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 (BAISO) his home for one year and delight his wife, whom he has taken. (Devarim 24:5)
He shall remain [free] for his home: Heb. לְבֵיתוֹ, lit., “for his house,” also for his house…he does not move from his home for the needs of war. – Rashi
and delight: “He shall delight his wife” – Rashi
Here we have a very sweet and sensitive Mitzvah regarding a husband and wife. A man is exempt from the army or any public service for a year after being newly married. The reason for this Mitzvah is quite obvious. It takes a while for a husband and wife to get to know each other and form a lasting bond. That is the goal of marriage as stated in the very beginning of the Torah, by Adam and Chava, “Therefore a man should abandon his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they should become one flesh.” (Breishis 2:24) This takes time! How much time? The Torah state, one year. Is that an exact number? Is that the precise time!
Again, this Mitzvah highlights the importance of Shalom Bayis in building a family. Reb Wolbe, in his Kuntres Chassanim asked a group of would-be grooms, young men about to be married, what the foundation of their relationship will be and almost all universally answered, “Love and Understanding”. He corrected them. They do not yet love or understand each other. They are just getting to know one another and as Reb Desssler says, “We don’t give to the ones we love as much as we love the ones to whom we give.” Love is a product of giving! Love and understanding are wonderful goals but not as a foundation. Perhaps, patience and communication would be a more “delightful”-happier basis.
It is also worth noting that the Torah here refers to the BAYIS, the house in reference to his wife. One sage said, “I never called my wife my wife but rather my BAYIS!” What did he mean by this? I went to visit a married friend of mine when I was yet single. He had a sad look on his face.
I asked him what’s wrong and he told me that his wife went to Toronto with the kids for a week. My reaction was, “Let’s order some pizza!” He continued gloomily, and I didn’t understand it until I too was married, “It’s not a home without her. It’s just a house!” Although the letter BAIS looks somewhat like a house and the word BAYIS means house, it is really something more and deeper than that. As a prefix BAIS means “in” or “for” (purpose). The first time the world BAIS is used in Chumash, it is employed to describe the pitch and tar Noach put on the inside and outside of the ark to protect it from the hot waters of the great flood, “M’BAYIS UBa’Chutz”. BAIS means the inside. The wife is the internality of the home, the essence. She makes it a home and not a house. A house can be constructed quickly depending on how quickly the builders work but how long does it take to make a home?
A friend of mine asked me to share this story to teach others so they would not make the same terrible mistake he did. He was married a little more than a year before me. He was dutifully available the whole first year of marriage, never going out to pray without permission, staying home every night, talking and playing scrabble. When the sun set on the 365th night, when according to all the opinions, the year was up, he stood by the door and announced to his bride, “I am going out now and I don’t have to tell you where I am going and when I am coming home!” He went out to Daven Maariv and spoke with some friends for a while afterwards before returning home. When he came back home, his wife was surrounded by a puddle of tears. She was crying unconsolably, “You didn’t want to be here the whole year!” He tried his best to convince her that he was just making a joke but to no avail. He called up his Rebbe to find out what to do and the Rebbe told him, “You have to do Shana Rishona, the first year again!” He got left back in Shana Rishona! No joke!
How long does it take to make a home? A year, two years? It seems it’s not about the quantity of time, which is just the means to the end, but the quality of relationship, that is the ultimate goal. The answer is, “As long as it takes!”