Hassidic Rabbis who adored their wives By Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Once the Baal Shem Tov asked a visitor to stop in Mezritch on his way home and give regards to Rabbi Dov Ber. When the person came to Rabbi Dov Ber's house, he couldn't believe its dilapidated state. When he went inside, he was even more shocked at the poverty that he found.
After giving regards from the Baal Shem Tov, the man said; "Rabbi, I am not a wealthy man, yet, at home, I have a decent table, chairs, and beds. How can you live like this?"
Rabbi Dov Ber looked at him, smiled and replied, "You said, 'at home you have everything you need'. Surely at home one should have all the necessities... I too, have at home all that I need!" By this he referred to his wife, for her love was all he needed to be at home, as the Talmud says, “His home means his wife.” (Yoma 2a) The Talmud also states, “blessing enters a house only because of the wife.” (Bava Metzia 59a)
This is why after his wife died the Baal Shem Tov said, “I thought I could rise to heaven in a whirlwind like Elijah, but now that I am only half a body this is no longer possible.”
When Rabbi Hirsh returned from his wife’s funeral he was overheard saying to himself, “Up to now I was able to experience God’s presence here on earth through marriage. Now I shall have to experience God’s presence directly.” Two weeks later he died.
How did Rabbi Hirsh experience God’s presence through marriage? The Jewish mystics taught that the Shekeenah- the feminine presence of God rests upon a man who makes love to his wife on Shabbat. Actually the Shekeenah can rest on a man whenever he makes love to his wife with a sense of reverence, tenderness, adoration and love. The Shabbat adds holiness and chosenness to these feelings. The key attitude is a sense of wonder and gratefulness that his wife is God’s gift, the chosen source of his blessings, and the most wonderful manifestation of God’s presence as it says, “Who can find a capable wife? Her value is far above jewels. Her husband can trust her completely.” (Proverbs 31:10)
If, in addition to this attitude, he also makes love to his wife with the intention of unifying the heavenly realm as he unifies the earthly one, he and his wife enact a great Tikun- a spiritual mending or uplifting. This Tikun is woven together with other similar Tikunim into a crown for the Divine One Himself who also unites with His Shekeenah on Shabbat and Yom Tov holydays. Just as the prayers proclaimed in each Synagogue are woven into a crown for the Holy One of Israel, so too is the holy unification of each couple married with the seven blessings under the Hupah woven into a crown as it says, “A capable wife is her husband’s crown.” (Proverbs 12:4)
Who says our rabbis weren’t romantic?