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Eli E. Hertz
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The Ask the Rabbi section of the Bet El Yeshiva site has become the main venue for secular Israelis to reach out for rabbinical guidance, in a comfortable anonymous fashion. The letters are an amazing read, as a quiet revolution is underway: Israelis seek the spiritual roots of the Jewish nation.
We are a happily married Israeli couple, living together for ten years and married for seven. We have two children, and we live in Brazil.
Recently I feel a strong inner drive to become religious. I am trying to pray and keep Shabbat according to my understanding. My husband is not opposed, but he is not joining along.
Life in galut (outside of Israel) has become difficult for me, despite it being a high standard of living and a venue of extraordinary natural scenery and serenity. I am starting to understand that my place is in the holy land, and that Jewish education for my children is a must. In the village that we live in, there is no Jewish education.
But my new path does not resonate with my husband – yet. Returning to Israel in his view, is like returning to jail, unfortunately.
I am torn inside.
There is a par or basic difference between us, and it worries me. What is the right thing to do, when a wife suddenly takes interest in spirituality, prayer, learning Torah and reciting blessings, and the husband is still watching action movies? How can a couple overcome this growing abyss?
Our relationship is built upon mutual trust, excellent communication, friendship and love – and two great children!
He has watched a few lectures on the internet with me and doesn't completely reject it, but he is progressing so slowly. I know that I can't pressure him, and that he will progress at his own pace and in his own way. But what am I supposed to do in practical terms?
In my thoughts, I am already back in Israel, living in a Jewish community with Jewish education for my kids. On the other hand, all of our livelihood is in the galut.
I would be happy if you could advise me.
Shalom Dear Shoshana,
I was so happy to get your letter from distant Brazil.
It was very special reading about your feelings and your inner quest, as though Hashem [G-d] is calling from deep within you to return to your roots, to your true place, to where you will find joy.
Indeed, it is not always relaxed in Israel with so much going on, and some people choose to flee from all the turbulence to a serene place. This is a natural reaction. But it is important to know that sometimes this causes a person to lose many wonderful assets that are not so evident, but when one learns to look deeper, he discovers their importance and understands that it is worthwhile to weather the difficulties to reach true goodness.
Similarly, a hiker must climb the mountain to reach the plateau with a wonderful view.
The Jewish People have a great mission, and infinite joy and light await them when they succeed. But to reach our destination, we must go through developmental processes that are sometimes long and painful.
Each one of us must move forward, to hear the voice of Hashem calling within him, and to revive the connection with our Father in heaven that loves us so much, and never abandons us. Each person has his own path that he must traverse. One person feels a sudden awakening of strong feelings, while another must take a slower, intellectual approach. One person may have great difficulty severing ties with his former lifestyle, while another can't wait to take on his/her new path.
I have corresponded with numerous people who underwent a complete return to our heritage, and I learn from them the difficulties and challenges, and try to help them move forward, step by step.
One of the challenges that I have come across often is when one spouse wants to become religious and the other expresses no interest. The moment we are dealing with two people, it becomes complex. It is possible, but demands much more patience and investment.
From your letter, I can see that your situation is much better than many couples because your husband is not against you, and he gives you free reign. He even occasionally takes interest. These points are an important basis for your belief that you will complete this path together, even if it demands much patience.
It is important that your return to observance not encroach upon the wonderful husband-wife relationship that you have built. Your warm home atmosphere and the beautiful children that you have been blessed with obligate you to build without tearing down – to build your mutual future on the basis of what you have.
Know that the calling and awakening that you feel deep inside penetrate your husband as well, but it just takes him more time to absorb it. This is totally natural. It is the same with most couples, that the husband and wife progress at a different pace.
Try as much as possible to walk this path together, to listen and learn, to yearn and converse, and to advance step by step. Each small step is very important, and I believe that slowly but surely, you will merit to reach Israel and build and be built therein, and live in joy and holiness.
It is so easy, Shoshana, to destroy things, but afterwards we regret it. Therefore, have patience and invest in your family with correct judgement.
Invest in Torah study, in learning, and in conversation. Do so in a good, relaxed atmosphere with love, mutual trust, and verbal recognition of the positive things in each other. Advance forward and feel out what mitzvot, in accordance with your husband's willingness, you can introduce into your lifestyle and begin to live a true Jewish life.
I would be delighted to remain in contact and help you step by step. I think that together, we can make wonderful progress.
I wish you much success,
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