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Dedication

Read This First

Part 1:
Perspectives

Part 2:
Secrets of the Married Soul

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

   Chapter 4:
Clothing of the Soul

Chapter 5:
Yeshus

Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression

Chapter 7:
Criticism The Acid that Eats Away Love

Chapter 8:
Judgment

Chapter 9:
The Mitzvos of Mikveh

Chapter 10:
Tzimtzum

Chapter 11:
Ahavas Yisroel But We Are Married

Epilogue

The Second Ladder Up
Secret Steps to a Happy Jewish Marriage

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

Chapter 7:
Criticism The Acid that Eats Away Love

R. L. Kremnizer

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  Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression
Chapter 8:
Judgment
 

Speech

Criticism is acid which eats away love. It is one of the most dangerous behavioral weapons that exist between a husband and wife and should almost never be accessed.

A person should view criticism exactly as he does a drum of concentrated acid which, if brought into the house, is done so at risk. Once there, it must be treated with extreme caution because of its life-threatening corrosive properties.

Before discussing criticism as revealed to us in Chassidus, it is important to understand that the power of speech is a fundamental secret of creation. Speech is one of the drivers of the universe. It is the gift to mankind who, in turn, is the crowning glory of G-d's creations. As often explained in this book, everything in the physical is a reflection of that which exists in the spiritual. The force and power of man's speech, comes from the fact that Hashem created the world through His speech. The account of creation as set out in Torah is a report of the world being created through ten sayings. These sayings represent a garment of G-d's Essence through which the whole creative process took place originally, and indeed continues to take place instant by instant.

Using the Hebrew expressions, there are four states in creation:

Domaim Inert Matter
Tzomeach Growing Things
Chai Animals
Medaber Humanity
Although there are communication systems in the lower realms, only humanity has the gift of speech.[23] With this gift of speech comes a lower voltage power which is a reflection of G-d's creative process. With this power man can create and destroy, communicate, build up, or tear down. Whole civilizations have been elevated and demeaned through the power of speech. Speech has the ability to persuade and to degrade.

Because speech is so powerful and comes from such a high source spiritually, wonders can be achieved with speech. Equally, however, this power can be the source of great harm. When a person criticizes another, that criticism is a knife slashing through the soft under-belly of the recipient's self esteem and security. When this weapon is wielded by a spouse, the damage is literally almost irreparable. Just as G-d said "Let there be light" and light was created by that saying, so it is that when a spouse criticizes the other, a negative wound is created and, at one level or another, remains forever.

Apart from the obvious dangers to self esteem and security of the person criticized, the whole process of criticism is explained at a very deep level in Chassidus. There are various aspects to this.

The first is a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov.[24] He explained the great secret of Torah that when one perceives a critical aspect in one's neighbor, what he is really observing is a defect in himself. In other words, the aspect that he finds distasteful in the other person is a reflection, a mirror and indeed the negative aspect is the viewer's own. Although this proposition may not be immediately accepted by readers new to the suggestion, the reality is that a moment's thought will prove its veracity. How often, for example, have a married couple been in mixed company and one partner will remark about Mr or Mrs A. and mention a quality which the other simply has not noticed. According to the Baal Shem Tov, one notices because it is relevant to the observer, and the other does not notice because it is not subjectively relevant. Frequently, if engaged in discussing a third party, two people will notice entirely different aspects of that third party's personality or character. Does this mean that one is wrong and the other right? Certainly not. It goes without saying that both aspects exist in that person. One aspect, however, is picked up by one person and another aspect by the other. The point of this great secret of Torah is that each person picks up that aspect that is relevant to his spiritual psyche.

When a person then takes that negative observation and forms it into the garment of speech (see Chapter 4) what he is actually doing is forming into reality a negative truth about himself. A person who understands this teaching in Chassidus should blush to criticize another, because the more savage the criticism the more eloquently and foolishly he is describing his own shortcoming.

Chassidus explains a second aspect of criticism as a mean weapon forged from yeshus (see Chapter 5).

Some people find that they can give themselves a boost by tearing down a friend. In other words, a person seeks to build himself up, at the expense of, and by tearing down, another. Every degree of elevation is achieved directly from the pain of the other person. Once again, a person who learns Chassidus and is conscious of this ugly quality will be embarrassed to display it.

A third and very deep truth about negative speech is that it actually creates a reality out of a potential. Chassidus explains that although the reality may exist in potential, it is by verbalizing it that it is given physical life and energy.[25] Conversely, avoiding referring to the issue leaves it harmlessly hanging in potential. I was once in court long ago, and another lawyer leaned over to me and shared the wisdom that the Judge was intoxicated as usual. To this day I have no idea whether what he said was true, but whenever I see this Judge I see a drunk.

A husband and wife have the precious ability to leave each other's faults in potential. Not verbalized, they do not exist tangibly. Articulated, they yap at the heels of partnership harmony.

In a marriage where two people share the same soul [see Chapter 4] one party criticizing the other is as harmful as one person stabbing at the other with fingernails sharpened into talons. Instead of nurturing the exclusive and holy relationship of two bodies sharing one soul, criticism in fact eats away at the confidence and bonds of love that exist before the criticism takes place. If criticism is a regular weapon in a relationship it is a sure death-knell for its continuation. As explained, speech creates and although, as further explained, criticism is really an ugly revelation of the criticizer (whether as mirrored or as illegitimately seeking personal advantage), it is very important that married partners understand that no words can be taken back. A word creates a reality, a phrase even more; a long well-reasoned critical argument still more. There is no known antidote. The victim does not forget the words. Apologies do not help eradicate the new creation. A mamzer has been created and that mamzer has its independent life. All the regret in the world will not change the fact that the mamzer now exists.

There is a positive side to understanding the dangers and evils of criticism.

Just as criticism eats away and burns through the love that partners feel for each other, so it is that positive speech can build up and secure the relationship. Although flattery is forbidden as a matter of Torah, there is plenty that each spouse can truthfully find about the other to appreciate and of which to speak well. Talents should be continuously recognized and verbalized, as should be all positive qualities. The effect of this is to steadily assemble an edifice of mutual confidence and trust, free from the dangers of the biting pain of negative criticism.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) See Sefer HaMaamarim 5659, p. 39.

  2. (Back to text) Kesser Shem Tov, Hosafos, chs. 175-176.

  3. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 27, p. 163ff.


  Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression
Chapter 8:
Judgment
 
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