I was listening to a shiur / Lecture of Rabbi Meir Eliyahu (in Hebrew) on the subject of Improving Personal Character traits (הרב מאיר אליהו | תיקון המידות שלך | משכן יהודה – התשפ״ב) . He talked about a small pamphlet he picked up in Florida on Kiruv / to motivate a person to do teshuva. He said the pamphlet talked about Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t know the story. But apparently – Alice ate a mushroom. Then she fell asleep. When she woke up – she saw a cat. The cat asked her “Where do you want to go? – right or left.” She responded “I don’t know.” The cat then said to her “If you don’t know where you want to go – any path will get you there.”
That was the message – that if a person has no goal, or objective in life he or she will follow any path and apparently get to no where special. If a person has goals – it will help them to achieve in life.
The Torah provides many mitzvot (commandments) for Jews (613 commandments) and Non-Jews. (7 Noahaide Laws). These laws allow a person to achieve several things – a pleasant life – the ways of Torah are ways of pleasantness. A life of connection to oneself, to others and G-d. A life of meaning. A life that has purpose and where one achieves purpose. Rabbi Eliyahu mentions that in a Sefer / of the Vilna Gaon – he says that the purpose of life is to break one’s character traits. If a person is an angry person – G-d wants him or her to become a more calm person. If they are stingy – they are to work on becoming more generous.
My Rebbe used to say – a person’s mind should control his heart – not the other way around. The way of Torah is of Peace.
So now you know. Your goal – break those bad character traits. Assure peace in the Home. Try to act pleasant.
Rabbi Eliyahu said that one who yields to the will of others (in things not against Torah) will live longer. It makes logical sense – because he or she will let things slide, let it pass, not take it personally – and live a less stressful life. But also Has-m will grant the person a longer life. In the Zohar – Rav Krospedai died. He, a great scholar, told the heavenly court – he was cut off in the prime of his life, he had much more correcting to do. He wanted to come back in the same body. They granted him his wish. Why? Because he was Maavir al Midotav – he “passed over his character traits” – ie, he let things go. He held no grudges. He forgave and forgot.
Ok – so where is that enemy?
The Torah teaches us of our greatest enemy. It is an enemy that wants our destruction in this world and the next. He is the snake. He is that voice in your head – telling you “don’t take that from your spouse”, “answer them back”, “put them back in their place” and the such to create quarrel – not peace. We call it the “Yetzer HaRa'” / the evil inclination.
Everyone has one. The greater the person the greater the Yetzer. Before this entity was a physical snake. When Hava / Eve and Adam ate from the tree of Knowledge it became ingrained in her and him.
So now you have an enemy – the Yetzer HaRa. Your wife has the same enemy – the Yetzer HaRa’. Think of this – let’s say you had an acquaintance that was a family acquaintance. He or she would come to your house. When your wife would have a qualm – they would rile her up and add fuel to the fire. When you were upset – they would do the same to you to escalate the heated exchange to higher heights.
The smart person would not get angry at their spouse. They would kick that acquaintance out of the house. Your new option – don’t get back at your spouse – kick the Yetzer HaRa’ out of the house – your mind. He/She instigates – you cool things down. He tells you get angry – you think “If I answer her/him back – I will not have peace for 10 hours. (or more) I might as well swallow my pride and do something more productive with my time.”
Hash-m also gave us the Yetzer HaTov – Good inclination – telling you “calm down”, “be patient”, “this will also pass”, “say something to calm things down”, “create peace”.The idea is to listen to the Yetzer HaTov – not the Yetzer HaRa’.