By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
As we begin Rosh Hashanah, followed by Shabbos Shuvah, and then head into Yom Kippur, there is a thought from the Chofetz Chaim on the parashah of Shabbos Shuvah, Parashas Ha’azinu, which is worth contemplating. The verse in the song of Ha’azinu says, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked.” Rashi explains that this describes how the nation became exalted and then kicked away Hashem and the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim quotes Yechezkel, who says, “They turned their backs on Hashem’s sanctuary and there is nothing more despicable than that.” What the Chofetz Chaim then says has direct implications with regard to repentance, marital harmony, and glorifying Hashem, which all tie in beautifully with this time of year.
There were two sisters. One was poor and one was wealthy. The poor sister went to visit the wealthy one. Even before she entered the palatial mansion, she was approached by ushers wearing beautiful uniforms, asking her who was she and what the purpose was for her visit. When she entered her sister’s home, she was entranced by the décor. Her sister, too, was a sight to behold, bedecked in so many precious jewels, wearing gorgeous clothing, and with maids scurrying to and fro at her beck and call. She stood there open-mouthed, feeling unsure if this wealthy lady, who seemed to put any queen to shame, was really her sister.
The two sisters discussed their current lifestyle, and then the poor sister noticed her wealthy sister’s gaunt face and the sadness embedded in it, which seemed so at odds with the surroundings. “Tell me, my sister,” she said, “why do you look this way? You look so sad; what can you possibly lack? If you asked your husband for the most nutritious and fattening food, could he not provide you with it? And why do you not have laughter on your lips? It’s such a wonder to me!”
The wealthy sister responded, “Believe me, my sister. My husband might be wealthy, and he might be respected amongst the greatest men in the country, and he does not withhold anything from me. The best clothing and jewelry are all mine, along with food fit for kings. But it’s all worthless to me! My husband cares less about my opinion. To him, when it comes to what I think, I am just as good as any of the lowly maids. He’ll degrade me in front of everyone and scream at me in public. My sister, your lot is better than mine! Even though you are poor and you might not have the jewels, maids, and fancy clothing, at least your husband honors you. He cares about your opinion and respects you publicly and privately, and that’s why you look so joyful. You are happy with your place in life because you are not a maid—you are a geveret, a lady. For me, what is all my wealth worth if I can’t even share my opinion about the house or the business?”
So it is with the Torah and with our attitude towards Hashem. There are those who adorn the Torah with the best jewels and the finest fabric. They place it only on a table of gold and decorate its aron, its home, and they place a gold crown upon it. All this, though, is worthless to the Torah, because they then go ahead and mock it, pain it, and anger it at every opportunity. They don’t listen to its voice and they don’t respect it. They eat forbidden foods, desecrate Shabbos, and mock all that is holy. The Torah calls out, “Remove from me all the gold, pearls, and jewels. Just please don’t step all over me!”
There are simple communities that might not have the wherewithal to adorn the Torah the way others can, but they give it great honor and respect. They seek it out and don’t sway an inch from its words. Those who respect what’s in the Torah and what Hashem commands are more of an adornment to the Torah than any material adornment that comes from those who scorn Hashem and His word.
With wishes for a year of health, happiness, peace, and joy. May this year be one about which the Torah can say that we adorned her properly, and may we all be inscribed in the book of life for a happy, sweet new year. 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.