By Five Towns Marriage Initiative

Three malachim, angels, come to our forefather Avraham. In the course of the visit, there is a conversation between Avraham and the malachim that many of the commentators find puzzling. The malachim ask Avraham, “Ayeih Sarah ishtecha,” “Where is your wife Sarah?” And Avraham answers, “Hineih ba’ohel,” “Behold: in the tent” (Bereishis 18:9). The puzzling part is that the angels knew Sarah was in the tent, so why ask Avraham where she was?

Rashi explains that the malachim asked Avraham this question in order to point out that she was a tzanua, a modest women, which would endear her to Avraham. This episode is told about our forefather Avraham, a righteous person who was almost 100 years old and had been married to his wife for decades. Yet the Torah finds it important to quote this conversation in which his wife is complimented before him in order that she would be endeared to him.

The lesson that can be learned from this is tremendous. Every marriage, no matter how strong and how long, can benefit from a boost. Compliments are an effective way to boost a person in the eyes of their spouse. A compliment strengthens the image of a positive trait that a person possesses. When you compliment someone on their kindness, it strengthens the knowledge that they are a kind person. The verbal recognition that your spouse has a positive trait creates a warm feeling that you are married to a person who is kind, helpful, encouraging, capable, and accomplished.

Even a compliment from one spouse to the other can create that feeling. When a spouse verbalizes a compliment, it has an impact, even though they are saying the words themselves.

In addition, it is very beneficial to tell over to your spouse a compliment you received about them. “Mrs. X mentioned how her husband really appreciated your giving him a ride when his car was in the shop.”

An additional lesson that can be learned is that it is important to boost others in the eyes of their partner. It takes very little to compliment a friend or community member on something their spouse did. “My husband really appreciated how your husband took the effort to arrange that job interview for him.” “My wife was really touched by your wife sending over dinner last week after our baby was born.” While it may seem like a little thing, it can have a large impact on a relationship.

Let us try to both compliment our partner sincerely and go out of our way to compliment others. May Hashem help us recognize and appreciate the good in our spouses and to be able to help others do the same. v

Five Towns Marriage Initiative provides educational programs, workshops, and referrals to top marriage therapists. FTMI will help offset counseling costs when necessary and also runs an anonymous shalom bayis hotline for the entire community Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, 10:00—11:00 p.m. For the hotline or for more information, call 516-430- 5280 or e-mail

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