Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet answers readers’ questions in his weekly column, Ask the Rabbi.
Stay away from work ‘affair’
This is going to sound like an absurd question but, as a secular Jew, I’m curious about the religious position of having an emotional affair. I’m a married man of 15 years and the other woman, a work colleague, is single. She and I have much in common, similar outlooks in life and are even spiritually compatible. We stay late after work and chat for hours. We text and phone all the time. A very deep emotional bond has developed between us. I’m reluctant to take it further because I do not want to disrupt my marriage. Is this so wrong?
The ancient rabbis in Ethics of the Fathers tell us that one should not spend too much time talking to other women. Typically, die-hard feminists take exception to this injunction. But you only prove the point.
Sometimes, when the lines get blurred, the casual flirtation takes you to places you never initially imagined you would go. But to be sure, inasmuch as you think of what you have with your work colleague as being “safe” if only because you are not crossing any red lines, there are some immediate points to consider.
First, having any kind of emotional relationship outside your marriage suggests that there is something lacking in your “real” relationship and, clearly, you are not dealing with it. There’s always a reason for beginning an affair, and it relates to some issue in your existing relationship. It’s far better to face and resolve that first.
You don’t just “find” yourself having an affair, so take a look at what’s missing or unfulfilling in your relationship, why that
is, and whether you can – or even want to – do something about it.
Second, you might assume you can isolate this sort of relationship from your marriage, but it will inevitably spill over and impact on your home front. Living a lie can only work up to a point. Then you will implode.
Finally, it may be “platonic” for now – but how long can you keep that up? And when your spouse does find out, how OK do you think she will be that
it was just an “emotional” bond? How convinced do you think she will be?
You have a choice: become more conscious of your actions, and use that awareness to deal maturely with their consequences. Or remain unconscious… but then you still have to deal with the consequences.
The obvious Jewish response is: don’t play with fire. It’s always right to try renewing your current relationship and if you truly feel you can’t, such that this extra-marital bond is vital to your happiness, you need to end what you have with mutual respect.
Perhaps above all else – before making any rash decisions, consult professional marriage counselling. Because when it all comes crashing down, loneliness and emptiness may be all that remains.
Will conversion become easier?
Do you think, in the course of time, conversions to the Jewish faith will become easier. If so, do you think it is worth the wait?
Let’s consider this scenario:
I love that new car. I really crave that new car. Should I work a little harder to make enough money to buy it now, or should I just sit around and wait in the hope that someday the price will come down?
The obvious answer is, it all depends on how much you love the car. If you truly desire it – you really need it – then you do what you can now to obtain it.
If you are willing to wait – well then how much do you really love it?
If your convictions lead you to want to convert then you should want to embrace the faith now, regardless of the
If you just want to wait until it’s “easier” then you don’t really want it. I suggest you find fulfilment in whatever you are doing now.
Rabbi, are you a coward?
I didn’t take you for a coward! You fired a shot across the bows of the Community Security Trust in last week’s Jewish News – and then announce you’re disappearing for two months. This probably won’t be published until you return, if at all. For the record, I do agree with you that anti-Semitic incident numbers are exaggerated, but you should stand up for your convictions, not disappear.
Well, look at that. And here I am! And here’s your letter. Feel better now? Good. I don’t run from anyone. And, to be clear, it wasn’t intended as an attack on the CST. I was clear that it does amazing work.
It was more a concern about some of the hypersensitivity in our community – which, I hasten to add, sometimes only
exacerbates the problem as we become prophets of our own doom.
Now, then. I’m really off. See you in two months…