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Home » Family Life, Marriage, Pinchas

Pinchas: Marriage Counseling

Submitted by on July 9, 2006 – 4:37 amNo Comment | 2,765 views

A Tale of Two Dilemmas

A husband and wife once came to a rabbi to consult on a family matter.

The husband explained that he loves his wife, but takes her for granted. Her little gestures of love don’t move him. Her, “I love you” notes, her, “thinking of you” gifts and her surprise lunches leave him uninspired. He neither appreciates nor expresses gratitude for them. In fact, he has come to expect them as a matter of course.

The wife presented a different problem. She loves her husband and appreciates all he does for her, but he is not her highest priority. She sees him as just one more concern on her busy list of concerns. She is committed to her career, family, social life and, among other things, her husband. If he desires her attention when she is busy with something else she expects him to wait his turn.

The rabbi replied that their problem was emblematic of the difficulties we experience in our spiritual relationship with G-d.

The Ritual Mixture

The Torah portion that we read this week delineates the ancient practices of Shabbat and the Jewish festivals. (1) One of the interesting concepts related to a festival that falls on a Friday is the Eiruv Tavshilin, the ritual mixture of foods. (2)

Jewish law permits cooking and baking during festivals, provided that the food is eaten on the day that it is cooked. It is forbidden to cook food during the festival that will be eaten the next day. However, on festivals that fall on Friday we are given special dispensation to cook for Shabbat as long as we perform the mixture of foods ritual.

We take two food items, one baked and one cooked, on the day before the festival begins. We raise them aloft and declare that these food items are reserved for Shabbat.

The Talmudic sages offered two explanations for this ritual. Rabbi Ashi explained that its purpose was to safeguard the festival. The dispensation to cook during a festival that falls on Friday might lead us to erroneously extend such license to all festivals, irrespective of its day of week, which would, in turn, lead to the denigration of all festivals. (3)

The mixed food ritual reinforces our reverence for the festival. It reminds us that without the ritual we would be forbidden to prepare food during the festival that would be eaten the next day even ifthe next day were Shabbat. A fortiori when the next day were not Shabbat.

Rava opined that its purpose was to safeguard the Shabbat. We are concerned that all delicacies prepared before the festival might be eaten during the festival, leaving no delicacies for Shabbat. We therefore reserve (at least) these foods in honor of Shabbat.

The Difference

Rabbi Ashi was concerned with preventing a denigration of the festival’s sanctity.  Rava seemed satisfied that the festival would not be denigrated. He was concerned that the festivities would distract us from the upcoming Shabbat. He therefore sought to ensure that the Shabbat would be enhanced through delicacies and fine dining.

Familiarity and Distraction

“These two approaches are reflected in our general approach to religion and they also provide the solutions to your personal dilemmas,” the rabbi explained.

When Jews neglect their ritual observance, familiarity and distraction are often to blame.

  1. When we relax our reverence toward religion we grow lax in our observance. The rituals become familiar and routine rather than novel and unique, a burden rather than a privilege and we neglect them. Similar to the husband whose familiarity with his wife drives him to take her for granted and neglect her.
  2. There are Jews who revere the tradition, but focus too much on one ritual. They invest so much in that ritual that they have little time left for others. Analogous to the wife who loves her husband, but makes no time for him when she is busy with other concerns.

The Rabbi’s Advice

The Rabbi then advised the husband, taking his cue from Rabbi Ashi. The rabbi instructed him to work alongside his wife on the various tasks marriage counseling - innerstreamaround the house and to avoid asking her for anything that he has not already done at least once himself.

Only when he understood the enormity of her workload would he appreciate how meaningful it is that she take time out of her day to express her love for him. He would stop taking her love for granted and learn to be grateful.

This is similar to Rabbi Ashi’s view that our behavior reinforces our reverence. By preparing at least some food in advance of the festival we learn to appreciate the sanctity of the festival and the severity of cooking during the festival.

The Rabbi then turned to the wife taking his cue from Rava. The rabbi advised her to book special appointments with her husband at the beginning of each month and to keep them regardless of pressing concerns. This would help her regard her husband above her other concerns and not allow them to distract her from him.

This is similar to Rava’s view. Reserve special delicacies for Shabbat before the festival begins and don’t eat these delicacies regardless of arising needs. The will help us  regard Shabbat above all else and not permit the festival to distract us from our Shabbat celebrations.

Who are They?

You may be wondering about the identity of that husband and wife. The truth is, it is you and I. You and I also struggle with these issues in our relationship with G-d. We too require counseling. Thankfully our Talmudic luminaries offered sage advice that we can apply to our relationship with G-d. (4)


  1. Numbers 28.
  2. Yad Hachazakah, laws of the festivals, 6: 5.
  3. Babylonian Talmud, Beitzah, 15b.
  4. This essay is based on Likutei Sichos, v. XVI, p. 183-191.