By Five Towns Marriage Initiative
The parashah of Shoftim ends with the topic of eglah arufah. If a dead body is found outside city limits, the elders of the city closest to the corpse have to break the neck of a calf. They then must declare that “yadeinu lo shafchu es ha’dam ha’zeh v’eineinu lo rau”—“our hands have not spilled this blood and our eyes did not see” (Devarim 21:7). Rashi explains that obviously we aren’t accusing the elders of the city of being murderers. Rather, when they say, “and our eyes did not see,” the elders are saying they did not see this person who was killed leave the city and allow him to go without food and escort.
Many commentators question how providing a traveler with food and escort saves him from murderers along the way. The Alter of Kelm explains that when the people of the city provide a traveler with food and escort him, he feels important and cared for. These feelings enable him to defend himself successfully against his attackers.
This is an extremely powerful idea. We have the power with our words and actions to give someone the courage and physical strength to save himself. This is particularly relevant in marriage. A spouse possesses the ability to infuse the partner with enough courage and good feelings to allow him or her to have the confidence to meet whatever challenges come up. This is something that can and should be done for one’s spouse every day. It is even more effective than the city member’s food and escort, because when directed to one’s partner it is not just an obligation being fulfilled, it is an act of love and caring.
This is applicable on a day-to-day basis and especially at times of challenge. There are situations in which facing the public is as challenging as, if not more challenging than, fighting off attackers. At times like this, a spouse can truly save the partner’s life by imbuing them with confidence and the courage to face the world. This can occur with the loss of a job or a change in financial status, at times of loss and uncertainty, at times of accusation, or at times of mistakes. At times like these, a spouse can literally save the partner’s life by believing in her and giving her the courage to continue to face the world with her head held high.
Let us try to constantly remember that we have the ability with our words and actions to infuse our partner with the self-confidence to face the world and succeed. Let us be sure to use those words and give over that message to our partner. May Hashem help us and our spouses to meet all our challenges with confidence and overcome them. 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.