Smart Rebbetzin

Friday, 5 May, 2017 - 6:42 am


Dear Friends,

He is a busy and well-respected rabbi, devoting his entire time to the public, to his important congregation. Everyone – adults and children, the weak and the strong, women and men – know that they will find a listening ear in his office, and much willingness to help.

“Josh called this morning,” his wife wrote to him. “He will be in town tonight and will come over at 8:00 pm to visit us.” Josh is a wealthy and respectable person, who also has a generous heart and donates willingly and generously to the rabbi’s activities. Such a message, first thing in the morning, made him happy. He also realized that this is an opportunity that does not arise every day, and that he must prepare properly. “We ought to make sure that the children go to sleep early tonight. And please make your wonderful strudel. It’s a very important meeting,” he wrote back to his wife.

The rabbi came home earlier than usual that day. He was there during the hectic time of supper, showers and bedtime. By 7:30 the house was quiet. His wife went out for a few moments to the store, and he set the table, putting out the inviting strudel. At 8:00, on the dot, the doorbell rang. Spruced up and wearing a tie, he opened the door, calling out a hearty “Bruchim Haba’im!” (Welcome!). But, to his surprise, it was not Josh who was standing there, but his wife, the Rebbetzin, also elegantly dressed, who said, smiling a trifle shyly, “Josh won’t come. Josh didn’t even call. It’s only me. I just wanted to have a meeting with you.”

He understood the point immediately. With his heart filled with a mixture of shame and pain, as well as with inner joy that he had such a wise wife. She had found the way to explain to him that in addition to the congregation and the important public he serves, he also has a dear wife, who spends most of the time waiting.

“And he will atone for himself and for his household and for all the congregation of Yisrael.” This is what the Torah says at the beginning of this week’s Parasha, when describing the service and the mitzvahs of the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur. Yes – in those words. On Yom Kippur the Cohen is busy caring for the Jewish People. On his shoulders rests an entire nation, which is looking up to him and praying for his success, that he should achieve forgiveness and atonement for everyone; that he should succeed in his task so that all of them will be sealed in the Book of Life for good, healthy lives. Everyone is fasting, himself included. They are all outside of the Beit HaMikdash, and he goes in in order to atone for them, for his brothers and sisters, men, women and children, his people. And precisely during those great moments, precisely when he is busy with the most important service of the year, the Torah tells him in the clearest way possible: there are priorities in life. Atone for yourself, and then for you wife and children, and only afterwards atone for the rest of the Jewish People.

Chazal said in tractate Yoma, (44b): “and he will atone for himself and for his household and for all the congregation of Israel – his atonement comes before his household’s atonement. His household’s atonement comes before the atonement of his brothers, the Cohanim. And the atonement for his brothers the Cohanim comes before the atonement for the entire Jewish People.” On the first page of tractate Yoma it says, “And he will atone for himself and for his household – his household means his wife.”

To express it more simply: a person who wants to save a sinking ship, must first of all make sure that his ship is very stable, otherwise he will drown with everyone else.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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