By Devora Krasnianski for COLlive
This is the second Pesach that Shneur and Rochel are making at home. For the first years of their marriage, they alternated between her parents and his parents. While her parents’ level of chumros were not quite the way her was used to, out of respect to his in-laws, he didn’t say anything and tried his best to keep to his own chumros.
Last year, Rochel prepared food the way she was used to, using family recipes. For this year, Shneur wants to bring his family to the standards that he grew up with, and perhaps add a few more chumros.
Similar story with a slight variation:
Mendy is learning about minhagim and chumros of Pesach. He really wants to keep Pesach at that level starting this year. His wife Leah is not quite as enthralled as he is, as it entails much more work than she feels ready for.
Both Shneur and Mendy have spent some time going through their own thought-process of studying and reviewing the chumros and minhagim that they now want to incorporate into their family’s Pesach.
Rochel and Leah have not been on that journey. Understandably, they are on a different timetable of bringing on more chumros than their spouse; or, they may not be interested at all.
Most likely, the desired change will be met with some resistance on their part. Particularly, if the chumros are more related to the domains of the spouse not in favor of the changes, the resistance will be stronger. Some examples might be in areas of preparing meals, trips on Chol Hamoed, working on Chol Hamoed, etc.
Shalom Bayis, as a direct mitzvah from the Torah is paramount. Chumros and minhagim are just that – chumros and minhagim (stringencies and customs). If one spouse is not quite ready to take on the chumros, the Shalom Bayis should not be jeopardized. How one introduces these new ideas can make all the difference. And even then, the desired chumros just may not happen in their home. One absolutely should not demand, or even expect, a total overhaul.
As Rabbi Yosef Heller said in a speech, “In Seforim it is written, that the same way excessive measures are taken in eliminating all chometz (each with his own chumros), so too all means of removing behaviors of anger, conflict, and opposition must be employed.
“Just like chometz, these are forbidden, even in the slightest form. … One should not keep hiddurim at the family’s expense, destroying the atmosphere at home or ruining the enjoyment of Yom Tov. ”
How each spouse asks for, or responds to, a requested change can say a lot about their respect for each other. Ideally, there is a mutual respect and appreciation of the other, and such topics are explained and discussed. Concerns, insights and alternatives are explored. Commands, demands, nagging, forcing, threatening are signs of dysfunction or even controlling attitudes and behaviors.
In the context of a respectful relationship, one might ask “I hope you can do this for me” or “This is important to me. I know you are not keen on it. Can we do it anyway, even if it is a reluctant ‘yes’? I will do my best to make it as easy as possible.” “I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I feel that for our family’s spiritual growth, this might be something we ought to consider.” And an appropriate response might be: “Interesting, please help me understand your journey and how you got to this point.”
1. Humor and positivity.
Focus on the positive; don’t criticize or belittle. “What we were doing until now is wonderful, I am hoping that we can up it a little. I know it may not be easy and it will probably be a bit harder, but maybe we can have fun with it.” Just get the conversation started. Don’t expect or demand agreement when the idea is first introduced.
2. Timing is crucial.
The mood has to be right. And there has to be adequate time to make adjustments if the change is agreed upon. New recipes have to be procured; new utensils might have to be bought.
3. Show your commitment.
Walk the talk. If it is new recipes with less ingredients or new ways of washing the dishes, be prepared to actually do the work. You might take on the chumra only for yourself without imposing on others. That is, you might cook one loaf of gefilte fish without sugar, or make a potato kugel with schmaltz instead of oil. Or use your own set of plates and cutlery, and wash them separately.
When others observe your genuine desire to really bring this into your home, they will likely (possibly) support you as a sign of respect. “This is really important to me. I will do it, so you don’t have to. But I do wish we can do it together.”
4. Remove obstacles.
Buy the related gadgets or cookbooks that might make the work easier. Caveat: Do not buy the gadgets and expect that now that it is somewhat easier, you can just demand that the change be incorporated into your home; that is manipulative.
5. One change at a time.
Expect slow change to make the transition easier. One chumra at a time. If all goes well, perhaps you can discuss together about bringing on another chumra.
Your marriage, your family, and your family’s enjoyment and appreciation of Yom Tov are most important. Adding chumras should only increase that enjoyment and appreciation and never diminish it.