Monday, March 17, 2008

Russell Crowe and Shalom Bayis

Last night my husband and I saw a "little train that could" film directed by Ron Howard called "Cinderella Man". The film was well done, albeit only relatively tznius, not to mention stereotypically negative in its portrayal of "half-Jewish" (i.e. not) Max Baer, who is the boxer against which our hero Jimmy Braddock (read nice Irish Catholic) must prevail. On solely those terms, I would definitely not recommend the movie to my frummie frumstein friends.

However, the film did a good job of portraying Jimmy's devotion to his wife and family; they are the force that drives him during his boxing career, with each purse meaning the children can eat their fill that evening. And, even rarer, we see that Jimmy's wife supports him in his endeavours despite her understandable fears that her husband could end up permanently damaged or worse.

Watching the movie, I was touched by the realistic portrayal of a devoted husband and wife. How refreshing to find, despite the film's other ideological shortcomings, a cinematic portrayal of a traditional family, where the man is the provider and his wife a homemaker and no excuses are made. In fact, what I liked best about the movie was the fact that the love that they had for each other was based on mutual respect, pride, and support. Here were two people who came together and became a true team, time and again putting the other person first, and never losing sight of the good qualities in the other. Now that is a Torahdikk perspective of love and marriage! And why can we not see that more often in films, versus scene after scene of men and women demeaning themselves and each other in a host of ways?

So the film in its own way ended up being a triumph of some fundamental Torah values. On our very first date, I told my husband that being "in love" is very nice and good, but not a replacement for "real" love, which develops over time and is based on respect and kindness. Despite having been undeniably smitten when we married, I still hold by that statement. That is what I enjoyed about this movie and what it reminded me.

Often we get caught up in a routine, and while taharat hamispacha certainly helps, couples can get into a rut where they lose sight of how they feel about their spouse. A sense of duty comes to inform everything, actions are done out of rote, and while duty and routine can prove satisfying to a degree, in the end resentment can build. We can lose sights of ourselves, our needs, and our spouses in the process.

I therefore propose a suggestion and challenge to myself and all of you readers out there. Let's try our best to focus for a few moments a day on who our spouses are and their positive traits. Let's remind ourselves why they are worthy of our respect and devotion. In doing so, we can help bolster Shalom Bayis. And, as we all well know, while Shalom Bayis requires a concerted, continuous effort on the part of both spouses, when we perpetuate Shalom Bayis, Hashem smiles upon us.

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