By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
This week’s parashah, Noach, discusses the flood that engulfed the entire world. The Midrash Tanchuma says that the punishment of the flood only came about once the people were involved in the sin of gezel—stealing. The Midrash goes on to discuss different kinds of stealing, and how they are punished by heaven. The students of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai asked him why the Torah is more stringent in its punishment for a person who committed geneivah, a secretive kind of stealing, than it is for someone who commits gezel, a brazen kind of stealing. Rabbi Yochanan answered by way of a parable. Two people in a city threw a party. One invited the entire city, aside from the children of the king. The second person had a small party which did not include the townspeople or the king’s children. Obviously the king will be angrier at the first host, who invited the whole town but neglected to invite his children, as this clearly implies an insult and attack on the king.
When a person does gezel, it is by definition in the open and visible for all to see his actions. Geneivah, on the other hand, is when a person steals in a manner where no one can see him . . . except, in truth, he neglects to account for the fact that Hashem sees everything. By stealing in a hidden manner, he acts with an implied insult, just like the first host. He implies that Hashem does not see his actions and that he’ll be able to get away with what he is doing, and that is why the punishment for this kind of stealing is worse than for gezel.
This idea can be utilized to improve our marriages. While, at times, we might not treat our spouse the way we should, it is much easier for him or her to forgive this when it is clear that everyone is being treated equally. For instance, someone might have had a bad day and may be frustrated with everyone, hanging up on friends, constantly reprimanding the kids, and harping on every little thing his or her spouse does wrong. When it’s everyone that is under attack, it’s much easier to let it go, and forgive and forget. But when someone speaks to everyone else with great respect on a particular day, treating them all with kindness, but then is nasty and mean with his or her spouse, it is much more difficult to swallow, and causes much more pain.
When a person acts inconsistently in this way, it could be because the spouse specifically did something that caused one to act out and react with negative attention. Sometimes, however, when someone is going through a difficulty, one chooses to take it all out on one’s spouse, leaving him or her feeling very hurt and insulted. It can be much easier to be nice to everyone around and put on a fake smile, but the test starts at the entrance to one’s home. How a person chooses to act with one’s spouse—when under stress, feeling upset, or dealing with any of the challenges that can come up throughout the day—can show greatness. It’s so important that we all utilize all of these opportunities to infuse our marriages with optimism and love, and in this way emulate the ways of Hashem. v
Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00–11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430-5280 or e‑mail email@example.com.