Creating a Peaceful Home: A Conversation with Ruchi Koval
The home is where we nourish and receive nourishment. It’s where we learn about acceptance, forgiveness, and second chances. It’s where we receive physical and verbal expressions of love that give us so much of our self-esteem. When we experience Shalom Bayit, which means peace in the home and family harmony, we can positively contribute to the outside world. In this interview, JWRP Trip Leader Ruchi Koval shares strategies for apologizing effectively, as well as modeling harmonious behavior to our children.
Why is Shalom Bayit a Jewish value?
In Judaism, “shalom,” which means peace, completion, and wholeness, is one of G-d’s names. Pursuing peaceful relationships with our family is a prerequisite for living a life of Jewish values. In fact, in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), a series of Jewish teachings, Rabbi Hillel says: “Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them close to Torah." In order to live a full Jewish life, we must first get along with our loved ones.
What is one way that Judaism encourages Shalom Bayit?
During the Jewish holidays of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot, the Torah instructs us to “be happy.” Rabbis explain that the husband should receive meat and wine, the wife should receive clothing and jewelry, and the children should receive treats and sweets. While the specific gifts that we give each other may differ, Judaism emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one another’s happiness.
How can apologizing impact Shalom Bayit, and what are effective strategies for doing so?
The closer you are to someone, the greater the capacity for making mistakes and hurting each other — whether you do so intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, apologizing and forgiving are necessary ingredients in family relationships. Judaism teaches that there is a correct way to apologize. Say what you did wrong. Consider that the goal of your apology is the other person’s forgiveness. Show remorse. And make an effort not to repeat the same mistake again. Sometimes you may apologize sincerely, but the person wronged will not be ready to forgive you. Judaism teaches that you may apologize three times in three different places. After that, you are exonerated, even if the other person hasn’t accepted your apology.
What does a strong relationship with one’s children look like in Judaism?
As Jewish parents, we are responsible for shamelessly transmitting our values even when society and their peers may have opposing views. We must also be there for our children emotionally and physically even when it’s not convenient for us. At the same time, we need to give our children space to fly, to experience their own journeys, and to make their own mistakes.
What are some activities that can actively help us model Shalom Bayit to our children?
First, spend time alone with your spouse. Go out to dinner for a few hours and reconnect as a couple. Don’t talk about your problems or your stress. Discuss the topics you loved to talk about while dating — ideas, feelings, interesting books that you read, funny conversations from work, and your hopes and dreams for the future. When we share more of ourselves with one another, we can fall in love again and again. Also, don’t be afraid to let your children see you and your spouse argue in front of them. This will teach them that couples disagree, and show them healthy ways for navigating conflicts. Finally, put your partner first — and make sure your children see you doing that. For example, greet your spouse at the door each day. By consistently treating your partner well, you can make a very deep impression on your children.
What are strategies for dealing with obstacles to peace in our homes?
Conflicts will always pop up. If we have a sense of humbleness and self-awareness, we can use these as opportunities for growth. Be open about what you need to work on, and what your spouse needs to work on, too. In an emotionally healthy environment, these strategies will engender more positivity and a greater mutual commitment to growth and improvement.