Friday, August 10, 2007

Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - The Two Who Truly Know You

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

The Chidushei HaRim once told one of his chassidim, "There are only two who truly know you: Hashem and your wife." After you asked your wife whether all the Torah you learned over the past year had contributed into making you into a better person, or whether he had just remained the same, what did she reply? In what areas did she note that you excelled and in which areas did she note that you needed improvement?

Dixie Yid answers:

I asked my wife this question and it started a serious conversation. Her response was to say that she marked her impressions of me from the time we moved into our current neighborhood, about 3 years ago. She said that, on the positive side, she felt proud that I had become more disciplined, in that I was (almost always) getting up at 4 AM for my regular sedorim of learning before davening and going off to work. Also, she was happy that I was improving in things that I had previously become lax in like attending mincha and ma'ariv with a minyan regularly. She was happy that I was taking other steps one-by-one like doing the bedside neigel vassar and saying Krias Shema al Hamita with hamapil. She thought that I had become better at helping her and the kids and that I did virtually nothing for myself, but rather herself and the kids.

On the other hand, she could only come up with one point in which she felt I had gotten worse. And that is that she felt that I had gotten more impatient and was losing my temper more easily with the children, though she was not sure this was not partially due to my recent efforts at repairing my previous laxness in discipline with the children. She has complained recently that I leave virtually all of the discipline to her, making her out to the be bad guy... But that's another story.

This was basically the substance of our conversation in response to A Simple Jew's question. And all of that leads me to one inescapable conclusion. I have difficulty in believing the truth of the Chiddushei HaRim's statement as it applies to me! Perhaps with certain types of bad midos and behaviors, it may be true that the natural victim who takes the brunt of those things, or who sees you in the privacy of your own home, is the wife. And I heard it told over that at the levaya of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, z"tl, his widow cried out, "Guf Kadosh! Guf Kadosh!" Certainly no one could have known of that Tzadik's personal Kedusha more than his own wife, which she testified to with her heartfelt cries. However, I don't think that this applies to all types of faults.

"לֵב--יוֹדֵעַ, מָרַּת נַפְשׁוֹ" (Mishlei 14:10) Paraphrasing: Only a person's own heart knows the bitterness of his soul. Only I know about the fact that I have virtually no self-control when it comes to ta'avos. To give a benign example or two, if I'm shopping and I want a soda when leaving the grocery store because they cleverly place them right there as you're going into the checkout line, I buy one regardless of whether I need a drink or not, simply because I want one. Another example: If I think of something that I would like to know, I instantly look it up online, even at work without waiting for my lunch break. Also, my wife does not know the extent of my laziness and other bad traits. The point is that I don't think the Chiddushei HaRim's statements applies to all kinds of faults.

Therefore, in my very humble opinion, I think one should not allow his wife's good opinion of him to lull him into a feeling of complacency about his spiritual standing!


At August 10, 2007 at 12:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point! You got me thinking, and I have to say that although my wife knows me better than anyone else, there remain areas that she dosn't necessarily know me that well, and where her opinion might be off.
Yet, I think the Chaddishei HaRims's vort is generally true and has validity: Generally speaking, our wives see us without the facade that we put on in the street or at work, they know us for who we are based on constant association and through all of our moods. They can see our strengths and weeknesses and with our gaurd down, like most others can't.

However, only HKB"H is boichen kloyos v'lev...

At August 10, 2007 at 1:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Quite true. Wives do see many things others don't but not everything and not every type of thing.

-Dixie Yid

At August 10, 2007 at 1:08:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"לֵב--יוֹדֵעַ, מָרַּת נַפְשׁוֹ"
That's why Pyasetchner Rebe says, that there is no better mechanech for a person than himself!

A gut Shabes!

At August 11, 2007 at 7:26:00 PM EDT, Blogger G.P. said...

looking in the mirror and G-d are what truly knows us. Spouses no matter how well they know us look thru both their AND our filter

GP in Montana

At August 12, 2007 at 1:21:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Very honestly answered. In regard to being impatient I am very similar. Since I left communal work and entered the 'secular' workforce well over a year ago, my wife has commented the I, too, have lost my patience with our children.

There are a few things that I try to keep in mind:
a) Anything that involves me and my kids is an opportunity for chinuch.
b) My kids pick up on everything I do (good/bad middos)
c) Even if I lose my cool and raise my voice to one of my kids, kick myself for it later that night, have trouble sleeeping, even shed a tear (on occasion) kids still love me (at this point in life) and forget much more quickly about how I acted towards them

As I aside, prior to reading your post I was shopping and almost bought a Diet Mountain Dew (impulse by). I stopped myself, this time. Each victory may be small but it adds up.
By the same token, since that sk8border fell 40 feet during the X-Games, I have been tempted to go into the Ska8board shop that I drive by daily. I have a similar tiyvah with music. Since Purim I haven't listened to the radio in my car during my commute. The urge to listen to what's being played on the local alternative station is very powerful for me. I'm not tzaddik. The fuse that powers the speakers in my car blew right before Purim. At this point I have just chosen NOT to replace the fuse. Of course I also have no horn, but that's a totally separtate post.

Do our wives really know us?
Mine does, all too well. She can tell right away when I blog about a topic that I should practice vs something that I'm working on currently.

At August 12, 2007 at 12:19:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same advice by R. Steinsatz, p. 141 of On The Road With R. Stensaltz, by A. Kurzweil, Josey-Bass 2002.

At August 12, 2007 at 12:33:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

However, I agree with you. The following is only a generalization.

Women are no always able to perceive inner change; they often measure religiousity by externals, such as going to shiurim, making minyan etc. These things are important but are not a good way to assess 'avodah shebalev". This may have changed from the previous generatiosn due to our Beis Yakov education and old advice is no longer very valid. In addition, they often may be caught up in their emotional reaction at the time that you ask and not be accurate in what they say. In other words, they perceive well but not necessarily analyze well.
I do find that over a long period of time, they can accurately perceive inner change. One should ask: "How have I changed since you married me?", rather than, "over the last year".
It is true that a wife is accessable and honest. Therefore she is an invaluable, if not infallable, source for feedback.

Bottom line: Access with care.


At August 12, 2007 at 7:11:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

You wrote "...if I'm shopping and I want a soda when leaving the grocery store..."

Were you always like that growing up or is a "since I became frum" thing?

At August 13, 2007 at 7:19:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Avakesh: Very good. That is where I initially got the idea for this question!

At August 13, 2007 at 12:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Avakesh, agreed. I wouldn't have atributed it to women's education though. My wife certainly never had a Bais Yaakov education, having grown up in a very nice but Chiloni home.


I wasn't like that as much growing up with the sodas and the like. In my parents house, there wasn't much in the way of splurge buying of snacks, etc. It's something that I picked up on after being married. I have certainly not become better in every way since being single... Oy!

-Dixie Yid

At August 13, 2007 at 11:37:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Thanks. I was curious if you felt that by buying a can of soda, you were 'reliving' the freedom to drink whatever you felt like having (pre-Kashrus days).

I often will go out of my way to shop at Trader Joes simply b/c there are so many 'normal' items under a hechsher that I almost feel like a 'regular person'.

At August 17, 2007 at 3:37:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil, don't sell yourself short; you're probably going because TJ's has specific products you like that the average store doesn't carry.


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