Zahava closed the book deliberately and let out a deep
satisfied sigh. She had just finished reading a most
inspiring tale of great people and wished to emulate them
for the perfect marriage.
It was Thursday night and Zahava decided that Friday morning
was a prime time to implement the changes which would lead
to an even better marriage. With happy heart and firm
resolve, she went to sleep anticipating the morrow's
The next morning found Zahava puttering around in the
kitchen bright and early. Mordy was already at the
minyan and would go straight to the yeshiva for the
special Friday shiur from there. Then he'd come home
for a quick breakfast, roll up his sleeves and do the floors
(sponja, in Israeli lingo). The interim would give
her ample time to work on her grand plans. By the time her
husband came home, she hoped to have a beautiful surprise
breakfast ready, one that would do justice to those
exemplary people she had read about.
Zahava and Mordy were happy newlyweds of six weeks. Being
idealistic, Zahava wanted to do a super duper job at
building a bayis ne'eman and thought that this
beautiful breakfast would be just the right boost. Singing
while she worked, she could just imagine the surprise and
delight on her husband's face as he entered the kitchen.
She'd do it all the way. Zahava dug up the matching place
mats and cloth napkins she had received as wedding gifts but
hadn't used yet. These fancy napkins would mean more work
for her, but she figured that the cause justified the
consequences. Laundry and ironing there would be, anyway. A
pious sense of purpose filled her whole being. Finally, the
clock struck noon. Mordy should have come already. What was
Meanwhile, Mordy had had a busy morning of his own. Today's
shmuess in yeshiva had centered around sholom
bayis. The speaker had pointed out how a good husband
bought little gifts for his wife from time to time. They
needn't be anything expensive, and a nice bouquet of flowers
with a personal note, for example, would always be
appreciated. Helping one's wife was another point the
speaker had dwelled on. "Look for ways to make things easier
An idealistic young fellow, Mordy took these instructions
seriously and instead of going directly home like he usually
did, he took a detour to Geula. He picked up a lovely bunch
of eighteen red roses interspersed with pine branches. The
strong fragrance would pervade the entire house for the
Next, he stepped into the butcher's and bought several kinds
of cold cuts to make Zahava's Shabbos preparations easier.
His mother resorted to them whenever she felt overwhelmed
with extra guests or extra work. Mordy was eager to get home
already and see the delighted smile of surprise on Zahava's
On each side of the front door stood half of a smiling
Desperately wanting to greet her husband with a warm and
welcoming "Hello," Zahava found herself sneezing instead.
"Hachooo! Hachooo!" she exploded, moving aside to let Mordy
in. Mordy headed for the kitchen to put the bouquet of roses
into a vase or pitcher. He looked stricken after one look at
the set table. A beautiful chocolate cheesecake held center
stage, while steaming hot coffee with whipped cream was set
next to each place. He hated coffee, and his digestive
system didn't respond kindly to anything made with cocoa,
either. What he wanted now -- and it was a lunch that was
replacing a breakfast -- was FOOD. Plain, substantial.
Something like a vegetable salad and leben. He realized how
much work must have gone into the preparation of this repast
and decided not to say anything. Zahava, being an astute
wife, had hopefully picked up his silent alarm. But Zahava
was busy blowing her nose in between violent sneezes.
"My, doesn't Mendy realize that pine makes me sneeze like
this?" she wondered.
True to the rules of the book, she decided this time to be
very quiet in order to allow her husband a calm transition
time from the outside world to his private domain. But Mordy
was wondering what had happened to his usually happy,
gregarious wife, whose bubbly greetings he looked forward
to. Assuming she had been insulted by his non-enchantment
with the breakfast, he made a last ditch effort to put this
humpty-dumpty together again.
"Look what I bought for Shabbos! I wanted to save you some
work," he said proudly as he pulled out the cold cuts from
the bag with the satisfaction of a magician pulling a rabbit
out of a hat.
"Junk food!" Zahava was appalled. Fats and feathers, is what
her mother had told her was ground up with the meat. Was she
such a bad cook? How could any self respecting housewife
serve cold cuts on a Shabbos? It was the meal of last resort
in the home she came from. She was deeply insulted.
The ten minutes of transition time the book had advised had
passed. But by now, Zahava was not inclined to talk at
This Friday was a grand flop. Nothing like what the book had
indicated. Sadly, Zahava reviewed everything she had learned
from those exemplary people in the book. She had done
everything precisely like the heroine: the wife had had
coffee and cake ready for her husband when he came home. She
had kept quiet and let him unwind first. What had gone
wrong? Why weren't they `living happily ever after'?
It was a miserable Zahava who cleaned off the table and went
ahead, putting the finishing touches to her Shabbos
preparations. "All that effort for nothing," she moped.
Mordy's thoughts were down in the doldrums, or going down
the drain with the dirty suds from his floorwashing. "All
that extra expense for nothing. What a pity! It just wasn't
appreciated." He decided to finish up and go spend the extra
time in the beis midrash to look over the
parsha and think things through...
As he settled himself in a corner, Mordy heard, "...and so
the Rebbe R' Zusha decided that while he wouldn't be held
accountable for not being like his brother, the famous R'
Elimelech, and certainly not like anyone of the previous
generations, like Moshe Rabbenu, he WOULD be taken to task
if he was not himself, Zusha, if he did not live up to his
own potential, and serve Hashem in the best way that he
possibly could, as Zusha!"
The young man telling the story looked around at the group
of youngsters whose attention was riveted on his face,
listening intently to his superb storytelling. They nodded
silently, absorbing the message he had just imparted, then,
at a signal, they proceeded to open up their Tehillim
for the second part of their Friday afternoon
masmidim group program.
Mordy was similarly reflecting on the gem of wisdom he had
just acquired. "How very true. I was trying to please my
wife with things and ways that make other people happy,
without stopping to think if she would appreciate them or
not. And I guess it worked the other way, too, that she
tried to honor me with things other men would find
After shul that night, Mordy walked home escorted by the two
angels of peace. As he entered his candle-lit home, he
wished his wife a "Gut Shabbos" and asked her if she
minded if he told her a story now, or preferred to keep it
for after Kiddush. Zahava, her exuberant self again, had
something she wanted to tell him as well, but listened with
delight at the story about R' Zusha and Mordy's personal
conclusion about it.
"You are so right. I was trying to fit us into the mold of
the couple in the book and imitate the way they honored one
another. Well, we're different and we have to learn how to
work with ourselves, as we are, with our individual likes
and dislikes, our temperaments, and how we can complement
one another and cause each other happiness and
"Amen!" answered the angels of peace, and Mordy launched
into a hearty "Sholom Aleichem."