At every moment of each day, we are making decisions about what is most important to us. What gets to the top of the list can be very telling about where our priorities lie. Last week, I was the focus of a story published in one of the weekly magazines by my famous cousin, Rabbi Nachman Seltzer. About a year ago, I was organizing a big Shabbaton for teens at a large mansion. It took a lot of work, and I had to raise some real dollars to make it happen. By Thursday night, close to Shabbos, I was still $1,500 short and I needed to make more calls to raise the balance. It was 10:40pm, I had just finished giving my late evening parsha shiur, and my wife called to ask me to get some missing items for Shabbos from the grocery store.
The timing was not the best! But I made the call – my wife takes priority. I got all she asked for and right at the checkout line, I met a person I had wanted to ask to contribute to the Shabbaton. He gave me a check for the whole balance on the spot!
As I told this story later on, someone else offered to help pay for the next Shabbaton. Amazing dividends resulted from my helping my wife with the shopping! And now, after this story was published in the magazine a week ago, I expected more of the same. It didn’t quite happen…yet. But I did get a call asking me about the mansion for a family vacation! And much more importantly, a lady called me saying that now, when she asks her husband for help, he jumps up and says, “I’ll take care of it! Rabbi Bodenheim taught me what to do!”
The ability to create harmony in a couple, Shalom Bayis, is a fantastic accomplishment – even better than obtaining sponsors for a Shabbaton! And similarly, building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was all about bringing the presence of Hashem into this world — to create a closeness and intimacy between Him and His people. While we unfortunately don’t have a Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash today, we nevertheless have the ability to bring down Hashem’s presence through Shalom Bayis.
The Gemara Sotah (17a) highlights the words for Man and Woman – Ish and Isha. There are two different letters in these similar words: “Yud” in ish and “Heh” in isha. These two letters together spell out Hashem’s name, and Rebbi Akiva concludes, “When there is peace and harmony between a man and his wife, then the presence of Hashem rests between them.”
That is such a powerful statement! Rebbi Akiva is teaching that a harmonious home is literally the resting place of Hashem. A peaceful house is a current-day Mishkan!
Further, the presence of Hashem is especially felt on Shabbos. Three major vessels in the Mishkan were the Menorah, the Shulchan and the Mizbeach. Our lighting Shabbos candles corresponds to the lit candles of the Menorah. The tasty challah we serve on Shabbos corresponds to the Shulchan with its 12 fresh loaves of challah. The delicious food we serve to our families and guests on Shabbos corresponds to the offering of korbonos (sacrifices) on the Mizbeach. In addition, The Nesivos Shalom says that we wear our nicest clothing on Shabbos to emulate the kohanim, who wore their special clothing in the Beis HaMikdash. And of course, the need for continuous Torah study corresponds to the Aron (ark) inside the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies), which contained the luchos (tablets).
Every Friday afternoon, the Satan knows Shabbos is coming and Hashem’s presence will be deeply felt when there is harmony between husband and wife. That’s why the Satan instills moments of tension on Fridays, hoping to create discord and friction. Our job is to anticipate this mischief by planning ahead, getting the cleaning done earlier, and having everything ready in plenty of time to ensure the sparks of tension can’t even light.
Indeed, my wife’s grandmother would have the table set for Shabbos by Thursday night, and by noon on Friday, the challah, chicken, soup etc. were all done! The house was clean and the smell of Shabbos delicacies wafted across the home Shabbos entered in sweet harmony.
It takes work. It takes planning. But the payoff of a harmonious home is truly priceless. It’s akin to having the Mishkan here with us. Wishing