Updated: Sep 8
When going forward in our spiritual journey, we always look upwards to those who have already traveled our path, and reached further. While we don’t have to copy everything they did, they serve to inspire, guide and enlighten us because everything in life has purpose, no matter how small.
These are obviously the Tzaddikim who, through their incredible self-sacrifice, reached incredible heights and had a truly close relationship with Hashem.
The sages, in Moed Katan 16B, teach us that Hashem rules the world, but who rules over Him? – They ask. The answer is that the Tzaddik, with his fear of God rules over Him. Hashem decrees and the Tzaddik can cancel it. The Tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfils it.
We see that, not only does the Creator has high regard for Tzaddikim, he even honors them and cares fortheir honor more than His own! A person might sin his entire life, live in a degraded manner, insult God (not recommended), and not be punished at all (at least in this world). But one who slights a Tzaddik is sure to meet some drastic misfortune soon.
Once a certain resident from the building of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called him for the periodic meeting that all residents had to attend. Busy with his studies as always, Rabbi Ovadia told his assistant to say he couldn’t come. The resident kept insisting until finally Rabbi Ovadia came down and sat for an entire hour in a useless meeting. When the meeting was over, he said goodbye to everyone and left. The resident who dragged him however, was stuck to his chair and couldn’t get out. He cried desperately for help but his legs wouldn’t move. Finally, the assistant told him it was very possible because he slighted Rabbi Ovadia’s honor and should apologise. When the resident apologised he was able to get up again.
How do we connect to Tzaddikim? The Arizal explains in many places we can do that by visiting his Kever (grave), and following his customs. Another way is by studying his works, in which case one should have the intention to bound to the soul of the Tzaddik. This can give tremendous power. We can also celebrate their date of passing with a festive meal in their honor as, for them, leaving this world is actually a happy occasion, as we explained in other articles.
Few people know however that Tzaddikim reached their awesome heights through incredibly harsh tests. We just don’t see them. For us, the Tzaddik seems to go from level to level, never stopping and never faltering. One ascent after anther. But the truth is that even they have their difficult times. And, in many cases, we see that they had huge issues in Shalom Bayit (home relationships, with their spouses).
It’s known that the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz Zt”l) had a stormy relationship with his wife, to say the least. Nevertheless, he is considered to be the epitome of how a man should treat his wife. Always speaking with respect and trying his best to avoid angering her, the Chazon Ish also helped her manage the family shop when he was too tired to study. But, like many other Tzaddikim, he endured his tribulations with love. This is actually one of the ways to break the cycle of judgment that sometimes hovers over a person.
The Arizal taught us that men were endowed with more spiritual inspiration (or “Mochin”, mentalities) than women. This is in light with the dictum of the sages that “women’s da’at is light”. Da’at is a composite of many ideas but basically means “mental or conscious resilience”. The woman necessarily receives a large portion of her spiritual inspiration from her husband.
As such, just like the sun needs to shine to the moon, so too a man needs to shine to his wife, and his wife only. The rabbis were very harsh in revealing what happens to a man who slights his wife’s honor or makes her cry.
A man has the obligation to treat his wife in a superb manner and to always look for ways to cheer her up. In doing so he also reaches his rectification. Not only that but he himself is endowed further with even more Mochin from above. The sages have stated in many places that blessing comes to the home by merit of the wife. If the wife is happy, and there’s peace in the home, then nothing is lacking.
As a result, a wife will naturally respect her husband if she sees he has true fear of Heaven. Rashi explained it beautifully in the verse of Genesis that Hashem says “I will make a help against him.”. If he’s worthy, she will be a help, if not, she will be against him. Unless, of course, we are talking about some exceptionally select individuals among Tzaddikim, who have a completely different Divine Providence, but that’s an analysis for another article. Most people will have happy marriages if the husband is doing his work.
It pays to remember that once Condolezza Rice asked a certain Rabbi “how do you know when a man is holy?”. The answer was very simple: “I ask his wife”.
Marriage is thus the greatest spiritual arena, where a man is tested the most. Succeeding in it is a lifetime struggle, but one that ultimately defines who’s a Tzaddik or not.
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!