Ask the RabbiASK THE RABBI 2A gap year after wedding

Dear Rabbi,

I’m a practising Christian writing a book on marriage for general readership. Regarding honeymoons, I’m aware of the text in Deuteronomy 24:5 states that a newly married man is to be free from duties for a year to make his new wife happy.

Was this the forerunner to the gap year?! I would like to know whether this is still practiced by Jews. If not, when and why was it discontinued?

David

Dear David,

You are surely aware that the Torah also speaks of a sabbatical year in every seventh year. You think perhaps there is a connection between that and the ‘seven year itch’? Maybe the solution to one lies in the other, athough I reckon taking time out for a whole year from each other would probably prove fatal to some relationships.

The modern application to the Biblical law is for one not to leave town and travel far away from one’s wife during the first year and also the general obligation to make one’s wife happy. The codifiers rule that included in keeping her happy is to give her enjoyment and satisfy her wishes as much as possible. Others add that one is obligated during the first year of marriage to do for his wife anything that will bring her joy. (For the benefit of cynical readers who might question the sources, see Aruch HaShulchan, Even Haezer 64:4 and Yeraim mitzvah 190. Of course, those looking to typically cop out might cite Chasam Sofer Even Haezer 195, Radvaz 1:231 and the Smag, which suggest that this is not applicable these days).

The bottom line is this: There are those who maintain it is equally applicable today and others who might argue otherwise. Anyone who puts real value on their relationship won’t be looking for the get-out clause (and if they are, they should consider why they’re getting married in the first place).

So many will, of course, seek to adhere to it today no less, although if the need arises for whatever reason to travel away, they have the other sources to rely upon to ensure they are not in violation of any commandment.

I would only add to this two things.

First, in terms of the strict letter of the law, today people are more emotionally delicate and often immature when getting married. So “the first year” should probably be extended to three years or more.

Second, a common sense outgrowth of this law is that key to marital bliss is all about women’s feelings and the happier they are, the better. For all you men feeling unhappy in your marriage, stop being selfish and focus on your wife’s happiness.

The more content she is within the marriage, the happier you will be with your life as a result.

It’s hard, but… keep ‘trucking’

Dear Rabbi,

I’m going through personal struggles.

I’m faithful and do not find myself questioning God, but wonder what I did wrong that He has singled me out for all this trouble?

Gitty

Dear Gitty,

I know a tow truck driver who drives down steep snowy terrains each winter. Often he gets stuck but, without, fail his trusty truck spins its wheels and makes its way through. In the process, he sometimes encounters other vehicles stuck in the snow and he finds himself pulling them out. A friend once queried: “Why are you always driving up and down the steep hills knowing you are going to get stuck?” To which he replied: “My truck has the ability to pull through. The only reason I drive that route is to find others to pull through with me. That’s the whole purpose of my truck.”

Some people are like tow trucks. They have the strength and wherewithal to navigate the most difficult roads of life. What such people perhaps don’t realise is how they are pulling other people along with them, inspiring with their example.

When you face a tough time and beat it, you bring light into that dark place, which can shine a path for others who are stuck in their own darkness. It could even be that the only reason you had to pass through that dark roadway is to help drag others out of their darkness. Insofar as life is cause and effect, sometimes the mere fact that you underwent a certain challenge and emerged through the other side, in some deeper spiritual way opens a door for others to be able to do the same.

The Talmudic sages tell us “God doesn’t over-impose upon his creation.”

The fact that certain challenges come your way is maybe because you also are a tow truck and with each obstacle determinedly overcome, you are towing numerous others along with you. I appreciate you would rather not have to be in that sort of predicament in the first place and I do wish you a life of only smooth sailing from here on in.

But, as and when you find yourself enduring struggle, see it in context of the aforementioned and then hopefully you will be inspired to “keep on trucking”.