By Five Towns Marriage Initiative

The pasuk in Parashas Chukkas tells us, “Therefore the moshlim will say, Come to Cheshbon and let it be built and established as a city for Sichon because a fire went out from Cheshbon and a flame from the city of Sichon and ate the skin of Moav.” Rashi says that the moshlim are the storytellers. The Gemara in Bava Basra 78b asks what this pasuk is here for. Why do we care what storytellers will say?

R’ Shmuel bar Nachmani explains the pasuk to mean that the word “moshlim” really refers to those who rule over their yetzer ha’ra. The pasuk would then read that those who rule over their inclination will say, “Come to cheshbon,” meaning, calculate what you lose by doing a mitzvah against the great reward you will achieve from doing the mitzvah, and weigh the gain of sinning against the terrible punishment that comes in the wake of sin.

If a person makes these calculations, then it will be “built and established” for him, meaning it will be good for him, in this world and the next. If someone makes himself like “ir sichon,” a city that falls for sweet talk and allows himself to be bought by flattery, then it will be like a fire that goes out from cheshbon, from those who make the proper calculations about life, and it will consume those who don’t approach life in a deliberate manner.

The Gemara comes to explain all of life based on this pasuk, finding how the wording alludes to the importance of approaching our lives with an attitude of measuring, weighing, and focusing on what is truly important. This is an attitude that should and can be found in our marriages too. We should deal with life’s issues in a measured manner, not allowing ourselves to be sold on sweet talk and flattery. When we fall and do what’s wrong, it’s because we allow the voice of the evil inclination to cajole us into going against our better senses.

The Gemara testifies that falling to our evil inclination can only lead to destruction. A person who acts in a thoughtful, deliberate manner, taking all angles into account, keeping track of how each person will be affected by what he does, how each situation will play out based on his current actions, and how he is doing what’s right for the greater good even if it involves incurring some kind of loss of energy, money, time, etc., this is the person who lives a life with a “cheshbon.” Nothing he does is simply happenstance, “just because,” or on a whim. He does what he should because he is commanded to do so and because it’s the right thing to do.

This kind of person makes for a great spouse, because she surely will treat her husband well, as that is what she is commanded to do. Moreover, together with such a person there is potential to bring the marriage to where it is supposed to go, to make it a vehicle for spreading G‑dliness in the world. Such a person who lives his life with a “cheshbon” will most likely influence his spouse and children to follow in his path, gaining peace, happiness, and eternity for them all. 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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