By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
Parashas Eikev includes the second portion of Shema, which we recite every day. It describes the reward we will receive in this world for keeping the mitzvos. It says that we will have rain in the right time, we will have grass to feed our animals, we will have food to gather from the fields, and more.
In Pirkei Avos, we are taught not to do the mitzvos like a servant whose whole purpose in doing his job is to get rewarded, but rather we should do the mitzvos without intending to receive a reward, since that’s the ultimate way to serve Hashem. We would think that what we say over so many times a day in Shema would also be describing the ultimate way of serving Hashem, so why is there such an emphasis on the reward we will receive?
The answer is simple.
The second portion of Shema is describing a fact of how Hashem runs the world, and the mishnah in Avos is discussing our intentions when we do mitzvos. While both of them discuss the aspect of reward, the second portion of Shema comes to teach us is that there is a way that Hashem runs the world, and that is that our actions cause a reaction in the world and have a strong, tangible effect. Through our actions we can bring rain, food for ourselves, and food for our livestock, and we can also withhold all that good if we act incorrectly. The message of Shema is not about why we do what we do, but comes to remind us that our actions have very tangible results.
We would do well to remember this fact when interacting with our spouses. The interaction between husband and wife is one of the areas where we can see to the greatest extent how every action has a reaction. When we deal with friends or neighbors, their reactions to something we have said or done can take place in the privacy of their own homes, where we would be none the wiser. With a spouse, though, there really isn’t much place to go and hide the reaction, and generally we will find out pretty quickly if what we said was hurtful or what we did was insulting—or if we just made our spouses feel like a million bucks. We need to remember that when dealing with spouses, often the only opportunity for them to vent is directly to us!
Those around us are affected by how we act, and this is even more the case with our spouses. The same concept can be extended to our relationship with Hashem in our ongoing daily service through the mitzvos and our effort to create and maintain a strong connection to our Creator. The reward that we receive for forging a closer connection to others, our spouses, and Hashem brings blessing to the whole world in our merit. We should always focus on doing good and being a catalyst for good—for ourselves, for others, for our spouses, and for Hashem. ϖ
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.