Friday, April 3, 2020

I Want A Friday Kind of Love

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This is a Valentine’s Day column about love, flowers and scorn.

I’m not usually one to pry into the private lives of 17th-century English playwrights, but I was shocked to learn William Congreve, the man who wrote the famous line now quoted as “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” never married. 

With such powerful insights into a woman’s mind, I half expected Congreve to have had not one, but two or three wives.

What constitutes a “woman scorned”? Popular culture often portrays women who express discontent — from ex-girlfriends to female leaders who call for change — as angry banshees whose emotionality is as ridiculous as it is erratic. But that describes very few women.

I’ve been blessed with a peaceful marriage, but I’ve also seen countless instances in which a wife’s love turned to hate because her husband eroded her affection. It’s one thing to hate a stranger, but it’s much more jarring to resent someone you once loved.

I thought a lot about the concept of a scorned woman the first time I received flowers from a local family-owned company called Shabbat Flowers Club. The simple act of receiving flowers was a reminder of the little things that can make one’s partner feel uplifted and, above all, seen.

To know a woman’s hard work is to see her. And for many Jewish families, to recognize how hard some wives (and husbands) work to prepare for Shabbat is a powerful antidote to marital resentment. The lush weekly bouquets send a message of recognition not only for all the meals I prepare for Shabbat, but for the hundreds of things, many of them unseen, I do as a wife and mother.

Rabbi Dov Heller warned that one of the worst things a man can do is to take a woman for granted.

It’s the best $25 our family spends all week, because it uplifts the woman of the house — who often sets the emotional tone for the entire family.

The best part of receiving the flowers is an accompanying card that reads, “Every woman is a woman of valor,” referencing King Solomon’s song, Eshet Chayil.

Owners Stephan and Rebecca Oliel founded ShabbatFlowersClub.com in 2017 after moving to Los Angeles from France. Stephan was disappointed to find few neighborhood flower shops that offered the beauty, variety and personal touch of florists in Paris, where for 15 years, he owned a large advertising company.

If Shabbat Flowers Club had a second motto, it would be “A woman’s place is on the pedestal.” Stephan even prefers to use the term “eshet chayil” instead of “customer.”

“I love when our kids are delivering the flowers to the eshet chayil,” he said. “We don’t see ourselves as a flower delivery business, but a family service business, because there’s something about receiving flowers that helps build peace in the home.”

The couple’s children, ages 11, 15 and 17, play a role, too. They often deliver bouquets Friday afternoons before Shabbat, and Stephan and Rebecca love that their children can see “a look of joy and gratitude” on recipients’ faces, many of whom receive weekly bouquets from friends. To see a heart soften is a true gift.

Several years ago during Yom Kippur remarks at Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Dov Heller delivered one of the most powerful observations I’ve ever heard about repairing male-female relationships: He warned that one of the worst things a man can do is to take a woman for granted.

I know fresh flowers don’t solve all marital problems, and in many cases, buying flowers is the least a man can do for his wife, but frankly, who cares? There’s something special about receiving flowers, and every loving gesture, including the kind with stems and petals, is like making a deposit in an emotional bank account.

In Rebecca’s words, “When you honor women, everyone blooms.”

Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker. 

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