The Shabbath Queen and Women: The Daughters of a King
By Rabbanith Ruth Menashe
Friday, as we know, is an unusually challenging day. Somehow, we (almost all of us) find ourselves racing against time till the very last minute. It almost seems like an ongoing struggle to arrive at candle lighting on time and relaxed.
Our sages teach us that whenever we engage ourselves in performing an important commandment, the negative forces in the world become intensified as well. What is the reason for this? Any time we are involved in a spiritual act, thereby increasing our connection with our Creator, these forces serve as an obstacle, attempting to prevent us from doing our holy work.
Rabbenu the Hida, (Hakham Hayyim Yoseph Dawid Azoulay) writes that Friday afternoon is a time when arguments and fights between husband and wife are prone to occur. In addition, the “Sitra Ahara” (Lit. the other side [Satan]) toils to initiate strife in the home and, therefore, one must consciously suppress one’s inclination to create controversy and must instead, seek peace.
The Ben Ish Hai writes that when a person is in the midst of a quarrel with one’s spouse, each one strongly feels that they are in the right. We must realize that this is the work of the Satan, who tries to create strife in the home, and was not done intentionally by our spouses or our children. Therefore, he advises that a sensible person must be aware of this and not fall into the trap that was prepared for him by Satan, but rather keep quiet. The Ben Ish Hai says that we must ask ourselves: “Is there anybody who can fight Satan and win?”
These words speak for themselves. First and foremost, we women, must develop an awareness to different incidents which represent the work of these negative forces. Haven’t we all (nearly all of us), experienced this on the eve of Shabbath? Don’t we, at times, fall victims to the work of Satan who is waiting for us to stumble?
There is a story mentioned in the Gemara in tractate Nedarim (66b) of a man who moved to the Land of Israel from Babylon. Since there were some semantic differences in the Aramaic languages spoken in the land of Israel and Babylon, some misunderstandings arose between this man and his wife. He asked her to cook some lentils for him, and she cooked him two lentils, misinterpreting his words. When he asked her for two watermelons, she understood his request was asking for two lamps. He then told his wife to break them on the door (Baba in Aramaic) of the yard, she took the two lamps and broke them on the head of a Hakham (Rabbi) named Baba!
The Ben Ish Hai poses the question, why was it necessary for this story to be included by the Hakhamim (Sages) of the Talmud, to which he replies with the following: the story was brought down in the Gemara to teach us a lesson. We must learn the importance of exercising patience and tolerance. We can easily imagine the husband losing his temper and responding with anger. However, he should be praised for controlling himself and keeping silent.
The Ben Ish Hai quotes another story from the Gemara in Tractate Gittin (52a), this time about a couple who were constantly fighting every Friday afternoon and falling into the trap prepared for them by the Satan. Rabbi Meir worked with them for three weeks before he succeeded in making peace between them. At that point he heard the Satan saying, “Woe is to me, Rabbi Meir threw me out of their house.” The Ben Ish Hai concludes, that when we create strife and arguments we strengthen the power of the Satan. When we bring peace and harmony into our home, we chase the Satan away.
My dear friends, don’t we all want a home built on the foundations of love, peace and harmony? Don’t we all pray for the G-dly Presence (Shekhina) to rest upon our home? We must remember that we all have the ability within us to bring tranquility and harmony into our home and that we are the masters of peace making. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the importance of this task. It requires continuous work, effort and commitment to perfect our middoth (character traits). Let us raise our level of patience, sensitivity, and judge others favorably and, with the help of the Holy One Blessed Be He, create a miniature Beth Hammiqdash (temple) in our own homes.
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- Ruth Menashe: http://www.midrash.org/personalities2/rabbanith-ruth-menashe