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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Parshas Vayeshev’

Being Enmeshed: Insights Into Concurrently Holding On And Letting Go

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I once heard a story about a single man struggling to find a spouse. His main challenge was his insistence that a potential mate permanently welcome his widowed mother into their marital home. A friend suggested that he speak with the great authority, Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt’l. The man shared with the Rav his delicate predicament. The Rav validated the man’s approach as acceptable. Sometime later, the man met his bashert, the special woman willing to live with his mom. They returned to Rav Shlomo Zalman for his blessing. Surprisingly, the Rav called the man aside and told him that they cannot live with his mother anymore. The young man was shocked. After all, on the previous visit, the Rav had supported his desire to find a woman who would accept their living with his mother. Rav Shlomo Zalman explained that he supported the young man’s exceptional requirement as a test of sorts, to ensure that the young lady he would marry would be a woman of valor, a woman of kindness. But once he had in fact found such a woman, it was imperative, for the sake of the marriage, to exclude the mother from a permanent place in the home.

Most newly married couples don’t permanently invite parents into their private dwelling in a literal sense, but figuratively, they may bring their parents along for the ride. In the national bestseller The Good Marriage, Judith Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee report that many marriage counselors tell their clients “there are at least six people in every marriage – the couple and both sets of parents.” A delicate balance must be struck between maintaining positive and meaningful connection with family of origin, while at the same time, not alienating the new spouse and the fledgling marital union. In his renowned work, The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm discusses object relations theory and the process of individuation from parents. He explains that ideally we physically separate from our parents while concurrently bringing them with us in our minds and hearts. In this way, our parents are a support and a significant and influential backdrop throughout our lives. This concept is highlighted in the episode in Parshas Vayeshev when Yosef is saved from eishet Potifar’s advances with the help of the image of his father Yaakov, “dmus dyukno shel aviv.” He is far away from his home, but yet able to marshal Yaakov’s values and spiritual strength when it was most needed.

I recall many years ago counseling a young couple immediately after their marriage. It seemed that the husband was looking forward to a honeymoon with his new bride. His wife wasn’t adverse to the honeymoon, but her family had planned their yearly family vacation and the young lady didn’t want to give up on this special time. I empathized with both the young man’s disappointment in potentially having his new in-laws intrude on his honeymoon time, and the young women’s deep desire to remain attached to her parents and siblings. These tensions and conflicts are rampant in many marriages and don’t always have easy solutions. Sometimes a young couple is placed in the unenviable position of having to erect boundaries, as the more “mature” parents are oblivious to these considerations and are grasping to hold onto a child. It’s a complex dance with competing interests and my purpose in this brief article is to try to articulate some foundational principles to protect the marriage and the formation and development of the couple.

Jewish couples stand under a chuppah or canopy during the marriage ceremony. This canopy has no walls just a roof. The chuppah symbolizes the home and the husband bringing the wife into his material and spiritual domain. The task of erecting walls for this edifice is left to the couple. They must, over the course of their lives together, fill-in those walls and thereby fortify their relationship. Wallerstein and Blakesley alluded to above, bring an anecdote about a mother sitting down with her future daughter-in-law and attempting to intimidate her. She tells the poor girl that her upcoming marriage is doomed to failure. The young girl is mortified and immediately calls her future husband. The husband says, “don’t worry about it. I’m going to call my mother right now and tell her she’s not invited to our wedding.” This is a beautiful illustration of communicating to a spouse that they are the absolute priority. They report that this uncomfortable episode ultimately helped launch the marriage.

For the Shloshim of Yaakov Tovia ben Boruch Altman and Second Yahrzeit of Sara bas Bentzion (Harnik)

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Dear G-d,

 

As a mourning Yesoma sadly left behind

I’ve been turning things over and over in my mind

And have resolved to speak directly to You, my Creator

For who better to understand us – there is none greater

 

It’s You who can comfort us and wipe away our tears

It is only You who are capable of alleviating our fears

Now that our beloved parents no longer grace this earth

The ones we could depend on from the moment of our birth

 

Two beautiful neshamos, they’ve both left us and gone

Up to Shamayim to bear witness upon

The onus of a bitter Golus they personally braved

From early on when heinous mortals proved to be depraved

 

Throughout their unspeakable ordeal that reverberated in Heaven

You kept a close and watchful eye on them 24/7

Dispatching Your malachim You saved them many a time

From the unrelenting viciousness of the Nazi swine

 

 

At 19 our dear mother z”l was met with the greeting “Arbeit Macht Frei”

As she debarked the smothering cattle car and was forced to bid good-bye

To precious family members herded along a different path

Leading to the “showers” of Auschwitz that culminated in their bloodbath

 

Our dear father hk”m was iron-willed, agile and fit

Divinely blessed with a tenaciousness, vigor and true grit

He hid in snow on rooftops and in flooded cellars come spring

Paying no heed to hunger pangs or the preying insect’s sting

 

But You, Hashem, know this all – from You nothing is concealed

Moreover, it is You who held their hands and acted as their shield

You further brought the two together, postwar and parent-less

Notwithstanding their bitter experiences, they were shining models of finesse

 

Fast forward … on to the Holy Land, to struggles amid life anew

In due course to Canadian shores where one was still challenged as a Jew

Bur our dear father’s dogged resistance was to serve him well again

For he’d never dream to abandon Your statutes to conform to those of men

 

 

No elaboration needed, dear G-d, for You are quite aware

Of this twosome’s warmth and generosity, a sweet and gentle pair

Despite invariably modest means, they’d fill each outstretched palm

Their delightful company and lending ear were to so many soothing balm

 

Ah, but the Beis Midrash was our father’s love (save for his family)

For years on end from before the break of dawn he’d toil there happily

Ensuring the mikveh’s effective function to orderliness all around

His selfless devotion to this holy avodah was far and wide renowned

 

No rain nor hail, no sleet or snow would deter him from his morning routine

At 5:00 a.m. when the masses still slept he’d slip away mostly unseen

Up until 48 hours before You deemed to reclaim his holy soul

He carried on his daily shiur and minyan and was faithful to his passionate goal

 

It was on Erev Shabbos, Parshas Vayeshev quite a telling sign

The parsha teaches that a tzaddik’s focus is on the bottom line

Maasim tovim defined the life of Yaakov our eminent patriarch

As was our own dear father’s life’s ambition – with which he made his mark

 

How apropos (as You well know) that chof-daled Kislev memorializes the day

Of the Chanukas HaBayis of the Beis Hamikdash, our acutely yearned-for mainstay

On Erev Chanukah You summoned our Tatty to ascend on high to ignite

The Chanukah candles in Gan Eden … and with our dear mother there to unite

 

It was close to two whole years since he’d abandoned motivation

To take delight in life’s small joys as he had before their separation

It broke our hearts to witness our dear father’s world turning dark

Life without his Aishes Chayil had simply lost its glowing spark

 

A bittersweet end to an era – not easy for us children left behind

But You, Ribono shel Olam are HaMakom menachem and indefinably kind

You are the Healer of the brokenhearted, the Father of orphans and more

We await the great light at the end of all eras when perfection You will restore….

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/for-the-shloshim-of-yaakov-tovia-ben-boruch-altman-and-second-yahrzeit-of-sara-bas-bentzion-harnik/2010/01/15/

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