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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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Shalom Bayis At All Cost

Respler-032913

Dear Dr. Yael:

I have an amazing story to share about my parents. With all the miracles of Pesach, this family story is a miracle.

About 18 years ago, when one of my brothers was getting engaged, my parents went to his future kallah’s house to meet her parents. Sitting in their dining room, my parents immediately saw in their impending machatanim’s silver shrank all of their precious, valuable silver and treasured family heirlooms that were stolen from them a number of years earlier in a robbery.

My parents were shaking, and began to ask where certain items were bought. They started with a silver box that my father gave to my mother when he presented a diamond ring to her. Then they asked about various pieces that they knew were one of a kind. The future machatanim finally realized that something was very wrong and asked why they were asking these questions.

After more talk, it became apparent that the future machatanim bought all of these items for very little money at a public auction. Feeling very uncomfortable, the kallah’s father put all of the silver items into shopping bags and said to my parents, “Here, these are gifts from us to you. We will not be able to sleep knowing that we have all these precious things that actually belong to you.” My parents insisted on paying for the items but their soon-to-be machatanim refused the offer. (Knowing my parents, they probably found a way to pay their future machatanim for their precious stolen treasures.)

To this day, all the returned items remain in my parent’s possession. Baruch Hashem, this was the beginning of a very close and wonderful relationship between my parents and these machatanim – one that continues until today.

What is so amazing is that my parents could not believe that the girl that my brother chose to marry actually brought with her treasures that mean so much to them. Getting back these meaningful items still gives them an unbelievable feeling.

As we relive the Pesach miracle every year at this time, I am confident that this personal miracle is an exciting one for Jewish Press readers to appreciate. The way my parents’ machatanim dealt with this situation demonstrates their exemplary middos. I hope that we can all learn to deal with challenging situations in this manner.

Unfortunately I know of so many machatanim that fight and in the process destroy their children’s marriages. People often fight about ridiculous things. I hope this story inspires machatanim to try to get along for the sake of their children and grandchildren. Peaceful family relationships help build great marriages.

I hope my letter inspires shalom. Thank you.

An Anonymous Reader

Dear Anonymous Reader:

Thank you so much for your inspiring letter.

It is true that machatanim sometimes fight over unimportant issues. This makes it challenging when two families become blended. Both families have their own ideas and needs, and when they join together to marry off their children they sometimes disagree over wedding details or over hashkafic matters. Of course if it is a halachic or hashkafic issue, the individuals should consult with daas Torah.

If all parties in a marriage situation have the mindset of wanting to get along with the machatanim, the marriage will likely begin with feelings of love and warmth – instead of feelings of discomfort and anger. During marriage counseling I often ask the couple what is more important, being right or getting along. Most couples favor the latter, even if their actions state otherwise. The same is true in a relationship among machatanim, whereby the same question should be asked.

In the machatanim relationship, no one will remember what flowers were at the wedding, what the color scheme was, or how much money each side contributed. But if there is fighting, feelings of anger and resentment will be remembered for many subsequent years. Ideally, both the chassan’s and kallah’s sides should enter into a marriage with the mindset that all that matters is getting along. This will contribute to a loving and warm connection between the families.

Even if one side is more argumentative or more difficult than the other, the more compliant side can still act in a manner that will help the couple feel that loving and warm connection. Of course that would mean that one side is mostly acquiescing, which can foster some feelings of resentment. But if that side can rise to a greater level of character and give in so as to ensure a loving relationship, the relationship can become one of warmth and positive feelings. In most cases when one side is giving and easygoing, the other side eventually comes along.

A story is told of a famous rabbi who had a different policy at every wedding that he made for his children. For example, he would walk one child down the aisle with his wife while for another child he would walk the chassan down the aisle with his mechutan (his wife would walk the kallah down the aisle with her machatenista).

One day someone asked him why he had a different policy for each chassanah. The rabbi answered that he did whatever his machatanim wanted for the sake of shalom.

Let us all learn from the rabbi and the families involved in this story. Their example of giving to each other is to be emulated, especially since it was the beginning of a new and unknown relationship. It is integral to teach young couples the important things in life and to set an example for them of a comfortable and loving relationship.

As I wish hatzlachah to those planning a wedding, I urge them to remember that the most valuable thing during the planning is the positive relationships that are formed. They should try to not lose sight of the eventual goal, namely a positive and loving marriage.

I wish you and all Jewish Press readers a chag kasher v’sameach.

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