Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Being Amongst the People Gittin 7 Psychology of the Daf

Our Gemara on 6b and 7a tells us about how to give instruction and guidance during the hectic time preceding the arrival of Shabbos: 

אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה: הָא דְּאָמְרִי רַבָּנַן: שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים צָרִיךְ אָדָם לוֹמַר בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ עֶרֶב שַׁבָּת עִם חֲשֵׁיכָה: עִשַּׂרְתֶּם? עֵרַבְתֶּם? הַדְלִיקוּ אֶת הַנֵּר! צָרִיךְ לְמֵימְרִינְהוּ בְּנִיחוּתָא, כִּי הֵיכִי דְּלִיקַבְּלוּ מִינֵּיהּ

Rabba bar bar Ḥana said a halakha with regard to this statement that the Sages said: There are three matters a person must say in his home on Shabbos eve at nightfall. He should ask the members of his household: Have you tithed the produce that required tithing? Have you placed the eiruv for joining the courtyards? If you have already done so, light the lamp in honor of Shabbat. Rabba bar bar Ḥana said that one must say them with calmness so that they will accept instruction from him. 

The Maharam comments on the choice of words,  בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתוֹ in his home. This implies a certain humility, as if he is talking to himself as opposed to giving orders. Following the Maharam’s attention to this phrase, it occurs to me that we can develop it  further, by noticing how a similar phrase is used in Tanach. When Elisha asks the Shunamite woman if there is anything he can do for her out of gratitude, perhaps take a concern of hers to the king (Melachim II:4:13), she replies enigmatically, “I dwell amongst my people.” It is difficult to fully interpret that phrase, though on a simple level, it seems that she is saying, “I do not need any special consideration, I am just a person of the people.”

Bas Ayin (Bamidbar 22) seems to understand her intentions and character in that light. He explains that the Levites literally, and figuratively dwelled amongst people. The word Levi itself means to be attached as we find the Matriarch Leah stating (Bereishis 30:34):

וַתַּ֣הַר עוֹד֮ וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּן֒ וַתֹּ֗אמֶר עַתָּ֤ה הַפַּ֙עַם֙ יִלָּוֶ֤ה אִישִׁי֙ אֵלַ֔י כִּֽי־יָלַ֥דְתִּי ל֖וֹ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה בָנִ֑ים עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמ֖וֹ לֵוִֽי׃

Again she conceived and bore a son and declared, “This time my husband will become attached to me, for I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi.

Bas Ayin goes on to explain that it is not a coincidence that the Levites or also the teachers of Torah to the Jewish people. Knowledge itself is a form of attachment. (We can understand this as follows: we are most similar to God in our possession of intellect. The more we become attached to the fundamental truth and principles of the Torah, the more we become attached to God Himself.) Thus it is the Levites who exemplify attachment, and dwell among the people who also exemplify knowledge and teaching others wisdom.

This informs us that as parents and teachers, like the protagonist in our Gemara, who is pressured by the stresses of Erev Shabbos, our instruction and guidance must come from being emotionally present and with the people of our home. This is why these instructions must be said gently.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.
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