Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Adar I 5765 - March 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Ezer Knegdo

By Rebbetzen Nomi Travis


If the husband is a baal middos but not a masmid, how could a wife help him become one? You write, "But if the wife really builds up and respects the value of her husband's learning, she might be successful in helping a baal midos become a masmid." Can you give specific concrete examples of how one could acheive this? Also where you write, "If he has potential and the wife helps him to keep growing, he will be successful." How can a wife help him grow?

I know a wife who has tried subtle encouragement, small efforts, and has almost never disturbed him during his learning time but it doesn't seem to work in real life. I think such an article would answer many women who are wondering the same thing. Again, thank you for your previous article. It was 'on the mark' and very true.

I read that Reb. Eliashav used to get up at 4 am to make her husband coffee and that Rabbi Dessler's (Michtav M'Eliyahu) stepmother used to make special little cakes for their Friday night all-night mishmar, but these were small acts of encouragement for men who were already steeped in learning and 'turned on' as they say. Can you address how to start from the ground up. If your husband is not "turned on" how do you "turn him on"?



Please notice that I used the word `might' when I wrote, " . . . if the wife really builds up and respects the value of her husband's learning, she might be successful in helping a baal middos become a masmid."

It is true; with G-d-given feminine intuition, the woman can encourage her husband. But pushing someone to change can only backfire. Men's nature is that they need to feel that they are in charge, they are the man of the house. They don't appreciate coming home to be criticized.

You have to love your husband for who he is — with his virtues and shortcomings. It's not worth getting married on the condition that you'll make him change. Someone only changes if he wants to . . .

Once he sees something is really important to you, if he is a caring person, he will surely want to please you if he can. But don't keep your expectations high. He might try hard but not get to what you want. Forgive him, he is a human being . . . Obviously I'm talking about a basically healthy relationship where there is communication and respect!

I remember something I wanted my husband to do. I tried the direct approach — pointing it out to him often — and wasn't successful. Then I decided praise. I said: "You really don't have to; but if you do, I would appreciate it so much. I would be very thankful. It would be really above and beyond your duty, an act of greatness . . . " (Sense of humor goes a long way and if used with good sense, it can lighten up the situation). It made him feel so appreciated that he actually did what I asked. Slowly, with more and more encouragement he actually got used to doing that without being reminded. It became a joke between us whenever I have a request. And it works . . .

I was recently at a workshop on parenting. The mothers received a list of over fifty compliments, some of them quite creative. We were supposed to practice complimenting our kids and report back on the next session. One mother said that she practiced also on her husband. Not only did he feel appreciated, but it also helped remind her of how many areas he excels!

Whatever you do to encourage him to learn should be done with wisdom in a roundabout way, and not as criticism. But make sure to compliment him often. It has to be sincere. Point out specifically what he did do, what quality was brought out by his action. And show him how happy you are when he learns. Compliment his Divrei Torah. Empathize if he shares how difficult it is for him to learn. Point out his successes. That will help him build on the attitude "yes, I can do it" rather then feeling like a failure.

Wife Mashgicha

Rov Don Segal said in the name of Rav Chatzkel Levenstein that in this generation we have the best of all generations. We are so low that any small act we do is greatness. At the same time, since we are so low, even if nothing comes out of our actions, this is not held against us. Remember this rule: "In this generation every small act is greatness!"

By some, diligence is more natural. By others, they have to struggle so much against their yetzer hara to open a sefer, and by the time they do so, the struggle is equally great to keep it open and concentrate. For the learning that he is able to do, the reward is great. Give him credit for going against his nature and succeeding to overcome the distractions. And with time perhaps, he might be so encouraged with the success that learning will become easier for him.

Many righteous ladies take on the roles of their husbands' mashgichim. In their opinion, their husband's spirituality is below what is expected.

First of all, demands have to be realistic. You can't live his life. His shortcomings are his, not yours. Your job is to facilitate his growth. Be by his side, be his life companion. By being warm, kind, taking care of things for him, giving encouragement, etc. you'll be doing what you're supposed to do . . .

Not Good Enough

A successful boy married a girl from a family of well known gedolim, dayonim and rabbonim. She often criticized him that he wasn't enough of a lamdon or masmid etc. The wife felt he wasn't great enough for her. She pressured him so much that he stopped learning altogether. The couple eventually got divorced. But that's not the end. Her parents and grandparents were divorced for the same reason!

The husband can be the most honored person in the outside world, but if his wife is not happy with him, that hinders his self esteem. The acts of encouragement you quote on the question are only good if done without hints of criticism. For if you intend to be nice by preparing snacks, volunteering to do the errands, not interrupting, etc. but deep down the message is of resentment, you won't accomplish anything.

I know of another couple whose wife asked for a divorce because the husband wanted to start working part of the day. Basically she lost respect for him. Her love for him was conditional on learning three sessions a day. Her message was — you're not doing what I want, you're not good enough for me . . . If he was advised by daas Torah that in the present situation he should start working, she should have accepted it . . .

If there are problems that the couple can't work out alone, ask for advice. A Rov or Rebbetzen can be very insightful. However, in other instances to seek a professional counselor is inevitable. It can save marriages that are pretty much at a loss . . . Don't hesitate to ask for help. Someone from the outside with wisdom and life experience can be more objective then the person going through the nisoyon.

Righteous Women

Someone told me that a kalla was told before marriage that the chosson was an exceptional masmid. She was so excited. She was really looking forward to having such a husband. Right after marriage he proved to be the opposite. Day after day, he slept late, missed minyan, rested a lot during the day and hardly spent time in the Beis Medrash. Despite her disappointment, she controlled herself and didn't say anything. Finally after the first month of marriage he explained, "I really appreciate your understanding. I've been under tremendous pressure. I felt that if I wouldn't take it easy for a month I would get ill. Now that I renewed my energies I can get back to being a serious masmid . . . " From then on he went back to the rigid learning schedule as before the wedding.

The same Rebbetzen told me a similar story. Another husband, an outstanding Torah scholar once took a break from learning for six weeks due to headaches. The wife knew her husband was not one to exaggerate. She didn't criticize him. Eventually he told her that by pushing himself so much, he feared that like the Chofetz Chaim, he would be forbidden by doctors to learn for a year. So he thought it was better to take a shorter break before the condition would became more serious. At the end of that period he was able to resume his regular schedule.

When all's said and done, you should not underestimate the value of prayer! As I wrote in a previous article, it's the best hishtadlus one can do, and the most direct connection to The One Who is really in charge!

Rebitzen Travis is married to a Rosh Kollel and author of seforim, Rav Daniel Travis. She has many years of experience and success in helping people through shidduchim. Any comments, questions and stories can be sent to: or at (02) 656-3111


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