It’s always easier to insist that another should change. The irony is that the best way to inspire change in another is by embodying that change yourself. You must be everything you want to see in others.
Here is a crazy story. So there was a guy, he was miserably married, miserably married. I mean, the whole town knew about it. And he used ‑‑ from the day he got married, he used to complain about his marriage. Oh, she’s horrible, she’s miserable, she doesn’t cook a decent dinner for me, she doesn’t know how to dress. Everything, everything was a problem. And it was just, like, escalating and getting worse and worse and everyone knew it because he didn’t keep his mouth shut for a second. So it was like ten years down the road and he shows up at the Rabbi’s office. And he says, Rabbi, this is, like, really serious. I’ve been putting up with this for ten years and I’ve reached my limit. I’ve totally reached my limit. I totally cannot deal with this anymore and I really want to eliminate her, I mean completely.
The Rabbi is like, You want to eliminate her and you’re coming to me? So the Rabbi strokes his long beard and he thinks about it. And he says, You know, come to think of it, I think I have a piece of advice for you. There is an obscure Midrash which says that if a man pledges money to a charity, and then they don’t fulfill their pledge, then the consequence of that could be that their spouse will pass away. That’s what the Midrash says, interesting Midrash.
So he says, You know what, I have a plan for you. Why don’t you make a pledge, you know, pledge to give X amount of dollars by the end of the year, in the year’s time, and don’t pay it up. No one will know, you know, and whatever will happen, it’s G‑d’s business, he’ll take care of your wife for you.
This guy was so happy, I mean, you can’t even imagine. He couldn’t believe the Rabbi is becoming his accomplice. This is fantastic. And so, Thank you. He thanks the Rabbi profusely. He says, I’m going to make a big pledge and it’s going to work beautifully. And as he’s walking out of the Rabbi’s office, the Rabbi says, whoa, whoa one second, one second. He says, One second. You know, I just realized there’s a problem.
What’s the problem?
The problem is your big mouth. What’s the problem?
You’ve been going around for ten years, everyone knows what you feel about your wife. They’re going to know something is up over here. This isn’t going to work, this isn’t going to work. He says, If you want this to work, you got to change your game plan, at least for the upcoming year. You know, start acting like a decent husband. You know, maybe tell your wife I love you, you know, maybe give her some spending money. You know, I mean, just do things that, you know, men who are happy with their wives do, you know, just to make believe so that at the end of the year when things happen, no one knows and it just happens.
The guy says, You’re so right Rabbi. I never met a Rabbi as wise as you. And I am in on all of this, this is perfect. And he was happier than ever. And in fact, he made a pledge for such a large amount of money to make sure that even if he would want to pay the pledge, I mean, he does not even have that amount of money. It’s like a half a million dollars I’m going to give to the synagogue. He doesn’t have the money. There’s no way he can give it. And so that’s what happens.
He comes home and the next day, you know, he wakes up and he turns to his wife and he says, Honey, I love you. And she’s like, what? In ten years she never heard those words. Something is wrong, something is going on, she does not know what. Okay.
Next day, he says, Here is some money. Why don’t you go to the market and buy some food for dinner? And shockingly, when he gets home from work that day, he finds a dinner more delicious than he’s had in years.
And a few days later, he says, Well, why don’t we go shopping together. He buys her a dress or two and suddenly she starts looking a little bit more attractive.
And so this goes on. And, you know, his dislike for her, if we can use such a soft term, suddenly softens and he begins to become a little, just a little bit attracted to her. And after six months goes by, he actually begins to feel love for her. He sort of, like, can’t even admit it. And by the time ten months go by, he’s never been so in love in all his life. And it’s crazy. It’s crazy because one day he wakes up and he suddenly remembers the advice the Rabbi gave him, the pledge that he made, and that in two month’s time he may lose the dearest person to him.
And so he goes running to the Rabbi’s office and says, Rabbi, Rabbi, help me.
What’s the problem?
He says, My wife is going to die in two months.
And the Rabbi says, Fantastic.
He says, No, no, it’s not fantastic.
Why isn’t it fantastic?
He says, I love her.
He says, You love her? What happened?
He says, Well, you know, when I started speaking to her a little bit differently, I started sharing with her, I started giving her the basic needs of a spouse, I suddenly found that she was, you know, a wonderful person.
The Rabbi says, Oh, my goodness, you’re in trouble. The pledge.
He says, Rabbi, what can I do about the pledge?
The Rabbi said, What can you do about the pledge? Pay it up.
Pay it up? I don’t have the money.
The Rabbi says, If you want your dear wife, find a way to pay off the pledge.
And so the man took a loan and he paid up the pledge. And at the end of it all, the Rabbi was happy, the wife was happy, and the husband was happiest of all.
Crazy story. But you know what I learn from this story? This is what I learn from this story. What I learn from the story is, when you are in a relationship and you want something out of that relationship, be everything you want from the other person. Because when you’ll be that for them, they will be that for you. It’s that simple. Stop throwing the responsibility on them. Throw the responsibility on yourself. You’ll be it, you’ll have it.