||BENEFIT OF DOUBT IN MARRIAGE, PART ONE
- Thursday, September 28, '00 - Rosh Hashana 5761
A good way to cause fights with a
spouse is to find ways to presume: that everything IN YOUR MIND about your spouse's
behavior's, flaws, situation or motives is perfect and objection-proof; that you know and
understand everything while your spouse knows and understands nothing; that you are always
right and your spouse is an incompetent juvenile buffoon who is always wrong; and that
your spouse has a lot of nerve not realizing that life necessarily exists altogether on
your terms. My experience as a marriage counselor shows that much of marital trouble is,
in one way or another, a manifestation of this.
If members of couples would, among other things, learn to empathetically "get into
the mind" of the other, they would be able to avoid or resolve many of their
differences, difficulties and fights. This is alarming because the marital trouble
situation keeps getting worse and worse.
Married people today have rigid ideas in their mind about their spouse, who is a
different and separate reality. Therefore, the ideas in the mind of spouse A about spouse
B can be quite erroneous and irrelevant. Imposing these thoughts on the other spouse means
shoving A's thoughts into B's head, where they may not fit; and this, as a relating style,
IS ABUSIVE AND DOES NOT WORK. Due to the seriousness of the problem of married people
having destructively wrong and presumptuous ideas in their minds about their spouse, I am
offering this two part series on benefit of doubt in marriage. I hope people will learn to
objectively examine thoughts, circumstances and realities. When spouses GET OUTSIDE OF
THEIR OWN HEADS, they can BETTER GET INTO EACH OTHER'S HEARTS!
Co-existing with another human being in a relationship which is close or consequential
inescapably brings about situations from time to time in which one questions or is upset
by some behavior of the other. People are often quick to "know" or interpret the
story, judge the other harshly and self-servingly. Some form of unfortunate and
destructive blow up or distancing can follow. A lovely "chassidic maaseh" brings
this point clearly home. I heard this story in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, the
Barditchiver and others. Since I am not sure who the rebbe in question was, I will use
general reference to "the rebbe." IF ANY READER KNOWS WHO THE REBBI IS, PLEASE
CONTACT ME SOON WITH THE IDENTITY!
On the eve of Yom Kippur, the townspeople gathered shortly before nightfall in the shul
to start the "Kol Nidray" service. Where was the rebbe? It was getting later and
later. The rebbe was no where to be found and no chassidish congregation could dare start
their Yom Kippur service without their rebbe. Finally, emissaries were sent to search
around the shtetl. A while later, two of the scouts ran back in near panic shouting,
"Oy vei! The rebbe is eating on Yom Kippur!" The congregation was bustling with
shock and horror. The holy rebbe missing Kol Nidre and, on top of that, eating on Yom
Kippur! A team of dignitaries was despatched to investigate this startling development.
When they arrived at the rebbe's house, they found out that the rebbe's daughter had
given birth to a baby immediately before the scheduled starting time of the Kol Nidre
service. She was very weak and, according to the law, a woman who gives birth (or anyone
seriously ill) must eat on Yom Kippur. The rebbe told his daughter that she must eat and
she refused, claiming that it was not permitted for any Jew to eat on Yom Kippur. The
rebbe assured her that her knowledge of the law was wrong, but the daughter did not eat.
The rebbe had to spend considerable time persuading his daughter that her health and the
Torah required her to eat. The law considers one who just gave birth to be in danger and
one whose life is in danger is to eat on Yom Kippur. The daughter remained stubborn. The
rebbe had to stay with her, pleading that she eat. Finally, after much time and
persevering, the daughter said that she will only eat if the rebbe himself serves her, so
she can thereby know that it really is permitted.
The rebbe brought his daughter food. It was precisely at the moment when he was
carrying the tray of food from the kitchen to the bedroom for his daughter that the scouts
from the congregation looked in the window and saw the rebbe carrying the tray. THEY HAD
JUMPED TO THE CONCLUSION that he was eating and reported their "findings" to the
congregation. As it turned out, the holy rebbe was performing a mitzva of life-saving
proportions. He was not eating.
I will develop benefit of doubt more and apply it to marriage in Part Two.