Shalom Bayis Institute?

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marriageBy Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld

I once heard a beautiful vort in the name of Dayan Ehrentrau of the United Kingdom. Why is it that in the Kesubah it states that “I will work (eflach) and will value you (V’Okir)” as it seems to be out-of-order. In the “Derech Ha’Olam” a person finds a mate, values her, makes a commitment, and then goes to work for the family. Yet here the order is reversed as work is mentioned before the term of endearment!

Rav Ehrentrau stated that the phrase may be read as one complete unit. Thus, the Kesubah is stating the following:”I will work hard on valuing you.” Relationships do not come easy. They require constant work, good communication, and good listening skills. We need to work on the process of making our mate dear to us.

I professionally work as a divorce mediator. I guide people through an amicable way of attaining a divorce agreement. Some years ago, a nurse was getting me ready for some medical procedures. When she found out what I do, she asked why I think so many young people are now divorcing. (This is unfortunately becoming more common in our communities as well.) I told her that I believed that we live in a society where everything has become disposable. You need a new ipad, well give away your old one. Your car is two years old, then it is time for a new lease. I opined that we have done the same with relationships. At the sign of marital trouble, we can work diligently on the issues or start with a new relationship. We often do the latter. Someone recently wrote that in some frum circles, a divorce is celebrated. This celebration is “sponsored” by friends who are also divorced, as they jointly welcome a new member to their ranks. A sad turn of events. We need to put a premium on making marriages successful. There is no substitute for the refrain of Rav Ehrentrau’s vort:”I will work hard on valuing you.”

I recently had a discussion with a Rav from Rockland County about the need to stem the growth of divorces among Bnai Torah. A thought occurred to me. To practice as an attorney, you must take Continuing Education courses to update your skills. This is true for therapists, physicians, and many others. Perhaps the time has come to encourage couples, young and old, to take a minimum of 2-3 course/Shiurim a year on issues of Shalom Bayis. Suggested topics could be communication, forgiveness, patience, commitment, etc. There are organizations that could be in the forefront of such efforts. Rabbanim could devote drashos to such topics. A day of learning could be devoted to such Torah thoughts. The possibilities are endless but the Hamon Am have to demand such approaches. What would happen if a Vaad began with the stated purpose of making such Shiurim accessible. The bargain would be this: Couples need to commit to taking a number of Shiurim each year on topics concerning the marital relationship, and relevant courses will be offered to the community. The possibilities are endless. Batei Din could offer such Shiurim as well. We need to be communally more proactive in this area as well as creative in our planning.

One article will not change the way our communities operate. I have no delusions about this. But I do have another suggestion that is easy to implement. Many of us know about an agreement signed by couples before marriage, known as a pre-nuptial agreement. This document serves as a guide for what will happen if the couple gets divorced. (On occasion it merely serves as a guide for what will happen with the estate when one party dies, but this can best be done by a proper will.) There is a document known as a post-nuptial agreement. This is an agreement signed after the marriage. I would like to make a proposal to individual readers as a way to enhance their marriage relationships. Why not compose your own post-nuptial agreement? What will it cover? Perhaps a commitment to take courses each year in matters that can enhance your relationship. You may wish to consider a commitment to make one night each month your own “date night”. Perhaps you will go to Shul together more often. The possibilities are limitless. What is important is that you “work on making your relationship valued and treasured.

If you do not like the options outlined above, make you own program. Our marital relationships are no longer guaranteed to last “Biz 120”. The challenges are great and the societal pulls are mighty. However, we are not free to simply write off the need to do what we can to give our most precious relationship greater “chizuk”. Work hard on valuing your spouse. The effort will be well worth it.

Rabbi Menachem Rosenfeld is a family mediator in Fair Lawn, NJ. He may be contacted at 201.794.4545 or [email protected]

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  1. I like the comment about the “Hamon Am” having to “demand it”. Don’t you understand that the whole problem of divorce is caused by non kosher cell phones and the treif internet. This is why our great leaders have been holding Technology Asifas in large sport stadiums. If people would simply disconnect from the modern world and live like the Amish, we would not have a divorce problem. In fact we could probably solve all of our social problems of the 21st century if we would simply commit to living like our Bubbees and Zeidees, of the olden times in Europe. Ah! those were the days my friend. As far as the connection between throwing away an old ipad and throwing away a spouse and the general connnection between divorce and a throwaway society, I don’t see it. What does upgrading to a new ipad have to do with not getting along with your spouse? The general divorce rate is about 50%. So do the 50% who do not get divorced not use new electronic devices when they come out. Another question is with the level of investigation that goes on in the frum community before a shidduch takes place, why should there be any suprises and divorces at all? I mean come on they are checking out what kind of tablecloths you use and whether or not you use paper plates on shabbos. Also with so many kids going to yeshiva and the yeshivas so full that they don’t have room for everybody, one would think that everyone coming out of these great schools would have developed into a ben or bas torah and therefore, have good midos and the ability to get along with a spouse. Why is that not the case? Maybe we have to learn from the 50% of Goyim who do not get divorced what their secret is.

  2. To Sarcastic Cynic amu”sh, ever see an old dude standing in shorts scrubbing away at his 1940something car, perfecting it, enhancing it, AND TAKING PRIDE IN IT? Ever saw an old timer dutifully maintaining his property, picking up garbage around it, sweating over a broken fence or new insulation installment? Look around, every neighborhood has a few of them,sharply contrasted with the modern man, who for every scratch on his car looks forward to when his lease is up so he can replace it. For every maintenance failure calls in a third party to do a job he doesnt really want to do, and probably doesnt do it so well, just to “get rid of the problem”. No respect, no value, NO FEELING OF RESPONSIBILITY TO INJECT EFFORT, AND ULTIMATELY REAP THE REWARDS OF THOSE INVESTMENTS. No, “just have to make more money”, so I can replace old items, old ideas AND OLD PPL!!! Thats right, in our society AS SOON AS SOMETHING STOPS GIVINGS US THE GRATIFICATION WE EXPECT FROM IT, ITS THROWN AWAY, fore some ppl, unfortunately, this includes their wives! (this is not to suggest that all or even most divorces are from this cause, but the tremendous rise,is!). Yes THAT is the real difference between us and our bubbies & zeidys, and yes, it does come from societal influence, which any expert will agree is in a tremendous part due to the internet, so thank you for pointing this out to ppl. (and no, no one said you must ride a horse to work, or type on a typewriter, so relax and recalculate.[this is besides the other “jewish” problems regarding the internet, which is not for now]).

  3. The solution to shalom bayis problems is reading Rav Shalom Arush’s books on shalom bayis: Gan Shalom (for men) and A Woman’s Wisdom (for women).

    Any couple that reads and implements Rav Arush’s teachings will certainly see results.

    AND it is a lot cheaper than any lawyer, mediator or therapist.


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