On Sunday evening, December 30, Rabbi Simantov Yanetz, rav of the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Briarwood, greeted a packed audience at the Young Israel of Briarwood that came to hear a lecture co-sponsored by Chazaq about shalom bayis. Rabbi Yanetz spoke briefly about the service and the activities that are taking place in the shul, and how, baruch Hashem, the community is growing in all aspects.
Dr. Cohen’s speech was filled with stories, divrei Torah, and lots of practical advice and guidance for shalom bayis.
He began with a story of a kallah who lost a valuable ring that she received from her husband’s grandmother. This caused ill-will between her and her husband’s parents. Her husband bought a duplicate ring and said it was his fault the ring was lost because (he claimed) he found it in his pocket. He didn’t tell his wife that he had bought a new ring, and she disparaged him for years for being careless. He took this silently so there would be shalom with his wife and his family. This was an example of someone really going out of his way to give to his spouse.
Dr. Cohen stated, “If you have your GPS set in the right direction, then Hashem looks out for you.” The right direction is strong belief that Hashem can change your situation at any moment. He shared, “I teach my students that not only can Hashem change the situation, but we should thank Hashem for everything including the problems.” He explained a teaching of Rabbi Shalom Arush about the incredible power of gratitude to change a situation. There is a story Rabbi Arush shared about a woman who was not able to have children. Rabbi Arush advised her to thank Hashem every day for a certain amount of time for this challenge. She was able to rise to the level of thanking Hashem for this difficulty with a whole heart and eventually she was blessed with six children. Rabbi Arush’s book, Say “Thank You” and See Miracles is filled with amazing stories like this. Dr. Cohen shared a story that happened to him. A nurse, who happened to have the same last name as his, took his credit card without permission and spent $40,000 on it. He was forced to go to court because the bank was suing him for the money. He kept thanking Hashem for the difficulty. Amazingly, the lawyer for the bank didn’t show up and his case was dismissed. He taught that Hashem wants your attention. When you say thank you for the problems, then you are accepting that all Hashem does is for the best. You are acknowledging that Hashem runs your life perfectly with no mistake. He taught that when you can do this, Hashem takes away the difficulty.
He then delved into shalom bayis issues. We need to realize, he taught, that we cannot change our spouse. The only one we can work on and change is ourselves. When I work on myself and ask myself how I can improve, the reward is growth both for me and for my marriage.
He pointed out that the Hebrew word for man is Adam which means ground. Just as the ground has potential for growth, each person has potential for growth. He stated, “I am not limited. My job in this world is to work on myself – to improve and grow.”
With a potential spouse, it is important to determine his or her goals. He shared that, “Religion is the connection – the glue.” It is generally more difficult in a marriage when the woman is less religious than the man. On the other hand, a woman can bring the man up to higher religious standards.
He taught that disagreement in marriage is a challenge, and couples need to learn how to communicate and how to deal with disagreement. “Successful couples love each other despite disagreements.” Couples must be willing to work together. They must learn the art of compromise. It’s important to try to see the other person’s point of view. A person can win a fight and lose the war. In this scenario, the person will end up divorced and unhappy. He said it is an American disease to “have to win.”
“What makes a happy marriage is how you deal with incompatibility. How do you deal when there are differences?” It’s important to talk things out. He said that too many people go into a marriage unprepared to commit, and unwilling to compromise, and to devote themselves to make someone else happy. It is a problem if a person is unwilling to bend.
He shared how there was a relative of a young man who was concerned that he was too young to get married. She asked Dr. Cohen to discourage him from starting to date. Dr. Cohen asked this man why he wanted to marry, and he said I am ready to give. I want to give.
Dr. Cohen said that this is what it’s all about. This man is now happily married.
A problem today is people focusing on making themselves happy. Marriage is learning to give, to care, to share, and to think about the needs of your spouse.
He advised those not married yet, “Don’t look for the great person. Rather, become the great person. Raise the bar. Focus on you becoming the right person. You will then be the magnet for the right one. Marriage,” he taught, “is not about keeping score. It’s about unconditional giving.” He added, “it’s great to marry someone you love, but it’s more important to love the person you marry.” His message was that it is up to us to make our marriage happy. He taught, “Marriage is a contract. A relationship is work. Your purpose is to make your marriage as strong and loving as possible. Concentrate on your spouse’s good qualities.”
He shared that it is important to learn regular s’darim with musar books. “The key is to look for good in everything.”
He has seen that often when there are shalom bayis issues, one partner has a problem with self-esteem and the other partner abuses this.
He taught that each partner must have healthy self-esteem to accept the other. Value yourself and think positively about yourself and your abilities and value your opinions. Don’t talk down about yourself. Don’t point out your flaws. Also, you need to validate your spouse’s feelings. Keep growing and developing your skills. A way to develop self-esteem is to find what you are good at and to spend time doing it. Lack of self-esteem will eat away at the fabric of the marriage.
He shared an acronym – TLC – which stands for “talk, listen, and care.” “Communication,” he shared, “is so important! It is the root of a good marriage.” He pointed out that if couples can talk about issues, then they can live peacefully.
If something is bothering your spouse, ask questions. Show that you realize that he is upset. He noted that all couples go through hard times and good times. Focus on the good times, so that when difficulties crop up you can open the bank of good memories and feed off those good memories for a long time.
Avoid criticism and negative communication. Men need to feel respect and women need to feel he cares and he listens.
Compliments are fuel. They are so important. “Teach your spouse what makes you happy.” He continued: “Communicate your thoughts and frustrations and desires. Your spouse is your best friend. Show him or her appreciation. They need to hear it.”
He also advised to share responsibilities. Running a house is a big job. Work together. Neither one is a slave.
He quipped, “Remember, you married her. You didn’t hire her.”
He added that love is not a feeling, it is an action. “Giving in is not weakness. It takes strength of character.”
Dr. Cohen can be reached for private consultations at 305-206-1916.
By Susie Garber