By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
Devarim begins with rebuke to the Jewish nation. The pasuk says “Eileh hadevarim asher diber Moshe el kol Yisrael . . . bamidbar, b’aravah, mul suf . . .”—“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel . . . in the desert, in the plains, opposite the Sea . . .” Rashi here explains that each of the locations listed refers to a different incident in which the Jewish nation angered Hashem. In order to protect the honor of the Jews, the Torah just lists the names of the places that hint to the incidents instead of saying them outright.
Hashem is setting out for us here a clear and powerful example of how to rebuke. The way to give rebuke that will be received and listened to is by keeping in mind the honor of the other person. When a person is berated and belittled, they feel hurt or possibly angry and defensive. When a person is given rebuke, but their honor is protected, then he can listen.
In every relationship and particularly in marriage, there are junctures in which one party must give criticism to the other. Our Sages devote a lot of time describing exactly how to give rebuke. One of the main points they explain regarding giving rebuke is that it should be given in a way that it will be accepted.
When we follow the example set by Hashem, to give criticism in a way that our love for our spouse is obvious and our respect for him or her is obvious, then we are setting the stage for our words to be listened to. People want to do the right thing. In a marriage relationship, in particular, a person wants to please his or her spouse. When a person receives criticism in a way that leaves him feeling good about himself, he can appreciate the fact that he was given direction in how to please his spouse. This is a much more positive—and effective—alternative to feeling attacked and blamed for ones actions.
We are now in the period of the Three Weeks in which it is customary to focus on loving our fellow Jew. Let us try to express our criticism following the example set by Hashem in the opening of Devarim, by keeping in mind the honor of the one we are rebuking. May we merit seeing the ultimate redemption speedily and in our days. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.