The Torah narrates to us how Almighty G-d informed Sarah our matriarch at the age of 90 that she was going to give birth to a son. Her response was laughter and disbelief. How can someone who is 90 years old give birth, she said, and in addition, my husband is old and therefore not capable of fathering a child.
When Almighty G-d confronted Avraham our patriarch regarding Sarah’s response, He changed the content of the dialogue that He had had with Sarah and instead told Avraham only that Sarah had said that she was too old, leaving out the crucial part that she had also said that her husband was too old. On this our Sages comment, “How great is shalom bayit, peace in the home, for even Almighty G-d distorted the truth so that there would be shalom bayit in Avraham and Sarah’s home.” Central to our religion is the importance of family. Thus the ends the Torah is willing to go to so as to ensure its viability.
The Torah also contains the law of sotah, a woman who ostensibly was not loyal to her husband and was warned not to cohort with a certain male individual. When she disobeyed she was taken to Jerusalem and there was forced to drink the “bitter waters.” According to the Torah, if she was guilty of the crime she would die a terrible, agonizing death, and if she was innocent she would return home and would become very fruitful. As an integral part of the ceremony, the kohen would write the ineffable name of G-d on parchment and insert it into the waters that she would drink, thus in essence erasing the name of G-d. On this our Sages comment again: Great is the importance of shalom bayit, that even the ineffable name of G-d could be erased so that there would be peace in the home.
Without getting into the meaning of the law of sotah, which is at best difficult to understand, and which the Talmud states was abolished by our Sages, it does demonstrate the great importance of peace in one’s home.
The bottom line from these two instances and a host of different statements by our Sages throughout the Talmud is that shalom bayit is essential, and apparently one can lie or even erase the name of G-d to achieve this.
Today, all over the world and especially in the United States, there are varying opinions on politics – who is qualified to serve and who is not. Parents, children, and brothers and sisters have literally separated and refused to even speak to each other if their political views differ. The result: a breakdown of the family and of shalom bayit.
My brothers and sisters have views on politics and religion that are so vastly different from each other’s. However, we have a steadfast rule that when we get together, we only focus on family and the love we have for each other. No politics and no religion are permitted to be discussed. Shalom bayit takes precedence over all else.
In my home no one is permitted to talk politics at our Shabbat table. For what is the purpose? No one will change their views, and certainly our views will not have any impact or influence on what will be happening in the real world. It is more important to have shalom bayit than to engage in a stupid and meaningless conversation on who will win the election or who is a better candidate.
Families must take stock of what is really important in their lives and take the necessary steps to stress the importance of shalom bayit. Family is central to the lives of Jews, and this must be our primary goal to achieve above all else.