I asked her to stop - repeatedly - but she kept on goading me (which was very unusual behavior for her, and clearly all min hashemayim) until I finally snapped and started throwing things all over the place.
We were sitting at the Shabbat table, so the things I threw included a whole salmon (which splatted against the wall and then oozed it’s tomato sauce all down it, mamash like the scene of a murder…), paper plates, and finally cutlery.
Sadly, one fork actually whizzed too close to my daughter, and accidentally stabbed her in the forehead.
At that point, I was beyond horrified at what I’d done (accidentally) in my temper fit, and spent the next two hours sobbing uncontrollably about what a terrible, horrible mother I was, and what terrible, horrible middot I had, and how much of a lunatic I clearly still was.
I apologized 50 times to my kid (and to the rest of my family who were kind of frozen in place waiting for the whirlwind to pass) and then in hitbodedut later, I asked God what all that was about.
After all, I’d been working on my bad middot, especially my temper, for a decade, and I really and truly thought I was past all those ‘snap and kill someone’ moments.
The answer I got back was this:
Don’t think you’re better than anyone else that you see struggling with anger and other bad middot. Yes, you’re making an effort, you’re praying, you’re trying, but ultimately the only reason you’re not off killing people is because I, Hashem, am helping you 24/7 to keep a grip on your yetzer.
It was such a sobering, humbling lesson.
Recently, I was thinking how when couples get divorced, they start throwing the spotlight on each other’s faults and flaws, each one pointing out all the ‘bad’ they see in the other, as justification for why they are ‘right’ and the other one is ‘wrong’.
But a Jewish couple is one soul, one entity. So it’s not a case of this one being ‘bad’ and that one being ‘good’, it’s a case of them BOTH being bad, sometimes, and BOTH being good, sometimes.
If that horrible ‘divorce’ spotlight got thrown on one of us, God forbid, how would we fair? If people started telling you about my violent temper - how I’d smashed a salmon into the wall, and hurt my child by throwing cutlery at her - what would you think of me, and my character?
The chances of them telling you that this happened once every five years, or that I’d been under tremendous stress for the weeks’ preceding, or that I’d cried my heart out and begged forgiveness for two hours immediately afterwards, or that I’d been working - so hard! - on my temper for a decade would not be told.
And then you’d think to yourself: ‘Gosh, what a terrible, awful mother! What a disgusting human being!’ And then that would explain so clearly why ‘X’ wanted the divorce, because who could live with a monster like that?!?!
But really, who can stand up to that ‘divorce spotlight’ and come out looking good? All of us treat our spouses and kids awfully, at times. All of us say and do things that are really, really bad, if looked at objectively with none of the rationalizations we like to dress all of our bad middot up in.
The laws of lashon hara still apply to divorce.
The laws of trying to judge a person favorably still apply to divorce.
The imperative to act with compassion - and of course firmness, where required, to stop the bad things from being done and said - but to do everything as compassionately as possible, still apply to divorce.
So if your friend, your sibling, your relative is getting divorced, please think twice about rushing to judgment about what’s truly going on.
Try to think how you would sound to others, if someone was doing nothing except describing your character flaws and mental problems and terrible outbursts of bad middot.
Again, the laws of lashon hara still apply, the laws of judging a person favorably still apply, the imperative to act with compassion, as much as possible, still apply EVEN WHEN PEOPLE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF GETTING DIVORCED.
It’s bad enough to speak badly about others and stir up trouble, and pour fuel on the flames of a dispute between anyone, let alone a husband and wife. God will not easily forgive that.
When we all get upstairs after 120 years, and the harsh spotlight of judgment is turned on us, and our behavior, and we start to see how badly we’ve behaved and acted throughout our lives, at that point, we’d give anything for someone to stand up and remind the court of all our good deeds. And our good intentions. And our remorse about hurting others.
As above, so below.
If you want that for yourself, do it for others.
Especially if they’re in the middle of getting divorced.
I just got a worried email from a reader asking me if I'm getting divorced, God forbid.
I'm not - (probably mostly because I'm married to a hidden tzaddik) - but people I know are, and it's really the most distressing thing I've experienced for a very long time.
Please, everyone, just go buy a copy of the Garden of Peace for men, and Women's Wisdom for women, by Rav Shalom Arush, and READ THEM!!! It's so, so sad what's going on with our marriages. I can count on one hand the number of couples we were very friendly with from 20 years ago that haven't got divorced. This is a huge, huge problem.