden, who when speaking of the above [matter of devoting time to one’s children] commented: “Just as wearing tefillin ... so too....”9

However, it is also true that whenever one embarks on a new field of endeavor and one desires that it be firmly grounded and enduring, it is impossible to condense the [necessary] time and merely clock in and clock out.

If this is so regarding all individuals, how much more so with regard to your husband sheyichye, who as you well know does not believe in doing things half-way — when he embarks on a new project, he does so with all his passion and if his work is curtailed in any way, he will not undertake the project at all.

However, according to my estimation — and I’m quite sure that it is correct — as soon as he concludes the first stage of his labors in the new projects, he will surely enter into an established routine and begin fulfilling his sacred task as a husband and father.

Moreover, this conduct [as a husband and father] will in no way act as a detriment to his success as he labors in his new fields of endeavors. Concerning the above, there is the [following] well-known example:

Although G‑d granted us numerous mitzvos — 613 in number — nevertheless, not only does one mitzvah neither detract nor contradict another mitzvah, but moreover, “One mitzvah brings about another.”10

As to your question, “What is to be my lot?” Would only there be more Jewish women like you, women whose husbands merit occupying themselves in the education of Jewish children and drawing them closer to their Father in Heaven.

The rewards — both material as well as spiritual — for those who conduct themselves in the above manner [of occupying themselves in the education of Jewish children,] and the rewards of the entire family, particularly the wife who assists the husband along this path, is beyond description.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, p. 358)

Not Being Appreciated Should Not Be
a Reason for Diminution of Shalom Bayis

.. I read with attentiveness that which you wrote at the conclusion of your letter about your feelings — that after having invested so much energy, strength and time in building and establishing your lives together, your family life, etc., your efforts are seemingly unacknowledged and unappreciated. This is particularly rankling since these efforts have been your constant stress and emphasis for so many years.

You surely know — having both received it as a tradition as well as having studied this on your own — that in our Torah, the Torah of Truth, the Jewish woman’s role in the home is denoted as “Akeres HaBayis,” the mainstay and foundation of the home.

It is seemingly strange that although all agree that the existence of the entire building depends on the foundation upon which it is built — on its strength and immunity to all possible changes etc., etc. — nevertheless, nobody pays particular attention to the foundation except during the time when the foundation is put down.

Even then, those who speak about the foundation are the contractor, the architect and the builder, [and even they speak about it but briefly] — while at the same time they speak at such great length and in such glowing terms about the external beauty of the building, the internal beauty of the walls and ceiling, the tasteful furnishings and pictures, etc.

Even when someone will come along and explain that the foundation is what is most important — [i.e.,] the walls, the ceiling, the floor and all the contents of the home all depend on the foundation — and everybody will admit that this is indeed so, nonetheless they will immediately continue to speak of all the other facets of the home [and ignore the foundation].

The consolation implicit in the above analogy [of a physical foundation to the woman as the foundation of the home,] is not only that a similarity exists [between the two].

Rather, it teaches us that the lack of recognition and verbal appreciation, etc., is not at all an indication that anyone doubts the matter [i.e., that there is a lack of appreciation of the wife as foundation of the home].

It is merely that it is the nature of man that that which is acknowledged and well known does not beguile the eyes (the eyes of man) and does not arouse interest and the like, which is why people do not find it necessary to speak about this at length or at all.

With blessings for success in your responsibility as Akeres HaBayis, and that you accomplish this with a feeling of satisfaction, as well as blessing for success in all your affairs.

(Nitzutzei Or, p. 56)

Time Spent in Lengthy Shabbos Prayer
Should Serve as Source of Joy, Not Friction

In reply to your letter of Tishrei 27, in which you notify me about the [Shalom Bayis] situation that has arisen between your sister [and her husband,] your brother-in-law, that it is not as it should be:

Understandably, I shall fulfill your request of writing a letter to your brother-in-law to help strengthen the Shalom Bayis situation. However, you on your part, as well as other members of your family should explain to your sister the following:

When a husband returns late from his store or office from whence he earns his living and derives his sustenance, no one becomes angry with him. Quite the contrary, they are pleased that the household has a source of revenue and the husband is faithfully discharging his duties as a provider.

The source of satisfaction with the husband’s work lies in his having a “guaranteed” source of income, although in point of fact the employer who pays his wages as well as the actual job are but mediums and conduits through which G‑d, who sustains and provides a livelihood to all, provides this individual and his family with sustenance.

This being the case, how much more so should the wife be joyful when her husband faithfully serves the “true and sole Boss” responsible for a person’s sustenance, by petitioning Him in prayer — the appropriate time for personal petitions — for the family’s needs.

[Moreover, not only is prayer the time for petition, but] through prayer — one of the aspects of Torah and mitzvos — one creates the conduits and vessels through which G‑d directs the flow of sustenance [to each and every individual].

.. Just as your sister does not complain that her husband is at his job or studies for many hours during the weekdays, she surely shouldn’t complain that on the day of Shabbos he spends many hours in prayer and seclusion with G‑d, for it is specifically from the Shabbos day — as the Zohar states11 — that the rest of the week is blessed.

Thus it is stated in Sefarim that the prayers of Shabbos incorporate all the prayers of the rest of the days of the week, weekday prayers that have as their intermediary blessings [in the Amidah] not only “... who graciously bestows knowledge” [i.e., spiritual requests,] but also “Hear our voice...” [i.e., all manner of requests, material as well as spiritual].

.. I need not go on at length, for it is my hope that the above few lines will be effective in rectifying the situation at the earliest possible time, and that I will [shortly] be receiving glad tidings [about the improvement in Shalom Bayis].

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 57)

A Wife Needs to Be Particularly Sensitive When Her Husband Faces Stress

I surely need not draw your attention to the fact that the conduct of a home in general, and particularly the relationship between husband and wife depends to a greater and larger extent on the wife than on the husband.

This is in keeping with the verse in Tanach:12 “A woman’s wisdom constructs her home” — the very structure and ongoing preservation of the household depends on the woman’s wisdom.

This is particularly so regarding life in America, where a man’s work is associated with much stress and haste and the wife’s obligation is even greater to see to it that husband and wife enjoy a maximum of peace and serenity. The wife is able to achieve this by demonstrating the utmost measure of consideration and understanding.

[This is so] even when you imagine — and you may even be partially correct — that your husband should be capable of possessing and demonstrating additional fine qualities. For it is necessary to take into consideration that this shidduch has been decreed in heaven by G‑d so very long ago.

We observe that when one finds a fault in one’s self, the proper path is not that of causing oneself pain over the fault, but to find a painless means to rectify the fault. Similarly and to an even greater extent should this be the case with regard to husband and wife [i.e., with finding faults in one’s spouse].

For in the final analysis, it is difficult to know what problems your husband is currently experiencing, as well as the difficulties he experienced in previous years.

When, however, he perceives his wife’s tenderness, warm feelings and strong faith in G‑d, then one views the entire world in a different light [and his behavior changes for the better as well].

[When you will act in this manner,] then you will recognize that G‑d is the Master of the entire world, particularly your own home and environment. This cognizance will assure that you will be in a better mood and in better spirits.

You will then realize that such positive behavior is beneficial for yourown self, for such conduct generates affection and calm —much more than the amount of strain it cost for you to be forbearing and forgiving.

Hopefully with regard to you and your husband this entire consideration is unnecessary, since you conduct your home as a proper Chassidisher home, permeated with Ahavas Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew). [Surely, you realize that], Ahavas Yisrael is of particular importance in a Chassidisher home, since our holy Rebbeim had total self-sacrifice to make certain that Chassidic homes be permeated with Ahavas Yisrael.

Merely, since there is no limit to goodness [thus, although I am certain that you already conduct your home with Shalom Bayis AhavasYisrael,] I anticipate that these few lines will effect that the mutual positive Shalom Bayis and caring relationship between you and your husband will become even better and stronger.

This will affect not only yourselves, but will also have an effect on your surroundings, inasmuch as the relationship between the two of you will serve as a model of peace and illumination to others as well.

May G‑d bless you with success.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. IX, p. 119)

To Achieve Shalom Bayis Don’t Nag — Act With Tolerance and Forbearance

Concerning that which you write with regard to your husband and the [present unsatisfactory] situation of Shalom Bayis:

It would be advisable for you to gloss over those particular matters that you deem to be faults of his. For even if these are truly faults, nevertheless, in these [later] years and at this [relatively advanced] age, it will be difficult to change him.

Harping on his faults and repeatedly bringing them to his attention merely serves to exacerbate the situation, as he finds it extremely difficult to change his ways. It only serves to irritate and anger him and leads to no useful purpose.

When, however, he will see that you show tolerance and forbearance and it does not affect your relationship with him, then within a relatively short span of time you will see an improvement in the state of Shalom Bayis.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VI, p. 156)

Shalom Bayis Problems Should Not Lead to Not Immersing in Mikveh

.. You write that [because of the dismal state of Shalom Bayis in your home] it has been many months since you have immersed in a mikveh and that you are not living with your husband in the manner of a Jewish husband and wife.

This conduct is not at all good. You should be strong in your faith in Blessed and Exalted G‑d, secure in the knowledge that if you but observe the laws and statutes of Taharas Hamishpachah according to the dictates of our Torah, the Torah of Life, then this will draw down and increase the measure of Shalom Bayis in your household.

The increased degree of Shalom Bayis will also cause an increase in blessings and success, including strengthening the health of your children.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 366)

Getting Along With One’s Mother-In-Law

“If you will be at peace with your mother-in-law,” the Rebbe once told a Jewish lady during his distribution of “dollars” for tzedakah, “then there will be peace in your entire family, your entire environs, your entire city and in the entire world.”

(V’Yaseim Lecha Shalom, p. 182)