By Five Towns Marriage Initiative

This week’s parashah is Vayishlach. The pasuk says that Yaakov arrived in the city of Shechem, and, upon pitching his tent, he set up an altar for Hashem (Bereshis 33:18-20). The Meshech Chochmah compares this pasuk to what we learned in Lech Lecha, when Avraham built a tent for his wife, then he built one for himself, and then he went and made an altar for Hashem. On the other hand, when Yaakov went and made an altar for Hashem, it was before pitching a tent for his wives. The Meshech Chochmah says that for this reason Yaakov was punished that his daughter Dina was defiled by Shechem.

From this Meshech Chochmah we can learn about prioritizing. In this situation, Yaakov’s priorities were skewed. While Avraham went and took care to make sure his wife was settled and comfortable before pitching his own tent, and certainly before building an altar for Hashem, Yaakov did not do so. As soon as he pitched his tent he went ahead and built an altar, neglecting to prioritize properly. While serving Hashem is of the utmost importance, a husband has an obligation to his wife, and he must be mindful of it.

There was a man who was on his way to shul when he saw a woman struggling to carry a handful of shopping bags to her car. He pulled over and jumped out to help her. As he got closer, he saw it was his wife. She looked all excited to see him, but with a wave of his hand he said, “Bye, I am on my way to Shacharis” and he hopped back into the car and drove off.

There is a balance of priorities that is important to get right. A husband has obligations as a husband and also as a servant of G‑d. Finding the proper medium between the two is where Yaakov erred, and it is up to us to get it right. Yes, we must go to shul, and that’s usually not optional. Nor should we skip lighting Chanukah candles in the proper manner. At the same time, we can take out the garbage for our spouses even while running to shul, or stop for a second to say hello before making a beeline for the menorah. Neglecting to notice our spouses and their needs does not have to be part of the equation when it comes to serving G‑d. There is a way to do both, and do both well. We should merit to succeed in making our spouses feel noticed and cared for, while simultaneously serving G‑d in a total and complete manner. 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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