In Judaism, Shalom Bayis signifies an ideal in family life encompassing the spousal relationship and general tranquility in the home. In practical terms, the ideal is realized both through kind words and avoidance of harsh speech: more of the first, less of the second.
What I want most of all for my birthday--I am 41 years old today--is Shalom Bayis. This is my pet ideal for 2011. I want to to make more shalom, "peace," in my home and in my sphere of influence, my neighborhood, my work, my blogosphere, and so on. My birthday wish, therefore, is to practice and teach the peaceful arts better than I have before.
Unfortunately, Shalom Bayis also endorses a patriarchal ideal in traditional Judaism. The husband is always and only head of the home. The wife, although essential and esteemed, is always secondary. Husband and wife are partners and obligated to each other, but their roles and public positioning are distinct and never coequal.
For this reason, I hereby co-opt Shalom Bayis for my own sensibilities and will implement it in my own way. Neither Judaism nor Yiddishkeit stands above me (or below me) as an authority on Shalom Bayis. I say thank you very much for the concept, and I will now employ it as I see fit.
And, yes, this is a peaceful stance. I am genuinely grateful for the concept of Shalom Bayis. It focuses my mind on what a peaceful home might really be, on what makes peace, and on what I consider home. But Shalom Bayis is my responsibility and my work. It doesn't belong to Judaism or to Jews. It belongs to me, and so I have lots of work to do and little time to worry about how others define their world.
Fortunately, I already have much peace in my life and in my home especially. My lesson of the past year, however, is the realization that I can create peace. I can make more than I have done before.
- I can use the language of action to show my love and gratitude for my family.
- I can use my words wisely by speaking when I should and remaining silent when speech is unnecessary.
- I can work harder and longer.
- I can eat less and I can eat healthier.
- I can exercise more frequently.
- I can walk mindfully and purposefully.
- I can cook meals for the family.
- I can visit friends and family.
- I can laugh more and remember happiness.
- I can become slower to anger.
- I can reduce spending.
- I can read and write more, and with greater diversity.
- I can share new experiences.