Beshalach: The Look of Love
A young man came to me complaining bitterly that his wife didn't love him or respect him. He asked my advice as to what he should do...
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
"This is my God and I will honor Him with adornment..." (Exodus 15:2)
How can you tell if a person really loves someone?
Two indications show that a person's heart glows with love for someone: first, he wants to spend as much time as possible with the one he loves; second, he wants to look his absolute best for the one he loves. Imagine (if you're not married yet) or remember (if you are happily married) how you groomed yourself (or would groom yourself) on a date when you proposed to (or expected to be proposed to from) the person whom you dreamed to spend the rest of your life with. The better you looked showed how important the date was to you.
The same goes for a good income, for everyone loves success and an ample livelihood. A person who is about to meet an important prospective client or customer makes every effort to look his very best and to make the best possible impression. The more that the meeting is critically important to a person, the greater effort he or she makes to appear their very best.
A young man came to me complaining bitterly that his wife didn't love him or respect him. He asked my advice as to what he should do. Without being too graphic, it was difficult to stand too close to the young man, for he had extreme halitosis as if he couldn't afford a tube of toothpaste. He was clouded in miasma that made standing in his presence a more than difficult challenge. The fact that he obviously didn't bathe or change clothes on a daily (weekly?) basis was secondary to his slovenly appearance and tertiary to his terrible posture and his protruding midsection. I asked the young man how old he was and how long he's been married – he told me that he's 28 and that he got married six years ago. I also discovered a few more facts, namely, that he had trouble getting up in the morning, had been kicked out of several kollels and had no income because no one was willing to hire him. Would anyone on earth be surprised that a wife doesn't love such and respect such a man? It was a major miracle that she didn't walk out on him...
Without going into the psychological aspect of why this young man was so unkempt and his screaming lack of self esteem, I took an emuna approach and asked if he had prayed and put on tefillin that morning. He said yes, of course. I asked him if he believed in Hashem; he answered, “What am I putting tefillin on for if I don't believe in Hashem?”
I asked him to imagine that he wasn't married and that tonight he had a date with the girl of his dreams. “Would you meet the amazing young lady dressed as you are, with traces of last Shabbat's horseradish on your shirtsleeves and fried garlic on your breath?”
“She would have to accept me for the way I am,” he replied.
“Then that's not the girl of your dreams” I countered. “How did you look when you dated your wife?” I knew the answer already, for no woman on planet earth would accept him “as is”.
“I was fifty pounds lighter, in better shape and I was doing great in yeshiva back then. But the pressures of kollel, making ends meet and a nagging wife caused me to start smoking. I get my solace in cola and donuts...”
The young man had checked out of life after having fallen behind on his rent and flunking several exams in kollel. He didn't turn to Hashem for help because, despite his yeshiva upbringing, he didn't believe in Hashem. He didn't realize that all his difficulties in life were all for the best, gifts from a loving Father in Heaven who wanted him to learn real emuna.
“And the night you proposed to her, you most likely wore a new suit, a clean or brand new white shirt, and your shoes shined like mirrors. You also showered with your best shampoo and body-wash, and not just with a bar of soap. After you brushed your teeth, you used a good mouthwash too. Maybe you did a few sets of pushups before you showered to make yourself look pumped up. One thing is sure – you wanted her badly and you didn't say, 'Take me as is.'”
“Yeah, but I never imagined back then what living with her would be like.”
I quoted from The Garden of Peace and told him that she simply mirrors him. She doesn't love and respect him because he doesn't love and respect Hashem. He protested and claimed that I was mistaken. I called his attention to the fact that he went to synagogue and put on tefillin that morning “as is” and asked, “Is meeting the King of kings any less important that a date with an attractive young lady? If you really believed that Hashem was right there with you, you'd have showered, gone to mikva and put on clean clothes before you meet Him. If you really believed in the holiness of tefillin, you wouldn't have put it on your arms and head “as is”...
The message sunk in, thanks to Hashem's mercy on the young man, and he asked me for an entire rehab program. I gave him one, including proper hygiene, grooming, eating and exercise, but most important, dressing up daily for a private date with Hashem – speaking to Him in his own words and strengthening his emuna to the extent that he truly feels that Hashem is right there with Him. Once he learns to love Hashem for real, he'll never have another slovenly day in his life, neither spiritual nor material. What's more, his wife will love him too.
Let's ask ourselves: do we really love Hashem? Do we look forward to spending time with Him? Do we want Him with us always? Do we honor Him by “adorning ourselves” - looking our very best for Him and performing His commandments in the most beautiful way? That's the look of true love – loving Hashem.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.