This week’s perashah relates about Yaakov Avinu’s confrontation with his brother Esav, and the prelude to this historic meeting. Yaakov was very worried, since he knew that Esav was waiting to take revenge for receiving “his” blessings from their father Yitzchak. Eventually though, when they finally met up, Esav’s feelings of mercy were aroused and he kissed Yaakov and wept on him. Then, the verse (Vayishlach 33:5) states that Esav noticed Yaakov’s wives and children. Astounded, he asked: “What are all these people to you?” to which Yaakov answered: “They are who G-d has graced your servant.” By his choice of words, Yaakov Avinu was teaching us a great lesson: A man’s wife and children are not given to him because he rightfully deserves it, but rather, his wife and children are presents, given out of G-d’s graciousness.
Similarly, we find concerning Moshe Rabenu who stayed on Mount Sinai for forty days, in order to learn the Torah. Even within this time frame, it was impossible for him, with his limited human intellect, to fully grasp the divine will as defined in the Torah. Therefore, the verse states that at the end of this period G-d graced Moshe with the understanding of the Torah as a present, in the same way as a bride is given to her groom.
Essentially, a man’s wife is a gift to him that he does not deserve in his own right. When a man appreciates this fact, he will learn to
cherish his wife, love her, take care of her and take pride in her being associated with him. A person who humbles himself and realises that really he does not deserve anything, and all that he has is by the graciousness of G-d, will not find it difficult telling his wife that “she is the best present he has ever received.”
Furthermore, G-d in His munificence, besides giving men their wives as a gift, also prepares the spouses in their formative years so that they should be compatible to each other.
The Medrash relates how Rabi Yosi Bar Chalafta once told an aristocratic Roman lady that G-d, having finished creating the world, now involves Himself with making shidduchim – matching up couples. The Roman lady did not understand what was so difficult about doing that, and why it was necessary for G-d to be involved in it. She was convinced that she could do the job just as well. She took a thousand male servants and a thousand female servants and paired them up as spouses. The next day, however, a lot of them came to her with broken bones and others injuries, complaining about their incompatibility with their partners. She then understood that there was more than that, to matching up couples successfully. G-d arranges that every girl is born specifically to her parents, within her family set-up, receives her particular education, and has her unique trials and tribulations. These are “tailor-made” for her to become a suitable helping-hand for her future husband. Who could have designed such a perfect gift, if not G-d Himself! This is the Divine present with which every married man is endowed.
The more we appreciate that our wives are a present to us, granted by the graciousness of G-d, we will come to expect less from them and to appreciate them as they are.