From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
Today is the hillulah (yahrzeit) for Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai zya”a, when many ascend to his grave in Meron, to pray and merit salvations.
So let us understand a story that involved Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai zya”a and from it may we learn and understand how to merit shalom bayit and children.
In the Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba (Ch. 1, and in the Pesikta of Rav Kehana Ch. 22), it is related that about a person from the city of Tzidon, who married a woman according to halacha (kedat Moshe and v’Yisrael). He lived with her for 18 years and they didn’t merit to have children. They both came to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai and requested that they divorce, each going their separate ways according to halacha by having a get (bill of divorce)
Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai said to them, just as you got married with a chuppah and kiddushin, with food and drink and a great seudah, so you should not part from one another until you make a seudah with food and drink and afterwards we shall arrange a get and you may separate from one another. The couple agreed and that evening made a great seudah just like the day of the chuppah. During the seudah the husband said to his wife, “I allow you to take one item from the home as a memory, choose whatever you wish and take it with you to your father’s house.”
During the seudah the wife served her husband intoxicating drink until he became drunk and fell asleep. Then she requested from the servants to carry him in his bed to her father’s house. And so they did. In the middle of the night the husband awoke from his drunken state and he discovered himself in a house that was not his own. He immediately asked where he was? His wife said to him, “You are in my father’s house.” “Why am I here and not in my own home?” Asked the husband. His wife answered him, “You told me that I may take one item as a memory and I chose to take you!”
The husband accepted the response and in the morning they both went to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai. He heard the story and prayed for them. They returned home in peace and after nine months merited to a newborn son.
And so the question is asked, why did Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai request of them that they make a seudah and only afterwards prayed for them to merit children? Why didn’t he immediately pray for them when they first came to his home and told him that they wished to divorce? What was the purpose of the seudah?
The answer to this is that a prayer for shalom bayit and children can only take effect when there is a genuine desire for true shalom bayit and there is correct love, kinship, peace and friendship. However, when the couple only view each other in negative light, there is no place for the berachah to take effect. Therefore when they requested to divorce Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai found no place for a prayer for shalom bayit and children. Only after they made a joint seudah and they remembered the day of the chuppah, their minds forged a closeness. Then the husband asked his wife that she take something to remember from the home, and from everything that was in the home all that she wanted was her husband. And so here they revealed the appropriate perspective that each person should have regarding their fellow, the love and kinship between them, despite their difficult situation that they had not merited to sons and daughters.
In these moments, there is a place for Hashem’s beracha to take effect! This is what Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai did and blessed them at an opportune moment. Indeed, the blessing was received, and they merited to children and shalom bayit.
Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai taught us that if we wish to merit to shalom bayit and children, the first condition and foundation is love and kinship, peace and friendship, that each person should “see the virtues of his fellows and not their faults” [this is from the prayer authored by Rebbi Elimelech of Lizhensk ztz”l 1717-1787], that each person should speak in an upright and appropriate manner and no enmity should arise from one person towards another, G-d-for-bid. Amen.