When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out in the army, nor shall he be subjected to anything associated with it. He shall remain free for his home for one year and delight his wife, whom he has taken. (Devarim 24:6)
Let us appreciate that here we have a brilliantly sensible Mitzvah. A new husband and wife-duet need time to get to know each other and to build trust. Therefore the groom is exempt from communal service that might take him away from his bride. What a great opportunity is this Shana Rishona – First Year for newlyweds! Before children arrive and life gets more hectic and expensive and pressurized it is crucial that the couple gets to talk things out in longhand first so that later they can communicate in shorthand.
What once took hours of discussion can later be summarized in a single glance. After a while older couples can easily anticipate the needs of their spouse. However, initially, wrong assumptions and misunderstandings need time, plenty of time to be carefully untangled and resolved. Later there may not be sufficient time or patience to unpack messy matters carefully when the pace and intensity of life quickens. Therefore, we can admire and appreciate the wisdom of this gift by the Almighty for every bride and groom!
A dear friend who was married a year before me, told me about a terrible mistake he made in Shana Rishona. He shared it with me so I would not fall into the same trap and he told me to tell others so they can be saved as well. There is a custom that during that first year a husband gets permission from his wife before he goes out – away from home. This fellow was very dutiful and precise about this all during the year. As the sun set on the first year of marriage and “Shana Rishona” was concluding, he stood by the door and declared, “I don’t have to tell you where I’m going now and when I’ll be back.” He coolly left.
Of course he was joking and he was just going out to pray Maariv. When he came home, he found his wife surrounded by a puddle of tears. She was saying, “You didn’t want to be here with me this whole year!” He called his Rebbe in a panic wondering what he could do to repair the hurt. The Rebbe told him, “You have to start again and do “Shana Rishona” all over again. (He got left back in Shana Rishona!) It’s not a time period. It’s, whenever and however long it takes
Reb Wolbe ZTL writes in his Kuntres HaChasanim, that he asked young men what foundation they wanted to build their marriage upon. The most universal answer was two words, “love and understanding”. He then goes on to explain that it is impossible to build a relationship on “love and understanding” because there is not sufficient understanding yet and since love is a byproduct of giving, the real love bank account is miniscule and superficial to begin with. It turns out that “love and understanding” are not the foundations but rather goals and ideals that are realized over time.
At a Sheva Brochos, one of my teachers once whimsically quipped, “Why is a new groom exempt from going to war – Milchama!? Because of the principle, ‘Osek b’Milchama, Patur M’Milchama’, “Someone who is busy with a war is exempt from a war.” This is a play on the true concept of, “Osek B’Mitzvah, Patur Min HaMitzvah – Someone who is busy with a Mitzvah is exempt from a Mitzvah”. Of course he was kidding and he followed up with a valuable qualification. “Marriage is a war! It’s a war of who’s going to give and give in more!”
Maybe what he was saying is that marriage and maybe all of life is a war. The only question is, “Why type of war?” Will it be a war of giving or a war of taking? Will it bring you to greater love and understanding or resentment and dismissiveness!? That is the question! That is the choice! Carefully choose your battles!