As I mourn the passing of my dear Rebbetzin and life-mate, Miriam Libby, my mind wanders down memory lane to all of the wonderful experiences we had together. The posuk says “V’hachai yitein el libo – [When someone passes] the living should take it to heart.” This means that it is greatly beneficial to reflect upon the good character and good deeds of a righteous deceased. For, by learning from their behavior, not only do we better ourselves, we also bring an aliya, a spiritual boost, to the soul of the deceased. Much has been said about how my beloved wife had the crown of the good name and that she was a unique chesed personality, and that everyone was her best friend. But, I think one of the greatest lessons we can learn from her exemplary life is the way she put me, her husband, first.
In seminary classes that I teach, I tell the girls that Rav Pam, Zt”l, Zy”a, would say that the reason why the bride walks around the groom seven times under the chupah is to say that from then on he is the center of her universe. My dear wife lived up to this lofty mission. Many a chesed personality falls into the trap of getting wrapped up in their exciting chesed pursuits and neglects their spouse and their children. My Rebbetzin was skillful at never falling into this pitfall even though the accolades and the communal applause are not garnered for what is done behind closed doors. She knew her priorities.
The Gemora tells us in Masechtas Sukkah that at the Simchas Beis HaShoevah, the water drawing festival in the Temple, great sages would juggle eight cups of wine or eight sharp knives. It begs the question: Since when do our venerable Torah sages do circus acts in front of the masses? But the demonstration was to depict that one has to juggle all of one’s priorities correctly to succeed in life. To my Rebbetzin, it was crystal clear that charity starts at home. So before I regale you (in future articles) with amazing stories of how she helped others, and was there for the down trodden and the sick, the elderly and the lonely, let me share with you for our personal betterment little tidbits of how she was a wonderful wife.
She used to tell our married children, when you go shopping make sure at the top of your list is what your spouse wants so that you’re sure not to forget it.
I’m not sure if it was up to her she would have taken a Shabbos afternoon nap. She had such a zest for life that she wouldn’t have wanted to miss a second of Shabbos afternoon. But, since I took a nap, she took a nap with me.
She was by nature a morning person but since I had late night shiurim and many times did not eat supper until after midnight, she became a night person.
She didn’t need vacations. But she knew that I did, and that it was healthy for us to spend time alone, so she, with excitement,went on yearly vacations with me. How I treasure our trips to Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and our getaways to Manhattan where we would mainly enjoy each others company and put the rest of the world on hold. So too, in order to strengthen our bond we would eat out often at coffee shops etc.
She was not a country person but she adapted to bungalow life and learned to love it.
She had the simplicity of a Lower East Sider but learned to adapt to the trappings of a Rebbetzin, for my sake.
She hardly ever complained. During her long and painful illness she never once asked why me!! She never nagged except when it was to galvanize me to do a mitzvah for others, and almost never criticized.
When I would thank her for loving me she would tell me sincerely that I’m easy to love. When I would thank her for marrying me she would insist that she got the better deal. Often when I came home she would let me know how happy she was to have me home!
When I would worry about a pain or an ache she would quickly reassure me remembering the last time I had such a pain and telling me not to worry I had the same thing before and it went away.
When I would exercise playing tennis or paddle ball she would encourage me to go even at the expense of her getting out. When she would meet my ball playing partners instead of feeling jealous that they took me away from her she would thank them for helping her husband relax!
I remember early on in our marriage she kept on thanking me. I told her it’s not necessary to thank me all the time but she told me her mother Mrs. Devora Gelbtuch a”h insisted that she always thank her husband and she always did.
Her mother also told her that your husband shouldn’t take out the garbage and until she got sick she would never let me take out the trash. When she got ill I had to ask the people on the block what day the pickups were as I had no idea.
I remember, more than once, that she gave a suggestion or piece of advice to the children, afterwards they would pose me the same question. If I answered differently she would immediately say to them forget about what I said listen to Totty.
A profound mark of her love was the way she would say during these last two years of terrible cancer pain, “Moish better me than you or the children. She would declare this over and over again!
When describing the woman of valor, Shlomo HaMelech says, “Kamu boneha vayash’ruha; balah vayihalilah – Her children get up and sing about her; her husband lauds her attributes.” The obvious question is, of course they do! It’s their mother, it’s his wife! Wouldn’t it mean more to say that strangers applaud her!? But Shlomo HaMelech knew the truth. It’s easy to be a saint when you’re outside of the home amongst strangers. It’s much harder when you’re behind closed doors. But, Miriam Libby excelled at putting her family first.
May we merit to emulate this exemplary behavior and in that merit may we be granted the presence of the Shechina that we are promised in the well-known adage, “Ish v’isha shalom beneihem, Shechina shruya beneihem – A husband and a wife, when there is peace between them, there is the Divine Presence dwells with them,” and there is no bigger accomplishment than that.
[To be continued.]
Please learn, give tzedaka, and daven l’iluy nishmasMiriam Liba bas Aharon.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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