Tal Farkash
Photo: Gabi Menashe

Get a divorce!

Among the strictly Orthodox there’s a common misperception that if two potential members of a couple are healthy, they are perfectly suited to each other

“There’s a worrisome increase in the number of divorces among the strictly Orthodox,” a well-known member of the community told me this week. “It’s a disaster, we’re getting close to secular society,” he said, a slight panic in his voice. “You know, there are already 19 couples who have gotten divorced in Betar Ilit,” he continued.


At that moment I wanted to applaud, to break into dance, to ask for their phone numbers and send those “poor people” a cake. But this man, who still has five children to marry off, is already in debt to the tune of NIS 3,000,000, and is liable to have a heart attack and die on the spot. So I decided to restrain myself.


It isn’t a secret that dating methods in the strictly Orthodox world could teach Shin Bet interrogators a thing or two. You will find mothers interrogating the kindergarten teacher of a potential match about his skills in using building blocks, and about his ability to listen and concentrate. It doesn’t matter to her at all that since he was two and a half years old, things have changed a bit.


His yeshiva classmates are also involved. They’ll receive a phone call at their parents’ home and be gently but firmly interrogated (does this remind you of something?) about every detail in his life. That includes the exact pattern on his pajamas and whether, Heaven forbid, he usually sleeps in boxer shorts.


The young man’s medical records are the trophy that every strictly Orthodox parent would want to receive. There’s no lack of unpleasant stories about grooms who were discovered to be suffering from asthma—may such a thing not happen to us! Or that his grandmother on his mother’s side three generations back was suspected of being schizophrenic.


And the actual acquaintance between the young people will involve at most ten meetings, and that is only among those who are lenient in their observance.


And why is it done this way? Because among us, the strictly Orthodox, there is a misconception that if the two people are healthy, or they are both disabled, and they grew up in similar families, they’ll be a perfect match and live happily ever after. No one has paid attention to the fact that there are those who, in spite of the ostensibly perfect match, are miserable.


The painful truth is that there are things that cannot be solved even by an amiable rabbi with expertise in “the Jewish home” (which is what we strictly Orthodox call couples’ therapy).


Because how can the respected rabbi raise the IQ of the woman so that the man will have someone to talk to, and not just about a new set of pots for the kitchen? Or what can be done with someone who is as cold as the North Pole and will bring a bouquet of flowers to his wife only because he was told to do so, when his poor wife is sentenced to long years of emotional freeze?


Judaism is much more flexible

The main problem is that divorce because of incompatibility is considered unacceptable in the strictly Orthodox world. Say that he is mentally ill, that his aunt whispered to you that she caught him looking too hard at the children in the heider, but just don’t say that you were incompatible. They’ll say that you are spoiled and problematic and your children will only be able to marry people considered undesirable, including divorced people and diabetics.


The strictly Orthodox approach, not the Jewish approach, is that the person must live with what has been given to him. To accept it all lovingly, to turn the other cheek, even if the spouse is especially evil.


“In paradise,” they’ll tell you, “you’ll receive compensation for your suffering, and anyway, this is your tikkun.” “You need to work with what you have,” a respected rabbi’s wife told me. “Even if it doesn’t work, you cannot stop trying.” My personal opinion, and you are invited to crucify me in your talkbacks, is that this is a Christian approach, and that Judaism is much more flexible.


So please, if there is something to work on put all your energy into your relationship, including couples’ therapy and releasing your anger, when it isn’t so terrible that your neighbors hear you. And if there isn’t a chance, do yourselves and your children a big favor and get a divorce.


Because how can you know whether in the end, in paradise, you’ll be told that you coped well down below, and the bitch will be seated next to you?


פרסום ראשון: 03.26.07, 16:20
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