||THE COUPLE MUST HAVE CONSTANT UNITY
- Thursday, September 13, '01 - Parshas Nitzavim 5761
The couple must always present unity and agreement in front of people, including their children. If, for example, the wife punishes a child and the husband feels the response should be more lenient, discuss it later in private. Never contradict each other, disagree with each other or attack each other in front of people, including your children or relatives. It is important to the marriage that both members of the couple back each other up, be unified and be supportive of each other. The couple must be allies, first and foremost, to each other.
Children who see unity, support and agreement between parents
* learn not to play one parent against the other, and
* see kavod (honor, respect), which is vital to the health of the marriage and to the training of the children.
An atmosphere of kavod (honor, respect) will contribute significantly to the happiness of the marriage and family. Children who see respect BETWEEN their parents, have respect FOR their parents. Children who are treated with respect will respect themselves and a future spouse.
When you set a tone in your house, it can go on for generations - whether for good or for bad. Children should never be made to fear, except for that which is natural to fear (Yehuda HaChasid). A husband should never be frightening to his children (Masechta Smachos, chapter 2). To the extent that a child is old enough to understand words, discipline should be with words and not with hitting. Hitting is only for when words fail to be effective and only for a child who has not reached bar or bas mitzva. Rather than being harsh or punitive, be inspiring. Motivate, encourage, influence, acknowledge, praise and reward good.
Loving feelings, conduct, speech and atmosphere in a marriage and family are infused, together with security, into the children and they will carry over what they absorbed into future generations. See yourself as a link in a chain of generations. If your own parents were not useable role models, your children should become what your parents should have been. One of the key places where children pick up important messages, to learn about kindness and to instill spiritual qualities, is in the home. They learn when the see the husband say to the wife, "Thank you for this cup of tea;" when they see spouses doing thoughtful things for each other; and when, of course, the parents praise, encourage, guide, appreciate and nurture the children.
The Torah says (Genesis 18:19 - the Speaker is G-d), "I know that Avraham will command his offspring and his house after him to guard the way of G-d to do generosity and justice that G-d may bring upon Avraham what He said." Rashi points out that to "know" (when used in the Torah regarding a person) means to "love," meaning that, because Avraham will have and raise offspring who go in the way of G-d, G-d loves Avraham and rewards Avraham. Further, Rashi writes that if Avraham was teaching his offspring and house, the Torah should have said "that G-d may bring upon THE HOUSE OF Avraham. By writing only "that G-d may bring upon Avraham," the Torah is teaching that the one who raises righteous offspring is as one who never dies. His good lives on after him.
Men: never belittle your wife's role as a mother. King Solomon (Proverbs 1:8) told children to "Never abandon the Torah of your mother." You may ask, "It is the father who learns and teaches Torah in the home, so why does the verse say, 'Torah of your mother?'" When the mother provides an atmosphere of love and warmth, this nurtures the child, providing the secure foundation which permits him to understand Torah. He doesn't have to look at life through defenses, complexes and insecurities. Torah is life, not an intellectual exercise. Her dusting, shopping, cooking, setting the table, diapering and sewing is her Torah. The Torah does not take root except in the child who has a nurturing, stable and spiritual home; whose atmosphere has been contributed by a woman whose behavior, values and demeanor support and promote Torah in healthy and spiritually motivated children. Such a wife deserves her husband's utmost appreciation, admiration, kindness and respect. If you give these to her and fulfill your obligations to her, she will give back. If you are sincere, consistent and responsible (if your wife is psychologically normal), you will not lose.