Shalom Bayit

shalom bayit by Avrum Ashery

Shalom [shuh-lohm] bayit [buy-eet] (Hebrew: ‘peace of the home’) is the Jewish religious concept of domestic harmony and good relations between husband and wife. In a Jewish court of law, shalom bayit is the Hebrew term for ‘marital reconciliation.’

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, Jews have held an ideal standard for Jewish family life that is manifested in the term shalom bayit. Shalom bayit signifies completeness, wholeness, and fulfillment. Hence, the ideal Jewish marriage is characterized by peace, nurturing, respect, and ‘chesed’ (roughly meaning ‘kindness,’ more accurately ‘loving-kindness’), through which a married couple becomes complete. The Jewish religion advocates that God’s presence dwells in a pure and loving home.

In Jewish culture, a marriage is described as a ‘match made in heaven,’ and is treated as a holy enterprise. For example, the Jewish betrothal ceremony is referred to in classical rabbinic literature as Kiddushin (meaning hallowing / sanctification / consecration). By declaring the marriage union sacred, a couple stands sanctified before God. It is in a relationship where both husband and wife recognize each other as creations in God’s image and treat each other accordingly that true sanctity emanates forth. Moreover, this sanctity of the marital union reminds the Jewish husband and wife to express their holiness through marriage and to build a home based on mutual love, respect, and chesed.

The greatest praise the Talmudic rabbis offered to any woman was that given to a wife that fulfils the wishes of her husband. The husband too was expected to love his wife as much as he loves himself, and honour her more than he honours himself; indeed, one who honours his wife was said, by the classical rabbis, to be rewarded with wealth. Similarly, a husband was expected to discuss with his wife any worldly matters that might arise in his life. Tough love was frowned upon; the Talmud forbids a husband from being overbearing to his household, and domestic abuse by him was also condemned. It was said of a wife that God counts her tears.

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