Ki Tisa 5770

March 2, 2010

8 min read


Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

GOOD MORNING! My good friend and colleague, Rabbi Steve Baars, is the director of the Aish Branches in and around Washington, D.C. He is also the creative genius who has developed the multi-part Bliss Seminar ( to help married couples enjoy bliss in their marriages. I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the wisdom I learned from Rabbi Baars's first Bliss seminar dealing with expectations in marriage. By the way, get six couples together and ask for the Bliss seminar from your local Aish rabbi!

An estimated 50% of marriages end in divorce. This does not mean that the other 50% are living in bliss - many marriages stay together for the sake of the kids or have settled for mediocrity after giving up hope. They have a greater tolerance for pain, like the person in the dentist's chair who can have a cavity drilled without Novocain.

Part of being a great parent is being a great spouse. We want the best for our children; we spend big money for their education and their health care so that they can have the greatest advantages in life. If we want them to have happy marriages, they can only learn it by example. We must strive for happy marriages - if not for our own happiness, then at least for the sake of the children! We don't want them to have to go through divorce and custody battles - either from our failed marriage or from their own failed marriages.

The problem is that many people don't think that bliss is possible in marriage. They have settled for living with the pain. Before Roger Bannister ran the 4 minute mile, everyone told him it was impossible. Within 2 weeks, according to an article I read, 11 others ran faster than 4 minutes. It was never a physical barrier, only a mental barrier. People will only strive for things they think they can achieve!

Children are a gift from the Almighty to teach us that we can have a no-ego relationship. You don't hear a parent say, "I'm not getting anything from this relationship" about his child. With children we know it's hard work and we have little expectation of anything in return. If a child made dinner for you, you'd be thrilled! You would tell everyone you know! One's spouse makes dinner every night, but do we stop to take pleasure in it and to say thank you? We take things for granted. When it comes to parenting, we are into giving. No one is waiting to get anything from their children. We can apply the same outlook to our marriage.

With our children we are into the success mode - if our child has a problem, we will leave no stone unturned to fix that problem. Alan Dershowitz took a year off from work to search and ultimately find a cure after the doctor declared that his child had terminal cancer. We need to have the same commitment to our spouse and to our marriage!

With our children we can forgive and forget. A kid can embarrass us in public, tell us that they don't love us, not pick up their dirty clothing, but we move on and don't dwell on it. People say in marriage be careful of what you say, because you can forgive, but it's never forgotten. (One person told me that when he does something wrong his wife gets all historical. I asked, "You mean hysterical?" He replied, "No, historical - she tells me everything I ever did wrong!). However, we do have the capacity to forgive and forget with our spouse.

Expectations are what destroy a relationship. We are taught in our youth by Hollywood that we will fall in love, our Prince Charming will come (or we will happen across our Sleeping Beauty) and then we will live happily ever after. It ain't so! Just like when you bring a baby home from the hospital, then the work begins; when one graduates from college, he doesn't just get a big pay check - he has to work and to build to reap rewards. And after one gets married, then, too, the work begins!

Once we realize this, we can see that what we get out of the relationship has VERY LITTLE to do with the other person, but everything to do with our expectations! No one is perfect (including you!) Our job is to help our spouse to grow and to accomplish; to encourage and assist. Marriage is about giving, not taking. If we focus on our own obligation to give and not on what we think we should be getting, there will be more marital bliss!

Did your spouse ever do anything that made you think, "Maybe I should get a divorce?" Did your child ever do anything that made you think, "Maybe I should look into adoption?" Just because of difficulties, we don't put our kids up for adoption. The essence of marriage is commitment. Have the same commitment to your spouse as you do to your child!

Is there ever a time for a divorce? Yes. However, if one has gangrene on his hand, he doesn't immediately tell the doctor to cut it off; first, he asks him to cure it. If all else fails, then the doctor amputates. Our spouse is a part of us; we must have the same commitment as to our hand.

Focus on the pleasure you have from your spouse, not the difficulties. Appreciate what your spouse does. Don't have expectations. Stay together not for the children, but for the bliss!

For more on "Marriage" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tisa

The Torah portion includes: instructions for taking a census (by each person donating a half shekel); instructions to make the Washstand, Anointing Oil, and The Incense for the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary; appointing Betzalel and Oholiab to head up the architects and craftsmen for the Mishkan; a special commandment forbidding the building of the Mishkan on Shabbat (people might have thought that they would be allowed to violate the Shabbat to do a mitzvah ...).

The Torah portion continues with the infamous story of the Golden Calf. The people wrongly calculated that Moses was late in coming down from Mt. Sinai and the people were already seeking a replacement for him by making the Golden Calf (there is a big lesson in patience for us here). Moses sees them dancing around the calf and in anger breaks the Two Tablets; he then punishes the 3,000 wrongdoers (less than .1% of the 3 million people), pleads to God not to wipe out the people, requests to see the Divine Glory, and receives the second set of Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And in the heart of each person who had a wise heart I have given wisdom" (Exodus 31:6).

Why does the Torah make having a wise heart a prerequisite for the Almighty granting wisdom?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, former Rosh Hayeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva, teaches that from here we see that a person needs wisdom to merit acquiring wisdom. What is this wisdom? It is the heartfelt desire for more wisdom!

We can have a picture of what this desire is from the desire of Haman (in the Purim story) for honor. He was second to the king in power and the entire population of 127 countries bowed to him. Nevertheless, when Mordechai refused to bow down to him, he said that all his honor was as nothing since he was missing one person's honor. So, too, a person who has a deep love of wisdom feels a strong lack for any wisdom he is missing. When you have this love for wisdom, the Almighty will give you greater wisdom!


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With Deep Appreciation to

Bob and Zivia Gill


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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