This week Rabbi Schochet tackles marriage breakdowns, choosing a profession and fitting in at school.
- My marriage of 22 years is over
My husband of 22 years has decided to end our marriage. I am devastated. I didn’t know we had drifted so far apart. I thought there was love between us and now wonder if there is any way a rabbi or a Jewish organisation can do something to help restore our relationship.
I’m sorry that you find yourself in this predicament, but I am also baffled as to how one partner can believe they are blissfully in love while the other feels no such thing – and you were unaware of his feelings?
Was he faking it all this time pretending to love you? Were you reciprocating the love? Something doesn’t add up and either there’s something else going on with him that he’s not telling you (and may in fact be unaware of himself) or you’ve both been living a delusional life for some time and this outcome was just a sad reality waiting to happen.
You thought there was love between you. The problem is that often people misinterpret love. “I love Diet Coke, I love vanilla ice cream, I love you. I love Diet Coke because of the way it quenches my thirst. I love vanilla ice cream because of the way it tickles my pallet, and I love you because I love the way I feel when you are around me.”
That’s not true love. That’s just looking to nurture yourself and the trouble is, when you get fed up with Diet Coke, you switch to Pepsi. When vanilla no longer appeals, you switch to chocolate fudge.
As I’ve mentioned here before, marriage is not a give and take relationship. It is a give and give relationship where each spouse concentrates on giving to the other and as such both will invariably receive, albeit in a totally selfless framework. True love is therefore where both parties are connected at a deep level such that nothing affects one without the other.
Like the famous Rabbi Aryeh Levine, who took his wife to the doctor because of her bad leg and said: “Doctor, my wife’s leg is hurting us.” So you may have been playing happy families and co- existing, but operating in parallel universes.
What you thought was love wasn’t really, and while he may have been playing happy families along with you, he was drifting further apart emotionally and you were oblivious to the nuances, which are always there.
There is the Jewish Marriage Council, which does sterling work in this regard, completely confidentially of course, or you could always consult your rabbi if you feel he is equipped to deal with it. There is also Relate and you might prefer one of the several Jewish counsellors that work for them.
Amanda, if you believe there is still hope and you truly care then go after it – before it really is too late.
- Accountant or a doctor?
Dear Rabbi My mum wants me to be an accountant, but I want to be a surgeon. She says it’ll take too long to qualify and she wants me married sooner. Do I have an obligation to listen to her?
It is your livelihood, so unless she’s intending to support you for life, it is your call. But she is entitled not to have to pay your way through medical school, so bear that in mind. You don’t say how old you are, but perhaps the reassurance that you will get married before you put your scrubs on will put her mind at ease.
- Don’t give in to ghetto shtoop
My son attends a non-Jewish school where he sometimes gets victimised for wearing a yarmulke. I have suggested he leaves it at home, but he insists he wants to wear it. Last weekend we agreed to seek your opinion and move forward accordingly.
When we revert to what author Israel Zangwill referred to in his book Children of the Ghetto as the “ghetto shtoop” – walking with our heads down, giving into the bullying remarks – we score an own goal.
The forceful response, the only response is to walk with your head held high in appreciation of who you are and what you stand for. It is only when you don’t respect yourself that others won’t respect you either.
I once met with someone in broadcasting who told me how at the beginning of his career he would always take off his yarmulke as soon as he pulled up to his office. One day, he met with Sir Trevor McDonald, who asked him: “Why do you remove your head covering each morning as you step out of your car?”
The young man explained about not wanting to stand out. At which point Trevor turned to him and said: “I am the only black person in this building apart from the cleaner. How should that make me feel? When I walk into a boardroom, I am the only black man there; I immediately sense my difference.”
He then pinched the black skin of his face and added: “You see this? It doesn’t wash off! It’s who I am!” Your child is a proud Jew. Nurture that – don’t stifle it.