So at the beginning of last week, I was going bonkers again. The house debacle had got stuck again, and what was meant to be a simple concluding agreement kept pinging back and forwards, each time sending my blood pressure a little higher.
Then, there was all this childhood stuff the last few months had stirred up again, which I SO thought I’d worked through and sorted out by no! The lack of stability, the feeling of homelessness, the ‘bad’ people out to get me – I warped back to when I was 7 years old and spending every single night having terrible nightmares that wolves and triffids were chasing after me again.
Hashem, ad matai?!?!
When o when am I finally going to be able to put the past behind me?!?!?
I went to see my One Brain woman, who is usually so very good with this stuff, and even she couldn’t help me. So I knew I had to get on a plane, and go and see the one person who could help me sort all this stuff out at its root: Rabbenu.
My poor husband got dragged with me, and we went to Uman for Shabbat. Derech Tzaddikim absolutely insisted (literally) that we book into the fanciest hotel in Uman as everything else was apparently booked up, so we duly did that, and for the first time ever, I was in a hotel in Uman that apparently had some sort of room service.
But still no bath.
(Don’t ask me why there are no baths in the bathrooms in Uman hotels. Until recently, you were lucky to get a toilet in the same room that you didn’t have to share with 12 other people, so I guess we’ll have to wait for the baths another 10 years, or so.)
I got to Uman so absolutely, completely exhausted.
So much has been going on, for months, and internally it’s been intense, intense, intense. Usually, I go off and try to do six hours but dear reader, this time around, I just couldn’t. I did a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there, and I just left the rest to Rabbenu to sort out.
Let me tell you: he did.
I have no idea why more people, especially more Anglo people, don’t go to Uman. Every visit I make, I dump another load of inner childhood angst, another mega-load of crazy-person-ness, another ton of heartache, worry and fear.
But what I really wanted to tell you about is Rabbenu’s pipe.
On Shabbat, I saw someone in the kever who I have had a massive grudge against for around 4 years. They didn’t know it, of course, but I’ve been carrying around negative feelings towards them for years. And then, Rabbenu arranged for them to be in the kever.
This person was not a friend, but a ‘mashpia’, and we barely even spoke face to face more than once. But certain things occurred that were very upsetting to me, and I held them responsible, at least partially, for some very difficult experiences I had to go through.
So there they were in the kever. And they were still annoying! And I found all these hard feelings welling up again, so I asked God to let me make peace, real peace, and to finally let go of all my hakpada, because as much as it’s hurting others, it hurting me the most.
While all that was going on, I just got a mental picture in my head of Rebbe Nachman and his pipe. Which was pretty weird. But then, my husband made a comment later about Rebbe Nachman smoking a pipe himself, even though he used to warn his students away from smoking in very strong terms.
So then, why did he do it himself?
The answer is: true tzaddikim sometimes do things, confusing things that don’t seem quite right, for reasons that are far above and divorced from anything we could conceive as being the ‘real reason’. If we were less arrogant, we would understand that so much of what we don't understand about the real tzaddikim, or that we think is 'wrong', is simply because we aren't on the level they are.
(Clearly, I'm not talking about breaking clear halachas here, take a breath.)
And then I thought of this mashpia, who I know is the real deal, but who I’ve still had some great difficulties with, nevertheless, and Rebbe Nachman’s pipe came back to me as the answer to the kooshias that I’ve had about them, for years.
After Shabbat, we went to Medzhibozh for a day, before the airport, and the peace and calm of that place was so, so amazing. My husband and I went to the Apter Rebbe’s restored old shul, and just spent half an hour learning some Torah there. It was so awesome. So quiet. So simple.
No phones, no busy, no crazy, just a few roosters crowing, and some Torah.
I got a taste of that old life, before it all got so complicated, and I felt a little sad that it’s so hard to come by in our present world, where everything is busy busy all the time.
In the gift shop on the way out, I found a simple carved wooden pipe for the bargain amount of $2, which I bought as a reminder of Rabbenu’s pipe. And that we can’t know the reasons why massive tzaddikim sometimes do confusing things that don’t always look right to us.
That pipe is going to have pride of place on my shelf, so it can hopefully shut down any self-righteous fits about big tzaddikim before they even start up.
But in the meantime, Uman has done it again.
So, when are you going to book your ticket?
Attention, ladies: If your husband is currently driving you bonkers, send him to Uman!
I know, I could give you the whole big shpiel about how sending your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana will bring world peace, and speed the coming of Moshiach, and help to rectify the whole of Am Yisrael.
And that stuff’s all true, and all described in detail in various Breslov sources. But girlfren, really? You should send your husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana because between you and me, I know how annoying that guy can be, at least occasionally.
Yes, he’s sweet, and good-hearted and hard-working and often quite loving and generous. But he’s also half-earth, and that ‘earthy’ bit of him is far to drawn to making money, and cheering on the team, and spouting off ridiculous opinions, and spending too much time watching movies or surfing online.
I know how hard you’ve tried to get him to make more effort with the kids, and to get him to stop walking around like an egotistical stuffed-shirt, and to get him to open up and to be ‘real’ about what he’s really feeling, and what fears and worries he’s got that are really causing him to act and believe the way he does.
I know all this stuff makes pulling teeth (the old fashioned way, with a piece of string and minus anaesthetic…) look like a walk in the park, which is why I’m here to tell you straight what works to get the guy back on the right spiritual path. And it’s spelled:
Like so many of the Uman ladies out there, I don’t send my husband for an expensive, inconvenient jaunt to anti-semitic Ukraine just for the heck of it. I encourage him to go because I know how much spiritual help he’s going to get by Rabbenu at Rosh Hashana, that’s going to carry him - and me - through all the challenges we have to face in the coming year.
I know that sending my husband to Uman for Rosh Hashana means he’s going to come back with a drop more humility, a tad more introspection, an ounce more gratitude and generosity, a page more of learning, a bissel more emuna.
The guy goes to Uman, and he comes back and realizes all by himself, without me saying a word, that he needs to spend more quality time with the kids, or that he needs to stop worrying about money so much, or that he needs to start playing soccer again. (Hey, not every revelation you get in Uman is easy to predict…)
When our blokes go to Uman, they come back better husbands, and nicer dads. They come back with a lot more of a clue about their real path in life, and how best to travel it. And most important of all, they come back with much more appreciation for their homes, families and the good cooking of their loving wives.
And this stuff is priceless, never mind all the other spiritual ‘saving the world’ stuff that goes on there at Rosh Hashanah time.
There’s still time to book his ticket and lodging, and to make it even easier for you, I’ve pulled together some numbers to call. Try:
Derech Tzaddikim: +972-2-541-0100 - www.zadikimtours.com
David Bargshtein Tours: +972-2-999-2955 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Netivim Tours: +972-2-633-8444
Glatt Tour: +972-2-547-7600 - www.glattour.com
And if you want to do it the easy, 'anglo' way, try Inn Uman with Rav Arush and Rav Brody:
I know it’s not easy to pull the money together, I know it’s not easy to manage without him over the High Holidays for a few days, I know it’s mamash mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the ladies who stay behind with their challenging broods.
But let me end by sharing the story of a lady I met a few years’ back, who was adamant that her husband shouldn’t go to Uman at Rosh Hashana, because Rosh Hashana was family time.
She was experiencing some serious difficulties with him, and his behavior, and no therapist or counsellor could touch them with a barge pole.
So, I suggested she send him to Uman for Rosh Hashana, and I got back a very stony stare, and a big explanation of how Rosh Hashana was a time when the family should be together.
Last year, she got divorced.
This is re-posted from last year, but it's so good, I think I may just keep posting it back up every Elul...
Did you ever wonder why so many people are choosing bizarre ‘rainbow’ lifestyles, or tattooing every little bit of skin they possess, or sticking massive rings through their nose so they look like stuck pigs?
Did you ever ponder oabout what makes a leftist a leftist, or what makes a Jew prefer Palestinians to their own people, or what makes a Jew marry out or leave the faith?
If you sit and think about this for a while, sooner or later the idea will pop up that these people weren’t created ‘gay’, or ‘lefty’ or self-hating, but somewhere along the way, they got so disconnected from their true self, from their soul, from God, that their inner landscape tipped upside-down, and good became bad, and black became white.
And in nearly all cases, this happened because these people grew up in extremely dysfunctional circumstances.
They grew up in homes that were battlegrounds, where kids were used as human shields or pawns. OR, they grew up in homes where they were belittled, guilted and smacked around. Or, they grew up in homes where they weren’t really seen, or weren’t really heard, or weren’t really acknowledged, and now they walk around like the ghost of childhood past, desperately trying to get attention any which way they can.
And in case you think this only happens where this is ‘obvious abuse’, it really, really doesn’t. Emotional neglect – where the child isn’t related to as an independent individual, where the parent is too plugged into Facebook, or work, or their own social network, or their own problems, to really talk to their kid and listen to them on their level – can do just as much spiritual damage as ‘obvious abuse’.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that as the family unit has exploded into a billion smithereens over the last few decades, that all these people are popping up who are ‘choosing death’ over choosing life?
That rainbow man is probably the way he is because on some deep, deep level he has some really heavy baggage vis-à-vis his mum that he never acknowledged, and has never sorted out.
Often, these people will yell the loudest about how ‘amazing’ their mother is, but it’s usually just a case of protesting too much.
And when women can’t bear to think of settling down with a man, and find men physically repulsive, you can betcha that underneath all that is a very dysfunctional relationship with a parent or older male relative.
Same is true for tattoos, nose rings and boring huge holes where your earlobes are meant to be: people feel awful about themselves, they feel so low and lowly, they feel so unseen and lost, and they are scribbling that message all over their bodies in permanent ink.
Same thing for leftists and self-hating Jews and anyone else who hates and is angry all the time (and yes, that includes ‘rightists’ and frum people, too…), and who can’t see anyone else’s point of view and is always ranting on and on about their rights and other people’s wrongs.
THE MONSTERS UNDER THE BED
What connects all these people together is that they are still fighting the childhood monsters under their bed.
And some of those monsters are really, really scary.
So what’s the answer? What are we meant to be doing about all this?
A little while back, someone was telling me a story about a huge kiruv personality who’d seen every single one of the children in their own family go off the derech.
I don’t know who this person is, I don’t know the details, but I can tell you one thing for sure: our relationship with God is based on our relationship with our parents.
If the parents are loving, compassionate, joyful, kind, caring and really ‘there’ for the kid emotionally, those kids will generally find it very easy to believe in a caring, compassionate and loving Creator, and will want to spend a lot of time in His company.
And if the parents are cold, selfish, self-obsessed, emotionally-absent, punishing, capricious, condescending and angry – then those kids will have no problem believing that God is just waiting for them to put a foot wrong, so He can smite them into a million pieces.
And who wants to be waiting for the hammer to fall on them like that all the time?
So, here’s how you can do your bit for the world, and stop the rainbow people, and leftists and atheists from taking over the world: love your children with every fibre of your being, and put what’s good for them ahead of what’s good or convenient for you.
Work on your bad middot, especially anger.
And most of all, ask God every single day to let your kids grow up as happy, emotionally well-adjusted people who feel loved, and cared for and protected from ‘bad’.
We’re all messing our kids up in one way or another, despite our very best efforts.
But if we ask God to fill in the gaps, and to help them develop in a healthy way physically, emotionally and spiritually, that’s really all that’s required to ensure that our kids will be on the side that’s trying to build the world, instead of trying to destroy it.
The last 12 months or so, since last Elul, I’ve been feeling like the whole Jewish calendar somehow got mixed up, at least for me. The whole of Elul, instead of lifting me up to the heights of teshuva, something happened to show me that I was not on the lofty spiritual level I really thought I was, and spent weeks feeling absolutely heartbroken and kind of washed-up, Jewishly.
It’s hard to be a baal teshuva the first time around. It’s even harder when you’ve been a baal teshuva for 20+ years, and then God shows you how much work you still have to do.
But then it was Rosh Hashana. A new year! A new beginning! A time to turn things around. I couldn’t find a shul to daven in, so I went to the default local shul, full of ‘traditional’ Moroccans.
There was a Downs syndrome boy on the other side of the partition who got so excited by the Shofar blowing, he started making all sorts of yells and weird noises.
Of course, you’re meant to be quiet when the shofar is blown. Of course, this precious soul was bringing God so much more nachas with his whoops then all the studied ‘silence’ of the rest of us.
Immediately after shofar blowing, some idiot man started berating the boy and his father and demanded that they leave the shul immediately. On Rosh Hashana! The argument spread to the women’s section and there on the first Day of Judgment, the most awful sinat chinam was going on, all for the best, most holy reasons, of course.
I didn’t know it then, but that shul was right next to the house we were destined to fail at buying this year, which plunged us into our own maelstrom of self-righteous arguments and sinat chinam. Probably, the woman who was selling it was sat in the women’s section too, being covered in all that machloket fall-out.
The whole thing showed me how hugely important Rosh Hashana really is, it really does set the tone and create the blueprint for the year. Thank God, my husband was in Uman by Rabbenu for Rosh Hashana, because I dread to think how much worse things could be, otherwise.
Then, the first of the days of awe – my mother-in-law unexpectedly died, and me and my husband found ourselves back on a plane to the UK. I spent the majority of the days of awe eating fishballs from the only kosher deli in town (where all the nice serving people are Liverpudlian yoks) and packets of blueberries, serving tea and making ‘small talk’ at the shiva – just like you’re not meant to do – and then topped that off with unavoidable ‘hugs’ with grieving men from my husband’s extended family.
The only plus in my favor is that by compromising our ‘religious standards’, and eating food we wouldn’t usually eat, and keeping quiet about things that upset us and disturbed us greatly, we made a lot of peace with a lot of people we’d been fighting with for years.
But we got back to Israel erev Yom Kippur, and I was so exhausted I literally slept the whole way through the chag.
Succot happened in a fog – not least because we’d just been told our landlord was selling the apartment we’d been renting for 3 ½ years, so it was no stretch to feel the ‘temporary’ nature of our lives and our dwelling, and Chanuka also passed in a blur as we were trying to buy AND also trying to rent something for six months and both my kids were stressed to the max over their new ulpanas (dorming high schools).
All year, it’s felt like the festivals have been creeping up on me before I was ready, and that I have been so spiritually unprepared and on the back foot and doing everything at ‘bare basic’ level.
Two days before Purim, we moved house, so that was another holiday that passed in a blur.
Then Pesach arrived, and with it a bunch of guests for seder that we’d recently made peace with in the UK. Kids were trying to blow out my Shabbos / Pesach candles, flipping the toilet light on and off (because I forgot to tape it down….), pressing the door buzzer for two minutes, really loudly…
We had a slight stand-off by the end of the seder, as the guests wanted to skip Hallel, and I refused. I told them ‘leave if you want, but we’re going to the end’. So a compromise was reached where my husband sped-read through Hallel in the record time of 11.36 minutes so peace would continue to reign.
But I didn’t feel so happy about it. I felt maybe I was compromising too much for the sake of peace….
The next day, the first day of counting the Omer, the bombshell dropped that the bank had pulled their mortgage approval, plunging us into months of machloket, yeoush, anger – and enormous work to try to rustle up some real emuna.
All year, God has been showing me that He wants peace, not standing on principle, and all year, I’ve been trying to give Him what He wants, but it’s come really, really hard.
So, we get to the week before Tisha B’av, and the situation with the house is giving me no peace. Their disgusting lawyer tells us we ‘burnt their house’ and I know that’s a hint from God to look past the puppet show and see what’s really going on here.
But I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, I’m consumed by agitation and fear and rage – and we just hit the nine days when it’s all about fixing the sinat chinam that ‘burnt God’s house’ and is still continuing today.
God, what am I meant to do to fix this! The situation is so bad, it’s so unfair, it’s boiling up every bad middot I own!!!
God told me last week: Go and do six hours, and beg Me to help you make peace.
So that’s what I did. The day after I did that, my husband got a phone call from the estate agent that brokered the deal: the other side want to talk, without lawyers, they want to come to some agreement.
We met on Friday – erev Tisha B’av! – and again, God is the one that made the peace because all we did for an hour was argue. It looked to me like we were going to end up in court. Me and my husband stepped outside to discuss what was going on (and to avoid punching someone…) and when we returned 10 minutes later…. The other side had transformed.
Gone was all the blaming, distortion and power plays. On the table was a simple proposal: pay our costs to date, and we’ll finish everything peacefully next week.
We still need to agree what those costs actually are, but a sum was named that sounded reasonable, and much better than the amount our ridiculous contract stated we needed to pay.
Bezrat Hashem, the sinat chinam disappeared, and the path of peace prevailed.
Instead of Tisha B’Av, I feel like I’m already in Elul.
Let’s be clear, that it wasn’t us that did anything. God did the many miracles last week, and I also tried to bind myself to all the tzaddikim of the generation before we sat down at the table, to let them take over the actual discussion.
All I did, a lot, was yearn for peace, and ask God to save me from being overwhelmed by my enormous bad middot, especially my arrogance and my victory-seeking tendencies.
Because making peace is not easy, not at all. It means coming off my high horse, and trying to see the other side, and accepting that everything that’s happening is only and solely coming from Hashem.
I’m writing this on the tenth of Av – this year’s pushed-off fast of Tisha B’Av. And I’m writing this because the one thing Hashem really wants from the Jewish people is for us to make peace with each other.
Don’t wait until Rosh Hashanah, do it now, in the seven or so weeks we have until the Yom HaDin. Make peace with your relatives, even if you’ll have to suffer through a ‘man hug’, eat dodgy fishballs and rush through the more meaningful bits of your seder.
Make peace with the people you’re arguing with, even if it’s going to cost you some money, and the satisfaction of seeing them eat it.
But most of all, make peace with your husband (or wife…) and your children. Stop holding all those old grudges in your heart, and stop blaming them for the things that aren’t going right in your life.
Last week, on the Ari’s yarhtzeit, my teenager started telling me some really hurtful, yucky things about myself– all the things I secretly worry about, but try not to notice too much. She threw them all in my face, which to be fair I completely deserved, because I’d started berating her about not taking school seriously enough and wasting her life, which wasn’t really accurate or fair.
So, she hit back with ‘teenage troof’, maximum strength, and as my blood started to boil – the oven shorted out and a small fire sparked behind it, right next to the gas pipe. We both held our breath for a very long second. Thank God, the fire burned out, I turned off the gas, she turned off the electric mains, and I unplugged the scorched oven plug with a long, grateful sigh.
Machloket is what burns down the house.
Machloket is what burned down the Temple.
This Tisha B’av, let’s really try to fix the problem at its root: i.e. in our own homes, and our own lives.
Following on from the discussion in the comments on THIS post, one of my readers sent me an email where she made a very profound point, that I'd like to share with you. She wrote that:
'I really wish that just wanting to be a mother and a wife and taking care of your home wouldn't be looked down upon. That instead of praising women who earn a PhD or become a mayor or the like, we would praise mothers who keep it together when their toddler throws a tantrum in the supermarket or the wife who is cleaning the floors for the 1035th time.
"I think one of the problems today is that nobody wants to have the wife's role, that also women want wives who take care of the drudgery of housework and childrearing. However for me personally I have come to realize that as difficult as it is to being a wife and a mother when I am taking care of my children I am actually building eternity."
This precious reader really hit the nail on the head:
No-one wants the job of being a wife today.
All the elements of that job are being outsourced, because we value it so little. The cleaning is going to the nice Polish lady, the caring is going to the nice Phillipino lady, the cooking is being catered in, the kids are being sent out to sleep-away camps, and if anyone actually wants to have a real, deep conversation and pour out their heart - hey, that's what shrinks and counsellors are for!
I'm part way through reading 'From Darwin to Hitler', which is actually a much more nuanced and well-written book than perhaps its title might suggest.
Part of what happened post-Darwin is that all the 'thinkers' in Europe started seeing human life in terms of 'valuable and productive to society' or 'worthless and pulling society down'.
Disabled people, criminals, and people with mental and physical health problems were in this last category, together with different 'races' and poor people, depending on how racist and snobby the Darwinist 'thinker' actually was.
And the only people in that first, 'worthy' category were people who earned money and helped society flourish. Mothers weren't valued, except as the 'source' of society's future workers. But the actual 'job' of being a mother, being a wife - that was completely devalued and looked down upon.
(And yes, there were a whole bunch of Zionist, atheist Jews who thought that way too. This lead directly to the shocking idea that women should give their babies over to other people to raise as soon as they'd given birth and go back to being 'productive members of society' again, which was the Kibbutz ideal way of life for a few decades, until even the atheist Zionists started to figure out that was completely retarded and damaging to everyone involved.)
Darwin's false, atheistic science completely warped the fabric of society in so many profound ways, including how many of us women have been brainwashed into believing that we only have value if we are working and have a paid job.
But as my correspondent put it so eloquently, the real job, the real value we add to the world is by expending our precious time and effort primarily and principally on trying to raise happy, emotionally-healthy kids who are still connected to their souls.
And if that wasn't enough of a full-time job, we also have our hands full trying to help unrectified husbands get over all their issues and become the amazing people God created them to be, too.
Just before I sat down to type this, I had another upsetting fight with one of my teens, who is still going through a lot of stuff and acting horribly, as a result. The last two days, she's been giving me the strong 'vibe' that all her problems are down to me and my cack mothering abilities, and as someone who quit my career to look after my family, that's pretty painful.
Motherhood is very hard! Motherhood is often very unrewarded and taken for granted (especially by moody teenagers). But being a mother, and being a wife, is the most important, precious job we have in the world, despite the awful wages and cack employment conditions and mouthy co-workers (who all think they are the boss).
It sucks that you can't quit the job no matter how bad it gets, and there is no paid sick leave or overtime!!
But that's the main job we women got given to do by Hashem.
And as someone who used to have a high-flying career, I can tell you that being at the office is definitely the easier option.
I just got a comment on my blog from someone called ‘antifeminist’ who has created a whole website bewailing how bad American women are. It’s definitely a real website, although the comment is probably spam, so I’m not going to post it up, but here’s a little of what he said:
“I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don't know how to cook or clean, don't want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?
“American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.”
Over on his blog, he explains how he spent four years trying to develop a serious relationship with a number of American women, and how they all ended in failure.
Now, clearly there are two sides to every argument, and who knows what sort of character traits and temperament this guy has himself.
But I always take the view that if God is taking the time and trouble to put these things into my face, there must be some pertinent message, or lesson to learn from it, even if it’s delivered in not such appealing packaging.
So the question is this:
Could there be some connection between what this man perceives to be the huge failings of materialistic American feminist society, and our own enormous shidduch crisis, which seems to be particularly acute in North America?
We know that the Jews in a particular country or society are always affected by that country’s mores and attributes, both for the good and bad.
Personally, I’ve also been increasingly put-off by the militant ‘feminist’ vibe that’s been picking up speed recently, and is manifesting itself in more and more bullying attempts to force Jewish publications to have pictures of women on their pages, etc.
I can’t stand all these apparently frum women who start screaming ‘discrimination’ against anyone who thinks posing for pictures on Instagram or Facebook is not the epitome of frum female achievement in the world.
I find their general aggressiveness, self-importance and pushiness pretty off-putting, and I’m a woman! And I’m not planning on trying to marry any of these ladies any time soon, BH! So I can appreciate how walking down the aisle with one of these types could be a less than thrilling prospect for a man.
So let me put it out there: Could this materialistic-American-militant-feminist vibe be behind a lot of what’s causing the shidduch crisis in the Jewish world?
Clearly, the menfolk are also not doing so well at this stage of the game, and I know it’s not black and white by any means, and that a lot of the single (and also married...) men today also have some serious work to do on their middot and attitudes.
But as this blog is for women (mostly….) let’s start with our side of the equation, and try to figure out if ‘anti-feminist’ has a point, and if we need to do some collective soul-searching about how much this aggressive American-feminist worldview may be negatively impacting our own relationships and attitudes in the frum Jewish world.
So woman or man, weigh in here, and tell me what you think.
Could the materialistic-American-militant-feminist approach to life be behind a lot of the problems we’re seeing in getting people married and keeping them happily married in the frum world?
And if yes, what can we do to start changing things around?
Over to you, dear reader.
(When I went to look for some images for 'feminists' for this post, it came back with a bunch of moody, pouting 'angry' women in various states of undress holding a whole bunch of 'angry' signs. Now I ask you, why would anyone want to marry anyone who has such a big chip on their shoulder and is always looking for the next fight?
And if you think 'feminism' and all the 'alternative' lifestyle stuff are separate issues, think again. The same people who are promoting the 'rainbow' lifestyle are behind all this feminist clap-trap too. Go google 'feminist' for yourself, and see what comes up - this 'rainbow' lipstick image above is pretty much the tamest picture I could find.)
With so many marriages exploding around me, I’ve been learning some things that I never knew before. One thing I learned this week is that in this olam hafuch, there are apparently a lot of women in Israel who are refusing to take a get from their husband.
Yes, you read that right.
The way the law is set up here, the courts come down really, really heavily on ‘get-refusing’ husbands, and basically treat them as criminals. Like you, I initially thought this was an amazing thing! I campaigned on behalf of a young aguna in London, whose ex was trying to extort millions of pounds out of her wealthy family. It took a good few years of communal pressure (plus a couple of million pounds still…) but in the end he gave the get.
So I was thrilled to hear things are different in Israel. Another aguna I knew was stuck get-less for over 20 years. Then her daughter got married in Israel, the dad flew in for the wedding, and on the way out of Ben Gurion he was arrested and jailed until he gave the get. It took two days!
So that was amazing.
But now, I’ve been hearing more and more stories of how things are being taken to a very unhealthy extreme the other way, with men being forced to cede all of their financial rights, and all of their custody requests, before the women will accept the get the men are trying to give them.
Because as long as the women can tell the court that the man hasn’t given them a get, the court can and does impose a number of punitive measures against him until this situation changes.
Again, if the man is refusing to give a get straight up, as ‘punishment’ or ‘vengeance’ – then punitive action against him is usually the right course of action to take, on many levels.
But, if the woman is refusing to accept the get solely in order that she can dictate all the terms of the divorce without having to take the husband’s feelings and needs into account?
This doesn’t seem right to me.
I heard of one case where a woman refused her get three times, until the husband agreed to cede 100% of the house to her – and to keep paying the mortgage on it.
I know kids should be taken care of as much as possible, I really do. But I can’t help but think that if providing the kids with a home is such an over-arching imperative, why are people so quick to rush for a divorce in the first place? Don't they know that getting divorced is going to cause everybody - including them - huge financial challenges?
Getting divorced doesn’t add more money to the pot, doesn’t make it easier to pay the bills. Now there are two households to run instead of one, and while the husbands definitely do owe the wife something – as per halacha – I’m getting increasingly turned-off by people who initiate a divorce whilst continuing to have completely unrealistic expectations of the high standard of living their ex-husbands apparently ‘owe’ them for choosing to give up on their marriage.
If the man was unfaithful, if he was physically violent, or terribly, destructively abusive, or a compulsive gambler, or a dangerous drug addict, then it goes without saying that the circumstances are very different from what I'm describing here, and the divorcing wife needs as much support and help as possible.
But here's the thing: I’ve seen women in those circumstances, and when they get divorced they are so grateful to be free of danger their husbands pose to them and their children, getting money out of their ex tends to be the last thing on their minds.
The sort of divorces I'm talking about don't involve any 'abnormal' mental illness or abuse (because let's be honest, we're all crazy today, and none of us treat other people the way we really should). Really, it's more the case that the wife just doesn't want to deal with the challenge of being married to a difficult, unrectified person anymore, but she still wants full access to his pay packet.
Here's the thing: men are also people.
Unless they fit the description three paragraphs back, they should also be treated with a little compassion. It’s hard enough bringing home the money when you have a home and a family to support you. When you’re working just as hard to pay the mortgage on the house you used to own while you slum it in a rented bed-sit, that can’t be an easy thing at all.
I know divorce is super-complicated, and it’s almost never black and white. But again, why are so many people believing the lies they are being told that divorce is the easy option, and the solution to all their problems, and easier than staying in a difficult marriage?
If a man was dodging his responsibility to pay the bills when you were married to him, how is divorcing him going to change that? If he couldn’t get you a nice house when you were married to him, how is he going to do that as your ex? If he didn’t ‘get help’ for all his mental issues and emotional problems – all of which will manifest themselves in your kids, if they aren’t properly sorted out – when you were married, why should he do that know you’re divorced?
All of us are so messed up today, that every single couple probably has good grounds for divorce, if the point of staying married is to enjoy yourself and have a lot of money.
But the Torah doesn’t say anywhere that this is what marriage is meant to be about.
The Torah view of marriage is that it’s a way of rectifying the world as you work on yourself, and your own issues and problems that your spouse is simply reflecting back at you.
As usual, the ones who suffer the most from this madness are the children.
MARRIAGE IS WORK
I’ve been married 20 years now, and me and my husband have been through our fair share of ups and downs. I’ve had so many internal demons to try to face down, he couldn’t work for two years, we no longer own our own house, we’ve had countless trials and tribulations that put a big strain on our relationship.
We both dealt with all this stuff by upping our hitbodedut and trying to work on our emuna that everything that has happened is just coming from God, and is coming to rectify something. Sure, I could have blamed him for everything, he could have blamed me for everything - but that's the anti-emuna approach.
The emuna approach is to accept that we are both flawed, we both need a lot of fixing, and that underneath it all, we're both actually really nice people. Our job is to pray, get God involved in overcoming our challenges, and to try to see the good as much as possible in each other and in our lives, and to take nothing for granted.
Right now, I don’t work (for money…) so my husband is paying for everything.
Right now, I am so grateful to my husband that he goes out every single day and makes a living for me and my children. That he puts a roof over my head, and food on the table, and lets me do whatever it is I do (for no money…). My husband signed the ketuba with minimal requirements to look after me materially, so this is his responsibility, I know.
But I am still so grateful to him for all the effort he’s making on my behalf, because earning a living today is incredibly stressful and hard. My husband doesn’t ‘owe’ me my own home. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me thousands of shekels every month in spending money. He doesn’t ‘owe’ me a cleaner, a car, nice holidays.
And we’re still actually married.
And for his part, every time my husband finds a clean pair of socks in his drawer, he's grateful. (Full disclosure: doing the washing on time is not always so easy for me ;-)
So you want to get divorced, that’s up to you. But then take responsibility for what your choice is going to do to both your finances and your family and your standard of living. Don’t just view your ex-husband as some sort of ATM that ‘owes’ you stuff, and rejoice in how low you can bring him so that he’s walking around in shabby shoes and lives in a 25 sqm dump of a room.
He’s also suffering. He’s lost everything – his wife, his family, his home and his self-esteem. For the sake of your kids, you need to work with your ex to ensure he also still has some hope and some joy in life, and also, at least a little of the money that he’s working so hard to bring home.
Otherwise, your divorce won’t be the answer to your prayers and the big ‘solution’ you think it is, even if you do manage to walk away with all the money. It’ll just be a gateway to years of bitterness, hatred, anger and suffering.
And as always, it’s the kids who will suffer the most.
God-forbid, I'm not trying to be needlessly controversial by writing this piece. Simply, I can see there is a lot of hypocrisy going on in the frum Jewish community where women are loudly banging the 'equality' drum on the one hand and demanding equal rights, but still expecting the man to pick up all the debts and financial responsibility when it comes to divorce.
The men themselves aren't allowed to point out the inconsistencies that are abounding all over the place without being called 'misogynist', so I'm simply trying to point out that when any party in a divorce ceases to view the other person as a human being, and ceases to have a minimal amount of compassion for them, this is a reflection of bad middot, and will only cause unnecessary suffering and damage to the family over the long run.
No-one should be trying to force their terms unilaterally on the other party in a divorce.
Divorcing couples need to talk to each other and take the other person's viewpoint into account. If they do that, maybe some good can be salvaged from the divorce, and the destruction and hurt will be minimised.
But if you take one message away from this post, let it be this: DIVORCE IS NOT THE EASY OPTION. Sometimes, it's still the necessary thing to do, but in most situations, it's only going to make a challenging set of circumstances even worse.